Considering the experience with roads thus far, I decided on yet another early morning start. By 6.15 am I was seeking directions to get out of Silchar city. And believe me, I ploughed through some of the most dirty street roads I have done so far to get to the Highway. The road condition on the Highway was predictable – awful. Taking advantage of the slow speed, I had my breakfast of cracker biscuits and cheese slices. At Bhaga, about 30 kms from Silchar, I came across a Manipur market, operated by a group of Manipuris, who migrated due to strife in Manipur. Lailapur is the last post on the Assam side, where I had to make an entry of the vehicle. Vairengate is the first post on the Mizoram side, where again I had to make an entry for the vehicle at the Police Check Post. The Inner Line Pass of Mizoram was also stamped. A short distance from the Mizoram border there is a CIJW, whose motto is ‘Fight Guerillas Like Guerillas’. Exercises were on with men in fatigues and painted faces carrying heavy equipment.
From the Mizoram border to Kolasib the road was good. After that the condition was bad, particularly the road to Sairang. Just short of Kawnpui I had my first accident of the trip. A biker took a longer loop to negotiate a curve and I was blinded by bright sunlight. There were a few huts by the side of the road and I expected them to aggregate at the site of the accident. No such thing, as would happen in Kerala, where every passerby would have his opinion on the accident. The damages on either side were negligible. Hence, we parted amicably. At Thingdawl there is a church of St Alphonsa. While navigating to the service station in Aizawl I had the second incident of the day. Another biker lost control and slammed sideways on to the front tyre. He got up and scooted.
I took the car for check up and repair to the Maruti outlet in Aizawl. While the Manager and one of the guys there were receptive, the general ambience was one of boredom. At 12.30 pm all of them looked eager to break for the day, which happens at 4 pm. I asked for a general check up, oil top ups, fixing the side mirror and front bumper and a wash. I was told to get back before 4 pm to collect the car. When I got there, the side view mirror and the bumper were fixed. I was told that the oils did not need topping up and there is no water to wash the car! Hence, free service!! I hope the car will withstand the rough roads that await it till I get to Jorhat, where I can get the car serviced.
There is a Taj Mahal in Aizawl. The KV Residential School is a sought after educational institution in Aizawl. The founders of the institution are Mr. Khawlhring and Ms. Verte. The latter died in a car accident in 2001. In the memory of his beloved wife, Khawlhring built a three storey mausoleum, with some of the finest views you can get of Aizawl. The mausoleum, besides containing the graves of Verte and their son (who died in 2010), has condolence messages from various organizations and the personal belongings of Verte like jackets, shawls, footwear, hand bags and the dress that was worn by her when she met with the accident. This memorial is officially known as the KV Paradise, but locally, it is known as the Taj Mahal. In all probability, if you ask for directions to the KV Paradise you will land up at the school and miss the memorial altogether.
Mizoram means “Land of the Highlanders”. The main tribes of Mizoram are the Lushai, Hmar, Ralte, Paite, Pawi and Lakher. The most commonly spoken language is Lushai, as that is the predominant tribal group. Mizoram was the hotbed of extremist activity between 1966 and 1986. During this time, Mizoram transformed from a District of Assam State to a Union Territory in 1972 to full Statehood in 1986. The Peace Accord signed by the Indian Government with the Mizo National Front in 1986 has brought peace to the region. There are also three Autonomous District Councils (Lai, Chakma and Mara) directly administered by the Governor in the Southern region to secure the aspirations of the locally dominant tribes. There is a demand that funds to these ADCs be directly routed to them instead of through the State administration.
The major job provider is the Government in Aizawl. In the villages Jhum cultivation is still prevalent. The feature of Aizawl is its buildings on massive stilts, due to the steep terrain. Most of the buildings have longer stilts than the height of the building. The view from KV Paradise shows just how much Aizawl is overgrown – there are buildings everywhere and some parts of the hills are completely hidden from view. There is more construction happening. The streets are narrow and this makes navigation within the city a tough task. The vehicle density is high and speeding two wheelers make the experience of driving within the city a less than pleasurable exercise.
As in Meghalaya, the influence of the Church is very conspicuous in Mizoram. It is understood that the Presbyterian Church holds sway in the North while the Baptists are in majority in the South of Mizoram; 90% of the population are Christians of some denomination or the other. Apart from their influence on education and health care, the Church has had its share in promoting free speech and expression. A surprising aspect of Mizoram is ‘prohibition’. Liquor is not sold in the State, nor can you bring it in.
I was in for more surprise on the Manipur front. A long lost college mate, who is a resident of Imphal now, warned me that I should carry extra ‘cans of diesel’, since fuel is scarce and at times non-existent for days together. He also warned me of challenges doing the road journey, particularly the NH 150. I have decided on that route, purely from the point of view of adventure. ‘Trust in God and follow your instincts’.