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Monday, January 28, 2008

Republic Day and Recollections

I used to enjoy the Republic Day celebration that follows Christmas and New Year’s celebrations when I was a kid. It was like seeing beautiful maiden all in a row. The series of celebrations were what we looked up to when we were kids in the cosy little town of Tamenglong in Manipur. January 26 also coincides with our kite flying season just before school reopens. We used to make colourful kites. Some that would never fly against our expectations. Some fly with flirtatious passion, while some fly scared. Some are quite friendly, flapping their long tail and wings as our joy soars with our beaming pride. Good kite makers were also our seasonal heroes in those days. The lessons that we learnt during our kite flying days were never taught in the classroom. Kite making was art and science in itself. We would make thin sticks out of bamboo, light enough to fly with our precious colourful paper. The frame would consist of one straight stick and another that would gently bow, which would be held together with sticky rice. And when the kite is ready we whistle softly and melodiously to call the wind to lift our kites in the air. We used to wait a while with our pointing musical lips for the wind to respond. It never fails us. When the wind blows, we would burst with shouts and laughter’s. We were not merely kite makers. I realized we were also nature’s children. Seeing our kites fly in high air was our taste of independence and liberation.

Our house, in Tamenglong, sit just besides the district public ground. Small hill stood behind our house, where we fly our kites. The ground served as the venue for the annual Republic Day celebration as well as the Independence Day. The march pass fascinated the band of kite flyers a lot as much as it does to the town folks. It was our dream to march in concert while the town folks gathered to watch. On India’s Independence Day and Republic Day, then, everyone would come to watch the march pass and other events that filled the day. I got the dream chance early when I was chosen to be part of the school contingent. I was just a class one student in United Baptist School, now United Builder’s School. There were little things to celebrate if one is part of the school contingent; one is excused from missing the first two classes, one or two days to school without school uniform, and then there used to be the lightest refreshment that was served for all its namesake.

Republic day was usually greeted with high spirits. The town folks would come well dressed for the rare unchristian occasion in the Christian district. Some would come neat with their Sunday dress. Many of the kids would come wearing their Christmas dresses. I remember my parents would be seated in our front porch taking out all the chairs for our relatives and other audiences too. I knew they were waiting for their little boy and his contingent to march pass one corner of the ground that was closer than a stone throw from our house. Today, the house and the hill, our play-mound, have been already floored to give way for the extension of the public ground.

In 1990 we moved to Churachandpur where my father was transferred. Then came January 26 again. I don’t know what must have taken place as we live far from the district public ground. But I remember its observance and celebration was boycotted by armed groups who are demanding for ‘Homeland’. New assertions and the languages they employed invaded every visible space. We surrender dearly. I wonder if we will ever get them back again. I was surprised then. But today boycott has become a part of the two celebrated national holiday in Manipur. The 59th Republic Day, which ended yesterday, was boycotted again. It stops surprising me now. Rather it has become too routine and usual.

Day before yesterday, on January 25, 2008, I met more than 50 mothers from Manipur who landed in Delhi to campaign against Militarization, Impunity and Armed Forces Special Powers Act that is imposed in Manipur. Bruised mothers brim with grim experiences under the “draconian law.” Mothers who are living big loss life. They pour out their dark and black stories, words of appeal and demand for the repeal of the infamous Act. They said that Republic Day has no meaning for mothers in Manipur who are denied of their rights, security and dignity. Truly, it is no time to celebrate for them. So they came to Delhi with their burden of plights, to find a meaning to their lives and the generations to come.

Through the years, the public has visibly withdrawn from celebrating Republic Day or Independence Day.

Popular democracy and the institutions hatched by constitutional democracy are in irrecoverable mess. Today fear and threats have invaded all the space for any possible celebration. But I have more than one experiences tugged safely in my memories that are getting blurred.

(Delhi, January 26, 2008)

Monday, January 21, 2008

Two Days, Aizawl and Me

Technology delivers us with amazing speed to distance and diverse spaces. Places actually. One of my New Year resolutions was to make more people, places, faces and issues as my subjects. Everything has become more interesting than before. This is celebration. And I am doing it everyday. There are many things that strike me on my recent visit to Aizawl.

