A report on “Unau Fest 2007” at UBS in Pune

Published on November 24, 2007

By Jessai L. Neitham


November 25, 2007: The much awaited Unau Fest 2007 recently held in Pune (the cultural city of Maharashtra state in India) passed off smoothly and successfully. The event which was supposed to be held on the 17th November 2007 had to be postponed because of certain unforeseen factors and was eventually held the next day, the 18th November 2007 at the Union Biblical Seminary (UBS) premises.

The first of its kind in Pune, and possibly elsewhere also, Unau Fest 2007 was organized by the Unau Joint Fellowship Pune (UJFP), which is a conglomerate of the Hmar, Kuki, Mizo and Zomi Christian Fellowships in Pune. The Chief Guest for the event was Mrs. Lal Remsiem, Executive Director, NEREFS, New Delhi. Guests Artistes invited included Mr. Joseph Zaihmingthanga, Mr. Michael M. Sailo, Miss Margaret MS Zuali (Maggie), all from Mizoram, and Miss Grace Lalthansiem Hmar from New Delhi.  

As part of the Unau Fest celebrations and to hype up the event a One-Day Unau Sports comprising of only two sports items was also held on the 10th November 2007 again at the UBS Playing Ground. After a good measurable period of hard playing alongwith good gamesmanship between the four constituent fellowships, the men’s football was eventually won by the Hmar Christian Fellowship whereas the women’s volleyball was won by the Kuki Worship Service teams respectively.

To add a little background history, the UJFP was officially formed under the Advisorship of Mr. J. Lamboi Haokip (the then Registrar-cum-Lecturer of Union Biblical Seminary) in April 2005 as a means of bringing together under one banner the Zohnathlak tribes temporarily residing in Pune for educational and work reasons. It meets once every two months by means of Joint Services.

As a result of its main aim to bring the four fellowships together under one banner it was resolved this year to organize a “Social Evening” which finally resulted in the Unau Fest 2007. The UJFP Executive Committee comprises of the Chairmen’s and Secretaries of the respective four constituent fellowships under a rotation basis of different Office Bearership each year.

The current Executive Committee has Mr. B.T. Nghinglova, IPS (Addl DGP, Maharashtra Police) as its Chairman, Secretary Mr. K. Pumsuanthang, Finance Secretary Mr. Salem L. Hmar, Treasurer Mr. Lunmang Haokip, Executive Members Mr. Jessai L. Neitham, Mr. Samuel Awnkhongam Haokip, Mr. K. Lalfakawma and Mr. G.L. John Seldow.

Meanwhile, the Unau Fest 2007 Committee comprising the very same UJFP Executive Members was headed by Mr. Jessai L. Neitham as Coordinator, Secretary Mr. Samuel Awnkhongam Haokip, Treasurer Mr. G.L. John Seldow, Souvenir Board Mr. B.T. Nghinglova (Editor-in-Chief), Mr. K. Lalfakawma (Editor), Mr. K. Pumsuanthang (Joint Editor), Mr. Salem L. Hmar (Secretary) and Mr. Lunmang Haokip (Circulation).

Coming back to it, although the Unau Fest 2007 was supposed to be held on the 17th November 2007 it had to be postponed by a day as the Guest Artistes from Mizoram were not able to fly out of Aizawl for two consecutive days as had been planned earlier. The reason being flight cancellation on the part of the Aviation Department at Lengpui Airport, Aizawl because of foggy conditions and other technical reasons.

But because of the admirable determination of the singer friends from Aizawl to make it to Pune for the event, the event was postponed at the very last minute possible to the next day, i.e. 18th November 2007. Though the Chief Guest Mrs. Lal Remsiem and Miss Grace Lalthansiem Hmar had arrived at Pune as per schedule, the postponment was done so at their approval and blessings besides those of others.

