Meandering trails of Mizoram: an unexplored rich, warm and hospitable culture
The image of north-eastern states often conjure in mind the images of strife, discord and a kind of hostility. But then nothing could be more unreal and untrue when one visits Mizoram. Eight foreign and 19 Indian students of IIMA went for about a week to Mizoram to pursue learning from within, each other, nature and common people.
The very first sight that struck the walkers in Champai, near the border with Mynamar was almost universal effort by every household to harvest roof top rain water. There was no house which did not have a mechanism to store the water in some or the pother tank. One could almost call Champai as the household roof-top water harvesting capital of India. I wish elites from Gandhinagar and Ahmedabad will visit the region to draw inspiration and ensure that we do the same here too. It would not be out of place to learn from water harvesting efforts of people in Saurashtra and Champai to make every housing society, school, college, hospital, office and other establishments have roof top water harvesting systems installed with in a year. This is the minimum we could do to reduce the burden on nature and at the same time improve the collective quality of life. It was of course sad to see that a region which received so much rainfall as Mizoram receives not to have many more small farm, as well as other public water harvesting structures.
When we walked through small towns and villages, we were deeply impressed with very hospitable and warm culture. Old ladies will come to greet us and ask about our needs, well being and bless us. Men would ask for our needs for firewood and members of Young Mizo Association would in fact arrange that when we go to our camp site, we all take one fuel wood stick with us a gift from them.
The walk through the National Park- Murlen was an extraordinary experience. A native forest preserved for millennia without disturbance provided us unique opportunity to absorb raw nature and assimilate its benign grace. Many people fear that process of taking inner line permit might be cumbersome, or that the region might be disturbed. In fact Mizoram is more peaceful than perhaps most mainland states of India. We met the Chief Minister, IT Minister and the Governor who were all very keen to cement this exploration so that better ties evolve with the margins of the country.
The creativity was widespread in every day life. The four tier energy harvesting system in the kitchen was such a telling example of energy consciousness. Emerging market of grape, passion fruit juice and sweet grape wine, a nutraceutical drink was an invitation to the entrepreneurs to join hands. There is a tremendous scope for partnership between entrepreneurs of Gujarat and biodiversity, and nature rich communities of Mizoram with variety of mushrooms, orchids, herbs and a lot more. May be the tribals of Dangs can share and learn from the tribal communities of Mizoram as to how they could achieve such a high level of literacy when we have such low levels in our tribal regions.
Partnership with the margins of the country is the best guarantee for national integration and I hope that more people will travel to that region, to absorb its culture, rich natural landscapes and opportunities for longer term socio-economic engagements.
Anil K Gupta