I landed on the lively city again on January 10, 2008. Except for the heavy weary head that the journey has lodged within me, I was trying hard to wake up to the setting evening where I was transferred after all those plastic smiles and compelled etiquettes by those air hostesses with their rainbow like faces spoilt by chemical makeup. I sometimes felt like asking them why they have to colour their faces like a clown. A little would have made them look naturally beautiful. But they would be so brittle with the idea of that little. I thought to myself that they must have earned enough to indulged with colours to enhance their ignorance of beauty culture. But fortunate lot that they did not die of the overdose makeup that has layered their most treasured parts of their body. Diwali like colourful faces equipped with that smile was not very welcoming. They negate the image of hospitality, which they desperately try to deliver. I don’t know if it was the sleepless night that did not help me see the layered beauty that they deliberately hide. I don’t think so. But they are just colourful than beautiful.

The next day was January 11. It is observed as “Missionary Day” in Mizoram. Churches across the state observed the 113th Missionary Day with revered spirits. As if to coincide the observation, I was lodged at Mission Veng. Reaping what the two missionaries, FW Savidge and JH Lorrain, sowed in the year 1894, Mizos flocked to their churches on the day. Worth a holiday as the missionaries introduced the alphabet and laid the foundation of education that empowers them for a humane march and progress. The missionaries were also appointed the Honorary Inspectors of schools for the schools that they opened. Lushai Hills, Mizoram today, got its first school on April 1, 1894. It is interesting to note that from April 1,1904 till 1952 educational administration in Mizoram administered by the church. “Zosap”, the two missionaries, also introduced sanitation and hygiene to the Mizos. Besides, the two pioneer missionaries took up the task of reducing the Duhlian dialect to writing by choosing the Roman script with a phonetic form of spelling based on the Hunterian system of transliteration. The Hunterian system for the writing of proper names was developed in the 1860s by William Wilson Hunter, Director-General of Statistics for India, and published in Hunter’s Guide to the Orthography of Indian Proper Names (Calcutta, 1871). The Government of India accepted the system with some modifications in 1872, and it was used in the official Imperial Gazetteer of India (1881 onwards; 24 volumes), a work initiated by Hunter.

The Duhlian dialect has grown to become a popular language for the Mizo people. Today, even the language is called Mizo.

It was a relief to drive around Aizawl on Missionary Day. The observation immensely reduced traffic flow. Besides, everyone were in their best Sunday dress on that Friday. Besides the rest, the seeds of education, hygiene and sanitation have made the people wiser, cleaner and beautiful. I remember a lady, aged around 40, from the heart of Manipur’s Imphal, who once told me that her mother in law would never allow her to cook or enter the kitchen during her monthly periods. She also told me that she would be served in a separate plate during that inevitable cycle. No one introduced that hygiene or sanitation to them while the catching-up was a sluggish one. I realised how fortunate we are. Small things deconstruct bigger things of all their negativities. Otherwise, another hundred years may not even empower reasonable faculties, as it is evident with others today.

On Missionary day, I got the detail report of the mysterious death of Reverend Chanchinmawi who died on October 1, 2007. His bloody body was found inside his house around seven in the morning. The report was made public by the public prosecutor of the special investigation team, SL Thansang. The report concluded that the reverend killed himself after causing multiple injuries – four cut above his right ear (25mm each), one cut injury stab wound on his throat (40mm wide and 25mm depth), two big cut injury on his left chest (both measuring 50mm and 25mm), three small cut injury on his left chest, nine cut mark on his abdomen and one small cut injury mark on his left elbow. The report also said that the pastor used one kitchen knife, one bread knife and a hammer to kill himself. The report is out, but I wonder if the truth is out. The report, however, doesn’t seem to hush up the views from the other sides. May his soul rest in peace.

It is interesting to note that the late Reverend, besides his service in the Church (Presbyterian Synod), was also the chairman of Mizoram People Front (MPF). MPF worked for a free and fair election in Mizoram. Moreover, the forum is strongly against the prevalent corruption in the State. I was told the forum has a good following.

