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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Chp 860. The demise of Pu Ziona

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.

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

Chp 859. Tiger in Mizoram!

Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

Rumour has it that when William Blake wrote those immortal lines, he was a young Lance Corporal garrisoned at Calcutta HQ of the East India Company. He was sent to the Lushai hills as a part of the British Expedition to rescue Mary Winchester, and on his way to Chief Bengkhuaia's village, he saw a magnificent tiger, thus inspiring him to write the iconic poem.

Ok just kidding, William Blake died much before the first British arrived in India, but his poem lives forever in our school syllabus. I've been thinking a lot about this poem because there is now officially a tiger in Mizoram again!

This is absolutely great news for Mizoram, especially for those people in the Wildlife and Conservation sector, because it became a grave concern over the years as tigers were no longer spotted at "Dampa Tiger Reserve", the largest protected area in Mizoram.

The prayers of many, including Wild Life Guard and naturalist Zakhuma, were answered as one of the cameras he had planted across the forest, sanctioned by WII (Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun), detected a tiger on 16th May!

When Zakhuma sent the camera files to Lalani at WII on 30th May, it was like any other routine inspection. She casually opened the files and exported them to her computer, expecting to see the usual mix of Barking Deer and Spectacled Monkey.

Imagine her surprise when she noticed an animal that looked like a tiger! She immediately forwarded the image to her colleagues at WII. Dr. S Sathyakumar (Scientist-G, Department of Endangered Species Management) confirmed that the image was indeed that of a tiger! A small celebration took place at WII that day.

When Zakhuma, who was still unaware of the groundbreaking image his camera trap had captured, heard the good news, he was ecstatic as well! Here is the image of the much celebrated tiger caught on that camera.

I know, the resolution isn't very clear, but as I have mentioned in my earlier blog posts about "Dampa Tiger Reserve" (links at the bottom), people face a lot of problems when it comes to installing camera traps because many of the locals, poachers and insurgents remove or destroy any cameras they come across.

Hence, the guards and researchers sometimes use low budget cameras due to diminished funds. Imagine if the image above is as clear as the one below, where I bravely posed for a photo with a ferocious hungry tiger!

Lolz, the above photo was taken by Natalia at Lengpui airport when we went to see off Lalani as she was returning to WII. I love how the tiger statue above is still kept inside a cage, you know, for extra protection just in case! :D

Since this news about the tiger is now making headlines across our Mizo community, a lot of people are asking why there were no tigers at "Dampa Tiger Reserve" in the first place.

As a layman, I scoffed when I first heard the news that there were no tigers there. I thought immediately, "Are you serious? No tigers in a tiger reserve? Then why the hell do we call it a tiger reserve, this is sooo embarrassing for Mizoram!"

I'm sure you had similar thoughts as well. :)

But then I got to learn more about wildlife preservations, national parks and biodiversities across India, all thanks to my wonderful girlfriend Lalani, and I realized that "Dampa Tiger Reserve" wasn't actually the only tiger reserve with no tiger! Many bigger tiger reserves across India, like the Sariska Tiger Reserve (Rajasthan), Panna Tiger Reserve (MP), Buxa Tiger Reserve (WB) and Palamu Tiger Reserve (Jharkhand) had all seen the disappearance of their respective tigers.

You see, tigers, in spite of their sheer strength, power, ferociousness and majestic looks, are actually a very vulnerable and endangered species!

The main reason for this is because we kill them. The first instinct most people get on suddenly encountering a tiger is to either run away or kill it. You'll pick up whatever "weapon" you can find around you, be it a stone or a nuclear bomb, and chuck it towards the tiger. Kill or be killed, our consciousness screams out.

Doesn't matter if the tiger was just passing through with no signs of aggression, maybe it was just taking a casual evening stroll, or maybe it was trying to meet its fitbit daily target of 2000 steps, we don't know and we don't care, we're not going to gamble with our life! Kill it, kill ittttt.

And so, to consecrate our survival, we started wiping out the apex predators slowly. No wonder tigers are disappearing fast. Three of the eight sub-species of tigers (Balinese, Caspian and Javan) were already extinct by the late 70's.

And then we have the trophy hunters, whose sole aim is to kill a tiger, not as a defence mechanism, but to masturbate their fragile ego as they show off the carcass of a tiger they had killed.

