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Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Chp 833. Mizoram Independence Day

I woke up this morning with a tranquil feeling of liberation and ease, because, unlike all the mornings I had experienced here in Mizoram, today, we all woke up as citizens of a new nation! Yesterday, 20th October, 2020, we the Mizos became an independent nation, no longer being a part of the great country of India. 

Not that we wanted independence or even asked for it (except during the rambuai days of 1960's), but suddenly, yesterday, India decided to let us become our own country, even helping with the construction of a wall to mark the new international border. 

For the past many years, Mizoram had earned the unique distinction of being the most peaceful state of India, resulting in the Central Government granting us a "peace bonus" that amounted to crores of rupees every financial year (ah, rupees, I will miss that currency). 

But all that is thrown to the gutter because of the recent Assam - Mizoram border dispute. I'm not going to talk about that issue in this post because that is ALL we had been talking about in our Mizo social media for the past few days now. For my non-Mizo visitors unaware of this situation, do read this well researched and unbiased reporting by Abhishek Saha from Indian Express [click link]

As most of us are aware, Mizoram shares around 75% of its border with Myanmar and Bangladesh, and only 25% with India. 

And so when the main means of road transport that connects Mizoram with the rest of India is now completely cut off, all our daily essential supplies like food, water, electricity, LPG, petrol, diesel and other commodities are no longer a viable option to acquire through this route. As a newly formed country, we will have to conduct new trade agreement talks with our neighbouring countries, like Myanmar, Bangladesh and... India. 

I must admit though, the people of Dholchherra, Assam, were extremely helpful as they constructed the wall for us to mark the new international demarcation. 

As you can see from above, they spent a good amount of time discussing about the best possible methods to build the new border wall. This is a trait that they inherited from us, as we Mizos are champions when it comes to community service [read my previous post YMA Community Service]

Finally, under the guidance of their YMA branch leader whom I presume is the one wearing a maroon shirt below, they started their work of digging up the highway. 

Everybody selflessly contributed their part in the construction of the wall, and this work ethic and altruism reflected the spirit of tlawmngaihna within them. I feel so proud to know we had passed on a part of our culture to them before we parted our separate ways. 

Behind the constructed wall hidden from view were probably the female members brewing tea for them, so that they could get refreshed and reenergized. 

Finally, the wall was completed, and the World welcomed the birth of the new Nation of Mizoram! 

Since the bordering Assam districts of Karimganj, Hailakandi and Cachar are said to have less of Assamese indigenous people and more of immigrants from Bangladesh, I can't help but think that while in the USA, Donald Trump promised to build a border wall and make Mexico pay for it, India actually succeeded in building a border wall and made Bangladesh pay for it. :D :P

So how does it feel like to wake up with a new nationality? That too without even demanding independence? 

Well, first of all, I kinda feel sorry for our fellow Northeasterners who had actually been fighting for autonomy all these years, like the various factions of the NSCN in Nagaland (Khaplang, Isak Muivah, Adino, Konyak etc.), or the ULFA, NDFB, KLO, UNLF, NLFT, HNLC, GNLA and many other groups across North East who had been shedding blood and violence for years. They had been doing it all wrong all this time, because guns and bombs are apparently not the solution to gaining independence. All that is required is just one Bipul Hussain from Sonachera vegetable market area. 

Ah, Bipul Hussain, the hero of the Independence of Mizoram. We are all extremely grateful to him for granting us freedom from India. We are even planning to have a marble statue of him erected next to our Vanapa Hall here in Aizawl, to honour him for giving us this unfettered freedom. He'll be sitting gallantly in all his grandeur, beaming with pride and gallantry next to a marble laptop to signify what a brave keyboard warrior he is. 

The only hiccup we have is that we don't know Bipul's height and body structure, so it would be great if he could report himself to the nearest police station at Vairengte so that the sculptors of Mizoram can start with their work. So, Bipul, if you are reading this, please do the needful. 

Bipul is a prominent voice among those who granted us Independence. He even runs a popular local newspaper known as... "Voice of the Bipul".

