DAY 48 - In Aizawl
The Young Mizo Association, the Mizo Students’ Union and the Church wield considerable influence on society. They maintain checks and balances to ensure that corruption and such other excesses are capped. Awareness among members of society is high due to the influence of these three agencies. There is tight monitoring of sponsored schemes of the Centre and flow of funds. It is often asked whether it is the YMA that runs the government or the elected representatives. As is for the other NE States, the citizens of Mizoram do not have to pay either Income or Property Taxes. Therefore, the construction business is booming; letting out residential and commercial properties makes excellent business sense, as the income from it is totally tax free. Another interesting thing is that the construction business requires the availability of non-Mizos, who are sponsored by the Mizos for temporary ILPs. However, when some incident happens involving the non-Mizos, the Mizos enforce what is referred to as “non-Mizo curfew”, for the duration they decide.
The Mizo society is virtually free of caste distinctions and women appear liberated; they smoke openly and are quite westernized in their preference for clothes. Women are also very visible in the work place, whether in offices or in shops. The Mizos have two main meals, the first by 9 am before they go to office and the second by 7 pm. During the ‘lunch break’ they have tea and snacks.
I wanted to visit the Mizoram State Museum to appreciate the Mizo culture and heritage better. However, all government run facilities remained closed due to the festival of Eid. Hence, I visited the Science City. This is primarily aimed at school children to teach them basic scientific principles and sensitise them to Mizo culture and Mizoram. A cafeteria is run in the premises that serve good food; only the food arrived nearly 45 minutes after the order was placed. Waiting for the food I witnessed a wedding reception; was a highly westernized affair.
The ‘Christ The King Catholic Church’ is quite far away from the Government GH where I was staying. After spending a few solemn minutes in prayer I went in search of the parish priest and I came across Fr. VA Paul. He hails from Manjapra in Ernakulam District. He said that he was very set in his mind that he would become a priest by the time he was in the 7th Class. After his metric exam he joined the Minor seminary and after his graduation in Philosophy from St Albert’s College, Ernakulam, he wrote to the then Bishop of Silchar requesting to be permitted to serve in the mission there. He joined the Silchar diocese in 1971 and was ordained priest in 1977. He says that the ways of God are wondrous and his dreams to become a priest and a teacher found fulfillment in the mission in Mizoram. He narrated many interesting experiences he had during the time of the underground movement. He told me that the genesis of the underground movement was the direct result of a famine, which was brought about by the flowering of bamboo in 1966; it is documented that flowering happens every 50 years. Apparently, the flower of the bamboo directly impacts the fertility among rodents and the increase in their numbers lead to destruction of crops and famine. The Mizo society was a self reliant one way back in 1966, living in far flung clusters and farming their lands for rice, millet and vegetables. They depended on the plains only for their requirement of Salt and Kerosene. In such an environment, the ‘neglect’ of the province by the State of Assam was exploited by Laldenga, who resigned his position as LDC from the Indian Army and rallied young people around him to start the underground movement. To neutralise the underground movement the population was relocated closer to roads for better monitoring; it is one of the reasons why Mizoram is so city centered with 40% of the 1.1 million people of Mizoram living in Aizawl and another 30% in Lunglei, the second biggest city in Mizoram. With Central funds pouring into the UT after 1972, the self sufficient Mizos adopted a ‘godown dependent’ attitude – today not more than 10% of the rice required is grown in the State. It makes you wonder if you gave the Mizos fish and made them a dependent community instead of teaching them how to fish by providing them the support infrastructure.
By 6 pm, I was taken to a view point near Thuampui. It is one of the most glorious night views of a city that one can see. From the view point, Aizawl looks like a city of the tallest skyscrapers in the world. I mentioned yesterday that the hills have been completely built upon. The properties are not less than three storeys high. I came across a building that has used the height between two roads to build an eight storey building. (The house owner normally retains the portions of the property that have road accesses and lets out the rest!) These properties look like huge skyscrapers in the night when the lights are on. Those of you who plan to visit Aizawl must definitely factor in an evening at the Thuampui view point close to the “Pushpak House”; it may not feature in most tourist guide books.