Amazing Aizawl: City of Cheer
By Lunminthang Haokip
Introduction: In a country where state capitals also double up as capitals of communal divide and covered-up deeds worthy of capital punishment, Mizoram’s hill-top city, Aizawl, is refreshingly different. If summer is gone from Ooty, as claimed in the add item relating to the sandal-wood smeared southern hill resort, crime and thievery are gone from Aizawl.
It is weird news to learn that the Jail authorities of Aizawl had to borrow Jail-birds from neighbouring states so as to fill up their empty central Jail in order to bail themselves out from being sacked for lack of criminal in-mates. If the burgeoning musical capital of India is found wanting in any commitment, it is crime-commitment.
Background: Mizoram was far from being the flourishing hill town it is presently. In the year 1900, there was no structure on the ai (a wild plant) – infested gorge-ridden present habitation of half a million people, save a couple of military barracks. Hard work rendered with a passion reserved for religion on the part of Presbyterian missionaries, more than a century ago, and the spirited reciprocal response of the local folks together had built the up the hill-top wonder city brick by brick. The church was/is still involved in every aspect of the wonder-state capital’s gigantic strides of mind- blowing progress. No wonder, the Lord of the church “who seest us” (Genesis 16:13) was the unseen hand behind the fast-paced development of the thriving urban settlement.
Church-Taught Behaviour: “Tomngaihna” or “sacrificial attitude towards one’s duty” is the key word to Aizawl’s speedy growth. God comes before everything else. The citizenry did what they could and that they could not, they left to the God of possibilities. The emotional unity to offensively promote the single dialect of “Duhlian” that became Mizo later, could have smacked of ethno-centrism. But the same was central to singularity of Mizo society. One man’s food could be another’s poison.
The improved Mizo single-dialect that the early missionaries took pains to add grammatical and phonetic nuances to, turned out to be a super fast-food that all its users could feed themselves upon to linguistic and literary prosperity. The poison of subordinating or suppressing other lesser dialects, although sadly damaging to the affected groups, of course, was supportive to the building of the super-structure of Mizo ethnicity. This factor also accounts for high literacy-rate and the low rate of learning other languages.
Blessing from above: It is no mean feat that Mizoram’s modernised capital town does not have the self goal–scoring slum pockets its counterparts in other states are burdened with. Agreed that the average Mizo have the above-average bent-of-mind to work with the herd–feeling ants share. Also agreed that the government of India has a soft-corner for the hill state in grant of funds that is due to a peaceful oasis of the otherwise turbulent Northeast India. But the greed to excel in societal welfare and display of civic sixth-sense is something the visitors to the cement-clad cliff-city find tough to disagree with.
Hassle-free-accident: The recklessness of the accelerator-happy Mizo youth on the steep and twisted roads of Aizawl keeps the concerned parents in mental tenterhooks. Familiarity to peculiarity of bending lanes could have saved lots of potential accidents. Yet in highway and local motor rubbery, road-mishaps do occur out there. Sometimes, vehicular accidents turned fatal but unlike in other places, one does not see full-throated shouts and fist-of-fury flying on the wrong riders’ chin.
Head-on vehicular collision that could have resulted in collar-pulls towards the nearest police outposts coolly ends up in smile-exchanging pacification. If that is not a habit formed by decades of preaching the gospel, what else is? Situations that could have generated heated temperament of 80% temper and 20% mental elsewhere, usually boil down to the reverse in Mizo city.
Midnight musical chill-outs in the open: This author happened to be part of the milling crowd that braved out of their cozy homes and hotel rooms on the last night of 2009 in the public places of Aizawl where no-ticket musical shows were organised. Magdalene, the gospel band that rocked the national competitions, drew the largest crowd. Their own chart-rocking numbers echoing heavy metal through world-class sound system kept the whole of Aizawl’s treasury-square awake and shaking a leg on the streets till the break of New Year 2010.
A gospel pop rendition from the budding Mizo-Idol winner, Zoramchhani, went on well with the footloose midnight audience. Enthused fans, holding hands in small groups, danced merrily and hummed the songs in tune with the stage performers. Music for sure is the food of love in Mizoram. And it was played on in high decibel pitch in every street corner. One joke that circulates around Chandel district headquarters in Manipur is that, given the mike, and the space, even a Mizo tailor-girl straight from the sewing-machine, can sing better than the local bests.
