Dec 28, 2011

My New Year's No-Resolution!

Unlike Calvin, I don't think I'm perfect the way I am. However, my New Year's Resolution in 2012 is not to have a New Year's Resolution.

Am I making sense at all?

Statistically, The third Monday of January is the most depressing day of the year. By that time, New Year's Resolutions have already been broken, the lull after the festive season have just set in, you're in the middle of the work humdrum  and yet summer sun is still nowhere in sight. 

I've never remembered following each of my New Year's Resolution list throughout the whole year! I consider myself pretty strong willed but sometimes I feel I don't take my New Year's Resolution seriously! Why should I when I'm just following trend?

On my birthdays, I always have a list of things I want to do for the next year. Through the years, I realized I have a habit of  procrastinating my lists. A few months before my next birthday, I'd go through the list and rush to make sure I marked off the list that sometimes, I admit (sheepishly), I do the things on my list just because I want to tick them off. Does that make sense to you? My whole point of making the list in the first place is to venture out of my comfort zone and enjoy and live in every single moment of it! FAIL!!

And to think that I would have two lists every year?? Who am I kidding?

This year, the day after Christmas day, on the darkest shade of blue Mondays, I woke up late, a bit sore and a blocked nose. I knew my week of reflecting on the passing year and making my New Year's Resolution has started. As I took out a sheet pad and a pen to start jotting down, I realized the first on my list was "Have Breakfast at breakfast hours ". Ironic isn't it? The first Resolution in my list is, but, something I am sure I will break on the first day of the New Year!  

Let's keep it real here!!

I, therefore, bask in the last days of 2011 and wait to say 'Hello' to a resolution-free New Year!

Dec 26, 2011

Top Six Things I'm Thankful for in 2011

Just a few days left for 2011. And though I'm excited to enter a New Year, I feel I should reflect and jot down the things I'm thankful for during this year. I started with a detailed list, and after writing a really long list,  I realize I'd never finish writing this post. So I rounded off with my Top Six. What surprised me is that my Top Six things are things that I've always taken for granted! 

So here it goes:

1. Academically, this year has seen me gain another degree (or at least half of it). I finished my MPhil's Viva Voce and embarked on yet another (scarier) journey- a PhD.

2. My Family. Especially my dad. Even though I will forever long for a sister, my brothers make a 'helluva'  butt kickin' siblings. But when you have only one parent with you, you learn the value of having him for another year! I'm really blessed and immensely thankful to have my dad with me for another year of my life! I hope and pray I have him with me for many many more years to come, spoiling my (future) kids and sharing them his struggle stories when they reach their difficult teenage years!!

3. No hospitals throughout the year! :D I visited the Campus Health Center plenty and yes! I did fracture my ribs on 'the great fall' but I wasn't admitted in any hospital! Gone are my years in Shillong when I'd be admitted in a hospital every year! I was admitted thrice in a hospital during my final year of college! And though I've been to a lot of hospitals this year, thankfully, I was never the patient. To think that I'm hospital free for a year while I live in a polluted and unhealthy city! Ah! That's something to be thankful for.

4. Sunday School. When The Delhi Mizo Christian Fellowship branched out to three services in May, my heart sank for Sunday School. I was apprehensive about the number of children who would come to class and where we would meet. For more than six months, we have been meeting in the Chief Minister's Committee Room in Mizoram House, Vasant Vihar. Although a bit small, we can somehow manage by taking some of the classes in the corridors. I am particularly thankful for my class of teenagers who have made the best number of students in their Department during my five years teaching Sunday School. I know I'd sound tacky but this year, I've realized all over again that I've given my heart to Sunday School ever since I've started teaching in it since my college days.

South Delhi Mizo Inkhawm Naupang Sunday School: Group picture just after our 'interesting' Nativity Skit!

5. Choir. I'm thankful to be a part of the Delhi Mizo Choir. Being a part of the Choir has taken me to places I'd never have the chance to go had I not been a part of it. Plus I've met some of my closest and most loved friends in the choir. I know I don't have a powerful pair of lungs but I'm happy to be there for song practices and singing my heart out in the choir! I didn't think of the choir this way untill that day in November when I lost my voice to laryngitis for four very deafeningly silent days!

The Last DMI Combined Choir before branching out. (2011)

DMI Choir in 1983. I wasn't born yet when this picture was taken but we have one member who's present in both the pictures. To that person .... SALUTE!!

6. The Roommate: Sharing a very small living space with someone makes you realize the value of a good roommate. I'm extremely thankful for my present one and it's not just because of her love for karaoke! :D

Ah! The list is even more generic than I thought it would be!! But then, when it comes down to list out the things you're grateful for, I realize it's always back to the basics!

2011, You've been a good year!!

Dec 24, 2011

A Christmas Post.

Recently, a friend of mine who moved to Australia a few years ago wrote to me and told me that she still can't get used to Christmas in Australia because it's falls in peak summer over there. I read her mail while bundled up in an electric blanket while an old wool cap itched my forehead but I couldn't help but being thankful for the cold Delhi evening because the dipping temperature makes it even more festive for me. Unlike my friend, I have never spent a warm Christmas in my life yet despite all my cold Christmases, I've never spend a snowy Christmas either.   

It will be my fifth Christmas away from home and my third consecutive Christmas here in Delhi. Until a few days back, I didn't long for home. But since last night, I have been very very homesick. Though I didn't want to admit it, there's a tiny voice in the back of my head screaming at me, telling me that I should have fought to be back home this time around.

What is it with Christmas that always makes you long for the things you don't have??

When I was six, my uncle passed away in an accident. My mom and my uncle were the closest among their siblings and it was my mom who supported my uncle through engineering college. My uncle's demise left my mother so shattered that she couldn't even sit for her Master's finals. I learnt, years later, that was something she wished she could have braved through. The last thing my mother told me before she passed away was not to let grieve get the best of me. The Christmas after my uncle passed away was the saddest Christmas for my family especially for my mom. I remembered hearing her cry on Christmas morning and I remembered us visiting my uncle's grave soon after Christmas service got over.

The most painful Christmas I've ever spent was the first Christmas without Ma. Since my mom and I were the only two females in the family, all the festive decorations and the cooking usually fell into our hands. That Christmas, I remembered decorating our tree, hanging the silver bells that my mom and I picked carefully from the stores just a year ago. If anything was difficult that Christmas, it was hanging a silver bell without bursting into tears. Even a single red ribbon held too much memory. I remembered sitting by her grave that Christmas Eve, wondering if she'll like the flowers I brought for her. I remembered asking silently 'I didn't let grieve get the best of me, Did I, Nu?' while I helped with the Christmas Church Feast that year.

