Aug 30, 2011

Of Weddings and Funerals.

Overheard in a certain girl's hostel room at a certain University.

" For my wedding, I want it to be a small affair with only close friends and family. I want it to be held at some resort not necessarily the..."

"Oh Please!! As if that's ever gonna happen in a society like ours"

Rude interruption to cut off a blissful dreamlike wish!

The rude girl was me. Excuse my language. But I stopped dreaming a long time ago. Not about weddings but about small affairs.

I wasn't always like this though!

For a long time, I didn't find the need to send wedding invites to 'removed' people like my Dad's high school friend or my aunt's husband's family. I would complain with the pile of wedding invites when cousin's get married. It didn't make sense to me why people who knew me only as my Dad's daughter should be invited to my wedding. Well, for starters, it's MY wedding and not my Dad's. I didn't find the need to send out wedding invites to people I know are not attending or the need to kill so many animals for my wedding feast (I'm a carnivore turned non-vegetarian!).

The idea of me wearing a white gown and white shoes didn't sound appealing at all. Or the fact that I have to be all prim, no smiles, no laughter, all serious for the ceremony. Why can't my dad walk me down the aisle instead of my brother?? Why can't I flash a smile at the man waiting at the altar??? Or why is it inappropriate to have fun, sing or dance at my own wedding reception?? Why can't it be only close family and friends for my wedding?? Why Why??

The funeral I went to last month was an exceptionally sad one. A young woman of 30 years died in her rented place in Munirka, Delhi. She had been sick for a long period and lack of treatment and negligence seemed to be the main cause of the demise. And no one knew about her. No friends, no family. The most painful thing was that there was hardly anyone who could come forward to talk about her life (or her death) during the service. The person who came forward to talk was an old friend of her mother who haven't even met the girl in person yet! As we sit there after the service, we questioned one another if they knew anything about anything at all. There were so many questions yet no answers. 

Which got me thinking.... 

When my mother passed away 8 years back, people we don't even know pop up from everywhere. People who knew her when she was a child, people who went to school with her, people who knew her family, people who knew her kids, her husband, people who were vaguely associated with her. Half the people who cried with me and half the people who held me and prayed for me were people whose names I don't know. And later as I rearranged the flowers and the puans, I have to call my dad and asked who send them because I didn't know the person whose name was on the cards. To see so many 'removed' people care for me and my family, moved me immensely.

If I have to pick only one thing I love about being a Mizo. It would be funerals. Hands down! I speak from experience when I say that having people mourn with you, friends and acquaintances who show up out of the blue to be there for you at a loved one's funeral gives you comfort that words can't describe.

The comfort that I felt at my Ma's funeral echoed through the years. Here in Delhi, everytime I receive an SMS telling me that someone passed away, I always make it a point to be there for the service and for the night. It doesn't matter who the person is. Being there is the least I could do to give back. And I am at peace when I give back.

Now everytime I think about how many people I want for my wedding, I also think about how many people  would be there for my funeral. Everytime I think about all the 'removed' people I have to list down as my wedding invitees, I think of all the 'removed' people who will show up at my funeral because I am a daughter of an old high school friend.

I admit, I still want to go offbeat for my wedding. (If there ever comes a day) I'll wear green shoes for the ceremony and keds for the photo-shoot. I would be more of a laughing bride than a shy smiling bride. I'll wink at the man standing at the altar, say my vows loud enough for the whole church to hear (what's the use of the witnesses if you just whisper your vows?) and scream "I'm married" right after we walk out the door. OK! Maybe that's a bit too much. But one thing I would go strictly traditional with would be the guest list. But I'll leave that to my uncles who always do the job of combing through every locality, every street, every town, every city and every village to find families, friends and acquaintances who should be send the wedding invite. It won't make my day to see animals slaughtered for the wedding feast. But let's face it, people are more important than animals. And I'll safely turn my blindside to it! Sorry PETA!!

Call me a conformist but if people I hardly know, are graceful enough to be there on the saddest, loneliest day of my life, I would be too selfish of a person to leave them out on my happiest day!! And I am sure this would be one privilege I wouldn't enjoy had I been born out of this colorful, compassionate tribal community that I love. 