As it was certain that they would not be flying out of Aizawl in time to make it to the event necessary consultations between the Aizawl and Pune groups were made and alternate arrangements were finally made for them to travel by road to Guwahati by Sumo with other stranded flight passengers so as to catch a Guwahati-Mumbai flight the next afternoon. This they did with a brief stopover at Shillong and then proceeded again to Guwahati. The problems did not end there. As the group was about to enter Guwahati city their vehicle unfortunately broke down and were again stranded on the road for about 20-30 minutes.

Thinking that all other possibilities were over they resorted to the last option of pushing the vehicle for a few yards where luckily their vehicle engine started and their eventful journey continued yet again. By this time they were already late for their original flight departure schedule but sheer luck in the part of the Mumbai bound flight being delayed they were finally able to board their flight out of Guwahati to Mumbai that Saturday afternoon.

Not to forget, Miss Mary Lalthakim Ralsun’s, an Indigo airlines ground staff at the Guwahati airport, presence and help at the airport was very crucial as she was able to make some arrangements on her part for the three guest singers to get tickets which was in a way already full to others who were in search of flight tickets for the very same flight.

The three guest artistes, Joseph Zaihmingthanga, Michael M. Sailo and Maggie, reached Mumbai around 8:00 p.m. from where they were received at the airport by UJFP members from Pune. After a long and eventful journey they finally set foot on UBS, Pune at around 2:30 a.m on the morning of 18th November 2007.

They were finally able to rest for some hours before the event’s inauguration at 10:30 a.m. that very same morning. Though neither any advance payments, penned down commitments to be for-sure present at the event nor any fixed appearance fees, many lessons can be learnt from this sojourn of theirs. Their strong-will determination, humility and simplicity is indeed remarkable and admirable. Their commitment to set forth for the Lord’s sake (the free ticketless program was organized by a Christian fellowship) is sure an example for others who cross this path in such endeavours.

The day of the Unau Fest 2007 finally dawned and members started flocking around the UBS Conference premises from around 10:00 a.m. Majority of the members were seen beautifully clad in formal traditional attires or the Unau Fest T-Shirt which was brought out for the occasion.

This first session event was “a Formal Gospel Program”, or say, a Joint Service. The evening second session was more of “a Cultural and Musical Evening”. The morning program began with a session of Praise and Worship led by the Kuki Worship Service team. This session was well-hosted by Mr. Haupu (Kuki Worship Service) and Mrs. Kross Lalremruot Hmar (Hmar Christian Fellowship).

The Welcome Address was given by the UJFP Chairman Mr. B.T. Nghinglova, IPS. This was followed by a time of ‘Introduction of the Guests’ by the Coordinator Mr. Jessai L. Neitham. A Souvenir brought out for the occasion, simply entitled Unau Fest 2007 Souvenir, was then released by the Chief Guest Mrs. Lal Remsiem for the glory of God and better brotherhood among the Zohnathlak members.

Felicitations comprising of a simple Momento, Unau Fest T-Shirt and a Souvenir were then handed out to the Chief Guest, Guest Artistes and other Guest Invitees. The Chief Guest Mrs. Lal Remsiem in her brief but meaningful and effective speech spoke of how the Lord had led her from a humble beginning to a position where is able to give back to the people what God has blessed her with.

She related her mere beginnings in a pastor’s family, to her determination to get university education, life as a missionary in Tripura, teaching in college, marriage and family life, beginning a financial institution with her husband, and finally in extra available time as a self-sponsoring evangelist to go out and fulfill visions that God has given her and the burdens she has for God’s children, especially in the North-East India. She also spoke on the need for cultural reawakening, a common brotherhood and need for unity among the Zohnathlak tribes.

She finally concluded with words from the book of Nehemiah, “Come, let us rebuild”, a need to rebuild our hearts, our lands, our families, our tribes, etc., all with the ever presence and knowledge of God. Also, in between the programs Special Numbers were heard from all the invited guest artistes as well as the four constituent fellowships. At the end of the first session, lunch was served at the UBS Guest House premises where a good time of table fellowship was held there.

As evening came more and more people came flocking to the venue. There was already much hype for the event among the city students especially with the names surrounding the guest artistes from outside Pune. Though this was an event jointly hosted by the Zohnathlak people, huge support came from the other northeastern brethren and it therefore seemed more of a northeast people’s event which was very much appreciated on our part.