That was 8 years ago, but even tonight, here I am in the wee hours of the morning, punching this line with a lump in my throat because I long for the mother I no longer have. Why is it that this pain always gets magnified when Christmas draws near?  I wonder if it is the same for anyone else!

I've told myself many Christmases ago, that I should be thankful for the things I have and cherish the memories of the loved ones no longer with me. I tell myself that, every single Christmas for the past 7 years. I'll tell myself that very same thing tonight too!


This Christmas, take time to cherish the memories, take time to remember them, relive the moments in your head. Take time to remember her face, her smile, her voice, her laughter. Take time to remember how she called your name or how her hands felt on your hair. It's OK to shed tears and laugh through the funny memories in your head. But, take time to thank God for those memories. Take time to be thankful for having the experience of receiving a mother's love for 18 years of your life. 

Take time to be thankful for what you have. Take time to thank God for your family. Take time to thank God for taking you this far. Take time to thank God for the things you usually take for granted.

But most importantly, take time to look inside to see what Christmas is all about. 

Take time to remember that Christmas is not all about you, your pain and your loneliness. Christmas is, but, about the Gift of Life that has been given to you. Take time to be thankful for and rejoice in the Ultimate Gift!

For if you spend Christmas without the Ultimate Gift, Christmas would just be another cold and lonely day in December.


Merry Christmas one and all!! May you spend Christmas with the Ultimate Gift!

Dec 14, 2011

Of Parikrama, the 'high-note Toes' and being a choir member

It all started last Thursday afternoon. I had a late lunch at the Library canteen and walked around the campus, stretching my legs and killing time before my five o'clock English classes when a friend called me out of the blue. He wanted to know if I'm free for the evening for a song practice for background vocals for Parikrama. I paused. Parikrama??? "Yeah. The rockband." he replied.

A few hours later, four of us, Apuii, Moses, RC and I (one for each part) were whisked away in Sonam's car to a bungalow somewhere in Sainik farms. We came to learn that members of the band had a project for a movie soundtrack and they wanted a choir singing and humming in the background of the song. So after Sonam (Need I say he's the band's guitarist and married to a Mizo?) gave us the lines, we sat together preparing and harmonizing the notes. I must confess, we didn't do anything mighty for it was all of three lines and a bridge.

The recording, it turns out, was for a presentation. So until it got approved by the director of the movie, it's not the 'real' thing yet! But that didn't stop us from going into recording the next day. We spent a good couple of hours in the studio and wrapped it up as the band has a show the same evening and we had a funeral to attend. It was only for a few hours but were we proud to back up even just a demo recording for the band!! 

What surprised me was how pleasant the guys were during the practice and the recording. They talked a lot, laughed and joked with us and were so pleasant to work with. During the practice, either one of the three guys present there would pop in every ten minutes asking if we need anything. And during the recording, if there's one thing which amused everyone, it's my multicolored skull socks. And I thought I was so rocker-chic sporting them!! And before I could get over the amusement, Sonam would point at my toes yet again and laugh!!

When the recording started, My-oh-my, was I nervous!! Apuii was the first one to record her part and she didn't have any problem with it. But when it comes to me, my first take was all pitchy and flat! And I realized I  was shaking when I couldn't hold a note for a mere three seconds. But a few more takes, a lot of deep breaths and bouncing around the room helped me gain back my confidence until I came to a particularly high note. Then the choir girl in me broke loose. I tiptoed while working to hit the high note, silently wishing I had my high heels on!

Well, for people who didn't get the tiptoe, my way of hitting a high note is by transforming myself into a string puppet - neck stretched, shoulders pushed back and low and working every muscle in my legs down to the toes. I didn't even realized I was doing the string puppet posture when the room bursted out laughing. Moses and Apuii were quick to point to my toes while Nitin confessed that even though he was staring straight ahead, he couldn't help but notice my colorful pointy toes. Then he quickly added that his way of hitting a high note is by tilting his head with a slight neck twist. Ah! I should remember to look out for that  move when I go back and stalk him! Hee Hee!

This experience will go down in my CV for a lifetime. And whenever I come across another Parikrama fan, I'd tell them of the experience. But then again, coming back to the main motive for this post, I'd never have this experience had I not been an active member of the Delhi Mizo Choir.

I was 16 when I left home for my studies, and hardly active in my own church and choir. Even though I was a member of the church worship team during college, I didn't get the chance to be a part of any choir until I came to Delhi where I decided that I would not waste my time by NOT being a choir member. Of course, being a choir member here in Delhi takes a lot of your time, your money and energy. You have to pay for your own travel expenses to and fro practice, sacrifice your leisure time and most of the practice evenings, you miss dinner hour in campus. But then again, we all have to make sacrifices for the things we love doing and I LOVE singing in the choir. But it doesn't take long to realize that those little sacrifices pay off. My closest friends are people I met in the choir. They are people I rely on and people who pull me back on track when I needed it. My five years with the Delhi Mizo Choir has seen me, of all the people, singing for the President of India, the Prime Minister of India and countless other religious dignitaries. And now, a contrast, a Rockband.

I know for a fact that most parents back home, send their children out with the line " i zirna zu ngai pawimawh ber la, kohhran leh khawtlangah zuk inhmang tam suh ang che ". Even my family is not free of such parents. My uncles, still have a problem with me being an active member of the choir and a sunday school teacher. But then I thank God for a father who told me 10 years ago " Theihtawpin i zirlai i zir anga, mahse kohhran leh khawtlang hmantlakloh lehkhathiam nih hlau hle ang che". If I'm bragging, then please let me brag, because 10 years later, I'm just beginning to realize what a sound advice that was.

But then coming back to Parikrama, I decided that night that I'm way too old to be a screaming fan girl. But I now regret. I should've taken a picture with Nitin Malik. Apuii and I developed a huge 'old maid' crush on Parikrama's frontman but we decided to stay classy and composed!! Who were we kiddin'?? The composed girl wasn't so composed when she spotted the Les Paul Slash Signature that she stole a moment during a tea break for a picture ! Ah! How well do I know myself ?! I guess I was a bigger fan of the guitar than the vocalist! Sorry, Nitin, we still love your no-hair! :)

The Les Paul Slash Signature and the 'amusing' skull socks! :D

Dec 5, 2011

Of 'imperfect' families and 'fitting right in'!

At first, I thought it would be a quiet dinner for two friends who hardly have the time to catch up. Since there's no song practice after church, we had an impromptu plan where we'd catch up over a plate of crispy dry chilly lamb. The evening turned out to be more than we expected.

