- Originally written Sept. 21, 2014. Still true.Dear Ezra and Lian;
I love your mother. I love both of you.
Ezra, you already know this. You are old enough to know this is true. I have told you many times. Lian, today you are too young to understand what is happening. Most of all this letter is for you to read when you are older. Ezra, when Lian is older please make sure your little sister believes this.
My legal paperwork got filed in court over a week ago. This means that your Mommy and Daddy permanently won’t be living together any more. We haven’t lived together for 16 months, but this makes it official. This doesn’t change anything really for you, but soon your parents will be divorced.
You and others will ask yourselves, like you have asked me in the past; why? Eventually you will meet someone who will tell you something like this; “Sometimes mommies and daddies stop loving one another. That’s why they get divorced.” Don’t ever believe or listen to that. That idea has nothing to do with me and your mother. It’s not true about us. I love your mom with all my heart, but it takes more than love to make a marriage last.
I have tried so hard to make sure that we could all stay together. Now I have to stop holding on to your Mom. It’s really, really difficult, but it’s what your Mom wants. I just have to love her from a distance. The best way I can do that, is to love you as best as I can. You are the apple of my eye. My favour will rest on you as long as I shall live. Just because my marriage is ending does not lessen my love for you. You bear no responsibility for this divorce; not even a little bit. I will provide, protect, lead and embrace you all the more. I’m sure it might get to be too much sometimes. I might hug a little too tightly and forget to let go. When I over-love you, I’m sorry. Please forgive me in advance.
Any time I compare you to your mother, it will be to highlight one of your positive attributes. When I see you, I will always see a little bit of her. That’s a good thing. Your eyes, your nose, your dimples, your easy laugh and smile. They all remind me about the best of your Mom.
My biggest regret about this is that you don’t have more brothers and sisters. If there were twin or triplet versions of you that would make my joy even greater. I love all your mother’s children so much. I will pour my affection on the two of you.
Sometime in the future, you might be feeling bad about yourself. Wherever you are, no matter how old you are, read this letter. Remember that your father loves you and always will.
Dear Ezra and Lian,
I had spent about 2 months in Mizoram in the winter of 2000. I left Mizoram late March 2000. I was travelling the last leg of the journey; a train travelling about 1800 kilometres from Calcutta in West Bengal to Nashik in Maharashtra. The reason I was coming back; to ask your mom to marry me.
I had visited all the family back in Mizoram. I think I passed all their tests and was properly vetted. I think it somewhat impressed them that I travelled all the way to Champhai to visit your great-grandparents. I did it all over land; no flying. From Bombay, that’s 7 days of travelling trains, buses and jeeps when you don’t know what you’re doing.
Of course, before I could consider asking your mom to say “Yes!” to me, I had to talk to her father. I needed to ask for his permission. That’s a letter for another time. Let me just say, I had no idea how I would convince an Inspector General of Police that he should let me marry his daughter. He sent her to the best of schools. She had dated a TV soap star, the sons of wealthy industrialists, even a prince. 11 guys had asked for hand in marriage and been denied….by Ruth. They didn’t even make into your grandpa’s office for the Big Question.
I was so eager to see your mom again, I took the first train I could get a ticket on and that would get me closest to her. It was going to take 36 hours as per the schedule. However, it wasn’t the best train to take. Also, the best route was to take a Calcutta to Bombay express. Instead, this train’s ultimate destination was Ahmedabad via Surat. My final station was near the Gujarat/Maharashtra state border. By car, this was still hours away from Nashik. All the same I jumped on board.
The train ended up being about 12 hours late. That meant I spent about 48 hours and 2 nights on a train. I had a “sleeper berth” in AC so it was not horrible. Still, that was 48 hours of eating nothing but chicken curry and rice or eggs and toast. 48 hours of swaying back and forth and trying not to miss the toilet or roll out of bed. No showers. Sometimes we would spend hours in the middle of nowhere, not moving at all. By the time I arrived at my final station, I felt like I had been to sea in a tin can for a week. I didn’t feel that well. I didn’t look that well. I certainly didn’t smell that well.
I stepped off the train with my backpack. (Of course, Canadian Pilgrim would have a Canadian flag patch sewn on.) I slowly made my way through a crowd of people eager to get away from our “prison”. Then I saw her, your mother. She was beautiful in a salwar kameez with a dupatta on her head (you’ve never seen your mom like this.) I began running as fast as my “sea legs” would take me. I could hear the romantic music from a Bollywood movie in my head. “Kuch Kuch Hota Hai” Something was indeed happening.
Then, I saw two police officers standing beside her. I stopped moving and wondered what was happening. Then two officers suddenly appeared beside me. One physically grabbed my backpack off my shoulder. The other pushed me forward. I thought your mom was going to run into my arms for a big hug and a kiss. No.
“Hello, Mr. Nghinglova” I greeted your grandfather in full police officer uniform. He greeted me warmly with a big smile. Around us were about 20 police officers and jawans under his command. He said, “Shall we go then?” All of us then proceeded through the train station. The crowds parted like the Red Sea for us. Everyone stared at this beautiful young lady, lots of serious policemen and this bedraggled, rail-thin, dirty smelly, tall, white guy with rare hair being pushed along. I cast a backwards glance at Mommy wondering why she never kissed me. I wasn’t exactly sure if I was being taken to Mommy’s home or to an interrogation session at the nearest police station.
We reached a car. I got in the backseat and surprisingly so did your grandpa. Mommy sat in the front with the driver. The car’s siren came on and its warning lights began to flash. Two jeeps in front of us did the same and two behind us as well. I even think a couple had roof mounted machine guns, but it was all just a blur. Most of the journey took place after dark. We raced through the darkness. We passed hundreds of vehicles for hours. It’s strange, after a while you don’t even notice the sirens wailing any more.
Grandpa, rather, Inspector General of Police, Nashik Range, Mr. B.T. Nghinglova and I made small talk. We talked about my train trip and my longer journey. Of course, he asked, like every Mizo does, “How do you find Mizoram?” (A Canadian immigrant from India once asked Ezra, “How do you find London, Ontario?” Ezra seriously said, “I got off the train and there it was.”) I told your grandfather I had fallen in love with Mizoram.
I spent all the pauses in our conversation wondering what I would say to win him over. How was I going to convince him that I would make a great husband for his daughter? I was running out of time. I figured the next day would be my one and only chance to ask him while alone.
Suddenly, words something like this, came out of his mouth; “I understand you are interested in our daughter; that you would like to marry her. From our side, we have no objection.” I said thank you, but I was so stunned I didn’t know what else to say or do. I thought that went a lot easier than I expected.
After hours of travel, we finally reached Mommy’s house in Nashik. Your grandpa went to wash up for a late dinner. I snuck a big hug and kiss with Mommy while he was gone. Then Mommy went to get ready for dinner as well. While I waited, I looked at the mantle over the fireplace. There was a trophy. The statuette was of a man. He had one arm pointing straight in front of him while holding a pistol. I read the inscription. It read something like this; “State of Maharashtra Police Shooting Champion, 1994”.
I was sure glad he said, “Yes”. I didn’t want to imagine what he would have done if he had said, “No”.
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.