Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Amid these hills where once we lived I retrace my steps...

By P.Rohmingthanga

Part I

(A narration of the writer’s experiences as he revisits the dreamland of his childhood)


All of us are familiar with the above lines from a popular song. It evokes memories of days gone by, of longing for that special someone, of times shared together, of blue skies and green landscapes, of sparkling brooks, and moonlit nights.

The following story is also a love story, a story of love that began when I was a small boy in that 'greatest' and ' biggest' of all places, Serkawn, a village comprising some 20 odd houses, just a mile from Lunglei, and home to the Mizoram Baptist Church. Yes, in the late thirties and forties, before my father was transferred, we lived at Serkawn where my father was the Hostel Superintendent and taught at the Serkawn Middle English School, whose alumnus I am proud to be.

As such Serkawn was a tiny place, with the schools, one with its weather cock for the boys and the other for the girls, the church, the Mission hospital, and the Mission press dominating our lives. Unlike other villages, the houses were sparsely situated. There were plenty of grasslands, orchards, tall fir trees and a couple of banyan trees. Space was plentiful. The surrounding country side, the beautiful forests of Ramzotlang and Melte, the waterfalls at Khawiva, and the nearby Tlawng river were our favourite haunts. There was plenty of rain, particularly during the monsoon, but the autumn, winter, and spring were indescribably beautiful.

I remember the birds, small and big, which were our targets with traps and ‘sairawkherh’ (pellet bow). On clear days you could see very far, with the sky so blue and the birds criss-crossing in the breeze.

One particular bird was called 'Vamur' (Pengleng – swallow or swift) and seemed to fly, mostly from the east towards the nearby heights of Ramzotlang and thence onwards to the summit of Zopuitlang. My grandmother often told me that these birds were bringing loom threads from the peaks of the twin Tan and Lurh mountains where that most enchanting of all fairies (lasi) Chawngtinleri lived and had a loom. These Vamurs carried the threads all the way to Zopuitlang where the loom's 'them tlang' (a sort of warp beam) was located, and then flew back to Tan and Lurh to repeat the circuit. Of course, ‘Chawngtinleri's Puanthin Tlang', the hill where Chawngtinleri shook her clothings to freshen them, was also in the adjacent hills of Sairep. The twin peaks of Tan and Lurh could be seen from Ramzotlang, and I would gaze longingly for that land of romance, heroes and heroines, music and dance, 'Fiara Tui', 'Chhura and Nahaia, 'Rih Dil', of Lallula and of Rorehlova (whose name I happen to bear) , of 'lasi' and kindred spirits, and so many other stories and legends of yester-years, and so may of whom seem to have originated from that part of the world. I had hoped, faintly, that I might perhaps make a trip there some day.


In 1958, the year I graduated, I had a long trek with my uncle, the late Pu Lalmawia, starting from Seling to Champhai, then northwards to North Vanlaiphai where we parted ways, he returning to Aizawl, and me proceeding to Thingsai. While passing through Biate, Lungdar and North Vanlaiphai, we were very close to the thick, purple and green hills of my childhood dreams being, as the crow flies, just a short distance away. Alas, it was a case of being so near, and yet so far away.


Years later, namely in 1973, I came on transfer from Delhi to the newly created Union Territory of Mizoram. Under unusual circumstances, with no effort from my part, I was appointed DC of Aizawl district, a job that required extensive traveling. The opportunity to make a tour to the eastern ranges of the district came in connection with the opening of the EGS road to Hnahlan. Accompanied by my wife, our young son, our baby daughter, Mawitea, my ADC, a couple of officers, and a police party, we set out for our destination. The journey between Zote to Hnahlan, made against the advice of many, and under the shadow of a tragedy, was one of the most eventful journeys ever experienced by me, but the story may perhaps be told some other time. On our return to Champhai we rested for a day to recoup our enrgy and to service our vehicles for the second leg of our journey to Farkawn, which will take us through those enchanting lands. And having rested, we started the next day.

Just about five miles away, on the southern end of the valley, was the village of Ruantlang where the well known singer Lalhmingliana was the Administrative Officer (AO). On the outskirts of the village, there was a small, flat ground. This was the spot where the engraved memorial stones called ‘Mangkhaia Lung’, also known as 'Chhura Farep' were supposed to be. I was taken aback to see them lying about uncared for. So after a discussion with the AO.and the village council, I requested them to have the stones erected and fenced with timber. A small amount from EGS was given for tea and refreshments. I am glad to say that in later years, whenever I had the opportunity to visit the site, I had the satisfaction of seeing the stones standing, and enclosed with wooden fences.