You may say that there is no intimacy and less privacy in such events, but there is definitely more compassion and more self-sacrifice. I hope to have a big fat Mizo wedding and I pray that I will also have the Mizo funeral. And once again, I am proud to be born and to live life as a Mizo!!

Aug 25, 2011

Hairy Tales: Of men and hair!

Ah!! My second post about hair! How long has it been since my first post ?? And I thought I was someone who hardly cared about the hair. 

A few months ago, when I got myself a bob-cut from my shoulder length hair, the boyfriend threw a fit and went home without dropping me back to campus. And as stubborn as I am, I went ahead and got another trim just a few weeks back. Boyfriend refused to talk to me. For a while. 

My comeback?? 
"I'll grow my hair till it grows out as long as Lalsangzuali's hair if you'd buy me every shampoo satchet, every dollop of conditioner, every scoop of hair mask and every drop of hair oil". 

Sheesh... I don't take care of my hair that much. It's just that I'm too stubborn and I never go down without a fight. I also ,somehow, always add a sting of "outdated mindset" every time he talks about how he wished I'd grow out my hair.

Honestly speaking, I don't know what is the deal with men and long hair?? Like taking the boyfriend for example. He likes my neglected dried-out long strands rather then my short nourished bob!! 

Don't get me wrong, I'm not against long lustrous hair. In fact, from aged 9 through 18, I always kept long hair. It all started with the day when my Ma caught me in fight with one of the boys while playing football. I was 9 and barely knew I was a girl. My Ma later told me that somehow, she hoped, growing out my hair and forcing me to wear dresses and skirts would make me more feminine. Did it? I don't know. Honestly. I am no lady today. But boys no longer end up with torn shirts after having a fight with me. 

So my decade of wearing long hair came to an end when I chopped it off up to my ears during Secondary school. Well, I couldn't go through the trouble of making twin braids every morning as per the school uniform. And my thick steel-wooly hair wouldn't co-operate with my braids. My Ma almost fainted when she saw me that winter. She was so quick to buy me decorative hairpins and what nots. Sometimes, I feel I disappointed my Ma in some way. God only knows what trouble she went through, trying to reform her tomboy daughter, her only daughter into a little lady!!

If I had long lustrous hair like my roommate has, I would have kept it. I would have styled it differently everyday and sometimes go wavy, curly or straight. I would've had fun with my lustrous locks. But Alas! that's one blessing that skipped me. And my dry damaged hair is just too much to handle in the Delhi heat. Besides, the shorter the hair, the lesser the hassle.

And any ways, it's not always the hair that makes the lady! Or is it??

It's amazing how a hair cut can spurn out new names for you.

"Zual-hana" straight from "Rihanna" when I first went for the bob.

When a friend called me a Victoria Beckham wannabe, I retorted that I was aiming gradually for the Anne Lennox shave!! 

And a particularly bold and creatively wicked friend posted a picture of HE-MAN on my Facebook wall, silently suggesting that my haircut looks like his'; which without missing a beat, caught on like wildfire among my choir circle!! If a deep "Hey He-man" came from the bass line during choir practice, I'd have to turn over from my contralto line before they become into chants. I usually just laughed and played along with it. But Becky my friend cum hairdresser cum hair stylist was very insulted by the last comment. Who wouldn't  be??

The Hair Transformation during 10 months time. The third pic is the 'Zual-hanna" look; the rightmost, my famous supposedly  'He-man' hair!! I don't think I look powerful enough to have the 'power of the GreySkull'

Strings of "Why did you cut your hair?" followed me when I went home in summer. And I noticed it all came  from the male relatives. After a dozen round of the same questions, I got tired of being polite. If ever the same question repeats itself, I'd grunt "Because I want to."

But last resort happened when I was travelling in South Mizoram this summer. 

In the little village of Sangau, down south, an old family friend who saw me for the first time since I chopped my locks, gave me a long hard look. I smiled at him sheepishly expecting another round of "Why did you cut your hair?". He then asked me to sit next to him and then to turn around. I did.

Then he said to me " Hmanah khan i sam hi tinge ti hian i cut daih loh? Tihian i inhmeh ber anih hi !"

I am not a hugger. Especially with older people I'm not very close with. 

But I laughed and gave that old man a BIG bear hug. 

Aug 17, 2011

Ka Nu, I tan...

Ka Nu...

I haven't used that word in a long long time.

