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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.