Anything Can Happen in India # 3

 

 

tim 82

Dear Ezra and Lian,

Every time I think about that photograph, I chuckle. There’s Auntie Beth and our friend Sarah. They have these crazy, forced, embarrassed, awkward smiles. They each have a garland of flowers around their necks. They are being welcomed by the local dignitaries from a small town near Nashik in Maharashtra. You see at that exact moment, there is a huge express train with about 2,000 people on it. They were travelling from Bombay to Calcutta. People are sticking their heads out the doors and windows looking to see why their train hasn’t been moving for the last 20 minutes. They are staring at Beth and Sarah. They are staring at me and Mommy. They are staring at your Grandpa, a bunch of police officers and dignitaries dressed all in white. On the train platform, there is a whole little ceremony taking place.

 

Since your Grandpa was then the Inspector General of Police for the Nasik region which included this town, he and his family had to be properly feted and welcomed. He was there to say goodbye to his recently married daughter and son-in-law. They were travelling to Mizoram. The whole time, the train conductor is pleading with us to get on the train. I am worried that the train will leave without us. Grandpa’s right hand man says a few words in Marathi to get the conductor to hold the train for us. The train doesn’t move and around 2,000 people have to sit and be inconvenienced by this ceremony. The Canadians were dying of embarrassment. That is India. Time is not as important as it is here in Canada. “Important” people have a lot of power and common people make way for them and their kids (that is, us). Ceremony is very important. No one ever stops a ceremony, parade, festival, wedding, funeral or party because it’s too much of an inconvenience, too noisy, too late, too big, or too unsafe. Everyone just steps around it.

There was nothing for me to do, but grin and bear it. I was garlanded. I gave my “Namastes”. I posed for photographs in my sweat-stained white t-shirt and dirty brown khakis. I felt sorry for the people on the train. There was nothing I could do for them, but board as quickly as we could once the ceremony was over. This is India. Anything can happen.

Love,
Dad

 

I just walked on by

tim80

Dear Ezra and Lian,

When people get off a train in rush hour in India, it’s madness. It is so crowded. People don’t form lines on either the left or the right. It’s just one big crowd getting on while one big crowd gets off. People bump into one another, shove others out of the way to get where they need to go. It’s a bit scary that you will lose your friends travelling with you. You barely need to walk; the crowd can just push you along.

I was in such a crowd. I was leaving a train and moving through the main station in Pune. I smelled him before a saw him. It was the smell of death. The crowd moved around him and every one covered their noses to keep from vomiting. The stench was so bad. The single worst thing I have ever smelled and I have smelled some terrible odours.

The man was lying on the sidewalk. He leaned on his elbow weakly begging for money. Meanwhile he clearly had gangrene in his legs. He looked like the totally desperate do. His clothes, his hair, his skin was a single colour; a dark grey-black from years of dirt. His hair was long and matted. Without help, I really believe he would only live a few more days. He barely looked alive. Almost 15 years later, his image still haunts my thoughts every week.

I just walked on by. The crowd just pushed me along and through the gates out of the station. I was in shock. I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t stand the odour. I had no solutions. I thought about going back to help, but I didn’t. I didn’t get assistance. I didn’t tell authorities or charities or anyone. I had been in India too long and seen too much to really be surprised. I discovered that day, just how evil I really was. That day, my heart was stone.

If you ever say, “Somebody ought to do something.” Know that the somebody is you. I have a few simple measuring sticks to gauge whether I have succeeded or failed as a father. If you walk on by a man like this, just like the way I did, then surely I have failed. Please be better than your father.

Love,

Dad

Champhai : re post

To all the friends, family and neighbours of Ezra and Lian’s Great-Grandma, the mother of Pu B. T. Nghinglova, the wife of Pu B. P. Khuma, Ruth’s “Champhai Grandma”, my Api, I extend my heart-felt condolences on your loss. I mourn the passing of a beautiful soul. We join with you in remembering a lovely lady who will be sadly missed by the Morgan Family.