The report also stated that in early part of the year 2007, the late reverend has been threatened several times over the phone for his mission to sweep Mizoram politics clean. The reverend was earlier accused by one fictitious writer in one of the local newspaper of his intention to join active politics, and to the extent of becoming Mizoram Chief Minister after his retirement. The former soul reaper’s death compelled the investigating team to look at various angles too. But they ruled out all of them. Some of them are seriously interesting, though. Some believed that his wife, Rohmingliani, who never live up to a pastor’s wife life, must be behind the reverend’s death. The report said the late pastor’s wife smokes, chewed tobacco and gamble at times. The report also exhumed the other side of the late pastor’s wife that says that she used to make and sell alcohol earlier. The report also said that their marriage life was not a healthy one. Besides, the report said that Chanchinmawi was living with severe financial problem that must have pushed him to take his life. He was also believed to be living with depression, which made him to attempt on his life earlier. Despite everything else, the axe fell on him. The soul reaper has been made to become his own life reaper.

On the same day, I also attended the 40 days and 40 nights fasting prayer organised by the Mizoram Berampute Convention at Durtlang’s Agape Centre. It was a soul touching and searching session for me as well. The mass prayer seeks for His forgiveness. While the Salvation Army Territorial Band performed a song without the vocals, Carolyn sang Ka Trongtraina Hla in Hmar without any musical instrument. It hit me like nothing ever did. I met Him through the song. I was in peace. The joy spill over my face. I couldn’t help much, but smile. Sometimes there’s no need of tears. Not even words. I met Upa Rokamlo and Lala Khawbung too.

The day after the missionary day was deliberately spent on a lighter route. In pursuit of my desire to document Aizawl, I tried seeing more places and people. I photograph some. My friend Saplientawn Varte took me to Millenium Centre, which has become the pride of Aizawl. Expensive stores spruced up with infectious dignity that has become the identity of Mizoram’s capitalist. There were popular branded stores too. I was told everything is too expensive in Aizawl. If the materialistic mad race and the uncontrolled pace continue it would fail to be friendly to its larger struggling population who are far from the tower of the power structure and State treasury. I witnessed that Mizoram business is run by its women, which I like. They are everywhere from the biggest stores to the smallest one. They are not only empowering themselves but also the State. It is surprising that none of them were elected as people’s representatives. I did not doubt that they would make better leaders and politicians. They were not given any chance in the patriarchal reigned ring. I asked my friend what the men folk does. He told me they are either driving taxis or zipping around the clogged roads on their bikes and cars. Of course they are also the politicians and church leaders too. Whatever, the Christian state is moving towards becoming a citadel of glitz and glamour. Few decades back, the iconic images of the city were of grim faces in breadlines and heroes from the jungle. Now billboards scream Nike, Reebok, Adidas, UCB and showcase expensive clothes to the many window shoppers. The big show does not seem to lure much. The supposed boom time is a privilege of the few. There are also billboards that warns and caution about AIDS and safe sex. Moreover, Mizoram, the epicenter of the gregarious flowering of bamboo, is confronting the threat of famine. Aizawl, however, is no place to see the grim reality of those distressed Mizo farmers and populace. People in Aizawl did not really know what is happening outside the State capital. The city that sits on the edge is a big fair where local celebrities are generated and fashion fluctuates to prick pockets. This time, I was told, Korean movies are moving Mizos to tears. Earlier they were hooked to the Hindi serial, Kasauti. This time Korean movies were shown on cable TV with Mizo sub-titles. That’s not all. I read on January 12 that Mami Varte’s fans have established “Mami Varte Kohran” in Aizawl. Another idol to worship. Aizawl is a city of small gods. It is also moving with ambitious energy that is inclined towards increasingly expensive ways of life and plastic superstructure culture.