Being an independent nation, we have a lot of things to do now, like being self-sufficient and self-reliant for starters, so that we no longer need to depend on National Highways for our basic essential commodities. Our Chief Minister (or should I say Prime Minister now) has a couple of big economic plans for our new country, and many of those plans involve bamboos, unless he's just bamboozling us. 

In terms of GDP growth, I think we'll do pretty well on our own too, because judging from our respective FB and IG updates, most of us are looking like international-level models. After all, isn't that what GDP stands for, Great Display Picture? "Oh you've changed your DP again? That is a really beautiful DP you uploaded. That's a GDP!"

And when it comes to defence structure, our new nation has nothing to worry about because as most of us already know, Mizoram has a lot of hidden missiles! Don't believe me? Here you go. 

Also, I know my 5 years old comment in the above video has resurfaced (quite an apt term as the video is about surface missiles :P) and infuriated a couple of people who failed to see the humour and even threatened me with a lawsuit, but I really don't care because Indian Laws no longer apply to us as we're a separate nation now. If you want to sue me, please approach the International Court of Justice located at The Hague, Netherlands. :P

Meanwhile, we have other bigger legal issues to handle, like the hundreds of truck drivers from Assam, Bihar, Haryana and other Indian states who are now suddenly stuck in our country because of the newly constructed impregnable border wall. Kolasib YMA is doing an excellent work of making sure they are all well fed and have a good place to sleep. 

They are currently accommodated at St. Maria Goretti school, Kolasib, run by the Bethani Sisters (who also run Mary Mount school in Aizawl). 

We will become the best nation in the world, yes we will be yuge. 

As a newly formed country known as the Republic Of Mizoram Empire, or ROME, we will strive hard to become the most influential and advanced super power in the world so that every other country will want to establish ties with us and connect a road to our nation. After all, all roads lead to Rome. 

And by that time, the wall constructed by Bipul Hussain and his friends might have to be demolished again. 

Oh, so sad. 

I hope all my friends from Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore etc. continue to keep in touch even though I am now a foreigner. Please do come and visit me at our new country soon, I'll help you with your Visas and stuff. 

We have a popular saying in Mizo where we tell our non-Mizo friends, "Come to Mizoram, I kill you pig!" which may sound terrifying but it's actually the Mizo way of honouring a visitor by slaughtering their fattest pig for that guest. 

And yes, I think this whole issue of becoming an independent nation is befitting to me, considering how I spent most of my life across India answering to questions like, "Oh which country are you from? Mizoram? Is that near China?" 

Now I can truly say, "Yup". :D :P

Hope you enjoyed reading this post. I just wanted to mention that this was a light-hearted satire post aimed at a few individuals in those aforementioned areas and India as a nation was not involved in the construction of that wall, and we Mizos are very much happy and content to remain as Indian citizens. :D 

At the same time, I wanted to highlight the problems Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh face every time there is a border dispute with people living near the Assam border. The Assamese people as a whole are wonderful people and they have nothing to do with these conflicts. 

Also, I was inspired after attending the two days webinar conducted by Pachhunga University College yesterday and day before, thanks to my dear friend Kukui for inviting me, where renowned author Sanjoy Hazarika along with Prof. Margaret Zama and Dr. Lalawmpuia talked about "Rambuai literature" (collection of literary works written during insurgency days and how it affected one's writings and emotions). 

That was followed by notable film-maker Siddhartha Gigoo along with Prof. Margaret Pachuau and Dr. Henry who spoke about "Lockdown literature" (the works produced during a pandemic like Dante's Inferno and "Love in the Time of Cholera" and how such books gave solace and hope to humanity). 

Thanks for those beautiful talks, PUC. 

Signing off now, cheers everyone.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Chp 832. YMA Community Service

I've written quite a lot about what our YMA (Young Mizo Association) does for our Mizo community in my earlier blog posts. In this post, I would like to write about my experience at another YMA community service I took part in earlier this week.

Just to recap for my non-Mizo visitors, the YMA is the largest NGO in Mizoram, with almost every Mizo (including me) being a member of this non-profit and secular organization. The YMA takes care of all community related work conducting various tasks and activities, and members selflessly volunteer on such occasions.

