Understanding Mizoram

 

tim71Dear Ezra and Lian,

“Uncle” Patea once told me this joke. Here’s my re-telling.

There was a Mizo man who decided that he was going to travel around the world. He packed his bags and got on a shared jeep to leave Mizoram for his year long trip.

Shortly after the jeep crossed over the Mizoram border and long before he reached Silchar even, he asked to be let down. He caught a ride going back home.

The next day, his friends back home were surprised to see him, already returned. They asked him, “What happened? I thought you were going to travel around the world?”

“Oh, yes” he said. Then he sighed, “But, I was missing the bai. (Mizo curry-soup, eaten with rice.)

The story tells so many truths about the Mizo people. I mean this in the best possible way, but Mizos are very much like Hobbits (very beautiful and handsome ones). Not only are they both short, but they are incredible homebodies. They know what they like and all that is found in Mizoram. There are very few Frodos or Bilbos amongst them.

The world all around them is filled with chaos and evil. For the most part, in Mizoram there is peace, tea and good food. No matter what interesting things lie beyond those hills, nothing calls them like the comforts of home. Having spent so much time there myself, it is very hard for even me to leave or stay away.

It is strange to say it, but of all the places in the world, we would be safer to walk the streets anywhere in Mizoram, then to even walk the streets of my hometown. Even though it is not as safe as it used to be, it is far better than here in Pickering and many other places in Canada. Violence happens within a block of us that doesn’t even make it into the paper. If it happened in Mizoram, it would be talked about in the Mizoram state assembly.

Almost every major city in India has a Mizoram House. Where there isn’t one, the home of the “senior” family is like an embassy for Mizo people. Mizos will seek out these places when they arrive. They are craving Mizo food, conversation, help and familiarity. It’s a safe place. Your grandparents place in Pune, Maharashtra was like that.

If the world were Middle Earth, then The Shire is Mizoram. No matter what adventures they experience in this wide world, a true Mizo/Hobbit always yearns to return. Tasting bai again is just an excuse. Your grandfather spent an entire eventful career outside of Mizoram. He retired as a Deputy General of Police. Now he lives on top of a hill in Aizawl. One day, when we have elevenses, you will see what I mean.

Love,

Dad

 

 

 

I love Mizoram

tim57

Dear Ezra and Lian,

I strongly believe every Mizo lives with the following tension in their lives; like Ezra, they have a remarkable ability to not show pain or weakness, no matter how severe. Yet, like Lian, they are very emotional people. When they love something, they love it with all their heart and want to express it. When they are sad, they want to cry rivers of tears. Mizos who can maintain a stiff upper lip whatever the circumstance are greatly admired. Mizos who can eloquently sing at the top of their voices about the love or pain in their hearts are greatly loved. They are the true leaders of Mizoram. Mizos will follow them with their hearts. So even if a Mizo is really reserved and “proper”, what they really want to see from you is a passion from the depth of your soul.

In 2000, Jonah Pachuau (sp?), the publisher of the magazine Vartian, asked me to write an article about Mizoram. I poured my soul into what I wrote. I wrote about how I had fallen in love with Mizoram at the same time I had fallen in love with Mommy. However, if you ever find a copy of that edition of the magazine, that’s not what you will read. You will read this boring article with my name attached to it as author.

What happened was that somehow your Grandma reviewed my essay. She cut out all the love and passion. What remained was unrecognizable from what I had written, but that is what got published. At the time, I thought, ok it’s a different culture. Maybe what I wrote would be embarrassing or shameful to the family. I let it go. Now I just think, it was an attempt to maintain family dignity. My public declaration of love for both your Mom and Mizoram went unheard to the readers of Vartian.

Let me say it now, loud and clear, unedited, I love Mizoram. I love your Mommy. Sure, we live apart, but I will always carry you in my heart. Yes, you have mistreated me and a normal person would hate you, but I don’t, never have and never will. I forgave you long ago. I will always care about you and your welfare. You can misunderstand me and my motivations, but I love you. Not in a fluffy, fleeting, tingly feeling way. No, it’s tough love. If I hated you, if I was only interested in a public perception of this family, we could be together. I love you and your children, so I will always call you up to be better. I won’t tolerate the gross injustices you blithely do. You need healing. I won’t drink your poison and call it honey.