Back during our glory days of head-hunters and pasaláš­ha when killing a tiger was considered as an act of bravery, homeboy at least used to fight a tiger with his bare hands, or using an unreliable musket or ulhbun (single-use breech loading rifle), whereas today's hunter is equipped with the latest automatic rifle that can mow down an entire ambush of tigers without even breaking a sweat (yes, a collective noun of tigers is called an "ambush").

Truly, there's a special place in Hell reserved for such mindless cold-hearted killers.

Tigers can also go extinct without directly killing them. This usually happens when we hunt their food. As it gets harder and harder for them to find new prey, they migrate to unfamiliar and dangerous territories, where chance of them being killed is many times higher (see first point).

That's why when I went to "Dampa Tiger Reserve", Lalani and her team of researchers were studying the ungulate (animals having hoofs) health and population because they are ecosystem engineers that play an important role in the ecosystem, like being one of the primary sources of food for tigers.

If we keep eating up the food of tigers, then the tiger has no other option but to eat us as food.

Do know that tigers very rarely kill humans for food, though.

A tiger will become a man-eater only if it is extremely hungry, and that too only if (1) it is too old to hunt, (2) too weak or sick to hunt, (3) can't find any other prey to eat. Other than these 3 points, tigers will avoid killing humans for food. I guess they too know how toxic and undesirable we are. Tigers be like, "Whoah, that dude is a Manchester United fan, no way am I going to pollute my body with that disgusting flesh!" :D :D :P

Another reason why it is so difficult to protect tigers at "Dampa Tiger Reserve" is because of insurgencies. There are at least 27 different insurgent camps active inside and near the reserve area, according to a report by Hindustan Times, and WLG (Wild Life Guards) and other forest officials are regularly harassed or kidnapped by such groups.

Last but not the least, human population explosion and encroachment are also crucial reasons that can lead to the diminishing population of tigers. Deforestation under the guise of development causes further habitat fragmentation, pushing the remaining five sub-species of tigers closer and closer to the brink of extinction.

So these are some of the many reasons why tigers have disappeared from "Dampa Tiger Reserve". However, now that the presence of a tiger is confirmed, I hope our Forest officials will take utmost care and measures to guarantee its (or their) safety.

This new revelation is not only good news for the ecology, but it will affect the economy as well. Many of these Wild Life Guards are under flimsy contract and earn meagre salary. They have given their sweat and blood to protect the biodiversity of Dampa which usually goes unrecognised. Perhaps this will open a new chapter for them and give them the resources and finances that they so badly need.

If you've enjoyed reading till here, do read my earlier blog post series about "Dampa Tiger Reserve". The links are given below:

Hope you'll visit the place soon and moreover, hope you'll get to see this famous new tiger! :)

Until my next post then, take care everyone.

Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
          - William Blake

Ps. Sorry for the delayed post. I've written this post the moment I heard about the tiger but I was actually waiting for the Department of Environment, Forests & Climate Change, Mizoram, to issue an official Press Release about this new tiger re-discovery and include that report in this post, as that is a basic etiquette to do.

However, till today (10.06.2021), there has been no such Press Release from our government, even though there are already many news report with quotes from the Field Director and other Forest Dept officials confirming this re-discovery, like Pu Vana's Special Report, my pal Adam's "The Frontier Despatch" issue, as well as renowned Environmental Conservation Organization "The Green Hub" among many others. I find this quite weird. So I too decided to publish this post without the official Press Release since others have already reported it, hope this won't create any problems.

Friday, June 04, 2021

Chp 858. Vaccination in Mizoram

Earlier this week, I finally got my first dose of CoVid-19 vaccine. Yayyy.

Since then, I've been developing symptoms of fever, headache, fatigue, as well as new abilities to attract metallic objects (magnet test confirmed) and even see through physical bodies (X-Ray vision confirmed). OMG, the conspiracy theorists were correct! I've transformed into a superhero!

Just kidding. If I suddenly did gain new superpower to see through things, it would be to see through other people's bullshit. The number of anti-vaxxers in Mizoram is alarmingly high, especially for a state that prides itself to be the second most literate state in India. But I'll talk about that in another post.

The vaccination drive in Mizoram started from January this year, when the first batch of "Covishield" arrived at Lengpui airport on the 14th of Jan [source: DD News]

[image source: DD News]

Doctors and other Health Care workers were the first group to be vaccinated in Mizoram, followed by Front Line workers, which included all essential personnel from Local Level Task Force members and Police to Sanitation workers and Politicians.

As of yesterday, 4th June 2021, according to DIPR Mizoram website, the total number of doses administered in Mizoram so far is 3,17,566 (first dose: 2,65,375 and completed dose: 52,191).

