Site Meter

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Christmas, Boxing day and the Leveller

Brevity is the breathe of life (DB, Life)

One long year wait for Christmas ended in a single day. The celebrated day trickled down to exit in a brief second. Like martyr it left when other calendar days were not expected or feasted upon. It doesn’t take time for anything to end while the rest seem to be in a never-ending journey. Many a time the beginning is never seen or known, but the ending is too obvious. Too evident. Too inevitable. But brevity adds to the pleasure of life. It is all that make things matter. Better too. If everything were eternal, it would be so ugly.

I started the day trying to save all the SMS Christmas wishes I received. After sometime my mobile screen was blinking with the message that said: no space for new messages. To create space for the incoming messages I deleted those that have no sender’s name. It was a desperate move trying to save some while deleting others. The might and power of religion has attached unquestioned value to the messages of the day while technology delivers them with assured certainty. Then I wonder what the day would be to different people who are negotiating pale uncertainties. In Manipur’s Chandel, Kuki brothers and sisters have called this year’s Christmas as “Black Christmas.” Their land continued to be an uninvited battlefield with the Indian Army fighting against the United National Liberation Front (UNLF). The protracted conflict in Chandel has once again resulted in severe internal displacement of the Kukis from their homes. Their lives are trapped in the dictate of the barrel of guns. Their lives are on the run. Their lives remain shattered in the broken State that house many broken hearts. However, their plights, as human being, are never address as there is no governance and order with the Government. In the process they have become “refugees”, “landmine victims”, “displaced”, as they continue to lose everything in their own homes.

Then I thought of the distressed villagers in Manipur’s Tipaimukh who told me in October that they desire to celebrate Christmas in October with the little harvest they have as they were gnawed by the impact of gregarious bamboo flowering. They knew they have so little to last them through December 25. I saw fear in their eyes. Their words quake with waning hope. Of helplessness. They, who battle with rats and rodents, also wish to have a wonderful Chrsitmas. As doom flowers, they bred hope in silent prayers. Their faith is not moving mountains, but it is making them see the unfolding days and nights. A grim situation where they are compelled to hope against every possible hope. They are victims not only of natural calamities, but also of man made disaster. While the Government at the Centre has pumped in money to combat the impact of the dreaded flowers nothing reaches the marginalized villagers who are living a near famine situation. They don’t know that someone somewhere is getting filthy rich with their share of money that was designed to fight their hunger and the fear of it. They don’t know that the food shortages and the crisis were man made and not merely nature’s cycle. But they keep blaming the bamboo that flowers and not the corrupt insatiable lot who will never bell the cat. I wonder how they would be facing another day.

Then on the night of the Boxing Day I was woken by Robert Sanglora Khawbung. He told me our friend Mesak L Sinate breathe his last at AIIMS hospital. I got to know of Mesak through Robert in Delhi. I remember we shook hands and greet each other on Christmas night after the dinner in the Church. He said it’s almost late but we still can shake hands for Christmas sake. That was about five hours before he met with the accident. From what I was told Mesak met, greeted and called all his near and dear ones on Christmas day. His father told the congregation at the funeral service that Mesak telephoned home early on Christmas morning, which his father said was very unusual and unlikely of him. Mesak cried over the phone saying he was feeling homesick. Then he spoke to everyone in the family. One by one. His father said that it must be his way of saying goodbye to the family. We also shook hands, and as he said, before it was late. I must also believe that must be his way of saying goodbye. The hungry leveller had his way on the Boxing Day.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas again

Tura and Baghmara in Garo Hills geared up well in advance for Christmas. The forest town were decorated with sparkling multi-colour lights as it ready to celebrate the memories of the birth of the Son of Man. Rohminglien Buhril, who hosted L Keivom and I and who is also the Divisional Forest Officer of Meghalaya’s Tura and Baghmara districts, told us that the town would be witnessing a Christmas decoration competition very soon. The competition has become an annual affair for the Garo protestant and catholic Christians who populated the eco-friendly districts. Like the hidden lamp Tura and Baghmara celebrates the beautiful season unknown to the outside world. Everything beautiful hides while the ugly and the beast lord with evils. If the wait for the Messiah is still on, it should be over for that evading beauty is already wagging its tail in Garo Hills. When man comes to his realization he would flock to the virgin hills and mountains to see the already revealed power and glory. There would not be any need to wait or preach with doctored doctrines and fanatic religion. The power and the glory is more than enough to make the blind see and cease the long wait. The sights and sound are honest than any truth of the embraced religion. They are alive ever with His breath and touch.

We left Tura for Baghmara on December 16 evening. Baghmara is about four hours away from Tura. On the way we were gulped by the majestic night with sparkling stars that flooded the sky. We passed through “No Mans Land”, between India and Bangladesh. Rabbits and deer leaped away from the piercing jeep headlight. They don’t seem to find any comfort in it. We passed through many sleepy villages that were, otherwise, awake with homecoming like celebrations. I wonder not who came, for I think I know the unseen visitor. That’s salvation for me. Band of caroling boys and girls dotted the serene road in the cold and clean night. We passed them undisturbed. Sometimes four or five teenage boys would be sitting in the middle of the silent empty road with the traditional Garo drum. They seem to know no fear, but only the spirit that has shine through. Some were not clothed enough in that chilly night. But they seem to have more than enough. Their overflowing hearts shine in their faces. They don’t seem to be in want. They seem to have everything, which the mad world is racing for. Be it peace. Joy. Contentment. Rivers and water. Trees. Nature and all its beauty. Nations will war for them tomorrow while the Garos sacredly preserve them in their lap.

Coming back to Delhi is no joyful retreat. The mess and chaos with the angered ancient city does not seem to bear any resemblance to that blissful expectation that lifted Garo hills. The journey was Christmas. But we save the stirring spirits within us, undisturbed by the magic of many Black Dog nights. The best is still saved. So merry Christmas.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Inside the Heart of Darkness – VI

11 October 2007 : We left Aizawl for Tipaimukh a little later than expected. There were two reasons: One, the “religious team” said they took a good while trying to wake up L Keivom who, I know, slept later than usual. Aizawl hills must have faintly seen the early morning light when he hit the bed. The religious team was indeed waking the sleeping mortals, just like the miraculous act of waking the dead to life again. Sometimes I wonder if waking the dead to another life is Christian at all, despite the act that saved many teardrops. I somehow felt that the mortal flesh, which will inevitably turn into dust again, was given abundant importance. I sometimes wonder if at all it was inculcated and challenged by another inevitable provocation, which must be frequent for the Son of Man. But the life that Lazarus got for the second time did not last like salvation, as the act was committed before He was crucified for the sins of mankind. Anyway, Keivom was woken as we still have miles to go. The second reason was that the sumo jeep that we were travelling in ran out of fuel in the middle of Aizawl city. The driver was all red with wordless uncomfort for causing the inconvenience. He ran to the nearest gas station with an empty bottle to fetch diesel to make the wheel box run again. The unexpected dry fuel tank in the middle of the street caused severe inconvenience for everyone. At one point of time the traffic came to a standstill as our lifeless wheel was blocking the entire life that has to pass through the congested road, which Aizawl is popular for. It was geography blocking science. I stood wondering what the future holds for Aizawl road, as they seem to be getting clogged with each passing day in the face of unquenchable materialistic race that multiplied wheels and engines. There cannot be many options left for the State to widen the road. Otherwise, it would have to put a ban on all the multiplying private vehicles. Something like the “Total Prohibition”. The people did not seem to like the total ban imposed on alcohol. But majority might celebrate the total prohibition on private wheels, which has almost become a show of might and power in the “most peaceful state” that is awaiting for another unfortunate tag, “disaster zone”. Introducing flyover or underground road will not also work out. That would forever label Mizoram as the “Disaster State”. The other alternatives would be to be like good Roman in Rome and become a good Christian in the “Christian State” by giving and helping the uncounted poor and needy instead of buying more for a future chaos. The materialistic race has to be negated to save Mizoram roads. Otherwise, the State would standstill with big oiled wheels. That would still be mistaken as signs and evidences of progress and development in this blind vested race. If not, the city has to be shifted somewhere. The concentration of everything possible in Aizawl is already making the city vulnerable.

We halted at a place called “zero mile” in Seling for lunch. A couple of rice hotel stood by the roadside. The modest hotel was airy with big pane- less windows. Big black pots stood by the fireside. The sight was like homecoming. They were reminders of beautiful things that I fondly recall in quite sigh. They were not merely pot. They represent memories for which they stood like a clear milestone. The table was set with all the foods they have in their unprinted menus. Not many, but enough. After the meal, thin bamboo sticks that were dried for agarbati sticks served as toothpicks. I was told that Mizoram produces agarbati sticks in plenty. The house besides the hotel played music continuously, a little louder than usual. Loud enough for many to hear undisturbed. Pu Hrangthangvung told me it was RTC Lalduhawmi’s house. RTC Lalduhawmi is a popular Gospel singer, whose songs I have listened to when I was in high school. I went to Chibai (greet) her. She was sweeping the house then. Another bright and airy house again. I told her I used to listen to her songs in my bad but improving Lushai. She told me she is working on her Christmas album, which she hopes to release sometimes before Christmas. It is always a joy meeting artiste. Life on earth would be too lonely without them.

Our jeep was covering the endless snaking miles like the hungriest machine that science has invented. The long run across the hills and mountain was hardly interrupted. The sights and scenes changes with all its nude beauty. It was like running across the longest chain of the biggest beauty pageant ever held. We passed through many sleepy villages. Some of the smaller ones seems like they were actually sleeping. The sights stirred in me revival-like feelings. But not like those wild and noisy ones they had in those houses of worship. I said to myself, “How great thou art.” That’s my testimony. It is easier to see nature and realised His greatness, than deriving from man. Atheist should travel more. Even if they did not change, they will see a change.

