Sunday, October 26, 2008

Amid these hills where once we lived I retrace my steps...

By P. Rohmingthanga


So the native had returned to relive the dreams of his boyhood, and to savour the happiness associated with his first visit. But as you would have seen, this was not to be. No doubt there was satisfaction in being able to come back after 25 years, to physically touch the places which could not be reached the first time, to actually drive on the roads one had initiated, and see that at least a few of one's suggestions had been implemented. At the same time, I was sorely disappointed.

By this time you will have appreciated that the romance and mystery of all these places are closely interwoven with the encircling environment, in particular the trees and foliage surrounding them, the thicker, the richer, the bigger; the better. The variety and richness of the fauna, in turn, depend on the size and quality of the flora. Unfortunately, the loss of forest cover has been accelerated ever since the abolition of the Chiefs who were fiercely protective of their forest lands. Since then I saw, as some of you have also seen, the extensive damage to forests caused by jhumming, fire, badly planned and even worse executed developmental programmes, reckless exploitation, indifference, selfishness and greed. Even as far back as the early 70s, as one flew by helicopter throughout the length and breadth of Mizoram, it was rare to find a good forest stretch except in the far-flung areas. I had thought that my sensitivity on this score was, to some extent, blunted to such destruction. I, therefore, accepted as inevitable the fact that, between Seling and Champhai, there is no more forest, no more blooming Vaubes, nor a single orchid to be seen.

Still, I was totally unprepared for the shocking discovery at 'Lianchhiari Lunglen Tlang', 'Tan’, the two sites of 'Fiara Tui' and 'Rul Chawm Puk', where some of our most precious non-tangible heritage sites have been vandalised and ravaged so wantonly by the complete destruction of their environment. It was as if our inner-most recesses had been forcibly prised open and exposed to the forces of destruction, and our very roots being severed. The beauty, the romance, and the mystery of these places, and yes, that indescribable 'presence' of the spirits associated with them have all been irredeemably diminished. How did we allow things to come to such a pass? Was there no one who cared? How many more of such cultural and heritage sites have met a similar fate? Have we been conducting ourselves so dismally in other fields as well? Where do we go from here? Would we be able to have a change of heart, undergo a process of transformation, and begin the task of restitution?

Various conflicting thoughts had then crossed my mind. And I hoped against hope that there would be a comeback, a restoration, that it would come to pass in the next century. Then the flora and the fauna would return. Fiara would come back to his spring, which would no longer be dry whatever the season. Lianchhiari would remain undisturbed in her dwelling place, shaded from sun and rain by the woodlands, and comforted by the chirping of birds and the buzzing of bees. Chawngtinleri and the 'lasis' would be back, riding their mounts. She would resume weaving at her loom from the rocky cliffs of Tan and Lurh, and the Vamurs would once again criss-cross the skies towards Ramzotlang, and thence onwards to Zopuitlang.

And as for me, I will then retrace my steps once more....


I am deeply grateful to P. Rohmingthanga for allowing me to reproduce his deeply-felt, beautifully-written travelogue on this blog. New readers may refer to Part I
and Part II in previous posts.

Picture credit: Hmuifang Tlang, photographed by Zara Ralte, 2008.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Motherhood - Dawngi Chawngthu

Lower your voice, Ma
You don't have to shout
So it is now their turn to criticise
Like all children
They find fault
Anyway when did I start raising my voice
I can't seem to remember....

One never learns
Or else how could one explain
Why a rational thinking being
Could repeat the process
Of giving birth
Again and again....

The best part was always the beginning
The pregnancy
The pleasure of anticipation
Even though short-lived
I still cherish the feeling
When I felt truly complete
And didn't really require anyone

Of course all this is forgotten
During the first year of childcare
Spent in a blur of headaches and backaches
Washing ang drying nappies
Snatching fistfuls of naps
Waking up to wails
Of a wet and hungry baby

And the next year
Just when I would begin to feel human again
The whole cycle would repeat itself
So much for glorious motherhood
Today, all I can remember of those times was
An undiluted feeling of envy
Of all mothers with grown up children

But when children are young
The exhaustion is only physical
There are certain pay-offs
Their dependence being your reason
Of being in this world
Looking at their innocent faces while they sleep
Gives you a fierce sense of ownership

And then they grew up
Demanding care and also justice
Through endless accidents
Illness and greivances
I had been their Ma
With power to withhold pocket money
Or give permission to go out

But maybe my time is up now
Their needs and my capacity
To fulfill them have been exhausted
Yes, perhaps in this process
I had started raising my voice
Does one begin to shout
When one starts to lose control?

