What is the current situation of vegetables in Mizoram during this ongoing pandemic? How are people, especially those living in the city away from farmlands, receiving essentials like vegetables and fruits?
As the second wave of CoVid-19 swept across India, Mizoram too was on lockdown again from April this year.
Mizoram probably has the longest or most number of lockdowns in India since the outbreak last year. The result of all those lockdowns, restrictions and night curfews is that Mizoram currently has the lowest CoVid-19 fatality among all Indian states.
However, lockdowns have a serious effect on the economy and one's livelihood. People have a tough time procuring basic essential items like vegetables and fruits. The state government along with the Local Task Force and YMA have done great jobs tackling these issues.
Apart from them, villages and towns across the state have stepped up to help their fellow Mizos living in high density areas where lockdowns are more strictly enforced.
Every day, some far-flung village or town in Mizoram would send a convoy of trucks filled with fresh vegetables and fruits to different localities within Aizawl, Lunglei, Kolasib and other district headquarters.
Those vegetables are completely free of cost, and are handed over to the respective locality's Task Force, who in turn distributed them within their areas.
Here are a few recent examples:
[North Vanlaiphai to Aizawl Dinthar Veng]
[Buhban Khua to Aizawl Chhinga Veng]
[Sialhawk Khua to Aizawl Tuikual South Veng]
[Lungrang South & Rangte Khua to Lunglei Electric Veng]
[Saikah Khua to Lawngtlai Thingkah CCC]
[Ṭhaizawl Khua to Lunglei Electric Veng]
[Sumsuih Khua to Aizawl Electric Veng]
[Dungtlang Khua to Champhai Zokhawthar]
[Saipum Khua to Aizawl Saron Veng]
[Kawlkulh Khua to Aizawl Govt Complex Veng]
[Pehlawn Khua to Aizawl ITI Veng]
All the vegetables above are FREE, and they all happened during this past one month alone. There are many many other similar benefactions like the ones above not mentioned too, simply because I have to cut down the length of this post.
As I mentioned in my previous post, my OnePlus 6 phone suddenly died last week and I didn't back-up my files. Hence, I lost all the images I had collected earlier for this blog update. A few friends like Muantea Chinzah and Lal Jo-a (father_sphinx) had sent me their images again on my gmail, so I'm truly thankful to them for all the photos above.
An entire village or town sending free vegetables to a city might sound unbelievable to many of you, but this is actually quite a common occurrence in Mizoram.
For my non-Mizo readers, let me put it this way. Imagine you're living in an apartment in Bandra (Mumbai) or Koregaon Park (Pune) in Maharashtra, slowly running out of vegetables to buy because of the pandemic, when suddenly you see truckloads of fresh vegetables entering your locality and being distributed to everyone, completely free of cost!
You ask the people around you if those vegetables were sent by the government or a local political party or an NGO or even some super-rich industrialist, but instead they tell you that it was a gift from the people of... say, Gujarwadi village of Shrirampur taluka, Ahmednagar district, Maharashtra.
How would you react?
Probably awestruck, right? Or even sceptical, thinking, "What are the villagers of Gujarwadi smoking?" I mean it is something that we would never experience in the metros.
However, for us Mizos, this is not something new. We can trace back such acts of altruism even during the great famine of 1958 (Mautâm) when Mizos shared even their last remaining morsel of food with those who didn't have any. That's why many people survived that famine.
In fact this act of selflessness is deeply ingrained in all of us. We have a very popular Mizo proverb that goes - "Sem sem, dam dam, ei bil, thi thi" which translates to, "Those who share will live long, those who don't will die soon", and this forms the very ethos of our Mizo society.
However, such an act of generosity is not completely a one-way street. There is reciprocation as well. The different localities receiving the gifts in return help out these villages and towns on many occasions too.
Such assistance can come in different forms, from gifting them computers and inverters to sending them PPE suits and masks, or sponsoring their village's football field construction or a public well. And most localities have one or two villages they focus on, and sometimes we tend to get very possessive too when we hear that another locality is sending gifts to a village we're currently associated with. :D
[Chaltlang YMA members travelling to Champhai Zote, Ngur, Hnahlan, Khuangthing, Vaikhawtlang, Diltlang, Mimbung, Teikhang and Hrianghmun villages to distribute goods]
Sometimes it's not just about gifting material items or financial aid. For example, the people of my locality Chaltlang would rush to this village called Mualkhuang every time there is a forest fire in that region, and sometimes we would even spend 2-3 days in the forest helping the villagers of Mualkhuang put out that raging fire.
[Chaltlang volunteers camping in the forest to put out the wildfire at Mualkhuang village]
Even though we firmly insisted that they should not give us anything to show their gratitude, they always send us a couple of truckloads of fresh vegetables on their next harvest, which we accepted hesitantly and distributed to all the residents within our locality.
In a way, such mutual connections between urban and rural regions not only prove beneficial to both parties but they also build rapport between the two divides.
But of course, we city folks do not receive free vegetables ALL the time. We're not living in some Utopian socialist dream. The capitalist part of our economy too needs to earn their daily bread at the end of the day. And so, we have our normal vegetable markets functioning at the same time as well.
However, due to CoVid-19 restrictions and lockdowns, a lot of changes were made about our local markets, which I will cover in my next post tomorrow. You'll find it quite interesting the way our community worked together to create a safer environment in the marketplace without compromising (much) on one's livelihood.
So I hope you find this post about our Mizo "sem sem dam dam" principle fascinating. I'll end this post with a music video by the talented Leitan Branch YMA (Vanapa Section) performing the song "Sem sem dam dam". Enjoy.