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! :)

Oct 23, 2011

Malana Diaries. Part I : The Road to Malana.

WARNING: Pictures Galore.

For the past ten years, the Malana project has been well known among the Delhi Mizo Youth Fellowship. The Delhi Mizo Youth have been supporting a missionary for Malana, a little hamlet hidden high up in the Himachal mountains, isolated and unreached by the world for many many years. The Malana culture is  supposedly a culture with the oldest Parliament in the world which enjoys an independent democracy and doesn't abide by the Indian Constitution.

So, when the Youth Fellowship decided to have a Medical Camp again after two years, I jumped at the opportunity for a three day trip to Malana. Even though I couldn't help in the medical department, I could also be a part of the Sanitation team or the Prayer team who were also needed. I was one of the first to pay the fee and sign up for the trip. I was excited, all ready and fully geared for the trip. Who wouldn't be excited to visit a place you've heard so much about?

With my seatmate Zama who came equipped with absolutely everything needed and more!! We partnered even on the trip back home. 

 The final group of 30 members left Delhi on an overnight bus to Manali. After a night of bobbing up and down and sleeping through the twist and turns of the mountain road, we woke up to a crisp morning air, clear humming creeks and apple orchards strewn on both sides of the road. Beautiful Manali with the its alpine  forests reminded me of the Twilight novels. I knew I wasn't the only one when someone squeaked from the backseat "SpiderMonkey". We made a stop at Dar-Ul-Fazl (meaning House of Grace) Childrens' Home at Shuru where we were fed a heavy mid-morning meal and given a place to bath and rest before we left for Malana in the afternoon.
Pi Mawitei welcoming the team before our morning meal at DUF Shuru, Manali.

A bible verse on a wall in a room at DUF Home
I came across this at DUF and feasted my eyes on it because I know I'll hardly come across it again.

The girls' Dormitory at Dar-ul-Fazl Childrens' Home. 

Even the bathroom has this view! Sigh!!
The ride from Manali up to the point from where the hike should begin was a beautiful ride. Everytime I stared out of window to the majestic mountains and the humming creeks below, I doubt the line 'Kan Zotlang ram nuam hi chhawrpial run i iang e'. No disrespect intended!

So after three hours in the maxi cab and a dozen stories shared, Malana came to sight. If Manali reminded me of the Twilight novels, Malana definitely sprung up 'The Lord of the Rings' in my head. A picturesque hamlet where the only way to the village is through a hiking trail. We descended a thousand metres for around half a kilometre before we reached a small creek. After crossing the creek, we again ascended for a few kilometres before we reached the village.
The trail to Malana village: a view from the opposite side.

The creek we had to cross to get to Malana.

I was born in the hills, energetic all my life and thought I was a mountain goat untill I hiked up the Malana trail. I admit with shame, I almost died. My heart was beating in my throat, I was bathing in sweat, throat parched and gasping for breath after every few metres. Dr. Manuni, who went for a medical camp to Malana two years back, described the ascend "Calorie ka khuainuai". I couldn't have described it better myself. I salute her for the perfect and apt description. And the higher I climbed, my gasps became heavier. Little did I know that I had altitude sickness. Who would have thought that the girl from the hills could get mountain sick?

And to make matters worse, I had an upset stomach from the improper meals and improper sleep during the night in the bus. I will never ever forget my Malana climb and the thing my body compelled me to do mid-climb. I will forever be grateful to some people especially Mami and Ricky for the wait while I disappeared from the trail with a roll of TP and a tube of hand sanitizer and also to Mohan Bhaiyya for carrying my rucksack for the rest of the climb.

I mentally booed Miley Cyrus' lyrics 'Ain't about what's waiting on the other side, It's the climb'. For me it's all about what's waiting in the end. If it hadn't been for Malana, I would given up halfway during the climb! But because of what's waiting in the end, I pushed myself and even though I almost threw up from exhaustion, I didn't cry like someone did! :) 

The better part of the trail to Malana
The first two groups reached Malana by nightfall but the third team, a few boys including the medical team from Manali Mission Hospital were late while waiting for medical and food supplies. I can't imagine their struggle while climbing the steep narrow dirt track in the pitch dark moonless night. When they reached the campsite at around 11 pm  they were drenched with sweat even though they removed their sweaters and jackets against the cold Himalaya winds. Among them, Hnehzova later asked for a pain killer, Abiaka claimed that his usually high BP was normal because of the climb and LH-a later confessed that he never knew a parcel of bread could be as heavy as it was during the climb that night!