With that, the percentage of people in Mizoram who got their first dose from the above data is 19.9% and those who had completed two doses is 3.9% [see footnotes].

Though the percentages are still very low, considering the vaccination drive started 6 months ago, they are at least slightly better than the current National average, which stands at 12.6% and 3.2% respectively.

Being a close-knitted community, most of us Mizos would know at least one person who had taken the vaccine during the first or second vaccination drive. As for me, my first experience with the vaccine came on 12th April when our locality loud speakers announced that people above 60 years could take their first shot of the vaccine.

I took my mom and two aunts from our colony to our locality vaccination center, which was held at our Chaltlang Presbyterian Church hall.

Once inside, the Health Care workers took down their Aadhaar card numbers and registered them. One of my aunts didn't have an Aadhaar card, and so they accepted her EPIC card instead.

After that, it was time to wait. Here are my two sweet aunts (mom's elder sis and younger sis) waiting for their turn to be called inside the vaccination room.

After sometime, a doctor ushered them inside the room and made them sit in a semi-circle. The doctor informed them about various instructions to take in case they started feeling feverish after the vaccination and they all listened attentively.

They were all quickly vaccinated, and from there, they moved to the next room, which was the observation room. Below on the left is my mom waiting inside the observation room.

As newly vaccinated people entered the observation room, their names were taken down and a doctor and nurse observed them for any discomfort or irregular pain. The rest of us who drove them to the center had to wait outside the room.

Every now and then, the nurse on duty would read out a list of names of those who had completed their 30 minutes observation time, and such people could leave the room. My mom and aunts too walked out of the observation room once their names were called out, and we drove them back home. That was it. Vaccination done for the 60+ category.

On 19th April, our locality loud speakers once again announced that people between the age of 45 and 60 could take their first dose of vaccine, and so my eldest sister went to the same place to get vaccinated. I didn't go with her as she didn't require a vehicle to reach the place. She too went through the same process as above.

And with that, the 45-60 years category was completed too.

However, for the next batch, that is, 18-44 years category, it was quite a long wait. After a deafening silence of almost a month, on 17th May, our state government announced that vaccines were finally available for the 18-44 age group. Finally, my turn. :D

However, unlike the two age groups above where walk-in vaccinations were conducted at our respective localities, we had to follow a different procedure.

We couldn't just walk to our local vaccine center, show them our Aadhaar card and get a vaccine. Nopes. Instead, we had to register at CoWIN portal, and once our registration was confirmed, we had to book our slot at a designated center at a given time on a given date that was announced by the government.

It was basically a "fastest finger" contest, or a "fastest internet speed" contest if you consider how bad our network speed is in many areas in Mizoram.

After two failed attempts to book an appointment, on 31st May, my niece Tomi and I waited in front of our computer from 7:30 AM, ready to press the button at 8 AM the moment the portal went live.

At 8:00 AM sharp, we pressed the button and got through! It took us around a minute to fill up just one registration itself because of the captcha code and stuff, and we were able to book a slot for my sister Dinpuii and Tomi successfully. However we couldn't book it in time for my other niece Mamuani and me, as all the slots were filled up by 8:03 AM.


But we decided to try our luck at the vaccine center since we felt that having a mix of vaccinated and non-vaccinated people living under the same roof could create problems in the future, and so Mamuani and I went with my sister and Tomi to the vaccination center. In Mizo, we would call this, "Vaccine ka va risk a". :P

I went and got a permit from our Local Council office to leave our locality since the designated vaccination center was located at Tuikual.

And so, all of us went to Tuikual, with our fingers crossed.

The road to Tuikual vaccination center was, to be frank, unpleasant. The road was extremely narrow and we were stuck at least 10 times because of vehicles coming from the opposite direction. Once we reached our destination, Tuikual Presbyterian Church hall, we stood in line.

And then one of the officials came outside and announced that ONLY those people who had registered and booked a slot for that day were allowed to get their vaccines. There were a few sighs of disappointment and some people turned back. My sister and Tomi continued standing in line, while Mamuani and I walked away in dismay.

My sister and Tomi were allowed inside once they showed their slot confirmation booking. They were each assigned a token number.

Their vaccination went off successfully.

My sister told me that a few people in their batch had left without taking their vaccines because the doctor announced a list of eligibility criteria to take the vaccine, like those who were recently hospitalized or pregnant couldn't take the vaccine, and so there was some chance that there might be leftover vaccines! And so Mamuani and I waited...