We reached Vervek before sunset. Vervek is one of the last villages before reaching river Tuivai. It situates in Mizoram’s Sinlung Hills Development Council. We met one Independent Church of India’s (ICI) elder who volunteered to show us direction till Tuivai. After the brief introduction, he discovers to his utmost surprise, that he was sitting with the worshipped Zoram Khawvel author, L Keivom. He could not believe himself. He shook Keivom hands again for the second time. If the first one was the sweetest, the second seems to be sweeter. If the elder was Columbus, he would, vainly, but still, say that he discovers Keivom. The spirit suddenly soars for him and spill over all of us. He shared many things about New Vervek. He told us that he was one of the pioneers who erected ICI at Vervek. He also told us that the bamboo flowering severely affected their village. He became more energetic than ever as we discuss several issues. I enquired him about Laltuoklien, King of Sinlung rock, folk and blues, as his village that sits on the top of a mountain could be seen from Vervek. He knew the king, which was no surprise. In this beautiful part of the country, everyone knows everyone. The level of acquaintance resembles the biblical sin, something that cannot be hidden. No one can take a hide. They would still know even if you hide.

The road after Luok, a deserted place, reveals the tip of abject neglect by the governments of Mizoram as well as Manipur. The road is National Highway 150. On the side of Mizoram the road that is actually in its deteriorating mess is a short stretch. On Manipur’s side, the deterioration worsened, which seems endless. The church elder told us that the Government of Mizoram finds it useless on its part to work and repair the neglected highway unless Manipur government does its part, which is much longer. Our driver, who is from Mizoram, was also shocked to discover the state of the poor road. He told me that he has been driving everywhere, but have not seen such a bad one. Almost after every three minutes good run our jeep ran into deep pool of mud. Everyone has to get down to push and pull the jeep from its deepening pool. If one is in it, one cannot just sit and watch. In most part of the road, it has deepen alarmingly where the wheels run so that the engine sometimes stand on the protruding ground while the wheels make a vain attempt to find a hard ground as it slips. I told the driver that he has to bring along a spade, shovel and big rope next time he travel to this forsaken place. Many a times the driver said that the jeep won’t be able to make any inch forward again. Many times he dip his right leg into the pool of mud and water and find them too deep to give any test-drive again. He even suggested that we walk with our baggage, which was impossible in that middle, a part of the heart of darkness. We actually have to challenge him to make all those attempts that were fortunately not in vain. The National Highway was travelled with faith and by deeds. Many deeds actually. Before reaching Tuivai bridge our jeep got stuck in another trap like deep pool again. After desperate attempts we did not want to give up. So L Keivom, the Church elder and I walked more than 5 kilometers to reach river Tuivai to ask for help from friends who were waiting for us. During the long walk, we were surprise not to hear any birds chirping. We did not spot any birds too. The little raindrops moved the leaves to life. Otherwise, it was like a sad mourning day. The deep jungle was silently alive. They walked back with spade and shovel while Keivom and I sip many cups of sweet, milk tea flavoured with Tipaimukh grown tea leaves in the hotel besides the flooded river that was running wild yellow. Keivom’s words still lingers as he said, “Home again, at last.”

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Inside the Heart of Darkness - V

Vanity Fair: While Aizawl was a glory revisit for L Keivom, we happen to be a witness to that for the first time. I cannot help but say that the city loves its small gods than the big One. It is inevitable for the State that thrives on superstructure outburst while its economic base could not be situated even after more than thirty years of its birth. Mizoram became a full fledged State in the year 1972 from the ruins of insurgency and unrest. Very recently, the authorities have taken another extra mile to declare the State as “disaster zone.” If it succeeds, the Centre’s injected money would be used to celebrate the growing superstructure culture that has lord the State. Then, there would be “disaster concert”, “mister and miss disaster contest”, and all those beautiful disaster celebration to hide the real disaster again. The search would be endless as the vacuum left by Keivom, who cultivated a soul searching journey with his serious books, remains unoccupied. The State needs to be saved by the real saviour and not by the growing idols and icons that lacks constructive originality in their entire medium. But in their search for that eluding real, the illusion of reality wrapped them through.

October 9, 2007/ Aizawl: We went to Zalen Cabin to pay tribute to (L) R Vanlawma, one of Zoram Khawvel heroes. I came to learnt about him only that morning when L Keivom narrated the lives of the unforgettable hero. The man was remembered for his integrity and immense contribution towards nation building of the Zohnathlak people. Zalen Cabin was one of the nodal centre for the Mizo National Front during their struggling days. A shelter as well as a decision hatched centre. The modest cabin, with bamboo walls, raised with the support of many decaying poles stood to speak of the movement that saw many forgotten and few remembered martyrs.

My Aizawl visit resembles an intrude into familiar museum and history. Mizoram is still alive with many of its pioneers that represent its existence today. Many of them are gnawing the levers of the State power structure while many others are sharpening their teeth to fit into it. The rest of the least active are vocally resilient lots. Acting as underground critics against their comrades, whom they said have long lost the flame and the vision that they once struggled for. I saw in them the burden of the failed State, which is dragged by blind powerful men who again readily bartered Mizoram’s tag as the “most peaceful State” for a State inflicted with “disaster.” The latter suits the unholy State in almost all matters. However, like India’s advertisement gurus, the State excelled in image making and delivering them beautifully, which seems to save its face from the stark realities that it is not even challenging. However, if the realities did not remain, than it is deteriorating. I was not shock or surprise to see many new labours, workers, poor, farmers or exploited people organizations that recently came into existence asserting for their rights and dignity not as Mizo or Christian, but as equal human being. Their birth is inevitable. The pain has been too long. The muted voices represent the collective, than the band of actors who could silence them. The ruling actors cannot ignore them for long. They won’t. Time will anyway bring about a responsible peoples’ government. When that could be realized, the State can be proud to call itself a “Christian State.”

We visited NEREF’s office at Millenium Centre, which is Aizawl’s first mall. The employees, who were all Hmars, saved my bad lusei language that I am otherwise improving. The mall also house big label stores. Their intrusion is a coincidence with the uncontrollable materialistic progress. I was wondering if they would ever deliver the bread than the snakes that the State have already in abundance.

October 10, 2007: We met Mizoram ex-Speaker, Rokamlo over tea at his unfinished house. Another interesting veteran of life and lives who is of L Keivom’s contemporary. Keivom’s trusted friend. A man confident of his experiences and religiousness. He was introduced as an academician before he joined the Congress and politics. He took his time, a good amount of it, justifying his stray into politics when the State runs out of productive intellectuals. The State treasury seems to be the biggest pull factor for the band of politicians, surrogate sons of the gregarious bamboo flowering. His justification could be related to Hobbes’ “State of Nature” where man was portrayed as ‘naturally selfish egoistic and self-interested’ seeking always for ‘more intense delight.’ However, Rokamlo was branded for his honesty, uprightness and clean hands during his political career for which his eyes glow with restricted pride that sometimes almost spill when the MNF government or Lalthanhawla’s reputations are crucified. His silent, but affirming smiles, sometimes, are louder than his calculative words that were carefully dressed to impress and convince his guests. His honesty seems unmerciful than the truth itself. And he seems to love to speak them louder without any dread of lies. He was also full of humour. But rarely celebrates his well crafted humour. He gave his long unseen and new guests a good amount of time to cherish his words. The humours are, but, sharper than any swords for his enemies if he would have any. But his free attitude says that he was not with any of his enemies when we met him that afternoon. His wife, the daughter of one of Mizoram’s wealthiest businessman Pachhunga, a Hmar, known for her cooking skill seems to have added more flab to his uncontrolled waistline. But Pu Rokamlo never seem to lack the energy to give another good run for the teeming power hungry actors who have designed to climb the power ladder next year. Mizoram could certainly do better with fortunate son like him.

Aizawl Post Editor, Lalrambuotsai took Hrangthangvung and I for a sightseeing. We went to see the famous “Mizoram Taj Mahal.” A heavy structure with a heavier cross that weigh like a burden. The rare structure was built in memory of (L) Rosangpuii Varte by his husband, Khawlhring. The structure was beautiful as it was born out of love. I realize again that only love is beautiful here on earth. We were taken to Aizawl Theological College and then to Beraw Tlang where Isaac L Hmar was murdered. The mount is also called Golgotha by the locals. Isaac was not the first mortal to die in that beautiful mount. It was all unfortunate, but it was a lonely and beautiful place to take the long sleep.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Inside the Heart of Darkness – III

Zoram Khawvel
Though the popular search for icon and idol has become an endless affair in Mizoram, the State has not forgotten L Keivom, one of the biggest towering small gods. Mizoram’s memory for the acclaimed writer is never short. I observed that public memory is not short, not at least for the Zoram Khawvel author. His presence was news. He was sought after. Invited. Desired. Worship. Respected. He was also served. Fed. And also criticized, she said, after we left the mountain city, for his honest views on the vanity of imposing total prohibition in Mizoram.

The issue of total prohibition would face a humpty dumpty fall if it were the agenda for any politicians aspiring to score extra mileage in Mizoram. It would get a deservingly democratic vote to be out of Mizoram’s worry. Despite that it is one of the hottest underground debate. I was wondering why it could still exist when the collective, including the leadership, did not really like it. I thought of few reasons. First, the people do not really seem to care about the “total prohibition” when the prohibited fluid flows like milk and honey in Christian’s imagined “holy land.” The “total prohibition” seems to rule, but the people are not in want of that “holy water” for which it was made. However, they shall not be in want ever. Second, Mizoram is a state in image making process, so the “total prohibition” tag goes well with the “Christian state” that it sealed for itself. For it, the image is more beautiful than the real. The State, no doubt, is successful in scoring image. But when it comes to the real, the Pandora box would be gnawed open by the worms itself. The State’s foundation is cemented by the superficial superstructure culture that mesmerized the reasonable as well as the unreasonable lots. That does not leave behind the sinners as well as the holy, if there is any. The third reason, for the last, is simple. The water can flow, so it exists.

