An integral part of India, culturally and linguistically the tiny state of Mizoram is different in the manner that people think, talk, act, dress and behave.
Bumper-to-bumper traffic welcomed me at Aizawl. I was in the main thoroughfare of the city having just endured a trying 6-hour journey from Silchar. I almost regretted my decision to visit Mizoram for a short break following a busy week at the hospital in Silchar. As I resigned myself to yet another hour on the road, I began to notice that the traffic inching forward was noiseless – unlike in my native city and many other places in the country. There was no honking, bikes did not suddenly dart and zigzag to get in front of me. Everyone waited for their turn to move forward. Besides the car lanes, two parallel lanes of bike riders lined in opposite directions, every rider and pillion helmeted. Many of them were probably returning after a busy day at work but that did not seem to give them the right to break traffic rules – a lesson every Indian city could follow.
Negotiating winding roads across hills we made our way to the mountain resort village of Reiek, an hour’s drive from the city. The village holds an annual Anthurium festival of culture and music that was celebrated with great fervour a week before I was there. The next morning armed with a water bottle and my phone I trekked to the top of the Reiek Tlang bemused by the clouds that played hide and seek with the towering peaks. In the far distance mountains bordering Myanmar loomed on one side and the plains of Bangladesh on the other. On my return from the hike I stopped at the heritage village which offered a peek into Mizo traditions, habits and lifestyle.
The lady at the homestay cooked me a tasty pork dish topped with rice. While I waited I listened to a band on the local TV channel belting out some modern Mizo numbers. The lady’s pretty teenage daughter served me lunch and changed the channel to western music; apparently for my benefit. I objected, she laughed and changed back to the local channel; even began to sing with the band.
Music and fashion are wired into the DNA of every Mizo. Everywhere I went in Aizawl I saw youngsters dressed in ultra-modern fashionable attire; whether going to the office, shopping or for an outing. While the traditional Mizo attire is worn mostly for family functions or church, the younger generation seems in tune with the latest trending international fashions.
Ninety percent of the population are educated Christians, everyone attends Sunday church and multiple services too. The entire city shuts down on Sunday and tourists can have a hard time. Prohibition is strictly enforced, restaurants and other establishments close down by 9 pm on weekdays and drug culture is rampant. To dissuade from alcohol and drugs, youngsters are encouraged to participate in sports and adventure activities. Football is the latest craze and in a short period of time, the Mizoram football team has become a force to reckon with at the national level.
I made my way to the airport as the city woke up to the beginning of a busy week. I regretted that I did not have one more day to spend experiencing the vibrant city life of this secreted part of our country. I too had made the cardinal error of not putting in that extra effort to be better informed of the cultural traditions of a state where Sunday is a day for prayer and rest.
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