Camp food: I haven't had such a good appetite in a long long time! It must be the mountain air!
For the first time in my life, I slept in a tent and in a sleeping bag. I was a bit worried and scared about using a sleeping bag. There was something not quite right about the thought of arms all tucked in with only the head popping out. Defenseless was the word I was looking for!

But none of that mattered after the unimaginable climb, the upset stomach and the cold cold mountain air. I was more than happy to snuggle inside the bag and before long, I fell asleep while listening to people calling each other from the tents nearby and the boys laughing while arranging themselves in the next tent.

Oct 18, 2011

Childhood Tales: Of OCD and the sheep (never) jumping over the fence

The good thing about growing up in a family with four children and lots of cousins, I realized, is that minuscule childhood problems are never blown out of proportion.

When I looked back, I realized I suffered from OCD when I was a kid. My parents never even knew that my meticulous peculiarity was a disorder. In fact, I was treated as a kid with propriety despite growing up with three rowdy boys.  So my parents were happy that I was a neat kid who couldn't stand mess.

That was far from it.

Looking back, I knew it was a case of OCD with the way I can't fall sleep until my books are all changed and arranged according to the time table for the next day. Even after going to sleep, I'd promptly wake up in the middle of the night if I didn't have my school bag in order. Once my dad caught me in the middle of the night  changing my timetable for the next day, rummaging in the dark.

I hated the shape of the rhombus during Geometry class because I want everything to be at perfect 90 degree angle. I got into deeper trouble with the hatred issue when we started studying the other shapes like the pentagon, hexagon and others. I crushed many an egg attempting to make it a perfect round shape than the shape that it already had and I had a problem with irregular shapes and patterns that all my Krismas kawr for around 5 years were either checked, striped or plain. Everything has to be in sync!!!

The worst thing I could remember was me refusing to step on a line, any line at all including imaginary lines. I'd never had a toe or heel peeping out when I walk up and down the stairs and I thank God that my feet were still small enough to fit in the squares when we had that checked carpet in our house.

My OCD walk used to happen in the path down near Tennis Court in Aizawl. I'd walk up and down that path every Sunday on the way to and from the church. There were huge concrete blocks laid end to end covering the drain which was used as the footpath. While walking on the footpath, I'd take extra care never to step on the line which joined the two blocks. My brother, after finding out my careful walking, pushed me and made me step on the line. I cried that day, and walked up the same path to take another walk down the footpath without stepping on the lines. I must be around 7 at that time. 

No wonder I was so good at the Butter Cheese game because I never ever ever stepped on a line!

This floor tile would've drove me crazy when I was 7!!

I was also that kid who always tossed around in bed unable to sleep. Milk and honey before bedtime never worked so my mother told me to count numbers till I fall asleep. Counting numbers... could never count beyond a hundred because my mind would stray to more interesting things. My brother later told me to count sheep jumping over the fence instead. It never worked, it kept me more awake.

For I was too busy creating a prefect setting - the wooden fence by the old toolshed, half-broken, weathered by the monsoon rain with green green moss slowly creeping over the side. And the sheep never jumped over the fence because I reared fat, clumsy sheep who tripped on the fence and instead of jumping over it, and fell into the big muddy puddle just by the fence. 

Then, I would run with a hose to clean up the dirty sheep, soap up its wool and hose it down. Then I'd sometimes decorate it with ribbons, sometimes put lipstick on them, sometimes make them wear 'ram hmangaih kawr' and take them to the battlefield against the pigs!! Sometimes I'd sit them down in a straight line and teach them how to sing. I have never seen a sheep in real life, but I have countless memories of washing a sheep, putting bows, makeup and countless success stories in teaching sheep how to sing!! 

And my brother introduced the sheep to help me sleep!! Sigh!

Pic: www.123rf.com

So I was a kid with OCD and much too active imagination. What's with me now?

Forget about crying when I stepped on a line, I would sit on, push and even draw a new line now! Maybe there's a little OCD in me somewhere which would surface now and then. I still sleep only in plain bedsheets but last semester, I went ahead and bought a printed bed-cover which does not have a geometric print. My first in many many years! But if there's anything that kept me up half the night, It's definitely not the OCD!!