A little after five minutes of our check-in in the State guest house, two journalist from one of Mizoram’s biggest local magazine, Zozam, came to meet its unforgettable son. I sat and listened to the interview. Their first question was why Keivom translated the Bible in Hmar and not in Mizo, and whether that negates his cherished vision of Zoram Khawvel? The question that follows was what Keivom felt about the “total prohibition” in Mizoram? In short, Keivom’s response to the latter was that the archaic law was a naïve and immature response to the progress of any civilisation, which is rather a failed and invalid experience in various societies that witness such imposition. Keivom, once again, opened the lid of the people’s silent concern. To add salt to the unseen wounds, he also said that the Old Testament would lost its meaning if wine is remove from all its usage. That has to say that the Holy Book has its source in the holy water. Whatever is, the ancient law, the concern and the question reflect that the unholy State is severely thirsty. I believe the concern is more with the soaring price in the black market rather than the absence of the holy water. The “Christian State” ought to pray not only for the drinkers but also for the self-supposed holy mortals who should wake up to the menace of the black market that is hatched by the State itself.

Christmas City
Night embraced the mountain city to make it look like a huge Christmas tree. It was a bigger relief to rest at its sight. There were big churches that dotted the city. There was a splendid Presbyterian Church and Baptist church not far from where we put up. Strong wind knocks our glass window the whole night through. That keeps me awake. The other thing that keeps me beautifully awake was the Halleluia Chorus that was practised by the Baptist Church Choir. I could hear them trying to perfect the song with unattainable voices. The perfection would be a vain quest, but they tried beautifully. I love that trying part. That inevitable quest. I was in a fixed then, wondering what’s more beautiful, the voices or the song. Knowing that none of the two could exist in isolation, the choirgirl voices reached the depth of my eardrum. While my bedmate, Pu Hrangthangvung snore to meet his dear most in his dream, I took the liberty of relating faces to the voices that I heard. Seeing would be believing. But imagining is also wonderful. I saw angel like faces. For the voices itself were songs. I thought to myself that Adam must have been tempted to eat the apple not because he likes it, but because of Eve’s voice. I reminded myself that many beautiful things are not to be seen. The unseen voices made the baby inside me leap higher than Elizabeth again. That is my testimony in short. I told myself that today is Christmas for me. I reminded myself to count every small thing big. They indeed are the biggest things. It is only that we never count them. I know there is nothing bigger than small and little things. Shall we all say Halleluia before I make a pulpit out of it?

I remember my first visit to the State in the year 2006, when I sensed the same feeling at the sight of the Christmas city. The second experience has the same unforgettable effect too. I realised that beautiful things could make man awake peacefully. The Christmas tree-like city laid bare, seducing me with all its unseen nakedness while its dwellers sleep in numb senses. I did not excuse myself to say that I am a visitor here. Like an honest panderer, I told the night, the light, the air and the darkness that I belong to her. Like every love-struck woman, she embraces me to sleep in her warmth of the Christmas night.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Inside the heart of darkness – II

Zoram Khawvel publisher, Pu MC Lalrinthanga and Aizawl Post editor Pu C Lalrambuotsai were all smiles when we met. The unseen attachment speaks of old friends. Old lovers. Unquestioned loyalty. We immediately headed for Aizawl, which is almost forty kilometers from Lengpui airport. We pass through many sleepy villages bathe with the red eyes of the drowning sun. The villages were fresh and clean. Most of the time the chain of voluntary hills and mountains blinded the sun. I spotted many village men walking without shirts. Not that they do not have any to wear. I believed it worked unconsciously to walk shirtless in the villagge. Carefree with their six packs firm on sun baked chisselled bodies. They did not seem to have much to impress.

There were big signboards that announced about the threat of bamboo flowering. Some about malaria. If one has to judge the signboards, it seems Mizoram government is well prepared to fight the threat of the death flower. But the newspaper of the following day speaks a different story of corruption with the farmer’s share that was allotted by the government at the Centre. I realized nature is a weaker threat compared to corrupt man. Man is just like death. He can never quench his thirst.

It was a relief driving along long winding road that was only disturbed by curves and curl. The air was too clean. It is a blessing that air is still free of cost. I dread to imagine the future where fresh air would be a commodity in the hands of multi-national giants. We finally reached Aizawl to find the narrow clogged road filled with Maruti-800 cars. Pu Lalrambuotsai told us that Aizawl is also known as the “city of Maruti.” Trains of Maruti cars could be spotted anywhere at the cosy city. I love the city for various reasons. One, there is always a sense of coming home. Second, it is homely too. The other reasons are also intimate.

Reading the wall
There are many man-made concrete walls in Aizawl. They must have been built to give a support to the loose soil from sliding off. The walls were smeared with posters. I could make out two kinds of posters. One that announced concerts, idol/icon related campaign posters, album release, fashion show and all those “superstructure” culture Mizoram is famous for. The other digressed to speak against corruption that is getting rampant with the bamboo flowering. Many new actors representing the farmers multiplied to fight against the present MNF government who were accused with corruption and siphoning off the farmer’s share of money that was allotted by the Centre to relieve them as the bamboo flowers and rats, rodents and wild animals multiply.

The sad vacuum is that there is no movement to plant the serious issues to the consciousness of the public as well as the government. But the rocks and bricks on the wall still does.What i observed was that there seem to be too many actors for the one big issue, which otherwise deserved a concerted move. In the highly acclaimed Chrsitian state, the poor and needy are made to fetch for themselves while the able, haves and those close to the power structure reap and rip beyond fairness and truth. The black shepherds in wolve's clothing exploited them to score political mileage for selfish ends. If Jesus was around in Mizoram today, he would lead the farmer, whom the government as well as the public merely called mirethei (poor), loneitu (farmers) and thingtlangmi (hill people). Responding to the plights of the farmers did not seem to be the interest of the already established Churches too. The Churches seem to have lately appreciate Pilate's stand and his hand washing act too. If the water could have cleansed Pilate, the multiplying tribe of powerful reverends and theologians in Mizoram would also be cleansed by the unmerciful rain that wet the days and nights. But the poor and needy were left in the wilderness. Clueless. Helpless.I still remember Zoram Kuthnathawktute Pawl (ZKP) president, who, in its protest rally, warned the Government of Mizoram that it would be seeing darker days if the plights of the farmers are not addressed. Their voices are drenched on the wall. But the Bible is right. If no man speaks, the pebbles would.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Inside the heart of darkness - I

The Word that was with God in the beginning was translated by L Keivom into Hmar. A third version in the language. The Book led us into the heart of darkness - Tipaimukh. Bible is Baibul in Delhi’s Edition. The air- tight packed, thick black book with Baibul inscripted on its cover is a courageous digression from the “sacred” and “holy” imagination of believers who would “just believe” without questioning. Without reasoning. The usage of Baibul rather than the globally popularized Bible is a negation and deconstruction of the colonial interest and design of cementing everything within their reach and even beyond. The new translation would spark a big change in the linguistic and literary world. It will heal the soul too. It will also affirm faith and belief. Moreover, it will remain as a leviathan teacher on translation, interpretation, conception, culture, reasoning, questioning, doubting, relation and inter-relation and correcting. If we dare to fail to learn, I doubt the unseen holiness of the baptized believers we labelled to our mortal flesh that feeds the soul.

The Call
In early September, Keivom, who bear my trip, called to make sure that I witness the historic moment, which he planned at Senvon. Like the child that leaped within Elizabeth when Mary greeted her, the child in me also leaped when Keivom told me his plans. I wonder whose child leaped higher, Elizabeth or mine. There can be no words for the favour, which I dearly honoured. Besides getting my pages ready in advance in my office, I chalked out subjects and issues that I decided to focus during the trip. My priority list includes life and livelihood, mautam (bamboo flowering) and its impact on Tipaimukh villagers, the state of churches, education and politics, culture, nature, and the expectations and aspirations of Tipaimukh villagers.

I geared up with added lens for my camera. I borrowed an extra zoom lens from our chief photographer that I never used. The reason was our people’s problems need not be zoomed to be seen. The approach was to stay closest and nearest to them so as to see and understand them. To zoom close the realities is possible, but their deplorable situation demands getting closer than the possibilities. They have voices behind their anguish weaved faces. Behind the eyepiece image, there are unheard voices that are untold, unreported and trampled. There are struggle, pain, desperation, fear, helplessness, isolation, neglect that are never represented or raised. The telescopic lens was invalid. It was then I realized the many similarities between my borrowed telescopic lens and the distanced Tipaimukh “concerned” people. Be it the politicians, the church leaders, and leaders. We all are what Jesus called “snakes”. We zoom to update our love, concern, understanding, sympathy and empathy for our blood brothers and sisters. But all the actors are robbers, exploiters, liars, sinners, and murderers. I will come to that in detail as this series unfolds.

The Flight
We (L Keivom, Pastor Lalditsak, Hrangthanvung, and David Buhril) left Delhi early on October 8. The small team divided into what Keivom called the “secular” and the “religious.” I don’t know which one was on the left and which one on the right. I don’t really know which one holds the snake and which one holds the bread. But I suppose and pray we all fit into His will.

We halt and waited for over five hours at Kolkatta’s Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Airport. We kill time reading newspaper, calling near and dear ones, and straying into various subjects over expensive breakfast in one of the airport’s restaurant. The European and Hindustani menu was designed for European travellers who could multiply their privileged dollars into many Indian rupees. It was also made for the growing desperate Indians who wanted to build and maintain superficial image, class and standard rather than eat to their bowels fill. The meager and expensive foods were not enough for Indians who are not good in toying and fore-play. Indians are more suited to ice-cream like food where the ice, cream and the con could be attacked and gulped at one go. But for the sake of that sick image they try to learn the art of fork and spoon. That culture is visible everywhere we go. It is not beautiful. But the quest and struggle is an interesting one.

