Monday, November 22, 2010

DAY 52 – Aizawl to Silchar

With the idea of getting off early from the Circuit House I had settled the bills yesterday. However, the kind caretaker agreed to give me a 6.30 am breakfast to set me on my way - Eggs, toast and tea. I had a packet of sausages bought from Shillong. That was also polished off. The heavy rain of the previous evening and night had ‘washed’ my car clean. Last evening I was told to take the Durtalang route out of Aizawl instead of the Sairang route I had taken while coming into Aizawl from Silchar last week. I was thankful for that suggestion as I got good road till I reached Kolasib. The Durtalang road is a single road not meant for cargo transportation; it’s better maintained and surfaced. It passes through densely populated villages and hence, children and chicken winging their way across the road should be watched out for. The villages look so pretty and self contained; every village has its school, church, provision store, Tea Hotel, pig sties, etc. Most houses have pretty flowers and plants, cared for. In the past, a congregation of people in a village happened around the Chief’s house. The member of the village could stay there as long as it pleased the Chief. This concept has been replaced by modern systems of governance. I felt that the Chief’s role has been taken over by the YMA and the Church; except that people stay on their own free will. Between Sihphir and Lungdai, on the slopes of the hills, gourd is cultivated in vast areas. It was difficult to leave the hills of Aizawl, patterned with bright, yellow flowers. The drive up to Kawnpui was through misty, meandering roads, with clean air to breathe. One does not even feel like honking, least you pollute the environment. The villagers, with their sharp sense of hearing, can pick up and identify every sound – I experienced this with Suan that night in the jungle on the Manipur border. A person like me, corrupted by many years of city living and a quarter century of wedded bliss, can only recognize blaring horns and more disagreeable sounds ‘endearingly rendered’ by the spouse.
The Durtalang road meets the Sairang alternative at Kawnpui. This is the place where I had the accident last week. When I passed through Durtalang I was reminded of a story told to me by Fr. VA Paul of the Church in Aizawl. The Bishop of Silchar and his Assistant had come to Aizawl in 1979 for a meeting in an interior village. After the meeting they were to return by bus to Silchar by bus from Aizawl. Since the cassocks of the priests were soiled due to the visit to the village they decided to travel in ‘mufti’. However, Fr Paul insisted on their wearing their cassocks, for it was the height of the MNF movement and outsiders were unhesitatingly targeted; the missionaries and priests were spared. Fr Paul said that the decision to wear the cassock saved their lives. At Kawnpui, the bus in which the Bishop and his Assistant were traveling was ambushed; the Mizos were asked to get out and run. Then they saw the two priests and asked them to flee too. The rest were butchered.
Between 8.30 and 9.30 am one will find children, in their Sunday best, on their way to Church clutching hymn books and Bibles, probably for Sunday School instructions. I visited the St. Alphonsa’s Church in Thingdawl. It is a relatively new church, with very sparse facilities. The church was only latched and there was apparently no one in the vicinity. From the notice put up in the church it seemed that Sunday prayers are offered in the Church.
The road to Kolasib is not well surfaced. In Kolasib I noticed the elders decked up and going to Church. The women in beautiful, colorful wrap arounds and high heeled footwear and men in jackets gave a very Western ‘feel’ of the environment. In the next village, Bilkhawthilr, I noticed children playing with traditional toys such as rolling cycle tyres, pulling wooden wheels, etc.
A short distance from Vairengate I was held up for a half hour at the site of an accident. Trucks were queued up for miles. A truck had swerved off the road, hit a pig sty and leaned on a tree. The accident had happened the previous night and the restoration work was on. Had the truck swerved 10 feet earlier, it would have plunged at least 500 feet downhill, without any chance of relief for the vehicle or its occupants.
I reached Silchar without any further incidents, dropped in at the Holy Cross Church and found my way to the ORH. I found that the ‘temporary’ Caretaker did not have information of my booking. While I was trying to reach people in Guwahati, Anup Ghoshal came to my rescue. He works in the NF Railway Construction organization in Finance and he felt upset that a ‘senior’ officer is being denied his due and fired the daylights out of the poor caretaker. He got the VIP room opened and ensured that I am comfortable. He complimented me on my daring to do the trip all alone!
Later in the evening, I got some inputs from my college mate in Imphal and decided to check out with the Sumo operators about the road condition via NH 53. Anup accompanied me on a decent walk to the booking counter. I was told that the road condition will not permit the movement of a Swift on it in many stretches. I considered the option of traveling to Imphal and Kohima in a hired Sumo and sending the car to Guwahati with a driver. After a couple of beers with Anup, I found a speck of light; I decided to return to Guwahati, get the car serviced and travel to Imphal via Kohima. I checked that route and was told it is doable. And then Guwahati it is. I spoke to Sundar Ram and requested for ORH booking in Maligaon. The journey will require major re-routing. I will do it in Maligaon and make the necessary arrangements along the way.

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