Going a little further past Ruantlang, we were shown the location of the lake of 'Rih Dil'.



We were also told of the possibility of finding down below the rocking stone called 'Rahbuk' on which every spirit of the departed must tread upon on their way to ‘Mitthi Khua’, the land of the dead. The spring known as 'Lungloh Tui' which the spirit, on its way to ‘Mitthi Khua’, must drink so that the departed would lose all desire to return to earth, was also said to be somewhere in the forests down below. Since we had no time for such an exploration, and assuring myself of finding an opportunity in the future, we proceeded and spent the night at Bungzung. At Dungtlang, a fairly senior citizen of Leithum village, by the name of Hrangthiauva was introduced to us. Talking with him, we found that he was extremely knowledgeable about Mizo history, culture, religion and even more so about the countryside. We took him along with us, and we were regaled with the history of the places we passed through, such as the story of Zawlsei, Lallula’s Zopui, Tualte, Selesih, and of Dungtlang which, according to our guide (though others might disagree), was the biggest ever Mizo village, with seven thousand houses, and of the stories and legends associated with the countryside.

At Dungtlang itself, I was very keen to visit 'Lianchhiari Lunglen Tlang' situated above the village. But as there was no approach road, (not even a footpath), and our time was short, we had to be satisfied by looking at the pristine timberland interspersed with flowering trees, amidst which were the remains of Lianchhiari's loom, and the rocky precipice where she sat and pined for Chawngfianga, her beloved. It was as if the forest was cradling and providing a protective cover for her. It was obvious that an approach road was needed. Accordingly, an EGS road was sanctioned and the local officer advised to execute it.

Lianchhiari Lunglen Tlang

After passing Vaphai village, we came to 'Tan', to me the most facinating mountain of all mountains, where Chawngtinleri ruled over her animal kingdom, and dispensed her favours, namely, a successful hunt, to those in her good books. This was where she worked on her loom which spanned across the sky from the towering heights of Tan and Lurh to the pinnacle of Zopuitlang.

Tan Tlang

I do not remember the exact time of year, but to me, the forests at the foothills of Tan were at their greenest, with Vaube, Fartuah and other flowering trees interspersed among them. The mountain itself inspired awe, grandeur and majesty, all at the same time. The whole scene took one's breath away. I would have loved to come across the graceful animals of legend, on whose back sat the 'lasis', or the wild mithuns with rainbows between the tips of their horns. With so much to see and hear, I do not remember looking for 'Vamurs' in particular. Pu Hrangthiauva invited our attention to various points, particularly the 'puk' (cave) where Chawngtinleri was supposed to dwell. We wondered whether Buizova ever lived here and sang his melodies causing the trees to shed tears of leaves, and where the Liandova brothers might have found the giant python. As it was already late in the evening, we had no time to stop at the fabled hill called ‘Thasiama Se No Neihna’, where Thasiama’s mithun incredibly climbed to the top and delivered a calf. A little ahead on the roadside was also ‘Fiara Tui’, which the Mizos considered to be the sweetest water in the world. Thogh we were all keen to taste the water, a visit to this spring too was reserved for the next day.

Fiara Tui (Vaphai)

We passed through 'Lam Thuam Thum', said to be the trijunction of the three trails which figured prominently in the story of Kungawrhi. The opening to 'Kungawrhi Puk' (the grotto of a maiden called Kungawrhi) was full of dry and broken branches obviously brought by a flooded rivulet, now dry. I requested them to clear the 'Puk' and fence the area with timber.

Kungawrhi Kua

We were also shown a number of memorial platforms known as 'Lungdawh' (I was told the stones were sometimes removed for other purposes), and a number of old grave stones. Some of the engravings were hardly legible, but some had highly interesting information about the deceased. From a distance we were shown 'Lamsial khua', where Fiara was said to have lived. I was also told of 'Lamsial Puk' where the skeletal remains of some of our forefathers were preserved. An EGS approach road was sanctioned to enable tourists to visit it in the future - but the villagers were advised to preserve the bones, fence the area, and to prevent anyone from pilfering them. Wherever we halted, the villagers were told how vital it was to preserve the virgin forests which serve as a hinterland, and as a sanctuary to the heritage sites, however intangible they might be. 'Lurh' was on the other side, but there was no road to enter the forest. So an EGS road to a village on the slope of the mountain was sanctioned, which was completed soon after.