The imagination still stays! Though not vivid as it used to be, and it hardly involves singing sheep, it's the one thing I'll always cherish even though it still keeps me up... most nights!

Oct 17, 2011

Tying up a loose end: A letter to God.

Dear God,

I had a long week and a hard one too. And I realized I missed You badly.

You see, God, this week, I didn't miss a single minute of my numerous weekly fellowship or a single hour of choir practice. I taught in Sunday School with passion today, and I felt I got my points across my students. I haven't missed a single minute of my daily prayers and I am well ahead in my Weekly Scripture reading table. What's more, God?? I'm all decked up to leave in a couple of days for a Mission Work Camp to a place that I've prayed for the past five years and Lord, I couldn't be more excited!!

Yet, somehow, I had a nasty fight with two of the closest people in my life. So here I am, past midnight, still hurting from the fight and unsure what to do next.

I know I shouldn't be doing this... coming to You before I've made amends with them. But Lord, they've hurt me too!! In ways I've never been hurt before. And I admit I still hold the grudge and I'm too much of a chicken-heart to go talk to them before coming to You.

Which made me realize how far away I am from You! What was the use of all those prayers, those bible readings, the choir practices and the numerous services I never missed, if I am not living a life that reflects what I read and pray about!?

I'm sorry, Lord, for turning Our relationship into a ritual and a social life.

Remind me once again that my relationship with You should translate into a good relationship with the people around me. 

This is Me signing off 


Oct 13, 2011

The (un)inspiring October full moon!

So it's October full moon tonight!

Facebook statuses and tweets have heavy sprinkles of the word chhawrthlapui and lungleng all over them. At least half a dozen friends must have quoted Bruno Mars and his howling conversation with the moon!

Beautiful but still doesn't manage to inspire me!! Pic: srcgchs.wordpress.com

Yet. here I am, wishing I could feel blue. But I just can't get in the mood tonight. 

And while the moon climbs the almost prefect Delhi night sky and sets the 'blue feeling' for people everywhere, I was walking back alone from a dinner with my uncle on a work visit to Delhi. The campus is littered with couples especially on the lonely road back to my far flung hostel in the corner of the campus. Yet, romance, the beautiful weather and the painfully lonesome moon still couldn't change my 'blue deficient' mood.

 Ah! The moon.... The lonesome moon! There are nights when you didn't even shine this bright, yet your light on my floor was enough to send me in a melancholic frenzy. I'd often stare at my curtains dancing in the breeze and allow myself to revisit painful yet beautiful pasts while treading softly on my moonlight floor. I know I'm not the only one! Generations of poets  have derived their inspiration from the lonely moon, destined never to meet someone to share his lonely nights with!

But tonight is just not one of those nights!!

I text a couple of my friends about what they are doing. Their answers made me more worried. They were all  basking in the beauty of the moonlight! The boyfriend text me telling me that he missed Delhi University's Gwyer Hall rooftop (We spend many an hour on the phone on the rooftop when we first started going out). Another friend told me he's rounding up the guys for a rooftop party with the guitar and old Mizo love songs. Yet another older friend told me she's listening to Dolly Parton's 'The moon, the stars and me'. I envy these people. For I'd give anything to feel blue tonight! 

Don't get me wrong but October full moon happens only once in a year! And I would be a fool to let it pass by without enjoying it. Yet after standing in the silent terrace for 15 minutes, I managed to feel uninspired in the way I wanted to! So here I am, punching these un-inspired lines into my overworked keyboard, still hoping to feel at least a light shade of blue!!

Now the Taj Mahal under the moonlight should get me into the mood! But wait!! It didn't . Pic: art.com

The roommate is on her phone, out in the moonlight, obviously talking to the significant person. And since I can't get the blues tonight, I hope she comes back with at least a light shade of it!! 

For she just doesn't help during the conversation earlier in the night!

'Tonight's a full moon night' I told her hoping she'd be reminded of something melancholic.

Her answer squashed my hope.

'Oh Gawddd!!! The dogs are definitely going crazy with their howling tonight." 

Oct 12, 2011

My Rainbow: Colors in my Life.

I love colors. And even though I have my sepia tone days when I enjoy being in one tone and all alone, most of the time I relish the colors in my life.