My friend, a very responsible daughter, soon started outing tearful tales of her family problems - problems, I know, bad enough to be shared with someone who's not family. While I listened to her, wishing there's something I could do, I also somehow admired her for having the strength to share problems so intimate and personal yet I felt so inadequate to be the one hearing all of the problems. We went for a short walk after dinner and she took an auto home. 

On my way back, as I closely hugged my jacket against the dipping temperature, it got me thinking about the complexities of life and family and about my own in particular. I don't have the perfect family. And I will lament on the incompleteness of my family for a lifetime. After all, losing a mother can never be fair to any human. There will be certain personal clashes in the family. After all, despite the fact that we share bloodlines, we are all born with different personalities. But at the end of the day, as dysfunctional as we are, we are still family. And in times of need, we will somehow turn to each other and stick by each other.

My mother was my role model. Right from the way she was active in church to the way she used to dress only in neutral colors. Till today, I look at situations and problems and try to envision my mother handling those and I try to do the same. She was my superwoman  who could defeat everything that could even slightly harm her family. My father is my hero. When I was a child, he was the man who could do no wrong and the invincible man. But it took me 18 years to realize that my parents were also human beings. My mother was but a woman who loves her family fiercely but who also, in the end, succumbed to cancer. My dad, somehow, was also just a man who was lost without the love of his life, his wife and the mother of his four children; a man who somehow struggled to stitch his life back together after burying his own heart. 

It turns out, my mother was no superwoman and my dad is nowhere near the invincible man I envisioned him to be. They turned out to be just human beings after all, prone to mistakes, problems and who could also be haunted by the bad decisions they made years ago. And my brothers... ah! my brothers! I could write books and books about their irresponsible behavior and how frustratingly human they can get.

The funniest thing about life and family, I feel, is that in life we don't get to choose our roots yet we get to be a part of them for the rest of our lives. And as dysfunctional or imperfect that our families are, we get to be a part of that imperfection for our lifetime. I've heard of people who've turned their backs on their families and choose to face the world alone. Definitely not me! I'm such a loser when it comes to facing the world alone. I don't want to face the world alone, I don't want to face problems solo. At the same time, I don't want to celebrate success alone and I don't want to go through milestones in life without someone to share it with. I need my family behind me, to celebrate with me and be proud of me when I succeed and to fall back on in times of loss.

I know I don't have the perfect family. But I have a family who stands by each other, a family who loves and respects me. My brothers and I don't always get along but we all want the best for each other. I have a Dad who loves and  values me in a way no man ever will. I had a mother for 18 years of my life and aunts who worry over me, sometimes too overwhelmingly. 'Overwhelming' meaning setting a meet-up between you and some 'eligible bachelor'.

I have nephews and nieces who all fight for a sleepover since I am the cool A Ni who lives in Delhi and comes home once a year. I never slept in a bed during my summer in Aizawl, my bed or even my dad's giant bed was too small for 3 sometimes 4 little bodies who'd suddenly take up four times the space of their body size when they fall asleep. So we always end up sleeping all over the floor!! I have a niece who's the spitting image of me and who even sounds like me, and another who shares my name (at least half of it).

I know I'm so much less than the perfect daughter. Despite all my goodwill and my 'genuine' love, I know I'm the daughter who stays a thousand miles away, the daughter who's hardly home for Christmas and the daughter who's hardly there for my dad even when he gets sick. I am but the aunt who disciplines the nieces too much that sometimes their mother refuses to speak to me; the sister who's everything but docile; the cook who's always close to burning water in the kitchen; the tigress who's ready to bite if anyone leaves a footprint on my freshly waxed floor and the sister who gives a long lecture while doing laundry for the brothers she hardly takes care of!

So somehow, I fit right in with my imperfect family. And I know that if I conquered the world or even landed at the bottom of it, my family are the people who'd be there with me. So what if we have problems we sometimes  find it difficult to weather? We're in this for life! And while so, we'll learn to live with and for each other!

So here's to my dysfunctional family. I'm proud and thankful to be a part of the imperfection!

Nov 29, 2011

Christmas away from home... Again!

We're entering December this week! And I'll welcome December with a very bad cold, sneezing and a low humming in my ears. I'm all excited and not so excited.. all at the same time! I've decided this year that I will be spending another Christmas away from home! This will be the fifth Christmas I spend away from home and I have quite a mixed feeling about this one!

The other four times I was away for Christmas was, once when I was in my secondary school in Chennai when I didn't have a winter holiday and, thrice after research when I felt going home for Christmas would distract me from my work. But this time, the case is different. I could somehow blame it on my (hopeful) impending synopsis interview in the first few months of the new year but mostly it's because I'm too broke to pay for my tickets back home. My student budget allowed me a trip home only once in a year, and I've already gone home during the summer. My family would want me home, but then again, I'm but too proud to ask my dad to pay for my tickets. Pride - it has always been my biggest vice, especially when it comes to asking for money. 

After the 15th of December, only two of the Mizo students will be left in campus - The 'often misquoted' Zara and I.  We've already decided that we'd team up during the holidays but we haven't decided on what we'd do yet. We said that we'd start by picking each other up for church. But with the Delhi temperature furiously dipping, I highly doubt if I'd want to sit behind him on his 'vintage' bike on  freezing Sunday evenings.

So what do I do during the lonely month? In reality, I have a lot to do. I have to make sure that my synopsis is perfected for my interview; I have to kick start my exercise routine again (My latest visit to the doctor  confirms my ribs are healed completely) and go for a lot of Christmas Carols. Christmas in Delhi is not too bad, I have close friends here where I know I can just bunk in if Christmas or New Year's Eve ever got too lonely. In fact, when it comes to social life, I have a thriving one here in Delhi rather than back home. I guess I've been away from home long enough to kill my social life. The friends I had back in Aizawl are mostly friends from church. And after 10 years of being away, you either lost touch or you grow out of that comfort zone into the awkward zone. My friends back home, if not married, already have their own circle which I can't quite fit into after this many years of being away. So when I go home, I take part in church activities like an outsider and the very church I grew up in already treats me a like a mikhual. But inspite of all that I can't deny the fact that Christmas is best when it's spent back home.

Ah!! The struggles of a student life!! When am I ever going to stop being a student? And I realized with the line I choose, it's for a lifetime!

My roommate, an UPSC aspirant, once told me about two filthy rich sisters from her hometown who are here in the city for their UPSC coaching. The sisters, used to their luxurious life, continued living so even after moving here. They lived in a flat so grand that it is decorated with chandeliers where they have their own group of staffs to take care of them and the house. I remembered my roommate's lips pulled up to a raw smile as she said "The whole point of clearing UPSC exams, apart from the respected job, is the struggle and the success story behind it". I agreed with her. Those sisters, given they cleared the exam, I reckoned, will hardly have any success story to top the cherry.