Air hostess Lalramthar came to join. She also bought the Baibul and dedicated to the unknown recipient with a prayer request. Her prayer request was a beautiful, honest and intimate one - “Let him who receive my present pray that I get a good life partner.” It would be an extended blessing to readers who could fit into the prayer request.

We check in again for the Kolkata-Aizawl Flight. Sour surprise awaited us. The Air Deccan customer service agents worked on certain ambiguities and standards to charge us extra-money for carrying overweight. While we faced no problem with our baggage in the Delhi-Kolkata Indigo airlines, our confrontation was one we were never prepared for. One of the reasons was that it was not mentioned in our tickets about their standards. Secondly, they found our cabin baggage too big for their plane. Thirdly, they are yet to become customer friendly. Despite the long explanation and request, they nailed us with their inescapable “standards”. They failed to win four customers. A good number to have a relook at what they deliver. Finally, we pay extras for the parcels of Baibul. I remember Jesus pray: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

We boarded the small Air Decccan aircraft. A stern looking, slightly overweight and boring hostess greeted us with plastic smile. Her make-up was deliberately over-done. She looks like one of those Durga Puja gods that are drowned on the last day. Lucky I did not ground her for that clowny make- up and exposed flabs. I said to myself that the airline have a serious weight problem. No doubt. But I am not. Passengers were few. We all numbered about fifteen. The small aircraft took time to start. It looks old and weary. The engine started and then stopped again abruptly. There are two big fans on the aircrafts wing that work on and off. Under the drizzle it gnawed into my confidence. I wouldn’t have fly if I were their first customer. I just could not help to win myself after all that. After the hour-long flight we reached Lengpui airport. A sleepy little airport with running hills as its wall. Tall grass grows thick besides the runways. The landing was a relief. We stepped out to be greeted by Keivom soldiers. Three maruti gypsy and dedicated Keivom disciples. I saw them all. Hello Zoram Khawvel, we are at Keivom’s capital city.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Freshers and Recollections - IV

Ten years ago, the concern was for feeding the unquenchable faculties and scoring well in the monotonous exams. It has changed for many today. For me, it has digress out of the mark scoring game to extend beyond and outside the annual affairs. Besides the proletariatquest for bread and butter, the inevitable life's struggle has brought us in confrontation with things that ought to matter. Rights. Plights.Under-reported as well as unreported issues.Reasoning vision.Visioning reason. Unrepresented people. Unaccounted people. Juggled lives. The youthful dream of "settling down" in the old man's manner took a backseat. It would be a dead man's choice from the depth of the pond to repeat the blunder as the ideal one. New time. New generation. Everything new. That's what awaits the fresher's today. CCR would call us fortunate sons and daughters. No time for war. No call for war even. Not ready to become a warrior even. The bloody battle cannot fit into the new consciousness to seduce anymore. The war and battle lines and scenes have changed. We have stepped into the new war. Now we are already part of it too. Bloodless battle. Colourless war. We have arrived. Have we? The question still has to be asked. However, coming to Delhi alone is not a fit case to announce our arrival. It takes more than seeing a congested city, big and wide metalled flyover, metro train or eating ice-cream from McDonalds to have us arrived. Arriving is an endless journey where, at times, it is more difficult to say where we are. From the royal-game of peacock hunting to cyber-romancing and getting the Book translated and making the seat of the white and brown Mughals into our own's nest, the journey is taking us to certain arrival points. From the "dark" "head-hunting" days to the speedy cyber transitions, the shift is already outside the stagnation. Cross- cultured Eves and resilient Adams are the new offspring.From withstanding the angered "Bahadur" or "Chinese" phase to educating the ounce of the billion race about us with our presence, we have come to a point where we could say that we have seen them all. Many a times i told myself that the billion race resembled the Biblical Thomas. They still could not believe us to be from the other parts of India even after seeing and hearing about it. Ignorance is not blissful always.
Our arrival to the Capital city and other metros coincides with the Chinese dumping of commercial goods that still flood Indian markets. Sometimes i wonder if the cheap and easy availability of Chinese goods has anything to do with the others perception of us as a "cheap" or "easy" tribe. The hurdles that freshers today may not get to experience was negotiated with a harsh bargain. It was negotiated the rough and tough way. If we could add colour, it was more than the black and white or grey. It was red too. Too red that it becomes racist. Despite the decades that it has taken, it would be too early to say if it was a win-win situation or a give and take barter that we have carved out of it. Many a times, the exchange negates humanity or any human touch. Sometimes it is a wonder how we could afford to exercise them without reminding ourselves of the human we are. The new generation bear the responsibilties to stress on living a more human life. Imagine life without the need for a barrelled justice. Without hate and threat. Without poking differences to make a bruise and scar out of it. It is the fresher's turn to make a beautiful change.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Fresher’s and Recollections - III

Back in 1997 when we were freshers in Delhi, most of us come to study. The hallowed halls of Delhi University pulled us to this ancient city to study sciences and arts. Today, majority of the freshers are already working in globalised BPO’s and other service and hospitality sectors. A big leap, if we have to consider our background. The uncontrollable pace reminds me of Eagles’ song, Life in the Fast Lane, which I used to listen back home, where time seems slower and peaceful. I used to imagine how fast it would really be in the city. Our maturity, integrity and sophistication are put to test in this new world, while it generates young economically independent generations. The new generations. People from the North East seem to be doing well in catching up with the changing times. An inevitable necessity if we have to play the survival game. Sometimes I do wonder if the good, the bad and the ugly have also become inevitably ours. Inevitable for all of us. We justifiably gulped them down in the name of sacrifice and in the guise of accommodating ourselves to the new soil.

What worries me most, as a fresher, was the difference in time that we stepped into. When one could not go to sleep at 2 AM in the morning, I enquired myself many a time, if my system has gone wrong? I started relying on alarm clock to wake me up for classes. It shocked dear folks back home too. Few of our girls, who were, then, working late into the night in restaurants, did deliver negative images to people back home. People back home used to think that their girls must have lost everything. However, it was a situation the girls could not help. Infact it was already a culture that is still spreading its wings to toll on us too. Folks back home could never understand why they have to return by 1 or 2 AM in the morning. The single time zone for the big country failed to educate us. Instead it gnaws into us. Sometimes I blamed the one time zone that we seem to be sharing with all unity. If there were different time zones, the radical change would not push many of us to the brink of unanswered questions and explanations. I remember one of my fresher friend resorted to Cypon syrup to sleep on time. However, it acted too effectively on him that he failed to wake up early in the morning again. That spoils everything for him. He could never be fresh since then. Today, the new generations of the working class are enduring and negotiating different time zones in their work place. That deconstructs our practice of sleeping at night and working in the day. If the pace continues, we all might end up working at night and sleeping in the day.

I’ve heard many complaints with the sudden change. A seven year old boy who came to Delhi for his winter vacation complained that he never get to see the moon or the sun. He must also be negotiating the change on his part. King of Sinlung rock and blues, Laltuoklien has a different story to tell, when he was a fresher in Delhi. He said that time is too slow in Delhi. “A day is like two or three days”, Laltuoklien said. Not only that, he also said, “There is no sense of timing here. We only eat when we are supposed to be sleeping. We sleep when we are supposed to be climbing the stairs of many dreams. And we wake up when we are supposed to be eating again. I won’t be able to be creative to write any songs here.”

Since day one, till today, the game is about negotiating the change. We shed everything that we once embrace religiously without much choice. We realised that we cannot be like the firm moulded clay. We created space within ourselves for change, while the boundary could not be fixed. But what if we sacrifice every little bit of us in the process of change? What if the fresher’s stage is the last stage that we get to see about our real self?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Fresher’s and recollections - II

Back in 1997, when we were fresher’s, party, dancing, Coke and Pepsi was a very in-thing in South Delhi. Back then, our Delhi's geography was somehow confined to North and South. Today it has extended to East, West, Gurgaon and Noida.Our reporter, after a weeklong vacation in South, would narrate to us minute details of endless birthdays. Some birthdays were created. I still remember, some birthdays got due attention and extension. Unconsciously it delivers them to another weekend. Then to the years-end.The brief beauty passed away with the wisp of the night without any inheritance for the next day. For the freshers' community in a new place, it created a resort to shed our baggage of longings and build new attachment. On our part, we would listen with rapt attention and retreat with overblown imaginations over a cup of milk tea. For a change, milk was readily and easily available in Delhi that made tea-making a faithful affair. It was the cheapest indulgence we could afford with a king-size spirit on our shoestring budget.

In North, the party affair hardly happens unless Stephen C Hmar’s birthday recycles to add him more years to his age. That happened once when I was in my second year. I remember, the dancing was wild, uncultured and rustic. But we enjoyed them in our own way. For the majority of us, it was our first attempt that exhibited awkwardness. There was no finesse to our moves. There was no magic touch to our dancing. It was as if the fresh murdered street dog has run over us before we bite its flesh. It usually ended with overflowing sweat and all the wrong moves. The beautiful thing was that we discover to laugh at ourselves. To hide them from any mortal's sight, the light would be switch off. Then we make our move like hungry spirits over sick techno music that blare out of borrowed tape and cassettes. Techno music was also the in-thing then in Delhi, which I hated so much. But if Bryan Adams was there in our party, he would say that they happened to him as the best days of his life. If not, it happened to us like that. After all the crazy moves, we would resort to a safe corner to watch Daniel Shakum and Reuben Thangsanglor dancing. They were good. There was a sense of comfort and beauty in their dancing. They saved us. They would say that they could dance better if there were girls around. I did not doubt that. I still do not. On my part, to save myself from unnecessarily multiplying the wrong move that’s already abundant, I would volunteer to do all the cooking and serving. But still then, there was always that pulling, which I staunchly resisted with much uncomfort. I know that was not polite at all. But i dread the dancing so much. North was, then, like a Tarzan’s cave. There was hardly any long hair for the Tarzan’s tribe. That scarcity in North made South look like the land of Eves. Beautiful than Eden.