In the evening I met Atea (Boomarang’s vocalist) when I was on my way to Aizawl Post office. He introduced me to Victor (ex-Magdalene guitarist), LRa and Tawia. Victor told me about his newly formed band, Scavengers Project with LRa on vocals and Tawia on drums. Victor invited me to his house for tea. We had a long discussion on music, culture and identity. Victor had a cosy small home studio- Scavenger Records. They interest me a lot as they are seriously digressing to find a new sound, a different one for themselves. The boys are also bringing out a purely music magazine, R.O.A.R., with Victor as the chief editor. I was surprised to find my picture of Boomarang on the cover. There were many pictures of mine inside too. No courtesy though. That’s called sharing. I was invited for dinner by one of Aizawl’s most eligible bachelor, a lady lawyer, Mawite. It was another Eve’s ambrosia. The night sparkles again to make the city look like a Christmas tree. I am homely here, I said to myself. But I made it second for me.

(New Delhi, January 18, 2008)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Remembering the Shattered Lives

In loss and shame they treaded
Heads buried and hearts that still dread
Man and might are just a mite
As he quest vain win with lost sight
They washed their hands to forget
But their sins will ever be wet
Be healed, distressed daughters mourn
Fly free, for you is the bright morn

(To Distress Daughters–DB)

They said public memory is short. This is why I write to remind you about the never-ending nightmare lived every moment by the Tipaimukh raped and molested victims. Forget not also those people who have lost their limbs and lives to the landmines. The girls and women desperately tried erasing memories of that fateful incident that occurred in January 2006 in their forsaken villages in Tipaimukh’s Lungthulien and Parbung. While the armed perpetrators left, the scarred mortals battle to recover. The attempt has been ceaseless and desperating, as they try to shed the memories of pain, shame and helplessness. But they told me that they could never succeed for even a second of the mighty time. The attempt has been a silent one. It was like swimming against the current. The current that favours them not, while they seek to drown their pain and shame.

The Rajkhowa Commision, which was instituted by the Government of Manipur in March 17, 2006 to investigate the Tipaimukh rape case, has once again issued an order for another hearing and cross-examination. The burden routine would take place between January 17-20, 2008 at Parbung. JL Sawmi, President of the Hmar Women Association (HWA) and her colleagues who are fighting for the cause of the raped and molested girls and women, told me that they would be heading for the land of mole and bruises - Tipaimukh a day or two in advance before the appointed days. May God strengthen their selfless efforts. JL Sawmi also told me about the severe difficulties involved in bringing together the victims to their villages every time the Commission conducts its duty. Some of them have move out of their villages that bear dark memories. Today they are scattered in Mizoram, Meghalaya, Assam and Delhi. They were asked to return again with their bags of pain and shame for the cross-examination. Just when they are trying to move on, their wounds and bruises are made afresh. Many are in deep dilemma. One of the victims, who is working as a maid in Delhi called to tell me that she did not want to go back to her village. “It is shameful to return”, she told me. She cried over the phone with her old, but fresh, shame and pain. She said, “My guardians have spent lots of money to bring me to Delhi. How can I tell them that I have to go back to my village for the cross- examination? I am so ashamed.”

Rajkhowa Commission conducted its first examination at Lungthulien and Parbung on April 2006 where 25 rape and molested victims testified. The investigating team flew inside the venue of the crime by two helicopters that were provided by the Government of Manipur. The Manipur government availed the helicopters after considering the state of the deplorable roads that actually lost itself in the pool of mud, rivers and bushes as it run longer. After the examination, the Hmar Students’ Association, HWA and various other organizations demanded the Commission to make the report public without any delay so as to ensure justice to the rape victims. The Commission also said that it would make its report public two months after the investigation. However, almost after two years the report is not made public yet. Just after the Commission’s examination, Imphal based human rights organizations, Human Rights Alert (HRA), Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) and MAFYF demanded for cross-examinations and for roping in the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to probe the rape case. The involvement of the international organization was not even considered. However, bowing to the demands of the contesting actors, the Commission fixed the dates for a cross-examination on August 20-23, 2006 at Parbung. However it was suddenly called off on the insistence of HRA and MAFYF, on the ground of “insecurity”, despite the unusual privilege of getting helicopter for the journey added with required State sponsored security. The HWA and Hmar Inpui who went two days ahead of the appointed dates by road to reach the assigned venue came to learnt of the cancellation and postpone after reaching Parbung. HRLN, Imphal chapter, then backed out as asked by its headquarters in New Delhi. HRLN headquarters in New Delhi told HSA leaders that they were never intimated about HRLN’s involvement with the Tipaimukh rape case.