So stealing a line or two from my roommate, the whole point of fighting for a PhD is not just the degree in itself. It's the struggle behind it; the stress and sleepless nights and the sinusitis caused by it; the innumerable hours spent at the library; the painfully small hostel room you have to live in; the missed holidays and the Christmases you have to sacrifice; the stringent budget you have to live with and most of all, the success story you get to tell your future children. I know, a few years down the line, it'll be all worth it.

So in the meantime, let me go air out that super-mini Christmas tree that a friend gifted me a few years ago. The tree, too small, that when I try decorating with even the smallest ornament I could find, it topples over. So each year, I decorate it mostly with earrings! The person who gifted me got his Doctorate, I reckoned, after a struggle too. The 'Dzuvichu tree' which reminds me that each Christmas spend away from home will be all worth it in the end! After all, Christmas is still Christmas. Be it Aizawl, Delhi or even Bethlehem!

I'm sure Lipok would've given me a much bigger tree had he known I'd draw so much inspiration and strength from it! :)

Nov 14, 2011

Now and Then: Of 11 year olds and 'normal' childhood

For a few weeks, I've been giving English Classes to an 11 year old.  Lets call him Sam K. for the time being. Sam, an only child of two scientists, is in Seventh Grade and scores above 90% in all of his subjects except in English where he scored 84%. And I am brought in to give him an hour long class, four days a week after his school. 

Sam : a voracious reader who reads everything from science encyclopedias to Harry Potter; a science wiz who can spend an hour just educating me about the black hole and also still a pre-teen who sometimes complains to me about his mother who, he says, nags him a lot and about a certain classmate who sometimes bullies him. Sam, the smart kid who argues with me for 30 minutes on why 'Scylla and Charybdis' should not be used as such an idiom because with Charybdis, the whirlpool, you still have more chances of survival. His argument? The right centrifugal force and inertia can propel your ship right out of the giant whirlpool. I didn't have a comeback for that because it's been eight long years since I've read about centrifugal force, inertia and all that jargon.

This evening, I just spend a couple of hours with Mrs. K discussing about Sam's progress and drawbacks. And I am taken aback by what is expected of him. I can't blame the parents. It's a competitive world after all. But somehow, deep in my heart, I feel pity for the 11 year old boy who is already in Seventh Grade and who is under a lot of stress and pressure at that age. Mrs. K talked about her concerns with Sam, his performance and also his relations with his classmates in school. She noticed a lot of personality change in the past two years and she, as a mother, is concerned when Sam refuses to discuss what is happening in school. In short, she literally wanted me to dig into Sam and learn about his personal problems in school, get him to talk and learn what is bothering him so that the parents can take certain measures. And here I am, with the overwhelming responsibility of 'shrinking' Sam, an 11 year old who is already fluent in four major languages of the world.

On my way back, as I hugged my cardigan against the chilly evening wind, I could not help but compare the 11 year old me with Sam. I was in Class 5 when I was 11 and made my first major slip from 'O' grade to 'A' grade in my second term exams. My parents were unhappy with me but somehow let it slide. After all, there were only two 'O' graders in my class. I don't know half the things that Sam knows, yet I don't have half the pressure that Sam has. My mother, a high school teacher, never nagged me into doing my homework but helps me when needed. But if I didn't do my work, my teachers in school were more than ready to cane me or give me extra work. I was never forced to take extra classes or tuition classes after school as my parents were contented with my grades. I know it is unfair to compare my life with Sam's when I was his age a decade and a half ago, but I just could not help it.

My uncle in Aizawl wanted to put his 8 year old daughter in a boarding school in Delhi ever since she was 5. "I wanted her to have better opportunities" he told me. My cousin, a strong-headed girl for her age, strongly refused. Last summer when I went home, my uncle told me to somehow coax her to come to Delhi. "She looks up to you, she will listen to you" he quipped. When I talked to Esther, her little face fell and she cried when she said she doesn't want to live in a place where she can't see her siblings everyday. I stopped then and there. I never resumed the conversation again. I thought the coaxing is unfair to her.

I cannot say the way we were brought up was the best. My parents never raised bars too high for me and my brothers. One sibling is never compared to the other. 'Each of you have your own personalities and your own calibre' my mother used to tell me. So we grew up contented with whatever marks and results we got. My  parents never had the finances to send us to boarding schools until we finished high school. My mother told me she never found the need to send me to a boarding school, when I got accepted in 'the best school in Aizawl'. I don't know if that would be the same, had we the finances.

Everyone in my generation grew up wanting to be doctors, engineers or IAS officers. Though we don't even know what those were at first. Kids, these days, grow up wanting to be much more - dancers, artists, rockstars, CEO's, lawyers, cardiologists, astronauts. I wanted to be a doctor when I was a kid but I decided I wanted to teach during my secondary school. My parents were fine with me when I changed my stream in college and my dad was ecstatic when I decided I want to go into research after a Master's degree instead of hunting for a job. The case, I believe, might not be the same for another generation. 

I want to be a mother at least by the time I'm 35. Sheesh!! I cannot say I will have the same attitude as my parents with my (future) kids. The bars will certainly be raised by the time they get to high school. After all, it will be a more competitive environment than the one we had. But will I make my son go through the stress and pressure Sam has to go through everyday? Will I want to send my daughter away to a boarding school at a tender age in order to give her 'better opportunities'? 

I know that my children cannot have the sort of childhood that I have. It's a changing world after all. But I would want them to have a stress-free, pressure-free normal childhood where they grow up with their siblings. I would want to share their test marks, their school picnics, their first crushes and their turbulent teenage years instead of sending them away to a boarding school. But then again, 'normal' changes after every decade or so. So by our kids' generation, maybe a stressed, pressured childhood would be the 'normal' childhood. To each his own. But then if the case is such, I will definitely teach them how to 'live outside the box'.

But then again, why do I even write a post on such topics?? I'm not even married yet! What can I say? I am, but, the myopic girl who suffers from perpetual hypermetropia.

Nov 11, 2011

When 'Sorry' meant something else...

Remember these two boys?
Sawmtea and Sawmsanga who decided  they wanted to pull a face for the picture! 

My two Sunday school kids, the best friends with the magic words 'sorry' and 'please'??

Tonight the post is all about one of the magic words 'sorry' and a little bit more.

Let me ask you a question and I dare you to answer yourself in honesty. How many times have you uttered the word 'sorry' and not really mean it. What does 'sorry' mean in the first place? Isn't it a word you say when you regret what you did and wished never to do it again!? Now let me ask you again. How many times have you said 'sorry' and not really mean it? Have you said it just so you could get away, just so it would take the load off you for being the one at fault, or say it just because it's the proper thing to do? I must confess, I have, many a times.

