Today, Mizoram mourns the loss of a formidable man, an iconic leader to some and an exemplary role model of self-reliance and perseverance. A brave man who took up the reins of a cult that had broken away from social norms and survived through sheer determination, inspiring thousands of followers across the state. Rest In Peace, Pu Ziona.
This is my obituary to Pu Ziona, who passed away on the 13th of June, 2021.
An obituary befitting the person that he was.
How I wish this could have been the obituary tweeted by our respected Chief Minister as well. Not the exact words, but somewhere along the same lines. Instead, our CM's obituary tweet seemed to focus on the fact that Pu Ziona had 39 wives and 94 children.
I cringed a bit.
In all fairness though, our respected Chief Minister was just merely parroting the thoughts and sentiments of many Mizos, that Pu Ziona was known for just one thing - polygamy.
Enforcing this type of mindset can have serious implications.
By focussing on Pu Ziona's polygamous relationship, we tend to disregard the success achieved by his family and followers. Shunned by society and even considered as outcasts, Pu Ziona's clan still managed to prosper through hard work and determination, which in itself is an admirable achievement.
Their innate ability to completely adapt and depend on self-reliance is noteworthy. Their relentless pursuit to operate various cottage industries and turn their hard work into self-sustainable income is truly admirable, earning praises from the same people that had earlier ostracised them.
Whether it is about their affinity to cleanliness and discipline, or their impressive division of tasks and distribution of labour, or the fact that his followers had never created any nuisances with the public, we as a community have a lot to learn from them. Therefore, we are belittling all their achievements and qualities when we focus on just the polygamy part.
Polygamy is a controversial topic and it isn't something that should be promoted or condoned in today's society, especially by the leader of a Christian majority state like Mizoram. Apart from the religious aspect, polygamy also raises a lot of questions when it comes to ethics, health, stability, equality, legality, morality and even sanity.
I'm not going to cover those points in this post, nor am I qualified to do so, but a quick search online will churn out many results about polygamy.
One of the most common justifications I've seen people make online about Pu Ziona's practice of polygamy is, "Hey, whether you agree with polygamy or not, at least he made it to the Guinness Book of World Record as the World's largest family. He had put Mizoram on the global map and now the world knows about us because of him!"
Urrrmmm... I have a couple of things to say about that.
First of all, no, Guinness Book of World Record DID NOT proclaim Pu Ziona to be the "Largest family in the world". There is no mention of him anywhere in their books or website. In fact, Guinness Book of World Record has no record for the "Largest family in the world" as of today, although it has records for the Largest Royal family and the Largest family reunion, among others.
The title "Largest family in the world" was coined by different media outlets in their headlines to attract more traffic to their websites. You are more likely to click a link that has a sensationalised headline than a boring one. Pure click-baits. However, none of those websites have mentioned any official sources for this so called "record".
There was an article or two by "Ripley's Believe it or not" featuring Pu Ziona's family, but then again, they never claimed that he had the largest family in the world either, they only mentioned the sheer size of his family, and that was it, nothing else. So we really need to quell this false rumour that he was a world record holder.
Secondly, even if I'm mistaken and Pu Ziona is indeed the "Largest family in the world", do know that he is not the only one to make Mizoram famous when it comes to world records. Remember when we became the "Largest Bamboo dance in the world" record holder on 12th March, 2010?
10,736 Mizos danced their way to the world record hall of fame under the watchful eye of Guinness World Records Adjudicator Lucia Sinigaliesi. That was indeed a jubilant moment for all of us. [my old blog link]
This is the type of world record that should really matter, but many of us have already forgotten about it, sadly. In fact, do you know that we are no longer the holder of this particular record? On 28th April 2018, our record was broken when 11,914 dancers organized by the Committee of Bamboo Dance Performance in Hainan, China, replaced us as the new world record holder for this title [LINK].
Thirdly, many people today no longer consider the Guinness World Record (GWR) to be as prestigious as it once was. One can become a "world record holder" for even the most basic and frivolous action, like "Most hugs given in one hour" or the "Oldest male stripper" (my aim in life when I get older :P ).
I'm not dismissing those who had created impossible records to break, nor am I trivializing their effort in any way, there are indeed a lot of impressive world record holders, as well as a wide array of interesting titles out there, but the whole flair of being a world record holder has lost its charm over time. Today, you can apply to create or break any record you want, just as long as you have the money and influence.
According to "The Complete Guide to Getting Your Own Guinness World Record" [LINK] GWR offers three types of services: (1) Account Managed Service - This is the most expensive type and an official Adjudicator will come to your event. This costs thousands of $$$ and this sounds like the one we had experienced in Mizoram. (2) Priority Service - This costs $800 USD for an expedited application review to break an existing record, $900 USD to create a new record, and $650 USD for expedited evidence review. (3) Standard Application - This is the cheapest and costs $5 USD to apply, but you'll have to wait forever as they receive more than 50,000 applications every year.
Fourthly, there are many articles and news report of people claiming to have a much larger family than Pu Ziona, from Nigeria to Argentina and Chile. In fact a quick Google search will show you that there's a man from Ukraine with 346 living relatives (13 children, 127 grandchildren and 203 great-grandchildren). And yes, he has just one wife. :)
Last but not the least, even if all the points above are true, that Pu Ziona along with his 39 wives and 94 children are indeed officially the largest family in the world, is this really the record that we want to be known for? Is this how we want the world to perceive Mizoram as? As a hard working and disciplined community, we have so much more potential than to be infamous globally as a large polygamous family, no offense intended to the late Pu Ziona and his family.
Be careful of what you wish for. Once a community or a region gets a particular label, it will take a long time to break away from that stereotype. Just ask any Sikhs about "sardarji jokes". Or ask the French about "surrender jokes".
The French had one of the most successful military campaigns in all of Europe and transcontinental, winning most of their battles against other nations. And then that ONE time they surrendered against the Nazis, they somehow forever got meme'd in the online world as a nation prone to surrendering. Sad.
Likewise, I don't think many of us too would want to be known as the land where a guy with 39 wives and 94 children lived. At least I won't be bragging about it.
Instead, let us remember the man as a person with great leadership and charismatic quality (a known trait of all cult leaders) and be inspired by his family's dedication to self-sustenance and independency. We can do all that without whitewashing polygamy or being apologetic about his other religious doctrines.
Rest In Peace, Pu Ziona.
This is my short update for today. If you are reading till here, then I would like to end this post by sharing a short video by one of my favourite YouTubers Cogito, where he talks about a Cult. Do have a look.
Take care, everyone.