The assistance of Robin, the official driver of my contact in Aizawl, was invaluable in determining the route and the contact points en route. I had requested him last evening to come to the GH to pilot me out of the town so that I do not waste time navigating the spaghetti lanes of Aizawl city. Even then I made an elementary mistake – apart from confirming the first two villages I did not check on the villages en route. I only knew that my destination is Ngopa – no one knew the distance to it from Aizawl. A feature I found interesting in the hill areas is that distances are referred to in time and not in kms! My contact in Ngopa had told me that I would reach there by 3 pm, the latest, in case I start out from Aizawl by 6.30 am. Here I would like to narrate a conversation I had with an acquaintance in Aizawl about the time I would take from the Mizoram border to Imphal.
Me: How long will it take to reach Imphal from the border of Mizoram?
He: It depends, Sir.
Me: It depends on what?
He: It depends on how fast you drive, Sir. You will reach early if you drive fast, Sir.
Me: How long do you take when you drive to Imphal from the border?
He: It depends on when I start, Sir. If I start early, I reach early, Sir.
At this point I forced a smile and turned away for fear of losing either my sanity or temper, and in all probability, both.
Despite many stretches where the condition of the road was challenging, the drive was highly enjoyable in that it was through thick jungle studded with some of the most amazing landscape scenery. I had to drive through blinding mist even at 8.30 am, with headlights on. The flowers in the hills have shades of colors that are stunningly beautiful. Wild orchids are to be seen in plenty. Every house in the villages takes care to plant flowers and tends to them. Another feature of the villages I noticed was the provision of public sanitation. Right along the route, every village had a public bath, public toilets and urinals. In some villages there were public wells too. A pretty little village I passed through was Kawlkuhn, from where I branched off to Ngopa. If I had the time I would have halted at the village for the night. It is such a pretty village, spotlessly kept and with breathtaking scenery. The route I took from Aizawl was Seling-Keifang-Kwalkuhn-Tawitawkawn-Hliappui-Pawlrang-Ngopa-NE Khawdungsei – I understand that this is officially known as the NH 150 B, but I did not find this route in both the road atlases I have. During the course of today’s drive I completed 9000 kms on the road since 1st October.
I reached Ngopa at 1.30 pm and met up with Kham, who my contact had sent, after entering the vehicle details in the last Police Station on the Mizoram side. Having been told about the shortage of fuel in Manipur I wanted to tank up in Ngopa. I did not see any fuel stations there. Kham took me to a shop, where I secured 10 litres of diesel for Rs. 450, the highest rate I have paid during the journey. I am happy that I at least got it. As per the original schedule I was to have halted at Ngopa. During the conversation with my contact in Ngopa I thought it would be appropriate to leave by 3.30 am tomorrow in the company of Sumo taxis that cross the border into Manipur. Since the road condition is extremely bad after the border in Manipur and is a thick jungle without habitation, I thought it better to have some company for the drive. Hence, my contact suggested that I move to the next village, about 15 kms away from Ngopa towards the Mizoram border, and stay in a GH there. I was taken to NE Khawdungsei village by Kham. While checking out the GH to stay the night, I saw a Presbyterian Church close by. I walked to the Church and came to the ‘Pastor Quarters’. A few people were working in front of the house and a lady was serving them tea. I asked if I could meet the Pastor. One of them stood up and identified himself as the Pastor. I requested if he could help me with any church accommodation for the night. Without even batting an eyelid and asking me any further questions, he asked me to spend the night in his house, if it suited me. I was totally taken aback; a total stranger being offered accommodation in one’s own house! He asked me to park the car in front of his house and showed me to the room which I could use for the night. The ‘unseen hand’ guides yet again. In a place that is totally new to you, when you spent time with a family it gives you a lot of comfort. Kham introduced me to Cheena, a teacher in the local private school, to me to put me along with the Sumo taxis in the morning.
As soon as I put the bags in the room the Pastor asked me if I had had my supper – supper is normally had by 5 pm. Since I had a heavy meal in the house of my contact in Ngopa by 2.30 pm, I said that I am okay about supper. The Pastor confessed that he is not fluent in the English language as he and his family are most used to the local Lushai language. However, I managed some conversation with him to understand that the Presbyterian Church in NE Khawdungsei is more than 100 years old – in 2007 the new church was consecrated as part of the centenary celebrations. While the Presbyterian Church is the biggest in the village with 1000 members, the other churches like the Salvation Army and the United Pentecostal Church have smaller numbers. The Pastor has two daughters; the older girl, who is three, lives with her grandparents in Aizawl, and the younger one stays with the Pastor and his wife. Rev. R Lalsiamliana (he is called Siama, in short) has been a pastor for the past 4 years. I am beholden to him and his family for the kind hospitality. May God bless the Pastor, his family and his congregation.