But tonight, I looked at the picture of Sawmsanga and Sawmtea grinning with me and remembered the night we took this picture. It was at Delhi Mizo Kut when they spotted me in the crowd, both climbed into my lap and asked me why bamboos are used for the Cheraw dance, while repetitively telling me "Ka tlangval hunah U Autea saw ka ni duh" (Autea was beating the drum while Cheraw was performed). It dawned on me how life is still so fascinating for them and seeing them reminded me once again how many times we, and most of all, I have misused and abused one of their magic words... Sorry!

I remembered many a times, I say sorry after I hurt someone. And I use that mere utterance as my reconciliation with my conscience after I hurt that someone. Not that I made a note to myself to never do it again!

Sometimes I say it just because it's the proper thing to do. But worse of all, sometimes I say it so I could blame the other person for being unforgiving and holding the grudge. "Hey. I'm the clean one here!". So I could say 'I'm the one who apologized first' and paint the other person the darkest shade of black by saying so.

It's the same with those times that I do good for a person just to feed my 'Good Samaritan' ego. Sometimes I count the things that I've sacrificed for a person too much that if that person does not give back, accusations soon follow the him/ her. Ungrateful human, Thankless idiot.

When such situations arises, is my 'good deed' really valid? Or is my 'Sorry' genuine? If not so, what's the use of me doing the 'good deed' or the apologetic utterance anyway? I should not be saying 'Sorry' when it connotes something else. I should not be 'sacrificing' when I expect something back.

Self-interest. The culprit that perverts and negates all things good into something ugly and contemptuous.

And I end this post with a line which goes against something I always tell the girl in the mirror.

Never love yourself too much!

Nov 8, 2011

Before I turn 28...

Happy Birthday to me.

I just turned 27.

My first 27th year pic and I had tired eyes! :D 

When I was 16, I used to imagine that by the time I turned 27, I'd already be a doctor (a medico), married, settled and in control of my own life and finances. Well, I'm 27 now, I'm still studying to be a doctor (a PhD),  single and in doubt to get 'double', still lives in a campus dorm with a roommate and financing myself with a meager research fellowship. If I could go back in time, I'd tell the 16 year old me to give myself a few more years!

I don't mind getting old growing up even though with age comes difficult life complexities. Yet sometimes, I feel like a failure. Three more years and I'll be 30. I wonder where will I be at that age?? But anyways, let me take a look at what other people have accomplished when they are my age.

My mom already had a kid, my brother 2 and my sister-in-law 3. Baby Machines they were!!

My dad was already a Member of the Legislative Assembly in  the Union Territory of Mizoram.

Cosmonaunt Yuri Gagarin became the first person in space. (Yikes)

Jimi Hendrix died. So did Amy Winehouse.

Norah Jones had already won 8 Grammies. (Yikes again)

Julia Child was an unknown government spy. 

Mao Tse Tung was an elementary school principal. (What??)

Jesus Christ was a carpenter.

For some people, they've already achieved so much while for some, they haven't even heard their calling yet.

So here I am on this glorious night that I turned 27, jotting down my list of things to do for the next one year. I just got back from a movie 'In Time' where 'time IS money' (Appropriate with my night, isn't it?), I have a meeting with my thesis supervisor tomorrow and I plan to spend the day at the library and give my usual English classes to an 11 year old in the evening. Nothing fancy. It's not my first birthday after all! :D

I've already said my 'thank yous' to the Big Man above and and my 'readymade' roommate already had a delectable kiwi muffin waiting for me when I got back from the movies. Happy 27th to me!

So here's the list of things to do before I turn 28 and I have exactly 365 days to tick them off!

  1. Learn to ride a motorbike (not a scooty). I conquered the bicycle... at the final cost of three fractured ribs. It's time to move on!
  2. Learn how to pray in Lai. It's quite a challenge, I know, because I'm out of practice with the language and hardly fluent. But it'll be a good start in practicing it. I wonder how it will be like to pray in my own ethnic tongue.
  3. Lose a few pounds **Reminder** Keep it real.
  4. Three words. Goa, Leh and Pondicherry. For Pondicherry, it's been 10 years already, a high time I conquer my fear of returning down South. Viral fever and typhoid fever will hopefully leave me alone this time. I know I'll get altitude sick at Leh, but I've wanted to walk on the roof of the world for so long. Remember my breathing problem at Malana? I still enjoyed myself , Didn't I? And as for Goa, I want to take a trip during the monsoon. I know it's off season but I feel beaches are prettiest during rainy season.
  5. Pet a snake. (I have nightmares just thinking about it)
  6. Make a snow angel. I've never seen snow yet :(
  7. Paint my own version of a famous painting. I feel I should move beyond kindergarten art. I'll bribe my dreadlock-sporting artist of a cousin to help me with this. Any suggestions on the painting? Email me a picture.
  8. Learn how to swim. I know, I know. There's a lot of 'basic things' I don't know how to do.
  9. Mean it when I say "I'm sorry" and never repeat the thing that needs a 'sorry' afterwards.
  10. BE happier and stay happy. Everyone deserves to be happy everyday of their lives. I know this point might be a bit difficult to tick off. But I think I need it in my list anyway! 
In the meantime, I tell myself 

"Be happy. Laugh a lot, smile always and Cry when you need to..."

Nov 6, 2011

My Stint at Chheihlam...

So, once again for the Confluence - The North East Cultural Night in campus, we are asked to present a cultural item from our state. Over the years, we've done most of our well known dances. During my five years in campus, we've danced Cheraw thrice and Khuallam twice. Sarlamkai  was also performed the year before I joined.

And since Confluence usually falls on the same time as the Delhi Mizo Kut and JNUCF Advance Christmas, people who are from the North East, who are a part of the CF and are also Mizos are always very busy. I happen to tick off every category I just mentioned. So, late October and early November are usually the busiest seasons in each of my five years in Delhi. By the time all three got over, I would be worn out from all the song practice, dance practice, football practice and Kutpui Ni. Eversince I came to Delhi, I remembered not being sick for exactly one birthday. And I blamed my sickly birthdays from over exhaustion from all the hype and crazy busy season. 

So keeping all the busy schedules of the season for everyone into consideration, we decided this year that, at Confluence, we'd present something simple, easy to learn and something which doesn't need too much practice. 

We all agreed on Chheihlam. We later learnt we couldn't be more foolish.

We figured we'd ask two of our off-campus 'dancer' friends to help us in leading the dance, engaging all the attention of the audience while we would just mindlessly hop in the background. We figured we'd have just a few practices when we'd get use to the dance, instead of a month long vigorous practice we'd have for dances like Cheraw. We practiced exactly for four nights out of which I attended three because I was busy working on a deadline.

