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Friday, May 15, 2020

Chp 815. The Long Train Home

Today is Day 52 of a Lockdown in India, and Day 55 of a Lockdown in Mizoram.

With Mizoram now currently a CoVid-19 free state, our borders have started opening again for Mizos outside the state to come home to their families. Various groups of Mizos, mostly students and migrant workers, have been returning to Mizoram in busloads almost every day, straight to the designated Government Quarantine Centres.

In fact, just this morning, a 1000-strong contingent of Mizos arrived at Bairabi train station in Mizoram from Chennai, Tamil Nadu.

The Chennai Mizo Welfare Association (CMWA) had been exemplary in their work since the beginning of this lockdown. The organization was all over the news when they managed to arrange an ambulance to transport the remains of a fellow Mizo who had passed away in Chennai, all the way to Aizawl.

And these are just some of the news you might have read about on social media. There had been many other instances where their work had gone unnoticed, like how they would donate large sums of money to various charity organizations in Mizoram every year, or how they immediately got involved when random Northeastern people were detained by the police to prevent "Tibetans from protesting against the visiting Chinese Premier", thus ensuring their immediate release.

In fact, I feel the word "Chennai" in CMWA is a misnomer because they have been taking care of not just Mizos in Chennai but all across Tamil Nadu as well.

And all this is possible because of their great leaderships. CMWA leaders like Avena Renthlei, Lalmalsawma Pachuau, Lalnuntluanga Colney, Michael and his brother Gabriel, and many other Mizos from Chennai have been working around the clock to ensure that all Mizos are taken care of.

All images below are from Gabriel, Michael and Avena.

Malsawma, Tluanga Colney and Avena had many meetings with different nodal officers and various corporations to arrange transportations and manpower, and as a result, around 50 buses were provided by the Tamil Nadu Government not just within Chennai but across Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry to transport Mizos to Chennai Central, the main railway station in Chennai. Avena also added that numerous cabs were also hired for those who couldn't be picked up by buses.

Mind you, the process of sending back people to Mizoram is not an easy task. Right from the beginning, various CMWA leaders like Tluanga Colney and others had been collecting the list of names through a portal created by Malsawma, and sending them to Mizoram and back and forth and so on.

And of course many of the forms were filled incorrectly and could not be verified, and so they spent a lot of time speaking to such people in person and correcting their forms as well. In fact, Tluanga Colney even went the extra mile of helping the Sikkimese people with their list! :)

There was proper large-scale planning and coordination done in advance, like what time Mizos from so and so location were to be picked up by so and so bus, and people waited obediently on those given time & location.

This applied to not just Mizos within Chennai, but across various cities in Tamil Nadu like Salem and Coimbatore (my two alma maters!), Kanyakumari, Rameswaram, Nilgiris, Madurai, Tirunelveli, etc., including Pondicherry as well. A big thanks to all the DCs of all these districts too for ensuring a hassle free travel to Chennai.

According to Avena, Tluanga Colney literally stayed at the corporation offices while all this was taking place to ensure that things were going smoothly according to plan.

Sir Avena in action.

Gabby coordinating the incoming crowd.

And so, people lined up to enter Chennai Central…

As you can see from the above three images, daytime quickly changed to night while the people were still standing in a queue. This was because there was a medical screening done for every passenger before they could enter Chennai Central. However, taking photos were strictly prohibited at that section. All registered Mizos for the journey were also screened at Government hospitals on the previous day as well, and according to Michael, nobody failed the screening.

Chennai Central was quite deserted except for a small police presence.

Even the Chennai police were amazed at the amount of discipline Mizo passengers displayed. There was absolutely no need for the police to get involved as everybody politely formed a queue. There was no pushing or jostling or fighting among any of the passengers like you might have seen elsewhere on TV or WhatsApp forwards, and this was a new experience for the police.

The line slowly started moving…

There were make-shift counters to record all the tickets, and passengers also had to be grouped as there were also a few passengers bound for Sikkim and Assam.

I've been to Chennai Central many times (read my next blog update on those experiences) even back when it was known as Madras Central, and I have never seen the platforms this empty!

Gabby and other CMWA leaders along with Railways officials were busy directing and redirecting passengers to various coaches.

The person in light blue formal shirt is Shri. Shunchonngam Jatak Chiru, IAS, Commissioner and Secretary Tamil Nadu and the Nodal Officer in charge for all the North East States.

Thiru Avena and Thiru Malsawma overseeing the whole process.

Tluanga Colney (holding the water bottle) in the pic below. By the way, Tluanga Colney is also a fellow blogger and he blogs at

Here are two samples of the train tickets issued. The price printed on the tickets had been completely borne by the Central Government and Tamil Nadu Government! Rombo nandri!

It must be mentioned too that there were a couple of people who had lost their tickets, lolz, yeah, it happens, but thanks to the involvement of Avena and Malsawma, nobody was left behind.

Once everybody was on board, it was time to leave.

Goodbye Chennai Mizos.

Here's the amazing CMWA team that coordinated this whole process. A big shout-out and kudos to them all!

Apart from those mentioned in this post so far, there were a lot of crucial CMWA members who had worked hard to make this successful, like Mamboihi from Siaha, Rintlaka from Champhai, Kaitea from Chanmari West (who even travelled along with the group), Hruaia from Champhai, Mapuii Tochhawng from Chhinga veng, Muanpuii from Ramhlun South, and of course Bena Sailo, my dear senior from Montfort School and PSG Tech. Well done to all these people indeed!