The National Commission for Women (NCW) headed by its member, Malini Bhattacharya, intervened and visited Lungthulien and Parbung on May 10 and 11, 2006. Malini and her team reached the fear ridden villages from Mizoram side. Malini met the rape and molested victims in their villages and also visited the refugee camps in Mizoram’s Sakawrdai on May 12 and met the displaced Tipaimukh villagers. NCW, then, made its report public with a list of recommendations for the government to initiate. Besides, there were many organizations that visited the two villages after the forced displacement, landmines and rape. Manipur Chief Minister, Governor, and group of ministers also visited the crippled villages on helicopter.

As is with Manipur, there were few human rights organisations from Imphal who banked and inculcated the culture of doubts, contest and questioning, while the distressed villagers were licking their wounds as displaced people, rape victims and landmine victims. The actors championing human rights made all the possible calculated moves, exploiting their networks and knowledge to negate the inhumane sufferings of the deprived lot. Imagining distanced Tipaimukh and the wretched life of the self-reliant farmers, who still practiced the traditional slash and burn jhum cultivation, from the comfort of Imphal and elsewhere made it difficult to come to terms about the harsh realities of the forgotten parts of Manipur. Similarly, the neglected people knew nothing of the other lives in different parts of Manipur. They don’t even know what the government stands for. They don’t know there is hue and cry over AFSPA, which also covers them. For they don’t know what AFSPA is. They don’t know Manipur’s glorious daughters Kunjarani or Sharmila. The existing gap and ignorance is an inevitable reality that should not be contested or doubted. It just exists. The State is a true picture of different lives. People with different quest and struggles. The blown out miseries and truth have become too inconvenient to swallow. If anyone cannot be fooled all the time, no one can remain silent for all the time. The time may not be for their justice, but at least it has been a time to voice the injustice done to them. The barriers are layered, but the truth remains the same.

Come January 17-20, 2008, as if to mark the second anniversary of the bleeding girls and women, Rajkhowa Commission will be conducting another hearing and cross-examination if it is not called off again. The traditional legal procedures necessitated and imposed by the Commission is in no concern about the vulnerable plights of the raped and molested victims. Public action and any proactive efforts ought to be constructive and remediary even when the pursuit is for justice. The quest for justice should not inflict more harm to the targeted groups, especially when it comes to dealing with women who were severely traumatized. There has been no aid from the government except for the NCW organized medical camp for the rape and molested victims that was organized in Parbung in the end of 2006. The Government of Manipur is also yet to release the promised “interim relief” money, an amount or rupees one lakh each to the rape and molested victims. The government was pushed to the edge of making the promise after the HWA threatened to boycott the 2007 assembly elections in Churachandpur.

Meanwhile, the shattered people do not know about the politics and culture of manipulation attached to their sufferings. They do not know that there are people who are trying to win against them. But they felt that the monotonous act of examination and cross-examination are a spit over their shame and pain. A disgrace to their miseries. It might just help, once again, if we remember the lives in shattered pieces that are still lived behind those shadowed mountains.

(New Delhi, January 9, 2008)

Monday, January 7, 2008

2007: A Retreat

I remember ushering in 2007 with longing and a brand new zeal. It was in the same old ancient city of Delhi where the exploding population clogged everything. The longing was no doubt for the distance home and few other things that any man is bound to desire anytime. That could be mother or the rib lost. I attended the Delhi Hmar Christian Fellowship New Year service just like this year, 2008. Unfortunately, something seems to have become usual. The words were without the spirit. The songs were without any harmony. Without any soul. The pulpit and the house that it accommodates resembles an old and weary sound box where it attempts to announce to remind the sinner that we are while a coterie of men in all shades of skin desperately tried wearing the sheep's. It fits anyone in this land of dust. It has become a playground where the haves could sanctify themselves with a little more than the widow coins. Well that's everywhere here on earth. But I am always content for God so love the world.