Because of the CoVid-19 pandemic, all YMA activities were stopped or minimized for a long time, but now that the lockdown rules had been relaxed a bit, a YMA announcement was made over our locality loudspeakers last week: 

"All able-bodied men and women of Chaltlang (my locality) are hereby requested to come and clean up the roads and surrounding areas of Bungmual (a region under Chaltlang jurisdiction) on 10th October which is a Saturday."

The YMA announcement echoed across the valley. 

I volunteered immediately :) 

I just want to briefly mention that this planned program was for 10th October, a Saturday, as most members would be free to participate on that day. However, a member of our locality unfortunately passed away on that morning, and so the plan was cancelled immediately. This was done not just as a respect to the deceased's family but also because most YMA members would be busy that day doing other YMA related work like conducting the funeral service, collecting benches, making refreshments, digging the grave, etc etc. 

We later got an update on WhatsApp the next day (Sunday) that this program was postponed to 12th Monday (since YMA announcements are not made on Sundays unless it is an emergency). 

A lot of my neighbourhood friends said they couldn't make it on the rescheduled date as they had to go to work because it was a Monday, and so I convinced my nephew Rama to go with me. Things we had to take with us included our own packed rice (other dishes would be cooked on site), water bottles and any of the following tools - machete, hoe, hammer, shovel and digging bar. I decided to take a hoe with me. (ok that came out a bit wrong :P ) 

On the day of the activity, we reported at our locality YMA Hall at 9 AM. There were two YMA pick-up trucks ready to ferry people to the site, but Rama had a scooty so that saved us some uncomfortable bumpy rides. 

And so off we went towards Bungmual. Driving through the city was normal, but soon we started travelling deeper and deeper into uncharted territory. People, houses and traffic disappeared as the road transformed from tar and concrete to pebbles and mud. 

It was indeed a very bumpy and precarious ride even on the scooty :D

Here's me sitting behind Rama with my hoe. :D :P

Here are some pics of the road. 

Trust me, the parts you see above are some of the better ones. There were many times when I had to get down from the scooty and walk because Rama had to drive down slowly as it was steep and slippery. I didn't take any pics as I was busy trying not to die :P

I saw just one hut on that entire 1.5 hours long drive and this was it. It sure felt good to see some sign of civilization again :D

Finally, we reached a region beyond which it was no longer possible to travel even by a two wheeler. Other YMA members who had reached before us had already parked their two wheelers, and so we did the same too. 

If you want to know where exactly we went to that day, my friend Adam Halliday who is the designated in-charge person for this activity sent me a map of Bungmual (encircled in blue below). 

Bungmual is one of my many lands that belongs to my locality Chaltlang. Chaltlang owns the largest area of land in all of Aizawl district, as the former chieftain of Chaltlang Thangphunga was extremely powerful (his descendants are my next door neighbours :D ) 

According to Adam, the total area of Bungmual is around 58 hectares, and it borders many other regions like Maumual etc., which also belongs to Chaltlang. However, these regions do not share any boundaries with the main Chaltlang region (in red border below) where we all reside because of the formation of a new locality called Edenthar in between (in blue shade below). 

Bungmual is a special place for the people of Chaltlang (especially for those families that had been residing here since the chieftain days) because it is the place where we used to farm all sorts of vegetables and grains, and during the insurrection days of the 60's when the Indian Air Force bombed the region and the Indian Army was fighting against the MNF and its armed wing the MNA, people from Chaltlang fled in droves to Bungmual, which was a safe haven from bullets and bombs. 

So that was a short history of Bungmual :) 

Anyway, Rama parked his scooty and we continued walking on foot through the forest. 

Finally we reached this cute little makeshift bridge. It didn't feel safe at all so I gingerly stepped on the wooden planks, which creaked with every step I took (a subtle way of saying I'm fat). 

At the end of the bridge was a signboard by our YMA, informing that the entire region is a protected area and people are not allowed to encroach or cut trees etc. 

Finally we reached our destination. 

The structure that you see above on the right is called a "Thlâm" in Mizo. It is basically a farmhouse, and that is where our YMA had stored all their cooking utensils and other important equipments. People spend the night in a thlâm too. 