If you ask me what is my favorite colour, I'd quickly reply 'Rainbow' without even missing the blink of an eye! There are people who make my life colorful. Crazy, one of a kind people who make my life bright and happy. I love their little sparks and their little details, and to use a word from a certain movie, their 'ness'!!

So here's a tribute to the Colors in my life and their crazy little details!

The Color called Nancy : The Roommate

A paradox personified. A tomboy scared of mantis, grasshoppers and insects; a Buddhist who is partial to stray animals who enter our floor and writes a blog she prefers people not to read. She is so scared of ghosts that every time we tell ghosts stories, she'd sleep with a totem of her deity under her pillow! The selfish Buddhist! She suffers from a mild case of OCD and is also a big sucker in love... Huge!!

A Facebook quitter but a Blackberry addict who labels the stray dogs in campus as 'personality-less' and says they 'howl without class'. Recently, she admitted to losing all her dance moves! I wonder why!? Of all the roommates I've had in this University, she's definitely the best!

The Color called Kuki : The Future Maid of Honor

Someone who lives outside the box. She lives in a flat which had been burgled once and has been haunted annually for the past four years.  Yet she hosts the best parties I ever went to.We were born on consecutive dates. Except for the year. She's known under three terms - Social worker, Loudest Soprano in choir, Sunday School teacher. An antihistamine addict with the perpetual chubby cheeks. She's a Super Aunt to the three most energetic boys in the world and her most prized possession  is a picture in her teenage years taken with Aamir Khan.

The last time I checked if she really wanted me to be my MOH if I decide to get married, she gave me the Cobra Stare "Hmingthanzual, min hman loh chuan i na ang"

The Color called Thangpuia: The Boyfriend

The boyfriend for four and a half years who's a failed choir singer, failed dancer, failed musician, failed photographer(What did I get myself into?)  and mathematician. (ah! that explains it all!). He's been told he  looks 35 ever since he was in college. Tall, not so dark, handsome (OK... I'm prejudiced!). The Lai man who  talks to me in Lai only when he wants to get to my good side and smokes only when he wants to spite me. He hates Facebook, my short haircut and converse shoes but loves Shrek, Kungfu Panda, Kelly Clarkson and Adele. A formal dresser who started wearing jeans only after we went out.

Recently he tells me he wants to buy a good camera. 'The photographer in me urges me to' he quips. My reply? 'An expensive camera doesn't make you a photographer!'

The Color called Engkima : The Loudspeaker

My honorary brother who is the LOUDest person I've ever known. We live in the same hostel and his room is my refuge when I get sick or once during an earthquake after-shock. A kohhran Upa in South Delhi Mizo Inkhawm!! I'm not kidding!! Writer, academician, poet with such magnetic personality which even attracts bed bugs. A strong-headed man with the weirdest fashion sense. Yes! he wore only a Mizo-made chappal till he got his master's degree and refused to wear a belt till he completed his MPhil degree. His worse habit is chewing on his dentures! I always get scared that he'll accidentally swallow it! He gains an insurmountable level of confidence from his mock-relationship with the Color Nancy!

His latest conquest? Chheihlam minus the bending!!

The Color called Ben : The Rockstar

My Sunday School co-teacher who's known as Big Ben or Ben Ten among the kids. It amuses me sometimes that he teaches teenagers when he looks like one. We make the perfect ten. He the one, I the zero. I once ran up to kiss him onstage during our Student's Union rock nite (on the cheeks.. Relax!). He got himself a groupie that night, and I happily ticked off a point in my 'List of Things to do before I turn 30!". He doesn't eat pork and has two addresses in Delhi - a weekday address and a weekend address! He's got two elder brothers and hence is named Pazawna. When I learnt he has a younger brother, I asked if his brother's name is Pahlira. Nope!! He's named Lalchhuanawma! :D

My favorite singer who's in charge of the music in the upcoming Delhi Mizo Kut. I made a request for him to sing a Justin Bieber song, just to spite him. It worked. He didn't even smile when I mentioned the J word!

The Color called Becki : The Dictator 

The hairdresser who made the drastic change in my hair length. She's the head contralto in the choir who'd give acid stares to anyone who hits the wrong tone. Hence earning the title - the Dictator. A frequent meal skipper who looks half her age. A carpenter, seamstress and artist all rolled into one. She buys boots only in summer and already had her wedding dress designed which she wants to handstitch by herself. All we need now, is a guy to marry.