I remember heaving in relief with the cease in seeing Hmar people suffer, unlike 2006 in Tipaimukh where people were displaced, tortured, loss their limbs and lives to landmines and raped. The issues were endless though. The Hmar Women Association (HWA) who are still standing firm for the cause of the Tipaimukh rape victims spearheaded the big fight. They will be heading to Tipaimukh's Lungthulien and Parbung for another hearing and cross-examination in the middle of January 2008 as directed by the Manipur Government's instituted Rajkhowa Commission to investigate the rape case. The misery has been endless for the rape victims and their families. I met two of the rape victims again at Lungthulien and Senvon in October 10 and 11, 2007. I first met them one month after the shameful incident in February 2006 when more than 20 girls and women from Tipaimukh's Parbung and Lungthulien were molested and raped by armed militants. Their sufferings bonded us. I took pictures with both of them at Senvon in October 2007. For the sake of the camera we delivered a dry smile. I am glad they could deliver even that. It was too sad for words to express. One told me that she's still too ashamed to continue to see the day. "But U David I am strengthened by God, which is keeping me alive", she told me. The other came to meet me with her lanky father. Everything about them shows their inconsolable pain. It has become a burden that weighs them down. The other one told me that the continuous stay in the village has been a tortuous one, as everyone knew what they went through. She asked me to help her move out of the village to anywhere. I could manage to do that and talked to Pi Laremsiem about it. The girl is working in one of Pi Remsiem's home in Aizawl. She was also summoned for the tortuous and never-ending hearing and cross-examination, which will be conducted again in her village very soon. I was told she dread to take the trip where the Commission would have another systematic torture of the rape victims, where the entire village would be reminded again of their bleeding daughters. The repetitive system has become too monotonous and tortuous for the shattered and traumatised girls and women who have no idea about the authoritative system that dictates them to rewind their wounded lives. Public action should be remediary, constructive and proactive when it comes to rape victims. The traditional colonial mechanisms were hurled to doubt and question their plights. They are poor and illiterate lot. But they are alive with amazing wisdom and strength. Moreover they have the truth. The truth of their sufferings and misery. The truth of the shameful loss. God be with them when the patriarchal Commission meets them again. May their soul live in peace.

The same misery shifted to our Kuki brothers and sisters in Manipur's Chandel district. They were also displaced and killed by landmines. As their plights deteriorate, their situation also got tense and slipped out of the tense hills and mountains. The Kuki Students' Organisation organised a chain of protest rally in the Capital city, demanding for Government's intervention to redress the plights of the Kukis. One of the rally in Delhi's Parliament Street turned violent that resulted in the security forces resorting to rubber bullets and tear-gassing. More than 100 students were arrested and jailed in Tihar jail. They were booked under exaggerated cases that created another big and small battle for the community leaders. However, the misery of the people that was born out of the protracted conflict was no longer cornered as journalistic orphans. But the problems are endless, which made the Kuki leaders in Chandel declared 2007 Christmas as "Black Christmas."

Then, on July 16, 2007 I was awarded the country's biggest journalism award, Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Award, by the then President Abdul Kalam. A feather I shall cherish forever. August came. I bought myself a birthday present on the 7, a Nikon D80 with a separate metal lens to seriously pursue photography. The buy prick a hole in the pocket. But I confess I am happier than ever before to look at pictures that I took. Of pictures I long dreamed of. I will be making public my pictures very soon, with Lalremlien's help, on the internet on various subjects that interest me - culture, livelihood, landscape, portraits, strangers, festivals, people and little of abstract photography. He has been asking me to maintain a blog and put a date on everything I write. With the birthday present, I finally stopped using my long time antique like Yashica SLR and Vivitar cameras that required roll films. However, I still make good use of the Canon SLR, which was presented to me by Pu Malsawmthang Keivom before he left for his foreign posting to Garborone.