Disgrace of progress: The Mizo-resilience is simply commendable. Their ability to fight back on the ashes of major setbacks was on par with that of Dhirubai Ambani in the corporate world. Battered and shattered by the Mizo National Front-related bombing of the Northeast Indian town in 1978, Aizawl had rebuilt itself with the zeal and grit the Japs exhibited following the Hiroshima-Nagasaki bombing. The economic boom ever since had been enormous and Jap-like. Every tourist or government of India-employee from outside who had been posted there were in no mood to go back or when transferred, reluctantly did so.
The only grudge the ethnic kindred of the Mizos settled in other parts of Chin-Kuki-Mizo (CHIKIM) habitations nurse is the sad truth that compatriots from a certain Northeast state, who were motivated to fight along for the revolutionary-cause in the spirit of talked-in ethnic-bonhomie in the movement of the 1960s, had been conveniently soft-pedalled in post-statehood insular comfort, by and large. Had ice, well- utilised in summer, been given up in winter?, they ask themselves.
Righteousness exalts Mizoram: Credit must be given to the missionaries who endured pains to labour and win souls in the then Lushai hills. Nowhere in India, church buildings had been taken so much care and concern of. A tourist heading for Aizawl or Lunglei should make it a point to have a good look at the awesome concrete buildings, superb interior wood-work and classic musical paraphernalia that the prayer-halls out there are famous for. Worship-attendance is habitual and obligatory for all. The Lord’s day is honoured with choicest sartorial propriety. Businesses thrive on the strength of biblical righteousness. Bank-loans are repaid in time.
Cabs are small but cabbies display big hearts in maintaining ethical integrity in returning personal belongings of careless commuters through well-connected networks. Civil rules are observed and the citizenry, including the tipsy lot, who walk in a blur and talk in a slur, struggle to behave well in public. No wonder, the para-military forces and civil police posted there have little or no work to do. The milk of human kindness spills over full-splash as uniformed patrol-vehicle riders offer lifts to strangers strolling on the side-walks.
Sum-Up: 21st century had witnessed disastrous natural calamities one after another. Tsunami, earthquake, Katrina, super-cyclone, nargis etc. collectively did a fox-trot upon global economic advancement. Poorer countries like Haiti are not likely to recover in the near future from the impact of recent earth-shake. When the world witnessed more of gloom and doom, Aizawl had been a consistent city of cheer since the signing of former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi-led peace-accord.
The most visible and tangible truth that almost half of the total population of a state take concrete shelter on a ridge-ridden hill-top, like bees do around a beehive, itself is proof enough that it is “the most High who rules in the affairs of Aizawl and hold the township intact." None else but the living God could have made the seemingly impossible possible. The Almighty, for sure, takes good care of the churched city that produces gospel songs like Mumbai does movies.
Mingling with the common folks of the dominantly Mizo township and getting under the skin of the lifestyle of this peace-loving, music-inclined, church-influenced and orderliness-fixated cheerful residents of Aizawl, this author had been inspired to write the following poem which had been made a gospel song audio-recorded and video-shot by AVZ – amazing voice of Zoram, C. Lalhmingmawii.
AIZAWL: THE CITY OF CHEER
1. Atop hills where deep-root buildings grow,
Across ridges cut for motor-flow;
Amidst ranges left by men-with-hoe,
Along gorges on which decked-homes glow;
There sprawls God-made Zo-city Aizawl,
Blessed with structures nestled cheek-by-jowl.
If you get bored with life of your make,
If you wish for thine youth a retake;
If you feel you need a break that saves,
If you want music your soul craves;
Get set and for Aizawl up you gear;
With care awaits the city of cheer.
2. In a world where folks don’t go by faith,
But try to trick and loot the fool’s fate;
On Aizawl’s lanes, stealing doesn’t happen
Even though things are left in the open;
This feat is no mere freak incidence,
Decades of preaching taught saner sense.
3. Them that honour Him God will honour,
The Lord’s day in Aizawl’s a splendour;
Seeing all shops shut, first-timer’s baffled,
Eyeing all wears hep-designed, one’s dazzled;
Why does God for Zoram His peace keep?
Coz on the Lord’s day, all folks worship.
The writer is additional deputy commissioner under Manipur government.