Currently in a dilemma on how to survive the harsh Manali winter while helping care of her soon- to- be -born nephew/niece. "I'll buy gloves. Good ones!" she quickly add. I smiled. Gloves? For the freezing Manali winter! Indeed!

The Color called RSa : The Friend 'n' Foe

Most sarcastic person I've ever known who is passionate on picking on me. 'Ready made' person when it comes to the 1 AM phone calls I'd make from the airport. He'll diligently pick me in 20 minutes. And thus earned his name Tuaitereka. Person with worst sleeping habit. Older girls find him cute **wink**. A grown man who's scared to sleep in the dark. A tea addict who tells me I'm the worst badminton partner ever yet who's a member of our 'baby-sitter's club'. Blessed enough to have the warmest family in town. A computer nerd, a good tenor and has the best footwork to an old Grease song! I can't think of a day spent with him without him insulting me. I can't think of a day spent with him without me insulting him either!

He texted me two days ago telling me that he'll remember me bailing his birthday dinner, for a long long time! The 'long long time' takes exactly 26 hours! My friend, my foe!

The Roommate, The Boyfriend, The Future MOH, The Loudspeaker, The Rockstar, The Dictator, The Friend 'n' Foe!

And how could I forget my Colors from last season! Nope, they're not out of style, they're vintage!

The Color called Jonathan : The Hug Bear

My best friend in college who at lost for words, told me that we'll share his mother the day my mother passed away! He used to date a girl half his size in college and now dates another girl, still half his size. A Shrek enthusiast who bloated up after we moved away for our Master's degree. A blogger, a writer, a singer, a songwriter and a musician all rolled into one. But, unfortunately, is a failed dancer. I once got bruised ribs from dancing with him.

After living away from him for 3 years, I thought we're not that close anymore until that one night when he puts me up on the phone all night after an exhausting day with absolutely no concern! Or guilt when my sinusitis peaked the next day! His synonym? No apologies = best friends!

The Color called Ronald T : The One who got away (with calling me 'fat and funny')

My ex co-group coordinator in the campus Christian fellowship. The one person who dares call me 'fat and funny'. Sad I still can't get back at him. Hence, 'the one who got away'. An experimental photographer who I don't really trust to be my wedding photographer. Just yet. Another Blackberry Addict in my rainbow, a tweetheart, blogger and the only guy I trusted enough to have a bottle of Breezer with. A mediocre singer and sadly a failed dancer (Remember the weird hands in the Potter choreography?).

Last time he was in town, he wanted to surprise me with dinner but then I missed his call. The next day, I got lectured meticulously (complete with the finger) for spoiling his surprise and then dragged off to the nearby mall in my sleep sweater and crocs! When protested for inappropriate clothing, he raised his voice, just a few octaves higher "Just think of how expensive your crocs are"!!

The  Color called Sam : The Midget

The one who presence always make me shrink. Literally. A 6 foot tall (I think. At least he looks that tall) Tamil who eats pork. He's also the first Tamil guy I met who didn't sport facial hair. Which, now I realized, was just a phase he was going through!! A tweetheart and a blogger who swears in the middle of a bible seminary and has the most infectious grin. The Ex-worship Secretary and the Groovy dancer in spite of the height. Yep I can still see him dancing on the Rocks at Easter Sunrise Service a few years back.

'If I'm a dancer, you'd be the pole' I used to say.  5 years later, I realized I don't need to be a dancer for him to be the pole! He's still the perfect long line!

The Hug Bear, The One who got away, The Midget

I know that hours after posting this, I will receive texts, Facebook messages or phone calls from these people accusing me of stealing Facebook pictures or publicizing their little details.

I have only one reply " I Love you too. Muah" :P

Oct 6, 2011

My ongoing battle with the High Heel

A friend of mine almost twisted her ankles last Sunday from wearing 3 inch heels. On her defense, she wasn't used to wearing heels and she forgot she wore heels when she ran down the stairs. The next day, we wasted several SMS rounds on the condition of her ankles (100 sms per day ain't no problem for me till date, I'm a lazy 'texter'). But the incident reminded me of my ongoing battling with mastering the art of wearing high heels.