Since day one, homesickness was like a mole in the skin to everyone of us. It would not leave. It could not be left behind too. Like the sweat. Like the prickly heat and all those endless seasonal irritation. There was nothing more faithful than them to have greeted us.Except for everything, the feeling was not strange. The familiarity rather made one at home than sick. However, I realized that it acted to be very creative.

As time passed by, we found our dear reporter from Muolzapui Run getting hooked to the sub-culture or Marxs' "superstructure" rooted in New Delhi's Hmar youth society. After the fresher's meet was the chain of birthdays. That was then followed by the unquestioned song practices under the Thralai Pawl banner. Song competitions. Traditional dance practice for Sikpui Ruoi. All those time-buyers we never question in the guise of "nationalism", "blood", "history" and "culture". If not we dare not. Suddenly that would consume precious time to transport us to December at the gate of the year's exit. If the "thralai" did not explain it was then in the name of "tlawmngaina." The opium were too holy to be questioned. Too imposing. We cultivated them in vain imagination and assumption without much return. Those hallucination years. And we embrace them like free manna to feed the blind quest. The manna turned stale as time passed by. Many returned like wounded, beaten soldiers. Many returned without deriving salvation from the expensive quest. Did we learn? If not, do we have enough to give selflessly? Do we have enough to give endlessly? Should we give endlessly?

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Fourth Estate and the Kuki people

(A brief of the paper presented on KSO seminar at SSS, JNU, on September1, 2007 )

“There were Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters' Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important far than they all.”
- Edmund Burke

Today, I am compelled to stress on the necessity of the fourth estate, which is the other name for the press or journalism, than merely dishing out the list of multiplying institutions that are offering the courses. Not that I will not be touching them. But, after much analysis of our social mindset, social expectations, our education and the prospects that we attached to it, I strongly felt that I must stress on the subject with a bold underline to every word, which will be more a critical analysis of our society with the fourth estate.

When I was asked by the President of the Kuki Students’ Organisation to speak on Journalism and its prospects for the students, I was flooded with too many questions, with many unanswered. I would like to raise few questions here so that we seriously inquire for the answers. I reminded myself that the Kuki people stands out to own the biggest number of bureaucrats, politicians, and pastors in Manipur. But why is that there are no journalist? That led me further to investigate the state of our society. I cannot help, but say that our progress as a people is yet very incomplete for we missed out that fourth pillar, the Fourth Estate, which should otherwise act as the voice, ears, eyes, nose, strength and image of us as a progressive people. I am reminded of Thomas Jefferson’s saying on the necessity of a free press. He said: “The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

The significance of a newspaper or the fourth estate and the people who runs them was greatly acknowledged by Thomas Jefferson who prefers a newspaper to a government. A retreat to our current history as well as the present scenario reveals that we have been severely exerting all our efforts to grind out bureaucrats, politicians and pastors, but not for newspaper or journalist. Why, is the big question here. Is it because of our ignorance? Is it because our society did not glorify the job and its service as worthy? Is it because our education systems are not oriented to it? Or is it because our knowledge and understanding of the might and power of the Fourth Estate is limited? Or is it because we don’t have the need for the fourth estate?

I believe that if we could delve into these questions and seek for its answers, we would exhume the importance of the fourth estate, which will further enthuse and enhance us to be a part of the significant four.

Comparing traditional European society and modern Kuki society
In traditional European society, there were usually three estates that enjoyed a specified share in government – the nobility, the clergy, and the commons. The functions of the nobility were to defend society from foreign aggression and internal disorder. The clergy attends to its spiritual needs while the common people work to produce the base with which to support the other two orders. When parliaments and representative assemblies developed from the 13th century, their organization reflected this theory, with separate houses for the nobility, the commons and the clergy. The fourth estate is the press, which the British politician Edmund Burke coined the term in the 18th century.

By calling the press a "fourth estate," Burke meant to stress on the press abilities to influence public opinion that made it an important source in the governance of a nation. In modern times, we see the role of a free press differently, but still in quasi-institutional terms. It has gone beyond what Justice Potter Stewart saw, the role of a free press, as essential in exposing corruption and keeping the political process honest. Today we need the press to talk about everything imaginable.

The fourth estate was and still is seen as the voice and eyes of the people vis-à-vis the government and the society at large. However, the absence of that in our society necessitated question again. The question is, are we living with the absence of the fourth estate because we did not have the government, the clergy or the common people?

In the traditional European society, critical utterances about the government, either written or spoken, were subject to punishment. The English law also does that. It did not matter whether what had been printed was true. However, the government saw the very fact of the criticism as an evil, since it cast doubt on the integrity and reliability of public officers. Progress toward a truly free press, that is, one in which people could publish their views without fear of government reprisal, was halting.

The same seems to be our reality today with the Kuki society, with fear and apprehension dominating the prospect of freedom of ex-pression. Has that become a threat to situate itself permanently in our society to further murder the significance of the fourth estate, making itself a no appealing avenue for the new generation?

Today, our society’s burden of small arms race, internal displacement, under-development, neglect and marginalisation, corruption, lack of awareness and ignorance, and degeneration in all areas are partly a result of the absence of the fourth estate. The absence of it fails to access us with that necessary platform where opinion could be initiated, expressed or mobilise. Many a times, we counted on our elected representatives to raise our issues and plights, which they failed to respond. Many a times we looked to the government to provide us with all sorts of security for our welfare and development. In our progress with time, we ended up as poor reactionists and weak negotiators despite the power based on us. The reason again is, we don’t have the fourth estate to plant all these necessities in the consciousness of the people, authorities and all who matters. As a result, we, as a people, today, are suffering from any sense of collectivity to talk about our issues, politics, and visions for our future.

Fourth Estate and its importance
The fourth estate has been a recourse against abuses of power within the democratic structures of our societies. It is not unusual for the three traditional areas of power - legislative, executive and judicial - to make mistakes and operate less perfectly than they might. In a democratic framework the press have often seen it as a duty to denounce such violations of human rights. Sometimes journalists have paid the price - they have been physically attacked, murdered or have disappeared, which is still happening everywhere. This is why, in the phrase attributed to Edmund Burke, journalism is the “fourth estate”. With the civic responsibility of the media and the courage of individual journalists, this fourth estate has provided a fundamental and democratic means for people to criticise, reject and reverse decisions that are unfair, unjust, illegal and sometimes even criminal against innocent, helpless and voiceless people. The fourth estate represents the voice of those who have no voice.

Over the past years, while the acceleration of globalisation confronts the global village with the fourth estate negotiating with new actors that grows out of capitalism - the industrial and the financial, the market and the state, the public services and the private sector, the individual and society, the personal and the collective, egoism and solidarity. However still, within this geo-economic framework there has been a decisive transformation in the mass media, striking at the heart of their structure as industries. This is never missing with the progressing time, despite the big miss on our part. The mass communications media (radio, newspapers, television, internet) are today being realigned to create media groups with a world vocation. The growth of media groups have realised that the revolution in new technology has greatly increased the possibilities for expansion. The digital revolution shattered the divisions that previously separated the three traditional forms of communication (sound, text and images) and allowed the creation and growth of the internet. This has now become a new form of communication, a means of self-ex-pression, information-access and entertainment.

On the other hand, on our part, while we are confronting the issues and problems of food shortages, insecurities, militancy and armaments, ethnicity and its politics, environmental problems, deplorable health conditions, poor traditional education and agriculture system, etc., we do so without the necessary fourth estate. In the process, we failed to rise to become a significant actor, as we have no strength of the fourth estate to accelerate our efforts.

If we critically analyse our problems as well as the prospect for it, they are all intimately linked with the fourth estate. However, in our case and context, we failed to establish any relation with the necessary fourth estate.The conversion of plights and issues into representative policies is accessed and enabled by the fourth estate. Creating a space for the fourth estate would require the force of ideas for which the new generations should be prepared. Changes in media coverage can effectively exercise an effective influence on political transition, welfare, development, education, economy, etc. Besides, the existence and development of the fourth estate is associated with the whole process of democracy and shaping of public opinion. If not, it still helps to reinforce mobilization that was already underway.

The state of the fourth estate is one of the elements that reflects and determines all aspects of society. In many countries it is the fourth estate that stand to represent the country’s modern and democratic hue. While societies outside us are celebrating the benefits of the fourth estate, we are severely suffering the absence of it. It is time we bring about a change.

How do we react to all of these challenges? How can we defend ourselves? How can we resist, negotiate, bargain and present ourselves? The answer is simple. We need to invest our resources towards establishing and securing a healthy fourth estate to which I call upon the new generations to make the necessary difference by being a part of it.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Freshers and recollections - I

Ten years ago, I was a fresher in Delhi. I reached the ancient city with sweat and the rusted smell of the patient Avadh Assam Express. I remember I was too homesick. Worst there was no medicine for it. I did not stop asking myself why it has to be like this? The monotonous university registration process was endless. My topper marks led me to the hallowed Delhi University’s Kirori Mal College to study Political Science. However, being a topper from Manipur makes little sense as CBSE was raining marks like manna. But, knowledge and the quest for that eventually define one in the long run. What matters ultimately is what one knows without the marks. Everything was a lesson bigger than what I learnt in the university’s syllabus.