Delimitation issue that has been stirring for sometime emerged as another battle for the tribals in Manipur. It reached Delhi again. I seriously followed the issue and wrote extensively. Benjamin Mate, who is spearheading the issue on behalf of various civil societies, became a close friend after all the discussions and sharing. Be it reservations or delimitation, it has been severely unfair and unequal. But the might of those in power could make anyone mute and a mite. The battle goes on and the Supreme Court intervened and compelled the Delimitation Commission and the Manipur government to exercised delimitation in Manipur, which is likely to finish sometimes in February 2008.

On October 7, 2007, Baibul, Delhi Version, translated by Zoramkhawvel Luther, L Keivom, was released at the Delhi Hmar Christian Fellowship. I embraced the translation as a revolution, a literary garner, and a potent politics. It was a feat that will inspire my life on earth for another beautiful hereafter. The same version was released in Manipur's Senvon on October 11, 2007. The village was where the Gospel first reached the Hmar people in 1910. I also stepped inside the heart of darkness – Tipaimukh – on Keivom's invitation. I went with several objectives: to witness the historic release of the Baibul, to take stock of situation of the distressed people confronting famines in the face of the gregarious bamboo flowering (mautam), and to photograph people and lives. By God's grace I could do all that. But it was sad when the plagued villagers told me that they desire to celebrate Christmas in October while they have little of the meager harvest. That was when I wish that atleast rice could be generated from the pulpit just as any single verse could be extended for hours to the despaired sinners. They already have too much from the pulpit's mouth. But they never have any fish or bread from the hands. They are overdosed with the preaching. But never any feeding. Can man live by the words alone? I realised that Hmar people are narrowly religious. To everything they readily extended religious approach, interpretations and judgment. Religious interpretation and judgment to history, science, politics, culture, art, music and what not. They said the displacement and Tipaimukh refugee in January 2006 was because of their sins. They also said that Tipaimukh rape was because we are sinful. They said again that the food crisis that the distressed Tipaimukh villagers are confronting today is also because of their sins. But bring me one without the stain of sin. I will not cast the first stone. But the stone in my hands will speak out. It would be a desirous deliverance if the society is not Talibanised. I only pray that He will forgive their ignorance. When it comes to the Word, just believe. But when it comes to the self styled interpreters and preachers don't just believe.

November came and we were stirred alive by the 1st RN Tamchon Memorial Football trophy at the Ambedkar Stadium. The tournament exhumed immeasurable spirit and collectivity that inspired everyone who witnessed us. HSA FC exerted the best of efforts, but i was so sorry we let down everyone, who cheered and stood for us. I am yet to shed the hangover; which doesn't seem to be an easy one. I still tell myself we could have done a little better. The game has to speak and save us next time we play again. But we are remembered for many things that we delivered for the love of the game: the best supporters, known for their loud and colourful flocks and the highest scorer in a single match (HSA FC scored 13 goals against Arunachal Students FC). Well they said our anthem (Tinkim ka dawn changin) was too long. Val Upa Samuel Darsuolal's reply to that was a beautiful one. He told them that the anthem was long as we have to remember our brothers and sisters in Mizoram, Manipur, Meghalaya, Assam and Tripura.

On December 11, 2007 we (L Keivom, Samuel Darsuolal, Lalremlien and I) headed to Mizoram's Vairengte for the 51st Hmar Student's Association General Assembly. It was a celebration on culture touching, while discussing various other issues and subjects. Keivom and I went on an extended trip to Shillong, Tura and Baghmara on Rohminglien Buhril's invitation who hosted us. He is presently the DFO of Meghalaya's Tura and Baghmara districts. We witnessed the cultured practice of the Garos who treasured their forest to make it a sacred golden forest. Their forest bears no bruise. It blessed them with abundant water and the cleanest air in return. If nature is pleased with them God must also be on their side. Seeing the Garos preparing and expecting for Christmas was Christmas to me. Returning to Delhi was a dry spell. Soul less. As I picked up the threads of life, it was already New Year again. So I told myself to read more, buy more books, write more, love more, pray more, help more, see more, listen more, travel more and photograph more. Happy New Year to all.

(January 6, 2008)