I got my first pair of heels the Christmas after I turned 17. Two inch heels. Nothing glorious. My peers that time could have run a marathon on my new heels. But for me, I spend Christmas Eve practicing on how to walk in my new heels without walking awkward. My brother laughed at me on Christmas morning when he found me preparing breakfast with PJs and heels! I ignored his snigger. I will not be caught walking like a duck on Christmas day. 

Turns out I was wrong, he told some of his friends and my friends about my kitchen fashion. Loudmouth! It so happened that right in the middle of Christmas Tea at church, my wicked friend Jona yelled "Hey! Seni.... nice heels! You ain't walking funny at all. Geat job!!". I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me then and there! 

In spite of that encounter, I will always have fond memories of  those heels. Everytime I wore them, my dad would tease "I pheikhawk atang khan lo chhuk la, in kawm ang hmiang". I still keep the pair back home, though I never wore them anymore. I tired, several times, to pass them on to my younger cousins but was always rejected with a whiff of "a style a hlui tawh em mai"!  So I decided to keep them as souvenirs!

Ten years down the line... improvement came slow. Improvement with the height of the heels. The highest pair of heels I own is a 3 inch strap (Yes, I measured it just now!) and I wore it only once in four months. And the only time I wore it, I took a pair of flats to change into once church got over. Yes, it's much better to relax in flats during song practice! 

I don't walk like a duck anymore while wearing heels. Wait, I never walked like one! It's just that I never get scared of walking like a duck anymore. I guess I've covered a milestone. But I wear heels only in formal occasions and  to church and I've never lasted for more than 5 hours in heels. That is why I always carry a pair of flats on Sundays to change into, once service gets over. Well, most of us, at least here in Delhi do!

Once a friend of mine in the choir complained "You girls always do this! And you don't even wear that much of high heels. The PussyCat Dolls can sing and dance for hours in much higher heels!" He quipped. "The reason??" I retorted "I'm not a Pussy Cat Doll!" Isn't it obvious?

My problem wearing high heels. First things first, I wear high heels only to church or other formal occasions. And I teach in Sunday School. Well, aren't half of the high-heeled-marathon-running young women back home Sunday School teachers too?? And then I add, Delhi Mizo Sunday School is crazy. We spend half the time running after kids, jumping and prancing to action songs and sitting on the floor during art and craft hour. Sangtei, the pre-beginner teacher, I noticed, is always the first one to remove her shoes once she enters the hall. So I guess I'm not the only one! Between the heat, the 40 hyperactive kids stuffed in a painfully small room, the crazy action songs, the bible lessons and weird questions that 9 year olds would ask, the last thing I need to worry about is my feet!

I admire women who wear high heels and make it look comfortable. And as much as I want to master the art of wearing high heels, I still can't. But why bother wearing heels at all? Well, I know the majority of Mizo women will agree when I say that the Mizo puan is much more presentable when worn with heels. The higher, the better. With heels, suddenly you're puan-clad body look more svelte and suave, your curves more defined and you, all of a sudden, walk with such feminine gait. I love wearing puan and hence the heels become essential.

Battling the Delhi August heat in Puanchei and heels!! This is why if we've gone 3 inch, we've gone high enough!!

I salute the Mizo women who have master the difficult art in such a rugged terrain as our hilly abode. If you've ever worn high heels while walking downhill, you'll know what I'm talking about!! A friend of mine once told me there's a very steep road in her locality (Mission Vengthlang) that at first she thought no one would be able to walk down with heels. But no! She later told me that girls wearing 5 inch heels walked comfortably on those roads. The magic techinque??? They backed downhill!!! Smart Mission Vengthlang girls! It would be quite a sight watching girls back down the road without missing a step! I should remember to visit the friend on a Sunday afternoon the next time I go home!

I tried the same magic technique when I was in Aizawl during the summer. My dad and I were walking home from church and I was with a 3 inch heel, which suddenly felt like a 6 inch on a certain slope. I tell you, the magic technique is the smartest thing that you can do in such a situation.

Yet, my dad stared at me as if I've got some screws loose in my head.

"What are you doing?"

"Please stop"

"People are staring at you"

"Seni, walk properly please"

"Stop doing that"

And ultimately

"Stop right there and wait. I'll go home and come pick you up in a car".

He did!!!