Unlike the last freshers’ meet that recently concluded, the freshers’ meet in the year 1997 was a small and cosy affair. I remember it was held in RK Puram in a small room that snake a little longer than the usual rooms that we rent to live in the Capital City. For the dinner one long queue with soldier’s like discipline served everyone without any trouble. Our chef’s strength today would outnumber the fresher’s in 1997.So many things have changed. Many things also did not change. But I remember the warmth as I was new and a fresher then. I like that feeling of newness, which is already missing. It is already monotonous with the usual and routine affair. Also with the faces and the stale issues that we are cornered with. Man, I believe, love a change. We need change too. Whatever, going back, I remember people like Pu Hrangthangvung, Pu Lalchungsiem, Pastor Lalsiesang, Pu Patrick Infimate, Pu Lalhmingthang Joute, Pu Lalringum Inbuon were single and slimmer. I am not sure if they were mingling then. I don’t know, as I was not acquainted to them as much as today. Fortunately the electronic keyboard, then, did not define music. All the songs were pluck or strum with the six strings, which I will always love, than the destructive convenience that we never seem to realize. It was impressive to see every singer play the guitar for themselves. In the recent fresher’s meet, there was not even a sight of the guitar. Its sweet sound was far from the great expectations.

Almost all the freshers during those days came for pursuing further studies. Options were still limited. Our horizons appeared like the pond’s view. We never examine ourselves to understand our capacity and potentialities. So everyone talked about UPSC that could only multiply the number of rusted steel frames. There was nothing like call centre or BPO’s and the other boom that are already consuming immense global human resource today. We used to hear people talked about working part time in Delhi’s hot summer at McDonald. Otherwise, we, in Delhi Unversity north campus, could not imagine anything beyond class, library, studies and going home for long holidays in the summer to forget Delhi. I still remember the immense joy I derived in the privilege of finding my favourite newspaper, The Hindu, on my doorstep, which I used to read religiously. Reading and underlining the big, black and white newspaper and then cutting them were the routine indulges. It would take all the deserved good time. I used to tell myself that if I were an idol worshipper, N Ram, The Hindu editor, would be one of my small gods. I finally got to meet him when I was awarded the 2007 Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Award, which is the country’s biggest award in journalism. Ten years on and I am still faithfully reading The Hindu besides the others, which I do to keep track of everything that matters.

Delhi University’s north campus was like an island then. Not to others but particularly for the Hmar speaking community. Munirka, for us, was like the capital of Delhi in those days. That does not seem to have withered even today. I made a point to attend the DHCF service on Good Friday and Christmas only. I have a problem traveling in buses. Moreover, I don’t believe in securing heavenly seat by running after all the drums and bells. Everything else starts from the within. I remember getting down from the bus, many a times in the middle of the road, to puke all the irritations away. It was a torture to go to south. Moreover, it was too expensive an affair for my shoestring budget. My principle, then, was to avoid everything but to read everything. The Thralaipawl or choir and all their endless affairs did not affect students from north campus. We were like the untouchables. We were beyond its reach, for God so love us. It still is today, for God’s mercy sake. I remember Alan Thiek, who is today studying in Pune’s UBS seminary, coming to north campus in the year 1998 and was full of surprise to find us, Hmars, studying in this part of Delhi. I realized then that Delhi was the capital village. Atleast for us. We seem to be good in discovering villages. But as it is still, students with good academic records would only get to study in north campus colleges then. Like Naipaul’s many small battles inside a battle, our circle was a small one even in the north campus. There was hardly visiting or visitors. No courting. No song practice. No silly or dirty manipulations by Dr Jekyl or Mr Hyde. But it was rich enough to be widen with books, which was instrumental. I realised that was healthy and productive than the large and unquenchable circle of friends that has become of us today.
One of my batchmate, Lalthanglien Ruolngul told me lately, in the year 2005, about the early days as freshers in Delhi. He said: “Those were conservative days for our friend’s circle in south Delhi. Some of our friends did not even wear jeans.” The yardstick is interesting. South Delhi or Munirka was considered too far for us from north. Bus numbers 621 and 750 served to bridge the north and south distance. Every student in north were well acquainted with the routes. We all would treasure our bus pass in those days. I remember I and a couple of friends took 750 bus to reach our fresher’s meet venue in that year. We all had the colourful Thangsuo Puon scarf with us. Those routes hardly take us to any impressive place of the Capital City that we grew up imagining about Delhi. No sight of skyscrapers. No Mercedes or big wheels. Instead, the road was clogged with snarling traffic that took almost eternity to make a move. Sometimes it is a surprise that ten years have passed when memories of those pregnant buses stagnating on roads is still fresh in the mind. Not only that, cow and pig could be spotted in the middle of the road too. Potholes. Pollution. Population moving to score a billion. What not? My fresher’s days were greeted with all that. CNG was not there yet. The flyovers and the subways too were still absent, except for those in ISBT and Bhikaji Cama Place. Metro, which is today running like the celebrated Christmas toy, must still be a distant plan in papers then.

There was no cyber café or internet. No mobile. Unlike today, one has to take all the inconveniences to fix a time with our neighbour’s telephone to talk to our family members. That would be once in a month if it were necessary. Our financial situation mostly determines that necessity. Otherwise it was a costly affair and a very inconvenient one. Letter writing and the postal system was the only means to connect the distance between home and Delhi. The postman was more important and significant to us than the Prime Minister or the President. I used to have a good stock of white and brown envelope and postal stamps. That was when people would be identified by their handwritings. One could make faces out just by reading the scribble on the envelope. Sometimes I would not open the envelope if I don’t have good tea to read alongwith. Many a times, I used to read sweeter letters over several times. Today it is just a matter of click from one’s own mobile. Instant and easy. Like courting a prostitute. But letter writing was full of all the good things. There was art. Creativity. Nothing could be sweeter. Every word was read like the faithful counting the blessing and naming them one by one. Things have changed. They almost seem like antique and ancient today. Not my choice. Never yours either. Technological revolutions did not seem to spare anyone. Everyone is digitalised today. Our identities are chipped inside numbers, which would cripple us anytime if we are cut off from it.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Mizoram: On Tense Clutch

The growing tense complexities underlined by movements and assertions in the wake of new consciousness of rights, deprivation, corruption and political marginalisation have been Mizoram’s reality today. This brought to focus the forces of fuelled antagonism sprayed on unaddressed plights acting as the strength for the multiplying dissidents, be it the Zoram Kuthnathawktute Pawl and the opposition parties. The supposed peaceful State in the hands of the Mizo National Front (MNF) wakes to the puzzle of serious accusations of gun running, siphoning of service arms, converting the State into militant’s haven, corruption, and for its inability to make the State sufficient or peaceful. MNF government is faced with the challenge of identifying and understanding the more powerful interest of its citizens who are raising their voices with varied assertions in the quest for new accommodation and adjustment. This quest is seen by the growing voices as the unfinished agenda of the promises that the MNF party made before they came to power. The more powerful citizens who voted the party to power felt the need for a new negotiation and consultation to redress their plights. The inheritance of that defect by situating in new context, where they are threatened by famine and shortages of all sorts that is further deteriorated by rampant corruption has resulted in the developing chaos. Well, it was followed by the inevitable game of pacification, which seems to have silence the issue rather than solving the crux of it. The real danger, however, lies in merely silencing the problems. It will inevitably result in opening the Pandora box if the silencing act is seen as a success.

The celebrated peace becomes a mess in the face of boiling dissidents, which has been whetted by politicians for their power bank. Peace and democracy’s sanctity is dwarfed in the sink of the multiplying plights of its citizens, the growing insecurity of the State and various other forces that are breeding at an alarming rate. While the success of all these active forces was hidden in the guise of democracy, the function and existence of the same has been stabbed to bleed profusely. In the process it reveals the confusion and failure of the top tower where the crux of all decision making process is initiated. The problems seem to be persisting at its undisturbed pace with crucial decisions getting nipped from the narrow power corridors of the MNF party, when the fringe corners shivered with disturbing and fluctuating temperatures. That is when the present continuous tense in the state has to be understood not merely through the party lenses, but through the humane aspirations that it represents.

One inevitable question is, is it necessary to blind the challenges and demands of the collective in the pursuit of scoring for the party? That ought to be raised, as the State’s future is sacrificed in the dim of a party’s obsession that would only continue to take an immense toll on the peace, welfare, development, education, culture, human resources and generations, if the practise continues. The history of violence, unrest, insecurity and bloodshed, then, would be closer than a distant dream if that occurs. That is when, instead of putting the party’s interest first, the need to convert the poor and marginalized hope, desire, aspirations and demands and challenges to grow along the larger interest of the State would be the inevitable quest. This becomes more necessary in the context of the plural realities of the state, where the unfortunate divide of the haves and haves-not mars it. If our current history had failed to act as the filter towards understanding the marginalized people, the present misery and realities, which is a result of the political failure, should be the inevitable filter today. That does not mean that the historical defect could be ignored altogether. However still, that would not be an all out solution to the blown out situation, but it would very much act as the panacea than the mere inactivity with unforgiving excuses.

The years of collective ennui in the face of the growing divide and corruption has severely stirred the democratic establishment. Not only that, the supposed face of democracy in the State is faced with the danger of losing its charm over relatively unexamined anti-democratic forces in the hands of the State itself. The installation of elected representatives in the power structure has already become the problem in itself. Moreover, they are not evidence of the existence of a healthy democracy. Their ability to dominate the political process with amazing survival skill has, otherwise, snared the democratic space where they failed to represent the people’s interest nor understand them or deliver governance. We still haven’t seen our politicians extending their dogged struggle beyond their quest to wrest power for themselves. As the wheels of democracy remain rusted in their power basking game, we are confronted with too many questions. Are not the growing dissidents because of a massive failure by the ruling government? In either case it is appalling and it would be the last possible resort to make an excuse and blame the people, which otherwise is the practice. Tomorrow we would blame Myanmar or Bangladesh, if not the ISI or Taliban, though Pakistan is too far not to be ignored too. The growing assertions that are directed against the government in power are encouraged by failure in the political leadership and structure itself. That holds enough water to let us look within. The question today is, what are peace chances in the State?

The Talibans were America’s brainchild to fight the Russians. It aided indulgently but later turned out to be its haunting Frankenstein monsters. Mizoram is left with not much option but to walk the plank to meet the same monster at the other end. The party that grows out of the bamboo flower gained more mileage with its ginger policy, but it could not help much. It has to resort to find salvation in turmeric. However, it is not the turmeric that failed to seduce. Rather, it is the MNF party that failed, with its undelivered promises in the face of the cyclical threat that gnaws into their ginger and turmeric dreams.