Dawngi Chawngthu lives and works in Aizawl, Mizoram, and is a happily married mother with four lovely children.

Picture - Mother's Love VI, oil on canvas, by Tlangrokhuma

Friday, October 10, 2008

Chawngmawii and Hrangchhuana

Once upon a time, there lived a beautiful girl named Chawngmawii. She had a secret friend, a handsome young man named Hrangchhuana. He was from the neighbouring village which was at war with Chawngmawii's village. Both of them were very popular in their two villages because of their good looks. Although the two of them lived in different villages at war with one another, they met very often because they loved each other very much.

In those days, when villages were at war, it was very dangerous to move from one village to another. But as Hrangchhuana was very much in love with Chawngmawii, he often secretly went to her village to meet her.

Alas, the villagers came to know that someone, perhaps an enemy, was visiting their village at night. "He must be caught," they said. So they built a wall surrounding the village and spread ash at the foot of the wall so that they could trace that person's footprints. But Hrangchhuana was very clever, he walked backwards when entering the village and they could not catch him.

As time went by, Hrangchhuana became more and more careless. One day, he was finally caught. The village chief was very angry and said, "Tie him up and let him lie on the road." He then ordered all the girls to come out and walk over him. This was done to humilate him and to find out the girl who had betrayed her village by loving an enemy. The girls walked over him, some even jeered and made fun of him and then it was Chawngmawii's turn. Instead of making fun of him, she covered Hrangchhuana's face with her shawl and held him tenderly, crying, "My dearest, what have they done to you?"

Thus Chawngmawii gave herself away. The people of the village became very angry with her and as punishment, they tied her up and let her watch her lover Hrangchhuana being tortured and put to death. He was beheaded and his head was displayed on top of a tree near the village gate. People threw mud on his face and made fun of him. Poor Chawngmawii watched with sadness. At last she could no longer bear to watch the muddied face of her beloved so she climbed up the tree to clean Hrangchuana's face.

Before his death, Hrangchhuana had told Chawngmawii, "If I am ever captured and put to death, please take my head to my parents." So Chawngmawii began to look for a chance to steal Hrangchhuana's head. One evening, she finally got the chance she had been waiting for. She climbed the tree and removed Hrangchhuana's head and fearlessly set out for his village .

When she reached Hrangchhuana's house, she told his parents how their beloved son was killed. It broke their hearts to see their son's lifeless face. They were very grateful to Chawngmawii for risking her own life to come to their village and bring home their son's head.

When the people of Chawngmawii's village came to know that she had taken Hrangchhuana's head to his parents, they were very angry and brutally killed her.

It is said that the souls of Hrangchhuana and Chawngmawii changed into stars believed to be Jupiter and Venus. These two stars come together every now and then in their journey through space, and at such times, folklore has it that the souls of Hrangchhuana and Chawngmawii unite.

Taken from Selected Mizo Folk Tales, 2008, published and edited by the English Language Teaching Institute (ELTI), SCERT Mizoram.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Poems - Zosangliana

Amongst the Velvet

These slow decaying evening days
have made me familiar with narrow streets
and tiled pavements that pass.
I walk under half moons and shy stars
until I'm at the broken down theatre in the old neighbourhood
where outside the street boys on their street bikes are accelerating
faster away into the night.
Combusting fuel and reflected white noise are followed by silence
followed by my friend who from a thousand miles away calls on the phone.
But I can only answer with wooden words
because my thoughts can't quite mesh together
when summer exhales in this little town in the hills
because I'm the room that hasn't been opened in a long, long time,
because I'm still waiting for my ride
repentant yet still hesitant.
Because I don't want to move from order to chaos
like the street boys in fourth gear breathing in equal parts
of numbness and speed.

For New Beginnings

All is well

I wanted to tell him, but I couldn't
To pry fingers into scars
into trances of cleansed inboxes,
passions and anger and ambivalence
for each other
To break his spell, where all is well
is whispered into ears
and poured in sleep
Don't make a fool of a Paris
of yourself
to think you and yours
can be removed to
a city of good and gold
and roam the cornfields of imagined heavens
in sleep together
Remember who you are
without her,
and what all that you can be
without her.