And needless to say, the battle continues...

Oct 3, 2011

A Letter, a year-old.

I came across another one for my unmailed letters safely tucked away in one of my files. 

It's a year old letter but now at least, I have the courage to let it be read!

Dated: 6th October 2010


Long time eh? I was just going through some of our old pictures and I thought of you. The old videos that we made, we all looked so happy then!! The other day, I wandered into Mezbaan and ate alone. I missed you guys so much! But imagine my frustration when I realized I didn't carry my Student's ID. I had to pay full price. 

How are you doing? How's life at your end? Hope everything’s good and well.

Well, for starters, this is not a happy mail! Cause I’m badly looking for a place to vent, which I can’t find these days. I feel bad venting out to someone who’s so far away and I may never click the 'send' button to this mail, but anyway the writing part is at least therapeutic.

Remember when I use to say that I can’t wait to be 26 and that I’ve been waiting for the age since I was 17?? Well, 26’s just around the corner and my life is in shambles. Lately, I’ve been thinking that maybe 26 is the age that I finally succumb to life’s miseries. Nothing’s been working out lately, life’s not at all beautiful and my rose-colored spectacles haven’t been working for quite sometime.

I have lots of problems back home and I'm too far away to deal with it! My father's been sick for two weeks now and last night I was up all night thinking about the failure that I am as the only daughter of the household. The daughter who is but a thousand miles away!

I am in a relationship with a guy I can’t communicate with. We didn't start off like this. Is this what happens to people after three long years in a relationship, where you start taking each other for granted?! And I'm sick of people sticking their noses in our relationship. We're just two insignificant people and who in the world  would even have the time, energy or the desire to put a wedge between us?? Well, guess what. Maybe we're not that insignificant after all!! What can I say?? I don’t want to be a drama queen. But drama just follows me J.

I am so very disillusioned with the whole idea of relationships, marriage and family right now! I just can't shake off the feeling that after all this time, after all these years and after everything I've been through, I stand, but, alone. Sometimes, I feel I just want to quit everything and retreat in a hole. Sometimes I want to quit teaching in Sunday School! I don’t think I can be a role model to my kids. I feel like a fraud to teach about Christian life and relationships to teenagers when I can hardly handle my own. Sometimes, I am tired of putting up a brave front. These days, the perpetual smiles never reach my eyes! I just want to crumble into pieces but I also know I just can’t! So I hold myself up and smile for the world to see.

Last week, a friend came to me to help her on her rocky relationship. She told me that I’m one of the strongest person she knows. I froze and realized I'm a hypocrite... all over again!

Academically, I’m a snail. I'm still waiting for my Viva Voce while doing background reading for the proposal for my supposed doctoral thesis.

Healthwise, the past two months had me suffering from dengue TWICE!!! And the whole time, I was  helping take care of the boyfriend's mother during her hip replacement surgery. Friends say that I'm the one person who takes dengue fever as a breeze. But I don't! The whole time I thought it was viral fever and symptoms of over-exhaustion. So I'd pop another pill, refill my bottle with ORS and head off to the hospital to help. I was diagnosed only when my post-fever rash came!

Financially, I'm broke! L So is my laptop! L I'm saving up for a new one. And I don’t know if I can pay for my tickets home for Christmas.

Anyways, that’s the story of the my life at the age I so wanted to reach!!!

Somehow, I realized I always blamed myself for the bad things that happen to me; make myself miserable and torment myself. But then at this ‘golden’ age, I’ve also realized that life is still going to torment me mightily anyway even if I don’t torment myself. So I’ve decided that I have the right to wallow in self-pity and cry my heart out… once in a while!

That was one year ago....

I remembered feeling like I've hit rock bottom while writing this, feeling like my life would be just a huge big gloom of eternal rainy days!

One year later, what is my life like?? It's still not perfect but it's much much better! Did I even notice or gave myself a self-appreciated "pat on the back" for how well I've survived the dark days?? Hardly!

Time and time again, I've learnt that the tough times never last. Yet time and time again, I tend to dwell focusing on the dark rain-clouds.

This letter is just another reminder.

To remind myself everyday that you can't always be a worm. One day, sooner or later, you'll break out into beautiful butterfly! And it doesn't matter if your butterfly lives for three short summer days. The point is, the worm is just one cycle away from being a butterfly.