I still remember it like it was yesterday. Some time in the beginning of October 2012, my best friend from college, BT, called me up and said she was getting married in 3 weeks. ‘Dress classy’, she said. ‘I don’t want you in a soap opera sari’, and hung up.
I gawked at the phone in disbelief for some time, dropped it and started hyperventilating. I knew a wedding was coming, but in THREE WEEKS?? A few calculations on my trembling fingers later, I realised I was going to (whoopeee *sarcasm*) miss Durga Puja in Kolkata that year!
But, anyway, priorities were organised, tickets were booked, outfits were made (in super full speed) and three weeks later, I was in the Kolkata airport waiting to board my flight to Aizawl via Imphal. I was extremely excited, not just because it was BT’s wedding, but also because it was going to be my first time visiting that part of the country.
I deboarded at Lengupui Airport, the only one in the north-east Indian state of Mizoram. I had to get a permit to be in the state (like a VISA!!!), and then I picked up my luggage and waited outside for my ride. BT’s driver arrived in some time. Meanwhile, I was extremely relieved to find a complete lack of the pushy touts that most other airports are famous for (of course there were a few, but they mostly left me alone after I told me to).
The 40 minute ride home was breathtaking. I wish I had taken pictures, but I had a seriously handicapped phone (what a regret!). After a long time, I was seeing blue sky and light green trees (unlike the grey sky and dusty-dark green trees in Delhi). The winding road was mostly empty (till we reached the city- then it was incredibly quaint and lively) and the view was like this throughout…
I reached home, and within a couple of hours we were all prettied up for the first ceremony.
The first ceremony, called Man Hlan, involved ‘buying’ the bride. What happens is, the groom’s family pays the bride’s family a (now) token amount of money (originally it was in terms of Mithuns- a type of cattle, eventually it’s just become some money). This money is then distributed among the bride’s closest family and friends (yes, I was one of them :D), and a little bit is returned to the bride as ‘security’. Of course, the security is never required 🙂
After the ceremony was a huge and wonderful dinner. North-East Indian food is quite different from the ‘Indian food’ that we’re used to. There is a lot of rice, and a LOT of meat (works well for me :D) and vegetables (I had squash for the first time- so interesting!!!). Most of it is cooked with little oil, which makes it all very healthy (though the amount I ate definitely negated any ‘healthiness’ of the food). A lot of the dishes use bamboo shoots as well. You could call it an acquired taste, because it definitely took me a while to get used to! I had been eating their food right from my first year in college, and it took me a few months to begin enjoying it, though, of course, there are many who love it right away!
The beautiful bride (in the middle) had arranged two traditional Mizo Puans for my friend and me. How amazing is that?!
That same night, a lot of us (minus the bride) went for a drive. The roads were dark and still, and we saw the school our friends had studied in, the church where the wedding was going to be held, and then we visited the groom’s house. It was pretty chilly (even though it was only October), and we lay on his terrace, looking at the stars and drinking hot tea (I don’t know if it’s typical, but I found these Mizos drink a LOT of tea! There were tea dispensers everywhere in the bride’s house!!).
The next day was the wedding. I think I was suitably dressed in un-soap opera style clothes 😛 Look at us! The happy couple, bridesmaid, best man and all the ‘College friends of the bride’!
After the wedding there was a little reception. And then a humongous meal (I will never forgive my phone’s camera for dying on me like that. I don’t have ANY pictures!). And then, of course, there was a P-A-A-A-ARTY! (Mizoram is a dry state though- no alcohol available anywhere. Pity- even though I don’t drink :P).
It was a short trip to Aizawl. I longed to extend it, but it was impossible, because we had another wedding to attend in two days in Shillong, Meghalaya- which was another wonderful little trip!
Anyway, coming back to Aizawl…
Here is the view I got from BT’s terrace… Beautiful isn’t it?
Mizoram’s beauty astounded me. I don’t remember the last time I saw so many stars at night. The sky was a bright beautiful blue, something that is virtually unbelievable in Delhi.
More than the ‘physical’ beauty, though, I admire the society. The sense of community is unbelievable. A particular example comes to mind. It deeply touched me, and I doubt I’ll ever be able to forget it.
When someone dies, the entire community goes over to the deceased person’s house. They stay awake together and sing songs through several days, just so the mourning family need not be alone. The youth make and serve food to the gathering.
When we were in Aizawl, a little child had passed away a few houses down the street. Every single time we crossed that area, there was constant singing, constant light and constant life emanating from that house. It was amazing.
This close-knit society keeps its streets clean and its citizens happy.
Mizoram is not easy to reach. You either fly in, or you take a miserable 24 hour sumo ride from Guawahati, Assam. Part of me wishes that everyone gets to experience this beautiful place (the first thing I did when I had seen enough of Aizawl to understand it, was tell my family that they HAVE to visit!), but a larger part of me wishes that it remains as it is. Secluded, undisturbed. I would hate to see its gorgeousness destroyed by the recklessness of tourists.
*All images in this post have been taken by Vidushie Shriya
This post has been featured in the India Untravelled blog as well (with some edits) 🙂 Go check it out and show me some love 😀