From the messages that I have received since morning, the body of my friend Shahnaz Kimi will finally reach Aizawl today from Vienna. Her funeral service will be held at 1:15 PM at her family's house at Chawlhhmun later today.
I still can't believe she's gone. Two weeks ago, I received the shocking news that she had passed away in her sleep. News weren't very clear back then on how exactly she passed away, but one thing was confirmed though, that she was no longer with us.
I met Shahnaz online when I first started blogging back in 2004. Look through any of my blog posts and you will see many of her comments. She was present everywhere in the online world as well, from izawl.com to zoram.com and zawlbuk.net. We spent a lot of time playing frivolous word games with other community members. Then came the era of misual.com and she became one of our most active members.
She was a regular at the comment section of misual.com whenever the post topic was about Mizoram, culture, photography, travel and racial discrimination.
To be honest, some members didn't gel well with her. That was because, being a "half Mizo", she experienced what most Mizos had not gone through in Mizoram – discrimination right at home. To some people, she was a gentle reminder that even though we may face racial abuses and discriminations outside Mizoram from other Indians, back home, a lot of us are no different. She was the counter to an accusation, the other side of a coin, the devil's advocate. And she was my friend.
The admins of misual.com loved her. When Lal Jo's dad passed away, she was one of the first persons to call him up to convey her condolences. When my father passed away, she was again one of the first persons to contact me. Such was her thoughtfulness and care for the dearly departed. It pains me to know I won't be at her home today to bid her one final goodbye.
I still remember how we used to argue about her choice of blogging platform. Back then she was blogging at LiveJournal, while most of us Mizo bloggers were on blogger.com or WordPress. I tried my best to convince her about how user-friendly blogger.com was compared to LiveJournal, but she was adamant and continued to stick with LJ. She called herself "old-school" and didn't want "change" :) She did create a blogger.com account later so she could comment at various Mizo blogs, but her blogging platform continued to be at LiveJournal (her last blog entry being May 2009).
She was popular at flickr too, as she was an avid photographer. She loved travelling, and she's one of the strongest and steadfast women I've ever known. She didn't mind traveling to some new place at some corner of the world, even if she was alone. She had toured Mizoram a couple of times too, putting to shame people like me who had not even "discovered" most of Mizoram. Being adventurous was in her blood.
Unfortunately, that is the same blood that many Mizos tend not to recognize as one of our own.
But in the short years that I've known Shahnaz online, I will say with utter conviction that I've never met another person who cared more about Mizoram and the Mizo people, yet at the same time trying to "fit in". Yup, sometimes she did bring up controversial topics for discussion, but the sad thing is, some of us ended up attacking her "identity" rather than addressing the issue at hand. But in spite of all that, she continued to love her home and her people… do you really think we are worthy of such love?
As her LiveJournal blog is aptly entitled "My Land And My People", today I mourn the passing of a dear friend who cared so much about us.
I may not have known her for a long time like her St.Pauls classmates or close friends do, but the few years that I got to know her online filled me with complete respect for her. I did meet her once in person, and that was a very memorable day. It was the day the good people from lawrkhawm.com invited the two of us for tea at Synod office, Mission veng. After that, we spent the rest of the day together and she was extremely lively and funny. We laughed so much that day.
Those smiles are now nothing but a memory. But one thing I will continue to do is to live by the principles of Shahnaz and keep fighting for the rights of the oppressed and minorities. To stand up against racial discrimination and abuses, regardless of whom the victim is. To seek justice for those persecuted in the name of religion or race. To be the voice of the voiceless and the support for the downtrodden. And doing so will I know Shahnaz is smiling down on me from above.
Rest in Peace my dear friend. I know you will be missed so much by your family and close friends. My blog will also miss your insightful and genial comments. And most of all, Mizoram is going to miss its daughter who cared so much about the people. Fare thee well.