Many a time we have been accorded with burnt out strategies, call it policy, to negotiate the big one- time promise. These policies are, however, residues of power hunger politicians. The people with their solo suffrage have sacrificed abundantly for that promise. Today there are compelling reasons to talk about the need for more people centric government than merely hinging on preferential party politics strategy. The party politics have successfully cultivated preferential treatment of the few privileged at the cost of the larger collective. Therefore, the failed elected democratic limbs have no relation to the demands and challenges of the interest and people of the State. There is a need for real representation by shedding the old powerful spectacles of the old Leviathan that is used to scan its own loyal compartments, when the greater collective composed the deprived lots. There is also a need to revive the sick state of education, agriculture, economy, sports, infrastructure and what not, instead of oiling its party loyalist to gnaw the State’s treasury in the name of the people. Otherwise, the images of insecurity, unrest, dissidents, and militants would continue to grow to blur the needful aspirations and visions of the State. If that were allowed, the state would, very soon, come under the “disturbed” tag, which its neighbours are already popular for. The State has to be saved from its decadent dance of democracy. Otherwise, the people would be left with nothing more than deprivation and the remains of democracy, but also to helplessly clutch the sliver.

Friday, August 10, 2007

On Sekibusuok

When the Delhi Hmar Students' Association leaders intimated me about their desire to come out with a magazine and the privileged endowed to me to be responsible for it with a supporting team, I took it as a challenge. However, the challenge was confronted with inevitable questions that i still ask till the time of going to the press, just yesterday. The questions are many. But i would like to share a few, which were earlier acting as a discouraging factor, but has slowly become the crux of the challenge. The first question that surfaced was, who will read? I raised this question in the context of Delhi student’s community, particularly the Hmar speaking group, who must seriously catch up with the reading habit. Sometimes i find no meaning writing in the absence of reading. However, i was reminded by one of my favourite English writer, DH Lawrence who said that any writer should derive contentment not from the readers and their responses, but from the work that he does. There is abundant meaning in that, which writers should understand. This, i feel, is more relevant in our context, where most of the time, any writing get a blank toast in the wind than inculcate the faculties. The questions that follows are many, which i raised with equal concern as i do not want the magazine, Sekibusuok, to pile up in dusty corners in the midst of Delhi Thurawn, Lelte or those colourful newspaper supplements that seduce than knock the reason's gate. Whatever, they have been religiously feeding us more than anything else. Sometimes, I feel like asking, what more do we read?

Sekibusuok is a child of visionary resolution and evolution, which the name itself manifests. The name was given by the acclaimed author and former diplomat L Keivom who stands out like the great big mount with his communicable strength, enthusiasm and knowledge. I cannot help, but count on him anytime. A being for his equal in all aspects would remain the last to find in Zoram Khawvel. If anyone could find the beauty in Sekibusuok, which will be released on August 18, the acknowledgement belongs to Pu Keivom who ploughed through every sentence of the articles. I have been wishing, on many occasion, that he could leave behind his tireless strength and his knowledge garner when nature embrace him.

Unlike the Holy Word, Sekibusuok would not be able to see the light of the day by itself if not without the immense contribution made by the Isaac Hmar Memorial Foundation (IHMF), the publisher of Sekibusuok. I indeed reminded the Foundation that the return, if they expect, would come along with the second coming, which might be a long wait if the grace period extends. Even if it comes early, the materialistic would have no place anymore. But they did with no expectations for any return. Man ought to carry on with all his might for which Sekibusuok Editorial board as well as HSA, Delhi would remain grateful to Professor Lal Dena and Pi Linda Haas of IHMF for publishing HSA Delhi Sekibusuok. Isaac L Hmar, who once was a significant member of HSA, Delhi is well remembered through the Foundation's ceaseless and beautiful efforts. Through their contributions, the words could breathe with life today, which i believe would put Isaac to smile wherever he is.

The articles in Sekibusok with its rich and diverse content are indeed an amazing collection. The articles are not picked or chosen. Instead they are all that we received after the long and endless call and invitation. Very few of the contributors wrote in direct response to the call and invitation. It resembled VS Naipaul's early understanding of India that has with it million mutinies and battles within a mutiny and battle. Sekibusuok could also take its form only after numerous calls, invitations, reminders and not to forget the begging and soft threats that I deliberately made to people close to me. The threat and begging was not fruitful. Do I need a gun? Whatever, I am sure it would be an interesting journey for all readers. The articles contained volumes of lessons, struggle, experiences, wit, wisdom, knowledge, humour, questions, concern, and issues that were weaved by different lives in various parts of the globe. From the amazing young girl writer, Immanuel Lalsanhim Keivom to New York Post Photo Journalist, James Keivom and to the enlightening wisdom of Professor Lal Dena and several remarkable contributors, Sekibusok is an intimate garner. Sekibusuok gained its completeness with four women contributors, who unlike the men contributors, promptly respond to the invite for articles. Their articles overflow with the beauty of a woman and the concern of a mother. If Sekibusuok could flaunt its pride, it would be so because of the women contributors. However, as a student's organisation magazine, it remains a big disappointment to receive too little from the student's community. But still, the bigger contribution could be made by reading the articles, which is the last expectation related to all the beautiful efforts. The bi-lingual content is deliberately adopted to serve the quest of diverse readers as well as to acknowledge the beauty and importance of ex-pressions, which is already popular in Hmar as well as English. Our greater desire remains unfulfilled with our inability to avail the articles in other dialects and languages of Zohnathlak.

Sekibusuok, which is a magical and productive instrument, occupy an immortal place in Hmar folk tales. In the story, a woman called Phungnu owned Sekibusuok. Sekibusuok fulfilled the wishing well as it could produce rice and meat when it is strike on each end. It was a source of wealth and treasure. A desire. Beautiful and enlightening articles on the subject were written by Lal Dena, L Keivom and RH Hminglien. Whatever it may be, the wonderful thing is the interpretation and situation of the relevance of Sekibusuok in the 21st century, which L Keivom focused and handed over the significant role to the new generations, who are the new Sekibusuok. Finding this relevance would go a long way to enlighten us not only about our cultural memories, but also with the need to realise one’s potentialities to enrich the progressive generations. This is our time. And the role is to be instrumental as Sekibusuok was. As the world race progressively towards attaining greater heights in knowledge, reason and wisdom, Sekibusuok, as it was conceived, is dedicated to the new generations to inculcate and realised the greater quest for our land and people. The underline is, be the Sekibusuok.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

August: My Cradle

August, seed of my breathe
Suitor of my tears and dust
Though grave gate in hunger awaits
You are beautiful than all
Rest my flesh when the breathe leaves

- (To August, DB)

August. Blessed month. Dry dust set to rest. In wet baptism. Leaves and birch too.The dry wets. Like the time in Bible's Ecclesiates. The time and season has the rain to lord. While tempest wind could stir no more. Like the firm faith after forty days fast.Swift monsoon winds chased rain pregnated clouds. The canvas-like sky turned muddy and heavy.Like the work of nervous brush. Sometimes with a sinner's haste. But a seasonal sign expected with clock-like certainity. While few mortals with scientific temper read with alarm. They say global warming. As the hole in the ozone layers depletes.The deterioration crossed the boundaries of season. As drought and flood threatened reason and conscience. Negating the cycle of expectations and reason. Sciene could no longer help the uncontrollable depletion. Faith prays but what if the time has come? But August, my gate to the brief mortality. The month that endowed me with the knowledge of the dew's brevity. And of the wisdom of vanity. The month that clothed me with flesh and blood. And with joy and fear. The month that breathe me with a life to thrive through age and wrinkles. The month that led me to sneak and seek meaning in the void of unquenchable life.

While mortal's expects a Hercules feat, life progressed to incline like ancient scimitar. And the kiss is a chance and not a choice. Lamentation and mourning awaits his glory. Though thousand wreaths may wait like white virgins. I and we are the victims of life. But the glory of creation. What more has man to uphold than the veil of vanity that breeds pride? Never knowing that we are mere sacrifice to vanity. The sons and daughters of unforgiven sin. As we enter with tears and leave no tears dry either. Like the inevitable cycle. August was chosen. Like the inescapable Jonah in the Bible. Or Judas. Chosen. A decision prior to the "concert of democracy." Prior to the mad Bush rush. But fortunate that it was not a mortal's chosen time. You, holier than them. Unscathed with the scars of politics and unforgivable rivalries. Untouched by the quest for power and dark glories. I choose your darkness hidden in rain packed floating clouds than in the sour of man's pride and falsity. I choose you than the pandering woman that submits to the temptation of the forbidden fruit. When will she fight temptation? The womb was a mistake, but I am blessed. For it was you, August. The only place for life to conceived. Men has no place for pride. For the mightiest is her son. And the meekest is hers too. And you housed them all. Like the life in the rain that you seasoned. It is not only in the womb. But in the cloud and dust too. August, month of life. Like the horn of plenty, your garner bulged bigger than December. The canon must be wrong. For the saviour must be your son too. How could the canon ignore your fertility? Where is his reason? Where is his conscience? Has the stolen rib gulped them all? But man, as surrogate sons and daughters of clogged propaganda and dim vision could not even blink to see that you were chosen before any being was created. Silver locks and golden age could wake him not. It wouldn't. The mystery and magic is in you. The beauty too. But before the grave, life's unbeaten suitor, attained its hungry glory, let her know that you, August, are my cradle.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Insecuring Cultures - II

Robin Hibu, DCP West Delhi, security tips booklet that was particularly prepared for the progressive population of North East in Delhi severely ired the targeted group. The booklet is seen as an ignorance of the treasured culture and identity of the diverse North East people with blind unfounded accusation that seeps out of imagined notions. The booklet cannot be ignored as a threat as the population have been continuously disturbed with their experienced of the wrath of unquestioned imagined notions fixed upon them. It would be a mistake to merely ignore the booklet as an “elder brother’s advice”, when the population from the region are, if not silently then helplessly, negotiating and braving the “discrimination”, “alienation”, and “racial profiling” that was imposed on them. Even though it was not intended, the booklet reflects the underlying worms that remain untouched. The Delhi Police security tips booklet is seen as an attempt to deliberately exert unnecessary pressure to undermined and deprived the living strength of the progressive population from the region who are also silently negotiating and battling the varied differences in the Capital city, which is new to them. The “information booklet”, which Robin Hibu said was intended as “an elder brother’s advice” has ired the targeted group even as the author said, “I was not trying to interfere in their lives.” The booklet with its strong negative introduction, where the boys from the region are unsparingly portrayed as “drug addict” frequenting in “drunken brawl” and girls of North East with ever “revealing dress” “molested and thrown out of the moving vehicle”, missed the reality and the envied ladder of the progressive population who are, otherwise, carving significant place in diverse avenues in the Capital city. While the exaggerations are not convincing, the sight from the rusted steel frame does not seem to appear any greener.