On the left is what we call a "Chawlhbuk", which literally translates into "a place for resting". How do I call this in English? A Hut, a Shack, a Shed? Urmmm... kinda, but a chawlhbuk doesn't have walls, it just has a roof so that people working at farms (or travellers passing through) can rest under the shade. I would say a chawlhbuk is more similar in structure to a Pergola, a Ramada or a Gazebo, though not as fancy as them. 

So I will just call them as thlâm and chawlhbuk in this post. After all, not everything needs to be in English and this also promotes our Mizo identity to the outside world, kinda like how I now call our Mizo traditional dance as "Cheraw" only and stopped referring to it as "bamboo dance".

And so, all of us kept our bags at the thlâm. YMA leaders soon distributed the work, assigning tasks to different groups of volunteers. 

For example, three groups were sent out to different hills nearby to clear all the weeds and plants encroaching the road, while another team was clearing the weeds by the riverside, and a few people remained at the thlâm as they were in charge of the food and refreshments. 

I was on the "Tui kawng zawng" team, whose responsibility was to climb up to the peak of the mountain to trace the water supply and fix all the broken pipes on the way so that the thlâm gets a regular supply of water (which was crucial for the cooking team). 

I thought I could handle it. Ooooooh boy, big mistake. :D :D :D :D :D

There were 5 of us in our team, led by Pu RSa, and as we progressed slowly up the steep mountain slope, I kinda forgot that I had stopped playing basketball almost 20 years ago, and that I had spent the last 12 years sitting in a corporate office in front of a computer every day! 

Mannn I was out of breath in no time! And remember, I was carrying my heavy hoe all the way up as well, along with 2 water bottles, under the hot sun. The hoe drained most of my energy (and that is why you should never trust a hoe, kids). 

After around 70% of the climb, we had to enter a thick forest with extremely dangerous footpath. The path was very slippery and it was right at the edge of a cliff and so we had to grab the trees nearby tightly as we walked or one slip meant falling hundreds of feet below to a certain death. 

I really didn't have the energy anymore, and so Pu RSa and the other two continued while my nephew Rama and I remained at that region. We cleared off all the weeds and plants on the path and slowly worked our way downhill towards the thlâm again. 

Here's an example of the water pipe we were tracing. The pipe is circled in red below. 

Our thlâm is way below from the image above, at the base of the hill. 

After doing a sizeable amount of work clearing weed, Rama and I returned to our thlâm as well. I didn't take any pictures of all those incidents because I was busy working with my hoe and I thought we would head up there again later after taking rest. However, upon returning to the thlâm, we were told that it was no longer required to climb that hill again as Pu RSa and the other two members had succeeded in their task and water was now flowing from the pipe properly. 

Damn! If only I was a bit more fit. 

Anyway, back at the farm, fellow blogger Muantea along with the cooking team were busy with their work. 

Here's Muantea peeling maipawl (wax gourd) with u Marly. 

And here's Muantea again stirring the chicken gravy. He sure wins at cooking. Yummm, winner winner, chicken dinner.

As our thlâm was at the base of the hill, there was a river gently flowing nearby. I decided to check it out with Rama, and I had good fun posing with my hoe for the camera :D (now please don't comment about me getting my hoe all wet :P ) 

The river made a distinct rumbling noise and it was beautiful. Everything was so clean and pure. 

Here's Muantea again, this time not cooking. I guess you can say, he's fishing, if you know what I mean. :D

The above photo came out really well because if you look hard enough, Muantea's left arm looks like the leg of the girl behind him :D

Another idyllic bridge over the river.

By the way, I was eating our Mizo tradition paan called "Kuhva hring", which Khasis call "Kuai". So if I was standing on the bridge above eating that paan, can we say that is The Bridge on the River Kwai? :D :P 

I headed back to the thlâm, to see a few of the volunteers busily cutting weed nearby. 

They did an excellent work in a matter of minutes. 

And then one of our YMA leaders announced that volunteers were needed to deliver tea to the different teams spread across the nearby hills who were still working. Since Rama and I were feeling guilty about not being able to reach the peak of the mountain, we volunteered immediately. The YMA leader gave us his scooty key. 