I am not a dancer, but I am not a non-dancer either. I am not too bad when it comes to dancing, yet I have never come across a dance I felt more awkward with.

At the first practice, I realized my back, and my recently fractured ribs didn't quite agree with the dance posture where you have to stoop low and go hippety hoppety hop hop and flirt and smile at your partner all at the same time. I went home limping that night. I never knew that Chheihlam is the world's best lower body workout particularly for the butt!!! I woke up with a sore bum the next day and realized I pulled muscles in parts of my body where I've never felt muscles before. However, I was proud of myself that I got the dance technique on the first practice itself.

The second practice. I was confident but when we got up to dance, I realized I lost all my newly acquired dance moves!!! And I have to learn how to hop in that certain manner all over again. By that practice, we decided that we'd choose our permanent partner. Zara and I were quick to run to each other because both of us were not too good so we were comfortable with each other's pace. But by the end of the second practice, we were the proud- twosome who said that we danced the best!!

A few of the girls were quite good with the dancing but the attention always goes to the men. We have only a few men in campus and I don't think that they'd be hurt if they hear me say that they all have two left feet when it comes to dancing. Engkima doing the Chheih looks like he's doing the lengkhawm lam. Tetea, 'the scientist', was worse. He looks like he's doing a chicken dance. When we asked him to put his legs together while hopping, he said he didn't want to look like an old man. So there he goes, arms stretched at the back, stooping, legs apart and hopping! I haven't seen a more awkward dance position. Zara, on the other hand,  thinks he dances the best. But compared to whom??

So after practices and several limpings and butt workouts, Confluence Night finally arrived.

And all hell broke loose!!

Out of the two off-campus dancer friends that we thought we'd leave all the dancing to, Jacinta had to cancel last minute because she couldn't get off work on time. So we had to shift and break-up the dance couples, just 20 minutes before the programme started. I was somehow paired up with Autea, the dancer dude, not because I was the best dancer among the girls but because they felt I have the 'highest level of confidence' at impromptu items. And that is how I ended up lead dancing Chheih in front of the whole campus and a lil' bit more.

I pulled Autea to one corner and warned him beforehand, "I'll dance however way I can. I know I'm not good but it's upto you to make me look good". He grinned through his glasses and nodded vigorously.

And, Boy, did he!!

While we were on stage, I have never felt more comfortable dancing Chheih. People would have never guessed that Chheihlam is one dance I feel like I have two left feet with. I was proud to say I even enjoyed myself while dancing. In fact, I was so confident that by the last verse, I had the guts to dance up and down  the runway so that there would be more space for the others to dance in our little stage. And all that insurmountable level of confidence boosted up within just the few minutes of the song with a right partner!

Did I not say I enjoyed myself???

My knees were shaking and my legs were giving away when we were done. I knelt on the carpet backstage, grinning ear to ear, relieved that we're done with our item and happy that I somehow enjoyed myself. Of course, all the adrenaline wasn't quite enough to stop me from popping an ibuprofen tablet before I went to sleep that night. The next day was Delhi Mizo Kut, and I should be nowhere close to limping on that day!

So what did I learn from my Chheih stint?? Just three things.

One. When it comes to dancing, unless it's a competition, it doesn't matter how well you dance. What matters is how much you enjoyed yourself!!

Two. Our Mizo forefathers are so darn FIT!!!!

Three. With the right partner and a good amount of effort from both sides, you can get through almost everything together. Be it a 6:56 minute of a dance you feel most awkward with or maybe even life itself!!

"Hei lo a liam a inchhai!!!???"

So whether it's Chheih or not, I'll keep dancing through life! *Grin**Grin*

Nov 1, 2011

Malana Diaries Part Finale : "Why God, Why Malana?"

So, there I was, in the middle of the 45 degree dirt trail to Malana, tired, stomach upset from indigestion from the travelling, out of breath, panting, throat dry and parched and the night falling on us. Just when I thought the worst was almost over, I looked to the trail just disappearing into a steep rugged climb where you have to grab on bushes to pull yourself up. In my mind I was asking "Lord, of all the places... why Malana?".

I wasn't the only one. A few meters ahead the trail, the Color Kuki was catching her breath, on a dizzy spell  and panting "Lalpa, i rawngbawl tur hian ka tling lo a ni".

There I was, curled up in my sleeping bag against the cold Himalaya winds. I knew it would be just a matter of an hour before my upset stomach would compel me to take "a visit behind the bushes" with my roll of toilet paper and a hand-sanitizer while the others were singing around the camp fire. I longed for the security of my hostel room and a proper toilet with running water. In my mind  I was asking, "Lord, why did You even allow me to take this trip?"

Malana, an isolated community who shun the outer world; A holy community who regards all outsiders to be  filthy; a community with the oldest republic in the world; a community in spite of their shortcomings have  unshaken faith in their deity and  have absolutely no need and regard for the outer world.

And here we are, a handful of Christian Youth in the floating Delhi Mizo population, who are here today and gone tomorrow!

Who are we to think that we can make a change to an old, strong and stubborn culture? Who are we to persist after ten years of failing to make a change? Who are we to think that we can make a change when the proud culture itself doesn't want change? Who are we to poke our noses and push our faith and our beliefs to people who don't want it?

The answer, I realized, after visiting the village, is: We are absolutely nothing!

There have been talks going around even among our own members on why we should stop supporting a missionary for Malana and support something else where we can see results. Since we haven't even made a dent in ten years time, should we stop and turn our attention, our prayers and our money to something or someone else??

I was wide awake while Zama was snoring beside me on the overnight bus back to Delhi. The face of the  topaz eyed Malani girl kept haunting me. She must have been around 6 years old. The same age group as my eldest niece. Her pretty face dirty and her chubby cheeks dry and chapped. Her light brown hair dirty, unwashed and discolored yellow from malnutrition. Her tiny body clad in the shabby salwar doubled as a school uniform and her feet in dirty pink gumboots. The way she'd stand on the side when we pass her in the road, the way her face fell each time Zeta tried to take a picture of her and the way she'd turn her face each time she caught us looking at her.

 I imagined her face at 30. She would be married, have a kid or two with a miscarriage or a few still-borns in between. Her flushed complexion would have been wrinkled, saggy and hidden under the layers and layers of dirt covering her skin. Her beautiful topaz eyes would have the same dazed look that all the people in the village had from daily consumption of weed. Her daily chore would have included cultivation of weed and preparing and drying them for sale. By the time she reached 45, she would have looked 60. That little light-eyed girl violently woke up the Protector in me! I wanted to protect, hug and shield that child from the inevitably dark future that awaits her. Of course, she'd do alright by her own because she's never known the outer world, but still that thought doesn't stop me from wishing to give her options other than the inevitable.