...and waited...

...and waited.

We saw a couple of other people waiting for leftover vaccines too, but most of them eventually gave up and went home. I guess they weren't persistent enough.

Finally, after waiting for more than 5 hours, the clock struck 3 PM, which was the last allocated time slot.

As the officials started packing up their registers and devices, we approached them and asked if it was possible to get leftover vaccines. They looked at each other and finally the one I presumed must be the leader (who was wearing a Tribe Fiction T-shirt) politely told us that this was highly irregular and that we shouldn't do things like this blah blah blah, and then asked us if we were registered at CoWIN, and we both said "yes" in unison. And then he asked us if we had our Aadhaar cards with us and again we replied with a "yes".

He then took a long dramatic sigh and finally said that since we had come from such a far locality and were waiting the whole day, he was allowing us to enter! And so they opened the gate for us and we ran inside jubilantly while thanking him profusely. :D

Ahhhh... it felt so good to be a Mizo. If I was pulling the same stunt somewhere else in India, the only way I could have entered inside was if somebody with authority pulled some strings for me or if I had bribed the officials. In Mizoram, it was all based on care and compassion.

Inside the hall, we too were assigned tokens.

We waited for our turn to be registered in the portal, and that took just a minute or two to complete.

After that they ushered us into the waiting area and finally a nurse came outside and led us into the vaccination room.

A doctor then made a small announcement, informing us that those who were pregnant or recently hospitalized weren't eligible to take the vaccine. After that she assured us that some of us could have fever or other mild illness after taking the vaccine and that was completely normal. And then the nurses came and jabbed us. Just like that, it was all over in 2 seconds. To be frank, it was quite an anti-climax, lolz, especially considering what we went through earlier to get that vaccine. :D

A nurse then led us all into the observation room, where they took down our names and we waited for 30 minutes.

And that was it. I was vaccinated. :)

I hope my experience was able to take you through the vaccination process in Mizoram. If you haven't taken your vaccine yet, please do so at the earliest.

I'll end this post by adding a few suggestions about the vaccination process, which you shouldn't take as a complaint or me being ungrateful. I am extremely grateful to the medical fraternity, Local Task Force groups, our MNF state government and our central Modi government for the free vaccine. Maybe consider my suggestions like a constructive criticism, if it will help improve the process in the future.

Suggestion 1. Why do we (18-34 group) need to book a slot via CoWIN? I personally saw how the 60+ group and 35-60 group vaccinations were conducted and everything went by so smoothly, why change the process? Like the famous phrase, "If it ain't broke, why fix it?", I am a bit perplexed as to why the 18-34 group suddenly need to follow this new process.

Also, making it mandatory to book a slot through CoWIN discriminates not just those who have slow internet connection but those who have NO internet access.

Suggestion 2. Can we announce the list of people who are not eligible to take a vaccine (pregnant, recently hospitalized etc) BEFORE the whole vaccination process begins instead of at the fag end of the process? I think that will save a lot of people so much time instead of going through the entire process only to be disqualified in the final step.

I know I may sound a bit unappreciative, considering how the only reason I managed to get a leftover vaccine was because of this same reason. :D But it is not something I would wish to happen upon anybody.

Suggestion 3. Since the government has made Tuikual a designated vaccination center, is it possible to do a little bit of traffic control during vaccination hours? It is extremely difficult for two vehicles to pass each other on that narrow stretch of road, maybe the traffic police or LLTF can make the road "one way" during vaccination, like people can enter only from Tennis court side if they are getting vaccinated and can exit only from Dinthar side once they are vaccinated, or some rule like that?

So I hope these suggestions of mine help a bit. Once again, I am truly grateful to all those who are responsible for delivering the vaccines, and hoping to see the end of this pandemic soon. Together we can battle this. God bless you all.



I came to the figure of 19.9% single dose and 3.9% double dose by taking the unofficial 2021 population of Mizoram, estimated to be around 13,31,921. However, if we take the official 2011 census report where the population of Mizoram is 10,97,206 then the percentage of people in Mizoram who got their first dose as of today is 24.1% and those who had completed two doses is 4.7%. Official government report can only use the census figure, and a new census report is supposed to come out this year but that hasn't been released yet because of the ongoing pandemic.

Also, in my comparative analysis between Mizoram data and India data, I have used a 3 days old data for India since I couldn't find the latest data online. But this will not affect the outcome variable much because the daily average vaccination rate in India is just around 0.12%.