You’re free to make your own choices. I’m free to tell you when they are horrible decisions that are soul destroying. I will protect our kids from the inevitable consequences of your actions. Don’t be mad, be grateful that I will fight to the death for them.

Confession is good for the soul, but real change comes with real repentance. No amount of outpouring of emotion can be a substitute for that. If you’re looking for a little redemption, I can’t help you. If you want total redemption, you need a Redeemer. You need someone who has loved you for your entire existence. Someone who has endured every shame and suffered every indignity to demonstrate to the whole world how much they have loved you. Someone not only willing to die for you, someone who did and has the power to live again and give new life.

Kids, know this to be true; whatever happens, I love Mizoram, I love Mommy.

Love,

Dad

After the school fire, there was going to be a riot.

tim41

Dear Ezra and Lian (when you’re a little older),

After the school fire, there was going to be a riot. The Mizos and Chakmas were going to have a big fight that night. The Baptist Church of Mizoram (BCM) ran a big school in Chhangte. Most of the people in that town are Buddhists and Chakma. A lot of them didn’t like a Christian boarding school being there. Probably one of them, at least that’s what all the Mizos believed, had purposely burned down a lot of classrooms and student sleeping quarters. In retaliation, young Mizo men would probably go beat up a lot of Chakma men, hurt young Chakma women and set a fire or two themselves. The Chakma young men would do the same to the Mizos. These things had happened before.

I was told these things the morning after the fire. I was asked to go to Chhangte right away and help try to calm things down. Both the Mizos and Chakmas in Chhangte respect me. Because of what I had done for them, the Chakma call me Radamon, named after their greatest hero. Being a Mizo makpa (son-in-law), the Mizos admire me too. I quickly packed a few things and was ready to go.

Then I waited for hours. Sanga, my driver and the best in Mizoram, wasn’t allowed to leave until the elders of BCM finished their meeting to decide what to do. They didn’t want me to get to Chhangte first. I thought they were being petty and prideful, but I waited. Finally we left.

I think it should normally take about 6 hours, but Sanga drove so fast, I think we did it in 4 hours. In the windy, mountainous roads it was like being on a roller coaster. I don’t really do so well on roller coasters. I could barely stand up when I got to Chhangte.

Now, kids, your grandpa is probably the 2nd most important Mizo police officer ever. My Mizo friends all know it. They could have easily asked me to bring justice to whoever burned down a Mizo-run school. One phone call and I could have had at least one Chakma in jail that night for questioning. They didn’t ask me for that. Instead they announced that they would re-build everything burned down at the school. That took a lot of sacrifice. They would have to cancel other building projects in Mizo villages. They didn’t punish the people in Chhangte for this malicious act.

Then we started to comfort the people at the school. The principal and I walked through the ashes of his burned out school. With tears in his eyes, he showed me where things used to be. A little girl showed me where her room used to be. Now all her clothes and books were gone. I should have brought some stuffed toys. All I had were hugs and a few kind words and smiles. I hate to see people cry (that’s why your sister has me wrapped around her little finger.) I would rather have gone to see the police, but nobody said the word justice. We were there to try to create peace. Unbelievably, it happened. No bad stuff happened that night.

You will hear people shout; “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now?” They have no idea what they are asking for. They only what a tiny little piece of justice; the part that benefits them, their friends or their causes or the part that punishes their enemies. They don’t want the part that will ruin them utterly. The Mizos have had so many bad things done to them and as a people they have done many bad things too, especially around Chhangte. As much as I love them and the Chakmas, I will never try to bring them justice again. If you ever get true justice, kids, it will destroy you and everything around you. Don’t seek it. Instead, bring mercy. It heals. It builds. It hugs and wipes away the tears. Especially for those who don’t deserve it. Love, Dad