I remembered those kids on the terrace playing and pretending to roll weed, shouting at us and bringing a little one into view so we could take their pictures. I remembered those three little children in their town square who were more than ready to pose with everyone for pictures and who didn't even flinch when some of the girls held them. I know that it's out of my reach but it still doesn't stop me from wishing that somehow they'd have more options in life.

LH-a and I with the adorable picture-ready-threesome.
The only Malani kid who approached us. He didn't even mind when  I sat next to him  almost touching him!
My thoughts drift back to my insufficiency and my negligiblity as someone who wanted to make a change in a community which doesn't want change. I looked at us, the Youth Fellowship, ordinary youth members with our bouts of slips, wrong turns and mistakes but with this magnificent responsibility. Then I looked at the looming, roaring Giant, the stubborn Pharaoh and the Stormy Sea called Malana. Then I remembered the little shepherd boy called David, the stutterer called Moses and the coward called Peter. 

I know that there must be a reason why God allows us, of all the Christian groups in the world, to make contact with this isolated place.  More established Christian organisations like YWAM, I've heard, have tried for several years to penetrate this culture without success. And yet, we, the Delhi Mizo Youth Fellowship, a handful of youth who mostly comprise of students and a few working youth, who one day would leave Delhi, are given the once in a lifetime chance to make contact with Malana.

We cannot let this chance go by. A one day Medical Camp will never be enough. A week long camp will not be enough either. But one thing I know is that, we cannot turn back now. We must have faith that He who started this, will finish this as well. After seeing the village and meeting the people and experiencing their life just even for a day, I, now understand why U Eli can't stop talking about Malana, why our ex- youth leader Johnny often said "Hlawkpui kan inti" even without making an ounce of change after ten years and why Debby would burst into tears each time there were discussions on why we should turn our focus on something other than Malana.

We may not see the result in a few years. We may not see the result in another ten years. Or even a lifetime. Our next generation may not even see the results that we want to see. Or even the next.

But there's one thing clear in my heart after I came back from Malana. That one thing is that of all the people in this world, we've been assigned this responsibility by God himself. And it doesn't matter if we never see the results we want to see, we just cannot go back now.

A friend of mine joked yesterday, "What if my grandson asked me 'A Pi, where is this place called Malana that you often talk about"?"

I smiled to myself. I only pray that flicker of light will burn that long in all our hearts!

Oct 31, 2011

Malana Diaries. Part III : The Conundrum called Malana.

It was getting dark when we neared Malana village. Mami, Ricky and I, the last three of the group were dead tired as we somehow forced ourselves to walk. When Mohan Bhaiyya, a volunteer from Manali who also doubled as our guide, told me that our campsite is still half  kilometer away from the village, I wanted to sit and howl. 

As we entered the village, there was no proper footpath. The waste water overflowing from the nearby drain ran all over the tiny steps that lead to their town square. I felt as if I was walking through a drain to get to the village. As we fumbled in the dark and through the waste water, suddenly my nose picked up a peculiar scent. I sniffed and turned to Ricky 

"Is that...??"  

"Yeah, I think it is! "

The smell of pot/ weed/ ganja/ marijuana (whatever you may call it) lingered all over the village.

"It looks like the little Gaulish village from the Asterix comics. Look at those stones and the houses"  I echoed.

Mami, who has already been to this village, was quick to warn me "Don't touch that, that, that and that!" pointing to different objects in the square "or else you'll be fined and penalized". I was too tired to even notice what object she pointed to, but as we walked, I made sure the only part of my body which touched anything was my feet with the ground.
A building in the square. I don't know if this is another scared building but I sure didn't try to touch it.

The Malani community is quite a community in itself. After I came back and told my roommate about it, she quickly remarked "It's amazing such a community still exist in the world. They should be preserved!". If you googled 'Malana', you will get different feeds from different sources. Some described the Malana as 'the Lost Civilization', 'the Lost Culture', 'Himlayan Shangrila' and one particularly interesting one described it as an 'Utopian Society'. But to me, Malana and its culture and society is but a Conundrum. I may not be politically correct by saying so, but I hardly have been anyway.

Malana is situated high in the slopes of the Himalayas, in an average elevation of 9940 feet. The village has a democratic administration and is said to be the oldest republic in the world. The Malanis have an autonomous administration and do not abide by the Indian Constitution. They speak a language which is not intelligible in the whole valley and up until recently, outsiders are not even allowed to enter their village.

The Malanis have many stories about their origin. One particularly interesting one said that they are descendents of a group of Alexander's (The Great) Greek soldiers who never went back after their campaign. Remnants of their origin is reflected in the architecture of their temple which stood in the town square. The temple, which was rebuilt after it was burned down when the village caught fire in 2008,  is a piece of architecture in itself. I am no historian or architect, but I thoroughly enjoyed the stories that are carved on the walls. But we, as outsiders, are not allowed to enter it, let alone touch it, or even take pictures. But the carvings on the walls shows carvings of the Buddha, a Sun-worshipping symbol, peacocks and some remnants of Assyrian symbols and designs. Carvings of elephants baffle me particularly. There are no elephants in this part of the country. 

'Alexander used war elephants when he came to this part of the world' Abiaka chipped in.

If architectural carvings tell stories and origin, the carvings on the temple gave me one heck of a confusing story.

To the Malani, all outsiders are considered filthy and untouchable. If we touch them even by accident, we have to be fined and penalized. If a Malani passed you in a road, he/she will stand on the side until you pass him/her making sure that there is enough space so that both of you won't touch. This holds true even for children!! A friend of mine tried to give a candy to a child in the village when the child told her to put the candy on a rock because he didn't want to touch her while taking the candy!

But during the medical camp, it was a relief that our doctors and nurses could touch all of the patients except for one. The exception was the village priest who takes care of the village shrine. So, the doctors have to diagnose and give him medicine without touching him!!!

Another thing which puzzled me was the lack of sanitation in the village. I have lived in a third world country my whole life, been to many slums here in Delhi, yet I have never come across such an unkempt and filthy place. The village itself was a huge garbage dump. Human feces lay scattered everywhere even inside the village. The path behind the temple especially was littered with poop. Human poop! And it was just next to the holy place!!

If you have to blame the sanitation on the backwardness and isolation of the place. You'd be taken aback with the houses in Malana which are good enough to be sitting in the streets of Aizawl or Shillong. With no proper road reaching the village we were particularly taken aback with all the cemented houses. Then, again, the variety shops in Malana sell almost everything that we get in the dukaan here in Delhi and everthing is sold at MRP. We were surprised until we came across a ropeway which was used to transport goods to and from the valley.