At first we thought we had an easy task, but boy, it wasn't easy at all. Most of the time I ended up pushing the scooty up the winding path from behind while holding the hot kettle with my other hand, lolz. 

We located all the different teams one by one, sometimes shouting out to them from our location. The tea was black tea (thingpui sen in Mizo, which ironically translates into "red tea") and we served it to them on a disposable cup. We also carried a packet of sugar for those who wanted it. 

Finally we reached the last team and that was Adam's team. They were the JCB team, whose task was to fill all the large holes on the road with boulders and sand. The big boys' league. 

We chatted for some time and finally headed back to the thlâm. After that, we just waited for all the teams to complete their respective work and return to the thlâm so that we could all eat dinner. 

Dinner time. 

By the way, yes, it was quite early, around 3:30 PM when we started eating dinner, because in our Mizo community we usually eat dinner early on "functions" such as this. 

Chicken and Wax Gourd gravy, which was super yummy! 

Chutney. No Mizo meal is complete without one. 


And finally, boiled Anthur (Roselle plant).

My plate :D

Most of us who packed rice in a tiffin used our tiffin box as plate, but there were also YMA plates for those who didn't have one. 

A very simple setup yet efficient and extremely delicious setting. 

Here's Muantea eating dinner, regretting that he didn't catch any fish, if you know what I mean. 

Volunteers enjoying their dinner after a hard day's work. 

Others ate in a traditional Mizo style. Food tastes much better this way too. 

After we all had our fill, we relaxed a bit, digesting the well cooked food. 

I spoke with our YMA leader Pu Hruaia and Adam, and they told me more histories of Bungmual and other surrounding areas. 

Like for example, the adjoining area is called Maumual (field of bamboo) and it is given that name because there are a lot of bamboos in the area, which makes sense. However Bungmual (field of banyan) is a very puzzling name because apparently there are absolutely no banyan trees anywhere, and according to many old folks of Chaltlang, none of them know of such a tree ever existing in the area. Lolz. 

Pu Hruaia also told me that Bungmual used to be known as "Sa phallo mual" because there once used to be a lot of animals for hunting in the region but nobody could catch anything! Even the most expert hunter of all would end up empty handed at the end of the day. And considering the level of superstition at that time, I can imagine why they would call it "Sa phallo mual".

They also told me about the different rivers in the area, like the Chaltlang lui and Chhim luang bordering Bungmual which joins Tlawng river a bit further away. That river then keeps flowing towards Assam, turns from there towards west and finally heads out to the Bay of Bengal. So, technically speaking, I can make a raft at Bungmual, sail from there and eventually reach Chennai. :P

Once all the dishes were washed and our thlâm was locked up, it was time to go home. There was this interesting moment when I saw the volunteers wash all the vessels and plates with wood ash! Apparently, that's how our ancestors used to wash plates before. I googled and according to Life Hacker website, "mixing wood ash with hot water will create potassium salts, turning it into a rudimentary soap as it reacts with the fat and oil of the cooking vessels". Whoah! Our ancestors were so smart they knew all that without looking it up online. 

As we all started packing up, Rama and I headed out quickly because we overheard one of the YMA leaders say that the two wheelers will have to drive behind the pick-up truck in case it gets stuck and they need to push it. :D :P

On our way back though, we did stop a couple of times because Rama needed to rest his arms as it was tiring due to the extreme road conditions. I took this pic on one of our stops. 

And so, that was my experience volunteering for community service at Bungmual. Hope I was able to entertain you with my journal. 

For my non-Mizo visitors, I also hope you now have a better understanding on what the YMA does for our Mizo community. All those hard work we did that day were all entirely voluntary. Nobody got paid, nobody became richer, nobody gained anything, except for maybe Muantea whom I caught packing off some veggies to take home with him. :D

My whole body ached the next day, lolz, but yeah, it was worth it. Having stayed outside Mizoram most of my life, it really felt accomplishing to participate in such an activity. 

However, my sense of altruism and accomplishment were short-lived when my group of neighbourhood friends in our WhatsApp group (Ryders) forwarded images of me in the background doing nothing! :D :D :D



But still, yeah, it was fun. Hope you enjoyed reading this post. Until next time, cheers everyone.