Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Chhura's Babysitting - Dr. R. Thangvunga

Once upon a time, there was a simple but honest man Chhura. He was gifted with this rare quality of comic commonsense which places him on a level not below the best of Shakespeare’s fools. He is a veritable treasury of tribal comic tales for the Mizo people.. This is one of those escapades that will not only make your tongue roll in your cheeks, but might render you look foolish for grimacing without pain if you do not, by his method, de-brain yourself.

One day, Chhura was obliged to take turns with his wife baby-sitting while she went to work in the jhum. Till noon, things went smoothly. Then the urchin started whimpering. Like every daddy, Chhura tried several diversions but to no avail. The sobbing became a cry, and no amount of coo-cooing helped to pacify him. Suddenly his stomach rumbled which made him realize that the baby might be hungry. He had seen old crones mashing cooked rice in their mouths and feeding their babies. In no time he had a frothing paste in his mouth which he ladled with his finger to the baby’s crying mouth. But the baby refused to swallow the food, as it most likely smelt different after being mixed with the tobacco in daddy’s mouth, and cried with a new key that spelled frustration. As he lifted the baby’s head for another mouthful, he felt the soft frontal lobe with a shock. “This be it that makes you cry. What a nasty boil it is! Let me pry it open.” He took a sharp knife and cut through the skin of the forehead till the milky gel oozed to the last drop. “All this pus should have made you cry so,” he murmured. The cry stopped immediately. Thinking the baby was asleep, he laid it down on the bed, and waited eagerly for the mother to come home to brag about his strange but heroic adventure.

This explains why his descendants, the public leaders, ever since take care of their subjects by the cry-management method of brain-lullaby.

Dr. R. Thangvunga is a reader in the Mizo department, Mizoram University. He particularly enjoys tongue-in-cheek retellings of the Chhurbura stories.

Chhura or Chhurbura is a legendary figure in Mizo folklore, famous for his absurd antics and escapades.


  1. The political comment may be true. But should this story have a place among the Mizo folf tales? One cannot lament the lack of artistic beauty in it as that is not what one primarily expects in folk tales. But the question is, should we pass on such crude stories from generation to generation, just because they are part of our 'sacred tradition'?

  2. 'This explains why his descendants, the public leaders, ever since take care of their subjects by the cry-management method of brain-lullaby.'

    What a wittily sarcastic comment! So sad to think that this must be the real situation in our land today.

  3. EWW! Maybe Chhura's on a par with the best of Shakespeare's fools but after reading this one, he's going to come in my nightmares for a year now.
    The public leader comparison is quite apt, though. Debrain them so they cry no more!

  4. Dad Jay, you've brought up a very pertinent point and I'd meant to put it to Dr V at a recent seminar (refer to where he'd presented a paper on translations/transcreations of oral lit. but never had the chance with a bunch of time-hoggers coming up with incoherent inanities! He did mention in his paper the differences between primitive and present-day sensibilities and well, just as there are some social traditions and customs that simply aren't practical today and have understandably been done away with, so also in oral lit made textual, there's probably some stuff that should be left buried in the past. Cultural purists might argue with that stand though.

    mesjay and porcheblues, I think the translator dredged up this rather unpalatable tale (which I remember my grandmother telling me once) purely to make that satirical little crack on politicians!

  5. Pure culture is a myth. All cultures are evolving all the time. People make up a golden era for the sake of making up a pure unchangable culture.
    Culture of any given time has to be evaluated on the basis of its ethical content and approved or thrown out. This applies to the current culture as well.

  6. an old argument in literature is the demarcation between 'high' and 'low' culture.. i, for one, think that 'low' is just as important. i would hate for future generations to think that our Mizo ancestors were all great lovers and brave warriors. fools like Chhurbura do have a place in our literary history, even if only to remind us that the veneer of civilization is thin