Reminds you of some 'veng' in Aizawl or 'Khua' in Mizoram yet?
The Ropeway.
TataSky in Malana!!
And if you'd ask me, I'd say that the Malanis are not as poor as they look because they have a thriving occupation.The main occupation of the Malanis is the cultivation of marijuana. The marijuana grown in Malana sometimes refereed to as Malana Cream is considered to be the best in the world. During our camp, we came across  many tourists who climbed the torturous climb just to get the Malana weed. The women work all day and even during our medical camp, only a handful of women were in the village because all the others are out working in the field. The men, we noticed, dope and sit in the sun by noon itself.

World's best Marijuana dried and prepared.

I believe that the isolation of the village is just one of the reasons why development can come only slowly to a place like Malana. The Malanis are self-contented in their own little bubble and proud enough to hold their fort. But one could not help but wish there was some change in the beliefs, backwardness and (Yes, I will repeat again) the sanitation of the village. But what can you do to bring change to someone who doesn't want change?

I hope to have a chance to visit Malana again some day. Right now, I am at that curious stage to know more about it. So until I have the chance, the only thing I can do is pray and read up and sponge in everything there is to know about the place that we often talk about. 

There must be a reason why we, The Delhi Mizo Christian Youth, of the people in the world, somehow developed contact with such a place on earth. We may not know the reason yet, but until we do, I am more than prepared to almost die on the hike uphill to Malana village. All over again!

Oct 25, 2011

Malana Diaries Part II: The D Day, Going Primitive and the unforgettable experience..

(Warning: Pictures G-A-L-O-R-E)

I woke up at daybreak and crawled out of the tent to mountains looming all around me. I grinned to myself as I looked at the snow-capped peak in the distance. The altitude sickness gave me a bit of breathing problem so I decided to go for a short walk alone and exercise my lungs while enjoying the view in the crisp mountain air. And as I climbed uphill, I walked with that lump in my throat. The sunrise, the fresh morning air, the greenery, the mountains, the valley. It was too beautiful that it was almost painful. 

The majestic view from the camp

Another view

The tentmates... some quite not awake!!

Light moment after breakfast!

Since to the Malanis, all outsiders are impure and untouchable, we were not allowed to stay inside the village. But we got permission to camp outside the village in the village school compound from where the nearest water source was half a kilometer away. It was quite something to wash up in the icy waters of the clear mountain stream. But sadly, we were not allowed to pitch an outhouse which brings me to the most hilarious part of our trip.

A group of 30 young people who all need to answer to nature's call. What do we do?

Yes, we have no choice but to go primitive and disappear behind the bushes. Friends played their part during such activities. "Yes, go a bit further. No. I can still see you. No. I can still see your head. Yeah! Sit... I can't see you so that's a good place. Don't worry, I'll stand guard". But there are a few who picked 'all the wrong places' and went without 'guards' and I am glad I'm not one of the others who walked into them during the act! On such situations, it's only fair that you make a huge noise when you walk into 'those areas' so that a shout can warn you to stop in your track! But then again, there were certain confessions from some who asked their 'guards' to sing or close their ears so that they won't hear anything! Sigh!!! Going primitive indeed!

Standing Guard!!!! (Forgive me, Ricks)

So anyway after breakfast, we went into town for the medical camp and the sanitation work. We were divided into four teams - the medical team,  the health awareness team, the prayer team and two sanitation teams. 

The medical team consisting of 6 doctors and 2 nurses were joined by the staffs from Manali Mission hospital. Together, they checked 169 patients including the school children. Since it was harvest time, most of the women were in the fields and there were only a handful of women who came for check-ups. I was particularly impressed with Dr. Suzie who held the wound-dressing corner all on her own. The Malanis, in general, are very backward in health concerns and sanitation. And since most of them are illiterate, some of them don't even know their ages. So, Engkimi and Chhungpuii, the nurses did a lot of guessing work with their ages.

The Medical Team

School children standing in line for the medical checkup. The temple stands at the background . Did the photographer know that photographing the temple is prohibited??
Suzie in action

I was part of the Health Awareness team and we were armed with posters and charts aimed at childcare and pre-natal care. Yet we ended up doing hardly anything because we didn't come across a single pregnant woman in the village and only a few nursing mothers. So after a while, we split ourselves up and joined the other teams helping with medicine inventory and sanitation. Jeffrey was particularly so good with handing out the medicines in the end  that we were tempted to nickname him an Asst. Dr. Whatever that means!

The Health Awareness Team
The prayer team went around the village praying. I was told curious eyes followed them wherever they went. And when they knelt and prayed in one corner of the village, they were asked if they're performing a pooja. It felt good to know that, there was a team who intercedes for us while we went on with our different work. The team was also in charge of all the devotion and intercessions throughout the trip.

The Prayer Team got into action before any other team did!
If I have to give an award to the best team, the award would definitely go to the sanitation team. I will not be lying if I said that the Malana town square is a huge garbage dump. No offense intended. But I have seen a lot of slums in Delhi but even those slums are cleaner than Malana. Waste water overflow on the roads and garbage sat piling everywhere. And the garbage looks like Delhi garbage - potato chips cover, empty coke bottles and gutkha covers!!!! It's surprising considering how distant and isolated the village stood on the mountains and how difficult it is to get up there. I was puzzled with how the people in the village can stand that much garbage just next to their homes and their surroundings.

And then, the sanitation team went to war! 

And then there was a clean town square and even a little Nulla appeared under all the garbage for the waste water to flow through! Funny thing was, the team didn't even know that there was a nulla under all that garbage when they first started working.

The Sanitation leader satisfied with her teams' work... :)
We got back to camp in the afternoon and after a late lunch we headed down to the valley. Yes! The very same path which almost killed me. But this time it was a downhill hike except for the last half a kilometre. Then we caught our bus in the evening from Buntar to Delhi. When I woke up to familiar highways and roads in the morning, I know that Malana is far away already but it will never be far from my heart and mind.

Malana, apart from the killer uphill climb, the beautiful 'Lord of the Rings-esque' view, and the crisp mountain air woke up something in me. Sometimes, you need a trip out of your own comfort zone to take a journey to the inner self. Sometimes, you need to be thrown into something different for you to be grateful for and appreciate the things in life that you already took for granted.

Yet, the conundrum of the Malani culture is something that still left me very very puzzled. 

But then that, like they said, will take another post all on its own.

My favorite pic of the trip! The very handsome dog followed us down the valley till the creek. I felt as if he wanted to make sure we didn't tumble down the steep trail! :)