But the day being a Sunday, many other fellowships, especially the Naga Christian Fellowship and Meghalaya Christian Fellowships, were only able to join the event from the second session. Because of a huge crowd expectation the evening session was held at the UBS Pentagon area (open air) which could hold more than a thousand or two people.

True to the expectations, by the time the program was in full swing the number of the gathered people had crossed more than a thousand. The audience included people not only from Pune but also from Mumbai and Ahmednagar as well. This session was hosted by Mr. Robert Vanhmingpuia (Mizo Christian Fellowship) and Miss Euniki Phaltual (Zomi Christian Fellowship) with great ease and command of their responsibility. To add more colour to it the Naga Christian Fellowship contributed, free of cost, their newly acquired LCD Projector. Thus the people sitting far back were able to enjoy the program through the large screen in place.

The evening program comprised of Cultural Dances from the Unau Joint Fellowship Cultural Team (bamboo dance), Techno Dance from the KWS, Phei Phit Dance from the ZCF, beautiful gospel, cultural and few social songs from the invited artistes from outside Pune namely Joseph Zaihmingthanga, Michael M. Sailo, Maggie, Grace Siemte, and local artistes Ms. Hechin from Mumbai, Mrs. Carol Kingston, Spicer Memorial College Mizo friends (3 groups), and The Changes Band. Lively and eye catching performances by the local people opened up the program which was later followed by the much awaited performances from the guest artistes.

The guest artistes not only sang their item numbers but also shared some experiences, encouraging words and wonderful testimonies to the audience. In between, Pastor Achu Chang, Chaplain of the Naga Christian Fellowship Pune, took up a time of Short Exhortation including a Bible & General Knowledge Quiz Session. He handed out gifts ranging from UBS and Unau Fest T-Shirts to a Bible and concluded with a Word of God and challenge to the youngsters and gathered people.

As the end of the program drew near ‘a surprise belated birthday celebration’ was held for Michael M. Sailo whose birthday was on the flight-cancelled Friday when he had to run around the Aizawl airport looking for other flight possibilities out of Aizawl but eventually had to spend the rest of his special day traveling to Guwahati on the back seat/last line of a Tata Sumo. He was called onstage where a surprise birthday cake was kept in store for him to cut and then made to eat a bite each from Maggie and Grace besides being splattered with some cake cream all around his smiling face.

Prior to this, and true to the UBS style, the whole audience sang a Happy Birthday song to Michael. Before the closing prayer, the curtains on the evening as well as the Unau Fest 2007 was brought down with the singing of the Mizo Idol theme song ‘Zoram Ngaihna Hla’ by the four guest artistes. After the closing prayer was over, the gathered crowd streamed around their idols, the guest artistes, for a time of photo session as well as signing of autographs. Thus the much awaited first-ever UNAU FEST finally came to an end amid much fanfare and gaiety.

To sum it up Unau Fest 2007 had a small beginning and planning but a grand ending. The initial plan was to involve only local members of the constituent fellowships but later resulted to what it became its final eventuality. Being the first of its kind, suggestions came to the fore to invite fellow kinsmen from outside Pune by name of Honourable Guests and Artistes.

As a result of this funds were raised in the Government quarters, business corporates, as well as members of the constituent fellowships working in and around Pune. By God’s grace a good amount of fund was raised for its smooth organizing.

Our appreciation therefore goes to the Principal Secretaries and Directorates of the Govt. of Mizoram, and all those others who generously helped and contributed in whatever little way they could. Our sincere thanks once again goes to all who took part and participated in the event, well-wishers, prayer partners, financial contributors and all those other who contributed in whatever way they could.

The program was a success all because of their contributions and useful suggestions. Though the program had to endure lots of expectations, apprehensions, and uncertainties, in the end it was a great success all because of the grace of God who reminded us once again that all things are done at His behest and will. Let us hope and pray that God will guide us to be able to conduct many more UNAU FEST’S in the years ahead.