Originally posted to my personal Facebook page on May 5, 2015

Dear Ezra and Lian,

During World World II, an Allied pilot flying over the Chin Hills during the Burma campaign ran into trouble. He had to make an emergency landing. The only flat land for at least 50 miles in any direction was the rice paddies of Champhai. He safely landed. The man who would be chief of the area greeted him and saw to his welfare. He arranged for his safe transport to the port at Chittagong. For the chief, this was the first Sap (white man) he had ever seen.

Over 55 years later, a tall, skinny Sap with red hair came to visit him and his wife. He had travelled over oceans by planes. He crossed India by train. He rolled over mountains in buses and jeeps. It took over a week. This man came to pay his respects and hopefully win the favour of his family. He impressed the family enough, that within a few weeks, the chief’s son gave his approval for me to marry his daughter (Mommy). According to your great-grandfather, B. P. Khuma, I was the second Sap he had ever seen.

A few years after the war was over, India became an independent country. They began the process of writing a constitution. You grandfather as chief was invited to some of those meetings. The chiefs of the tribes of the Northeast considered whether they should join the rest of India. The British before they left India had contemplated creating a Kingdom of the tribes between India, China, East Pakistan and Burma. However, there was chaos as the British began to lose control and the partition of India began to happen. There were worries about what China would do. The chiefs were assured that 10 years after Independence they could hold a vote to separate or stay inside India. So with that promise they voted to remain inside India. Ten years came and went, but no vote was ever held. This led to much of the unrest in the area until now.

In 1959, the mautam famine due to bamboo flowering hit. (Here’s a video I helped make about it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p9xj-JcE8ng) The government of India and the state government of Assam failed to send adequate supplies. Over 10,000 people starved to death. This lead to the creation of the Mizo Famine Front, an aid agency. Due to the inaction for years and extreme poverty they became the Mizo National Front. On March 1, 1966, they declared Mizo independence from India. They had about 1 month of success. They captured almost all Indian army and border security forces. Then the airstrikes began.

The Indian air force began bombing and strafing missions on the capital city of Aizawl. All civilians fled into the villages. It is the only instance in Indian history that its air force bombed their own civilian population. The MNF retreated but fought a successful series of surprise attacks launched from small hamlets and villages. To combat the insurgency, in 1967, the Indian army destroyed 80% of every village house and farm in the state. Mizos were herded into internment camps in the major towns and cities. They were cut off from their farms. There was much starvation. At this time, your great-grandfather and great-grandmother had their home and farm burned to the ground. With their children, the clothes on their backs, they fled into the jungle. All they had for food was the leg of a dear and half a bag of rice.

Despite all of this, to some degree, they forgave India. They were two of the jolliest people I have ever met. Their son, Mommy’s Dad, also managed to forgive the government of India. Within a few years, he was a police officer enforcing that government’s laws. When he retired, he was a Deputy General of Police in the state of Maharashtra. Amongst the Mizos, that is the 2nd highest anyone has risen in the police.

Ezra, you have a great capacity for forgiving. Lian, I hope you can follow your brother’s example. Maybe you inherited it from grandfather. Maybe it is the gift of God. I hope you can forgive India for what they did to the Mizos. Someday, you need to talk to your grandfather about this. There is a tremendous power that is unleashed when we forgive and reconcile. It can destroy walls. It can build bridges. It can do the impossible.

We seem to be entering a time of grievances. Hurt people hurt people. This is leading to destruction, fires, pain and death. As you enter your teenage years, many will try to whip you up into a frenzy of rage and righteous anger against the injustices that exist near us. I want you to measure those issues against what your own Mizo family have experienced. Before you pick up pens, placards or pistols to fight, I want you to take the time to see if you can forgive. If you can’t forgive, I want you to explain to me how your grandparents could move past the great evil done to them, but you cannot. If you can’t forgive, I want you to explain to me why you are not in Mizoram ending great injustices still there.