Michael and Gabriel in the pic above are both sons of Pu Lawmsanga, IPS Rtd., who was the Founder and former President of CMWA. He had already done a great deal of work for our Mizo community in the past. From setting up the working model of CMWA to its constitution, it is really good to see his sons following his footsteps and utilizing all the important contacts he still has with different top authorities in Chennai.

I mean, Mike and Gabby had been in Tamil Nadu for so long that they used to correct the locals whenever they made a Tamil grammatical error :P And Avena had been such a stud that even when he was posted in Hosur, all the cops used to fear his name more than they feared the name of Pu HT Sangliana :D :P And as for Malsawma, while all of us were playing basketball back in Montfort School, he used to sit at the side and study, and when we asked him to join us, he would say, "No! One day, I'm going to become an IRS officer and help Mizos in Chennai who are stranded due to CoVid-19". :D

All exaggerations aside, these people are an amazing bunch of leaders and Mizos studying and working in Tamil Nadu are really lucky to have them.

Managing a crowd of this proportion must have been a gargantuan task. There was even this funny viral message of one of the passengers describing about how they all kinda resembled the Exodus of the Tribes of Israel led by Moses from Egypt to the Promised Land, because there were all sorts of people among the crowd, from small children and old folks to pregnant women and adolescent students, carrying all types of luggage from suitcases and jute bags to water canes and even pet dogs and birds! :D

Here are pictures of the famous birds and dogs :D

And with that, the people continued with their journey. Seeing all their happy faces really melted my heart.

Reading about all their experiences and seeing the pictures made me reminiscent of my past too, back when we used to travel by train from Howrah station to Madras Central during our school and college days, but I'll post about that in my next update.

One thing is for sure though, these people will not be experiencing any of the regular "incidents" we used to experience on this same route, like the early morning wake-up call of "chai chai kaafi kaafi" holler from tea and coffee vendors, or the invasion of transgender who would not leave you in peace until you gave them some money :D There wouldn't be any of that because of the lockdown and all other stations on the route were closed.

Michael told me that there was no pantry car on the train either, and instead, the train stopped at designated stations along the way where food packages and water bottles were already placed on the platforms, arranged by the Railways department.

The food was edible, and free of cost.

There were a few minor incidents, like there was no running water after some time in some of the coaches, but a quick call to Avena or Malsawma solved those problems.

The train stopped once at Sikkim and Assam each for the respective passengers to off board, and after that it was straight to Bairabi, Mizoram.

Meanwhile, in Mizoram, Bairabi train station was prepared for their arrival.

Instructions were given to the various bus drivers, conductors, health workers, medical staff and other volunteers on what to do and what not to touch etc.

Multiple counters with medical staff were set up on the platform.

And soon, the train arrived, as people all around cheered and welcomed them.

Once all the passengers were in the buses, people bid farewell to the smiling and cheerful train driver :)

The train reversed, and so some of the people asked if he was going to go in reverse gear all the way back till Chennai again :D Ah, gotta love Mizos.

The buses were also modified so that there was minimum contact between the passengers and the staff.

Soon the convoy was on its way to distribute the passengers to various destinations.

According to officials, the number of passengers were distributed as - Aizawl (346), Champhai (69), Lunglei (50), Serchhip (34), Khawzawl (20), Saitual (37), Siaha (136), Lawngtlai (46), Hnathial (20) and Mamit (82).

Meidum VLTF and DC Kolasib district welcomed them with fresh refreshments.

A heart-warming welcome from Bairabi YMA.

The pic below is the most recent photo I received of the bus convoy entering Aizawl.

They were all driven straight to their designated Quarantine Centres.

Last week, I wrote a short piece on the Govt Quarantine Centres here in Mizoram, about how we seemed to be managing well so far… but now that the volume of incoming returnees has increased multifold, various Church community halls across Mizoram are now being transformed into Quarantine Centres as of tonight.

We are so lucky to have important leaders among our Mizo community who could make this happen. But while we praise them, let us not forget that there are thousands of migrant workers across India who are not as fortunate as us. They had to walk all the way to their home towns across multiple state lines, braving the blistering heat, and suffering and dying not just from hunger and fatigue but even road and train accidents!

Let us continue to keep all of them in our prayers as well.

Now that our Chennai returnees have all safely reached their quarantine destinations, the next step is to ensure that we all take extra precautions, as the chances of infection are higher than before now.

I know some people are skeptical or have mixed opinions about having an influx of new arrivals during a pandemic, but do know that these people are helpless and shit scared too, and the only solace they will find is in Mizoram. Being selfish, is not the Mizo way of life. We never abandon our brethren, especially in times of war. That is how we were and that is how we will always be.

Will end this post for now, so here's to prayers that all things will end up well. Once again, a big thank you to all the CMWA members and their leaders, both the Tamil Nadu and Mizoram state governments along with their respective state Nodal offices for facilitating this journey smoothly, and all the bureaucrats involved in making this happen from the CS and other Central & State service officers right up to the Church authorities, Medical staff and Bus drivers. God bless you all.


shailendra said...

Well done👍🏻

Unknown said...

I can't stop wiping my tears when I read this Article,I've seen the effort of all the Office Bearers(O.B) of our CMWA,I wish/hope and believe they will be Bless by Our Almighty God,because of their effort many mizo's stranded students and migrants work can see they lovely home and family soon.

Amayra sharma said...

Thank you for sharing such helpful and informative content. The article provides detailed information in a very helpful manner. Highly appreciated.
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