Eight years ago, on this day, my mother succumbed to cancer. No one allowed her to go even though she's been sick for six whole months. And we all knew that the dreaded day would come. It was a rainy foggy Sunday night. Church-goers were returning from the evening services and their chatter could be heard with the sound of the rain from the bedroom where she lay. She was tired of sleeping, my dad held her up on the bed. She smiled and said she liked it and then she told my dad she'd go! And she went... without a fight, without tears, without hesitation.

That afternoon, I sat quietly at a church in Shillong listening to a sermon on John 15:1-6. Pruning had been the topic. I remembered telling myself that, that time was the pruning phase in my life with my mother's sickness and all the problems that we've had within the family. I also remembered telling myself that the painful part will soon be over when new leaves start budding with new life. Little did I know how my 'pruning' would go!! After church service, my hostel bus went for a joyride at Golf Link. I stared at the setting sun for quite some time, feeling as if I've lost something great. A friend of mine, knowing my family situation and seeing my empty eyes, asked me if I wanted to pray. We did, in the meadows.

4 hours later, I received the phone call.

My 11 hour journey from Shillong to Aizawl for my Ma's funeral is another story in itself. A story, sometimes, too painful for me to retell.

However, this post is not about me reliving that painful day when I have to bury the woman who meant the world to me. This is about me attempting to pay homage to her memory.

If ever there was a life abundantly lived, it would have been my mother's. I learnt a lot of things from my mother's short yet abundant life.If I even try to list half the things I learnt from her or how much she meant to me, this post would have no end.

My Ma was no fancy woman. The only gold ornament she ever possessed in her lifetime was her wedding band. She never walked in expensive shoes or dressed fancy. She might have wanted to, she's also human, but she never did. She was one of the few women who kept others before themselves; one of the few who learnt that there's more to life than just loving, indulging and pampering oneself. I know that my Ma's no perfect woman. But here was a woman who lived such a full life that she helped prepare and plan out her funeral and stitched the cover of her very own coffin. My Ma, even on the valley of the shadow of death, walked with such grace and courage.  Knowing her, I couldn't help but say, she's the closest a human can get to being the Proverbs 31 woman.  

I hope to be like my Ma someday. Of course, I know I will never stand up to her. But trying doesn't hurt.

If these years of living without a mother taught me one thing, it's this: There will never come a day, when I'm old enough or matured enough to not long for a touch of her hand, the scent of her skin and the sound of her voice. In fact, I would give the world to hear her call my name just one more time.

Eight years ago, I stood by a window, rain fogging up the glass as I looked towards the cemetery where my mother had just been buried. I can still feel my heart breaking while realizing that I can't shield her from the rain and from the cold earth that enveloped her. I remembered opening her wardrobe and taking her scent in, wishing there was a way I could capture and keep that scent from fading. I remembered lying awake at night, thinking about her lying all alone in the cold, wet earth wishing I could do something to keep her warm. I remembered that feeling of utter desolation, of magnificent pain and gruesome loneliness. That night I made a promise to myself. And through these years, I've always reminded myself of that promise lest I succumb to the pain and loneliness.

Today, I make that promise once again.

Nu, I promise to always cherish your memory without forgetting how to live on...

Thantluangi Zathang  (1952 - 2003)

Aug 15, 2011

Breaking Bad Habits - Snippets from an Old Journal.

Don't get me wrong, but I used to find it cliche when people back home write about songs with paragraphs on their life and experiences. Well, guess what?? Cliche paid me an essential visit recently! I was going through an old journal from college when I came across this song lyric. 

As I traced a finger across the tear stained letters, I remembered exactly how painful those days were. I read the lyrics and I smiled. I didn't even know the title of the song then. I heard the song from a friend's mp3 jumble and I took the pains to write out the lyrics in my journal.  With my mind still hazy from the bittersweet memories, I googled the lyrics. And this is what I found.

Breaking Bad Habits - Amy Kuney

I'm starting over
All by myself
I've gotten sober
And I'm getting help
Now I didn't plan this
Oh I want you to know
I'm just breaking bad habits
You're the first one to go

My new year's resolution
Didn't last long
I tried to quit you
I suffered withdrawals
Now I didn't plan this
Oh I want you to know
I'm just breaking bad habits
You're the first one to go

Never thought I would get so damn dependent
To ask your permission to breathe
Coffee and cigarettes cannot replace you
Cause I've got you like a disease
When will I ever be free?