I hope you choose to free yourself from the need for revenge. You are so young, but there are miracles in your hearts. Forgiving can unleash that power for good. You are small, but with a tiny faith God can throw our mountains into the sea. It is time, my little buddy and my sweetie pie, to see what God will do with it.

Love,

DadOver 55 years later, a tall, skinny Sap with red hair came to visit him and his wife. He had travelled over oceans by planes. He crossed India by train. He rolled over mountains in buses and jeeps. It took over a week. This man came to pay his respects and hopefully win the favour of his family. He impressed the family enough, that within a few weeks, the chief’s son gave his approval for me to marry his daughter (Mommy). According to your great-grandfather, B. P. Khuma, I was the second Sap he had ever seen.

A few years after the war was over, India became an independent country. They began the process of writing a constitution. You grandfather as chief was invited to some of those meetings. The chiefs of the tribes of the Northeast considered whether they should join the rest of India. The British before they left India had contemplated creating a Kingdom of the tribes between India, China, East Pakistan and Burma. However, there was chaos as the British began to lose control and the partition of India began to happen. There were worries about what China would do. The chiefs were assured that 10 years after Independence they could hold a vote to separate or stay inside India. So with that promise they voted to remain inside India. Ten years came and went, but no vote was ever held. This led to much of the unrest in the area until now.

In 1959, the mautam famine due to bamboo flowering hit.  (Here’s a video I helped make about it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p9xj-JcE8ng) The government of India and the state government of Assam failed to send adequate supplies. Over 10,000 people starved to death. This lead to the creation of the Mizo Famine Front, an aid agency. Due to the inaction for years and extreme poverty they became the Mizo National Front. On March 1, 1966, they declared Mizo independence from India. They had about 1 month of success. They captured almost all Indian army and border security forces. Then the airstrikes began.

The Indian air force began bombing and strafing missions on the capital city of Aizawl. All civilians fled into the villages. It is the only instance in Indian history that its air force bombed their own civilian population. The MNF retreated but fought a successful series of surprise attacks launched from small hamlets and villages. To combat the insurgency, in 1967, the Indian army destroyed 80% of every village house and farm in the state. Mizos were herded into internment camps in the major towns and cities. They were cut off from their farms. There was much starvation. At this time, your great-grandfather and great-grandmother had their home and farm burned to the ground. With their children, the clothes on their backs, they fled into the jungle. All they had for food was the leg of a dear and half a bag of rice.

Despite all of this, to some degree, they forgave India. They were two of the jolliest people I have ever met. Their son, Mommy’s Dad, also managed to forgive the government of India. Within a few years, he was a police officer enforcing that government’s laws. When he retired, he was a Deputy General of Police in the state of Maharashtra. Amongst the Mizos, that is the 2nd highest anyone has risen in the police.

Ezra, you have a great capacity for forgiving. Lian, I hope you can follow your brother’s example. Maybe you inherited it from grandfather. Maybe it is the gift of God. I hope you can forgive India for what they did to the Mizos. Someday, you need to talk to your grandfather about this. There is a tremendous power that is unleashed when we forgive and reconcile. It can destroy walls. It can build bridges. It can do the impossible.

We seem to be entering a time of grievances. Hurt people hurt people. This is leading to destruction, fires, pain and death. As you enter your teenage years, many will try to whip you up into a frenzy of rage and righteous anger against the injustices that exist near us. I want you to measure those issues against what your own Mizo family have experienced. Before you pick up pens, placards or pistols to fight, I want you to take the time to see if you can forgive. If you can’t forgive, I want you to explain to me how your grandparents could move past the great evil done to them, but you cannot. If you can’t forgive, I want you to explain to me why you are not in Mizoram ending great injustices still there.

I hope you choose to free yourself from the need for revenge. You are so young, but there are miracles in your hearts. Forgiving can unleash that power for good. You are small, but with a tiny faith God can throw our mountains into the sea. It is time, my little buddy and my sweetie pie, to see what God will do with it.

tim04