Lamsial Puk

As the sun was setting we reached Farkawn, to me a romantic name that often rang a bell in my ears. The most senior male citizens of the village welcomed us attired with the most traditional dresses they could muster, complete with ornaments, trinkets, and the inevitable pipes, some of which were made with ‘tursing’, the bamboo used for making the best quality pipes made in these hills. It certainly was the most colourful welcome that I ever received in the course of my extensive tours in Mizoram. It was a pity that we had no good cameras, not to speak of VCRs and such like.

On our return journey we stopped at the legendary 'Fiara Tui' on the eastern slope of Tan, a few miles from Farkawn. Being the dry season, there was no water on the roadside. We had to descend some metres down below to find the spring. The water was trickling. So we took the help of a big leaf to direct its flow. After drinking our fill, we filled one jerrycan and a number of bottles. We spent a long time at our task, so small was the flow of water. On return at Aizawl, I gave samples of the Farkawn ‘Fiara Tui’ to friends, and the rest was consumed in the course of a year or two. On very special occasions, it was also mixed with other beverages.

As readers might be aware, both Farkawn and Vaphai claimed to have the ‘true’ location of 'Fiara Tui'. The one claimed by Vaphai was on the western slopes of Tan. It was situated at the base of a huge boulder - a small lovely pool of clear water – almost too good to be true. It was located in the midst of a very thick growth of trees and bushes, so thick and green that the very appearance suggested the presence of water. Here also we drank and filled another jerrycan. An approach road to this 'Fiara Tui' was also sanctioned as it was of some distance from the road.

I would like to mention here that all the springs seeping through the rocks of 'Tan' are sparkling, cool and delicious. However, the vicinity surrounding Vaphai 'Fiara Tui' being so rich with trees and foliage, a needling doubt arose inside of me as to how such an obvious water source could be hidden. I must also admit that from what I could gather from other knowledgeable sources-including Pu Hrangthiauva, folklore, and old songs - I felt that the real 'Fiara Tui' could be somewhere else, more to the vicinity of 'Lamsial Khua', and probably on the southern or south western slopes of 'Tan'. When the AO and VCP of Farkawn reported completion of the road to 'Lamsial Puk', they reported finding the real 'Fiara Tui' along the newly constructed road. I had then hoped that I would some day surely go back, spend a couple of weeks, and try to unravel the controversy, and locate the true 'Fiara Tui'.

On the foothills of the mountain was the famous hillock 'Thasiama Se No Neihna'.

Thasiama Se No Neihna

On our way back we stopped near this hill. I did not allow anyone to climb the hill because our time was very limited and also because there was no road to it. However, my wife, on a false pretext misled me, and without my knowledge approached the hill through the jungle, quickly followed by the VCP and a guard. I do not know how she did it - next we saw her standing on top of the hillock, and it was only with some difficulty I persuaded her to come back. She was probably the first known human being to have set foot at the peak after 'Thasiama's Sial' had given birth to her calf. On her return I scolded her for wasting so much of our time because, I must admit, I was peeved at being outsmarted and outperformed. Here also an EGS approach road was sanctioned which was completed soon after.

~~~


P. Rohmingthanga is a distinguished bureaucrat, having worked under the governments of Assam, Mizoram, the Delhi administration and the Government of India. He was the District Commissioner of Aizawl in the early 70s, Chief Secretary to the Govt. of Mizoram in the latter half of the 80s, and superannuated in 1996 from the post of Secretary to the Govt. of India. His post retirement assignments were State Election Commissioner (for some UT adminstrations), and member of the Delimination Commission of India (representing Mizoram).

This piece was originally titled
Ka rawn fang leh kan tuanna tlang and published in Newslink in 2007.

Picture credits: Lianchhiari Lunglen Tlang and Thasiama Se No Neihna, oil paintings by Tlangrokhuma, www.zozehart.com
Tan Tlang photographed by Zara Ralte, 2006,
Lamsial Puk photographed by Marii, 2005,
Kungawrhi Kua, Fiara Tui and Rih Dil, www.dipr.mizoram.gov.in


5 comments:

mesjay said...

This is really lunglen thlak. Hope to read more of Mizoram travelogue like this.

Storyteller said...

Yes this is really invaluable. Parts II and III will follow shortly.

TMWIG said...

. . . im waiting eagerly

S P Singh said...

Hi,

Having served for six years in Mizoram and seen these and several other remote places of Mizoram, it was quite an emotional read. I've written one fiction novel and several short stories, all based in Mizoram. Your blog is a great work. Keep it up. God bless.

Zualteii Poonte said...

Thank you, sir, and your writings sound very interesting. Can you tell us more about them?