You and I
Were long overdue
No more spending my life
Depending on you
Now I didn't plan this
Oh I want you to know
I'm just breaking bad habits
You're the first one to go

Now I didnt plan this
Oh I want you to know
I'm just breaking bad habits
You're the first one to go

As I listened to the song on Youtube, I realized I still get teary eyed from it. The power of a song!!

Falling in love and nursing my bruises caused by the fall was one  major topic in every other entry in my old journal. Now I read the lines and I smile, remembering how painful it was. When you're eighteen and you fall for a guy, a perfect gentleman, you put him on a pedestal and think that there is no one else in the world that could be as perfect as him! 

Gosh, I wish I could look at a guy, any guy, with such admiration again !! 

Alas!!  I’m ‘wisened’ over the years!

It was falling in love that made me feel the first pang of inferiority complex!

“I always knew I was never good enough for him! For the first time in my life, looking like my Ma isn’t enough. I wish I could look better! Why didn't i inherit my grandma's fair skin and my Dad's charm?? Why do I have to be the ugly one when I'm the only sister? I'm tired of chanting 'Life's unfair'... but yes, tonight, I'll chant just once more time. LIFE'S UNFAIR!!”

I laughed out as I read this! Now, I wouldn’t trade my looks for the world and absolutely not for the attention of a man. Looking like my Ma, having her eyes and her smile is much more important to me than looking “better”. And I hope my children and my children’s children have my eyes and my smile! My niece has my chin… and I love her to bits! And I definitely don’t want her to look ‘better’!! 

Well, opinions do change over the years!

The heartbreak at the end of the fall….

“I shook the whole day today. The pain is magnificent. There are no tears left. There’s none left for me and my self-pity”

The reconciliation, which came after years…

“I’ve finally realized that this chapter of my life is closed. And now, I have a new chapter to write, the pages blank and inviting. For the first time since long, I’m glad that I wrote and finished the chapter which somehow helped me grow. I’m sure I’ll always come back here for reference. It was painful yes, but it was way too beautiful to be a mistake. No, it was not a mistake!”

I know how much it hurts back then, but later when you look back at it, who could resist such a good  heartbreak? I'm also aware that I can look back and be mesmerized by it only because I've gotten over the heartbreak!!

Which reminds me of Rachel Berry's line from Glee 
"That was amazing, I'm speechless. I just had a relationship with a guy who turned out to be gay. That is songwriting gold!"

Well, I'm not a songwriter. Yet. But a good heartbreak always makes a good, memorable and captivating topic to write, talk or recall !!

Wotsay you??? Hit any 'songwriting gold' yet?? I guessed I already did when I went through my old journal.

Thank God for Heartbreaks!

Finally! :)

Aug 3, 2011

Jumble from Summer in Mizoram...

I was home for a month and a half during the summer. I went home after two whole years of being away in the sweltering Delhi heat, and I must admit, during the two years, I have partly forgotten how to miss my family! (Sheeesh!! So much for being the fanu neihchhun!! ). I was home at Aizawl for a month, I spend 11 days travelling south, had my taste of an 'Aizawl wedding' where I had fun seeing people overdress (Facebook Albums just don't lie!!) and met a dozen new cousins, nephews and nieces who were born during my two vagabond years.

I must admit, I was a babysitter/nanny/cook/housemaid/PS/PA to dad/ housekeeper during my month at home. And I loved every single moment of it, down to the moment when I have to scrape ar ek from the chicken coop or when I have to help my brothers with their stint in woodcutting. I realized how much I missed being home and taking care of it. I had slumber parties with my nieces and all of our dolls, watch my youngest niece's toothless smile turn into a two-teeth-smile and went through 10 year old letters from high school! Ah! Nostalgia!

They spend half the night rearranging the dolls and the other half kicking me in their sleep! 

I'm all for Green Mizoram. But the tree on our upper slope got too big and too dangerous for Monsoon. Hence we cut down the branches. Made a huge mess in the terrace too!