Despite the “good intention” behind the booklet, it has acted like salt to fresh wounds as the people from the North East negotiate with the inevitable differences attached to the cultural diversity, which is worsened by the different features that the people from the region bear. If one recalls the year, 2005, when a girl from the North-East was raped in Delhi, the Vice Principal of Kirori Mal College, University of Delhi boldly said that there should be a separate dress code for North East students, particularly girls. According to sources, many pubs and discotheques in the capital city are closing their doors to people of the North East, which was usually done by judging the features and colours that the people carry. Besides that the endless restrictions imposed upon their food habits and lifestyle by the landlords, the expectations that were demanded of them and the prejudices that has been attached to them by people outside the region have been raising silent concern on their part. The experience of the people from the North East has been that of a cultural struggle in a clogged space, which the booklet failed to reflect.

In the context of the larger diversity and plurality of the country’s reality, the need for a separate security tips booklet for people from the North East is seen as “unwise and discriminatory” by the acclaimed writer and former diplomat L Keivom. “I sympathise with the intention, but this is not the way to do it,” L Keivom said. He also said that it is not unusual to see a booklet on do’s and don’ts. “The main purpose”, he said. “is to educate and instruct newcomers so that they respect the cultural sensitivities of the people. For example, there is a very useful booklet on Saudi Arabia, which gives basic norms on how to behave while in the country so that one does not unwittingly offend the cultural sensitivities of the people. But the booklet is universal and not targeted for any particular people or region. It is also applicable to all Arab inhabited regions. But the booklet in question is not only an insult to the targeted people and the region but also to the basic intelligence of those who have thought it necessary to issue such patronistic piece of advice.” L Keivom also adds: “It is prerogative of any administration to issue advice on any subject within the bounds of their jurisdiction and purview. But some of the contents of the booklet in question are vicious, misdirected, insulting and discriminatory. It should be condemned by all.”

Moses Kharbithai, a JNU research scholar and convenor of Forum for People’s Rights personally felt that the spirit in which the booklet has been written in which North East girls are unfoundedly accused of returning “as drug addict”, boys caught in “drunken brawl” and girls with “revealing dressed up” for which she is her own reason for being “molested and thrown out of the moving vehicle” shows how the so-called “mainstream people” have justified themselves whenever people from the North East are victimised in the Capital city. Moses said, “Such ethnic profiling should be condemned in the strongest term by all the students’ community and the public. Such booklet I don’t think is a security booklet at all, but a dangerous assumption that will only make us more vulnerable to the uncontrollable crimes in the city. If it was intended for the security of the North East students, such booklet should have rather been addressed and distributed to auto and taxi drivers, landlords, property dealers, etc., warning them against discrimination to any North East student who might be facing language and cultural barriers in Delhi.” Moses added that if such booklet is at all required it should be brought with full consultation and unanimous support of the elders in the most unsegregated manner.

Moses also said that food habit to a great extent defines culture. “Dictates on food habit is a dictate on culture”, Moses added. “This is very imperial in approach. If Delhi Police want us to inculturate, they should simultaneously encourage the people of Delhi to acculturate”, Moses said. He also felt that the booklet is one of the most racial and discriminating booklets ever distributed in the pretext of security. “It is a shame for the police of a Capital city to act so unprofessional on such sensitive issues”, Moses said.

Lalparmawi Varte, a lecturer, said: “We are not from Mars to require a separate security handbook. I am not sure with the intention of the Delhi Police with the booklet, but with all due respect I think they have forgotten that we are living in a democratic country.” She also opined that it would rather help if the Delhi police could invest their time in doing more productive work than indulging in further deteriorating the rift between people from the North East and the mainland Indians. Lalparmawi said, “The booklet will do more harm than good. It would rather subject us to a feeling of hurt and further alienation which we are already facing in the Capital city.”

Zuchamo Yanthan, a lecturer in IGNOU, said that the intention of the writer may be positive, but, “unfortunately, the booklet is reflecting a very poor understanding of the writer on the young generation of the North East. Almost 80 per cent of the guidelines are irrelevant to the young generation. The people of this generation are intelligent and smart enough to adapt with the changing times much better than anyone else.” Zuchamo felt that differences should be respected and everyone should strive to accommodate one another. K Yhome, Associate Fellow in Observer Research Foundation, said that there are huge differences between the two worlds and therefore a few tips would be good if not necessary. But Yhome opines that food habits and dress culture are sensitive issues and need to be seen in the context of individual rights. He also said that in dressing matter, “the debate here is around responding to the sensibility of the local people. There are two dimensions to this issue- insider or the locals and the migrants or outsiders. The best way to understand this proposition is to see oneself as a local.” Yhome felt that there are other ways to deal with these issues, rather than issuing a booklet. “One way of doing it is to inform through community meetings and social gatherings. I think such approach would carry more weight and avoid the risk of running into a controversy as the current one is embroiled in”, Yhome said.

Alana Golmei, a research scholar, said that people from the North East are not different human beings to be singled out and impose with strict rules. “The booklet is to defame and discriminate the indigenous people of the North Eastern region”, Alana said.

L Keivom strongly felt the need to understand the multi-cultural context of the country. He believed that the mingling and blending of all the diverse cultures would slowly but surely form a beautiful mainstream, but that the process would take a long time. “We are a nation of 60 years young only and the process of integration is progressing well due not only to what we have been doing but also to external and other factors too”, Keivom said. He also adds: “The booklet in question is an evil distraction and will not help our national integration.” Keivom also believed that education and social integration would only bridge the big gap of ignorance and understanding that is missing in the face of India’s reality of plurality and diversity. “The people of North East India understand the people outside the region much more than the people outside their region understand them. This cultural as well as psychological gap is born out of ignorance and lack of close contacts. It took me 20 years to accept and enjoy the taste of chapatti and masala-based preparations, but my preference as well as of my children living in different parts of the world is always our home food that originates from the North East. Sense of smell is perhaps a genetically ingrained sense which has been passed on from generation to generation”, Keivom said. He also said that the people of North East India are blessed with various sense of smell and taste, which he said, “Delhi should respect.” Keivom also adds: “Delhi should also know that racially and culturally the people of North East India are our bridge with the rest of Asia.” B Lalzarliana, president of Mizo Zirlai Pawl said: “To bridge the gap, an endeavour from both sides should be made to understand and know more about the other. Lack of knowledge about others helps creates lots of misconception and stereotyping. To avoid this, more social and cultural intercourse is needed.”

Moses Kharbithai also opines that for the rest of India to understand North East culture, food habits and way of life, “The writings on North East should find more space in the Indian school text books so that the new generation would learn more from our rich culture, history, tradition and our democratic values.” Moses also said that people of North East are the most honest and sincere people in India. “However, for one reason, the booklet has made us realize that our political leaders are extremely irresponsible and helpless not to have reacted in the interest of the people they represent. Not even a single MP from the region has come forward till today to condemn such controversial booklet on the floor of Parliament”, Moses said.

While Lalparmawi Varte believed that the booklet, with its racial profiling, is merely a waste of time and effort, K Yhome opines, “It is a humble attempt to make people aware of celebrating difference. It was done with a good intention but everything in it should not be taken seriously. It need to be seen as a guideline from an experienced person and does not in any way impose rules on anyone.” Grace Don Nemching, president of Siamsinpawlpi and a lecturer in Jesus and Mary College felt that the booklet has many good points, “which is why it should not be limited to only North East students but also to other students from other parts of the country who come to study in Delhi. The booklet, i feel, is regionally biased which should not have been because it is not only northeast students who face security problems but other students as well.”

Moses Kharbithai, on the other hand, felt that the booklet has become an instrument for more discrimination. “In its present form”, L Keivom said, “It will invite only anger. It provokes a clash of civilisations. I do not doubt the sincerity of purpose of those who issued the booklet. But you do not win people by insulting them.” L Keivom also feels that if the administration is really keen to deliver such messages, “they should better contact the heads of various community, church and student organisations, brief them and appeal to them to convey their concern to their respective members. It will work.” He also said that Delhi as India’s Capital city does not belong to any particular community. It is also the seat of representation of all countries in the world. “Delhi should be treated as it should be and not as a colony of a particular community”, Keivom said. He also adds: “The booklet will not serve its well intended purpose. It is a mistake, a cultural breach and the product of a misguided enthusiasm.”

As the booklet written with “good intention” stirs concern, it raised the need for a constructive debate and discourse on the underlying but disturbing prejudices that have been associated with the people of the North East. The imagined notions percepted by people outside the region are in the process of getting unquestionably fixed. While there is a challenging role for education, the issue hinges on a larger cultural context, which should be discussed and debated to secure the unity in the midst of diversity. Otherwise, people of the North East would continue to appear to be the “strange tribe.”