Social life in Aizawl?? I have no social life in Aizawl. I went to funerals in my locality with my aunt and condolence services with my dad. I must admit, I feel extremely awkward at church. The few handful (unmarried) people I know were already youth leaders and are already too busy with meetings and other duties to be in the same pace with me. I decided to go to choir practice but I was told that the choir was a closed group! :(  SAD!! So I went to church with my dad and left with him! I spend my Sunday afternoons visiting families of relatives who passed away while I was away. Of course, half the time, my dad went with me. So basically, my dad was my partner during my month in Aizawl. Hey!! I'm not complaining, I don't know how long will I continue to be daddy's girl. **wink**

I took my baby brother out for shopping twice. And half the time people looked at me as if I'm taking my 'boy-toy' for shopping. A lady at one shop asked me 'In pa ta tur hi ami?'. My brother and I, we looked anything but siblings. He's  tall, broad, handsome and fair and I am otherwise! :D I must say Hutea brings out his child-likeness when he's with me. And most of the time, he'll be all over me, hugging me, grabbing my shoulders or my hands even in public. Can't really blame him, he's the youngest in the family and was only 15 when Mum passed away. And I have been a 'mother-figure' to him since then. Well, what term else would you use when a 23 year old engineer came to you, almost in tears, asking you to give him a head-bath because he couldn't get rid of his dandruff!!!!! And him calling me Seni without a 'U' didn't help identifying that he's my brother.

This summer I had the amazing experience of witnessing chickens (and quails) hatching from the eggs. It might sound weird, but I felt so maternal watching the eggs crack open while chicks and quail-chicks(??) kick their way out into the world. I felt as if I witness the miracle of birth. My big brother bought himself a digital incubator when he came home from Brighton. Believe me, the ar-pawm veteran took great pride in his machine! The machine worked well and during my stay, we incubated three batches of eggs. The night before I left, it was hatching time for the batch of quail eggs. We hardly slept that night!

The phoren 'world-class' digital incubator with the quail eggs! I should learn how to  cook quail before I go home again!

The first-born just a few minutes old!!

The little fella after 4 hours!! FYI: Quails mature in a month! :D

I traveled south for 11 days and had the most amazing time meeting people, new and old. I stopped and stayed at 9 towns and villages partly for my fieldwork and partly because of the heck of  wanting to travel. I met old grannies, whose language I could hardly understand. Sometimes, I'd need an interpreter. Its got to do with my rudimentary Lai and also with their seasoned-dialected Lai. The biology of language and the overwhelming generation gap!

I must admit, I also made the biggest mistake of asking men about colours for my fieldwork. The different colour charts I took with me didn't help at all. 

 My interview with Mr. Hmun Hre at the LADC office in Lawngtlai happened as such:

Me: Ok, what is 'red' in Lai

HH: A eng

Me: Isn't 'a eng' in Mizo called 'Aihre' in Lai??

HH: Yes. Seni!!! Where did you learn that?

Me: Oh! I speak Lai too! **Grin**  Then what about the colour of oranges?

HH: Yes, that's a eng

Me: You mean 'aihre'??

HH: Yes, aihre.

Me: Then what about this colour? (I showed him a green leaf. Leaf green, not lime green or flourescent green)

HH: That is also a eng.


Believe me he wasn't the only one. Another man I met at Sangau stated 'a sen'  to every single colour I pointed except for black and white. Yet another man from Lawngtlai admitted openly that blue and green all looks green to him. Maybe a case of blue-green colour blindness for him? But for the others, I don't know!! I just don't know!!

My lowest of low moments during my summer was at Lengpui airport where I got into a hassle with an airline ground staff (Another namesake, sadly!!) who asked me to weigh my handbag 'since it's a cabin baggage'!!!! My first time in my 26 years of life. And it had to happen at Lengpui airport. And that little imp had to use her 'accented' English even when talked to in Mizo. But weighing a handbag where I had my netbook, a book and a few toiletries never happened at any other airport before. I wanted to ask her if I should also weigh myself since I was also going in the aircraft. I'll make sure I never fly in that airline again. Cause' if I run into her again, the vampire in me might just awake, 'tear her into pieces and wear her ribcage as a hat'!! ( Lorena of True Blood talking!)

Well, that's a bad tone to end my Summer at home!! Isn't it??? Well, what can I say?? Summers end in autumns too!! Just the law of nature! And I'm just a part of it! **GRIN**