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Thursday, October 04, 2012

Chp 421. How Mizo am I?


I’m sure if you've been around a lot, away from your comfort zones, your “people”, your “natural habitat and environment”, you must have asked yourself this question at least once, “How [insert the ethnical group you belong to] am I?” Or worse, somebody asked you that question right to your face…

Because if you belong to a particular group or community, society expects you to have some trait or personality of wherever you’re from, no matter how many times you’ve broken away from the stereotypic mould and created your own avatar.

I’m a Mizo. And one of the things that kinda irritate me a bit is when other Mizos say, “Mizo nih chuan…” English Translation: “If you are a Mizo, then you should…”

I hate that line. In fact if I’m with a couple of Mizos and somebody starts their sentence with that particular line, I just shut myself off completely. On one hand, we are complaining about how people generalize us or how we are not given our due recognition, but on the other hand, we are not taking any attempt to assimilate or do whatever we want to do, out of one’s own free will and volition, with no bondage to cultural shackles or societal norms. That choice of freedom is up to every individual… and it is uncomfortable when people look at me differently just because sometimes I am “not very Mizo”.

What does “being Mizo” mean?

That fact that I hate TEA seems to get on the nerves of many Mizos. “Either you’re a 7th Day Adventist or you’re not a Mizo, how can any Mizo hate tea?” is the question I face many times. Why can’t a person just dislike tea? Why do people always try to force me into liking tea so much, just because it is the unofficial State drink of Mizoram? I don’t like tea, and that is the path I have chosen. Live and let live.

I was brought up in Tamil Nadu. So from the time I was small till I graduated from Engineering College, the first thing I always drank in the morning was coffee. Filtered coffee. So I became a coffee lover. An addict. And tea wasn’t appealing to me because of that, even though almost every Mizo drinks tea (except the 7th Day Adventists of course). And as I have pointed out in my blog earlier too, when I say I love Ice Tea, then the first question people ask me is, “How can you love ice tea and hate hot tea??? That doesn’t make any sense!” and again I have to reply, “You like chilled beer? Yeah? Well do you like hot boiling beer too? No? I rest my case.”

Similarly, I’m supposed to like every Mizo dish. If you’re a Mizo and you don’t like the traditional Mizo dishes, then they call you names like a snob and “in ti changkang” and somebody who is ashamed of being a Mizo… 

Seriously??? Questioning one’s patriotism and loyalty over… taste buds?

I love bekang and nghapih and a lot of stinky dishes. But at the same time I am not a big fan of the bitter veggies, which one can find in almost every Mizo cuisine. And I don’t like being forced to like those, because I really can’t. Being a Mizo does not guarantee me to like them. And if I prefer, say, a five course meal at an expensive 5 star restaurant starting with the proper appetizers and wine and ending it with the perfect dessert, instead of our local Mizo cuisine, does that make me a snooty prick? Or even worse, a turncoat to one’s root?

No, for various reasons: One, I’ve been working my ass off every day for the past so many years so that I can afford such food on a regular basis. You reap what you sow. Two, It’s a matter of taste buds. Of course to me the Hotel food tastes better but does that mean I eat only such high-end cuisine or exotic dishes? Hell no, if I want, I am content with just rice and dal with no other side dish. I am that simple. In fact I can survive eating just roadside vada-pavs or samosas for days, so don’t you ever judge me on that.

The thing is, I like variation. I like my food to rotate, you know. And that is why sometimes I think I will never fit in a typical Mizo household, where for breakfast and dinner, we eat the same food every day for the rest of our lives. Like I said, I can manage with Mizo dishes, but I need variations now and then, otherwise life gets too… simple and plain and… a bit boring. I’d like to rotate my breakfast or brunch with poha for one day, upma the other, then dosas and idlis on some days, then sandwiches on other days, followed by puri bhajji or chole bathura, and then maybe a Mizo full course meal, again followed by cornflakes and pancakes or even just bread and jam, and then back to poha again and so on…

Similarly, for lunch or dinner, I can of course have a Mizo meal, but again, I’d like to rotate it now and then with maybe a Chinese meal, an Italian meal, Indian meal with rotis and other bread, or even go for a simple shawarma or pizza and so on. I am a foodie and I love trying out new cuisine, and I have indeed tried out different varieties of food from all across India… That was the way I was brought up, and when one is well past his 30’s, it is indeed very hard to change suddenly and adapt to something else permanently. 

Another situation that makes me contemplate a lot is when I help out my fellow Mizos… being a close knitted society, we of course feel comfortable when we are with other Mizos even if they are strangers. And so, it is very common for one Mizo to help out another Mizo, even if they are meeting for the first time… And when I do that, others call me a good person. The thing is, will I still go that extra mile and help out another stranger if he is not a Mizo? I probably won’t. So does that still make me a good guy then? Probably not.

To me, that is a bit like the faith related question I’d really like to ask some of the Christians I know online (you know, the ones who quote Leviticus 19:28 and brand me a Devil worshipper just because I have tattoos all over my body, but conveniently skip the previous verse Leviticus 19:27 that prohibits man from cutting off his beard and side-burns) the following questions… “Are you NOT committing murder (or rape or burglary etc..) just because the Bible tells us not to do so as it is a SIN… or are you not doing it because it is a wrong thing to do? Because deep down in your heart, in your conscience, in your mind, you know it is bad and wrong?”

But no matter how un-Mizo I may seem to some, a part of me will always forever be Mizo. Because after all, that is who I am. I always talk about our Mizo culture, customs, traditions etc. whenever I am among a group of new people, informing and educating them about who we are and what we do and so on. Because it warms my heart to talk about my roots.

So does “being a Mizo” mean it’s only about the food we eat, or is it more about a higher calling, about how we are proud of our heritage and how seeing other Mizos who excel in different walks of life makes us happy deep down inside? Is “being a Mizo” only about the tea we drink, or is it more about how much we love informing the world about who we are and even going to the extent of scouring the internet everyday just to correct misconceptions people may have about us?

At the end of the day, I think “being a Mizo” means doing whatever you love doing, out of sheer passion, in whatever way you can. To find a connection and bond with other Mizos, which need not be only through traditional cuisines. To feel ashamed when you read the news about another Mizo getting involved in drugs or prostitution. To feel the pain when you see scores of your fellow Mizos fleeing a particular city. To feel elated when you get to know about a Mizo achieving something noteworthy in his/her line of work. To feel a deep kinship every time you come across a Mizo name in the newspaper.

Just the other day, during the ongoing Juniors National Hockey Championship for Girls, Madhya Pradesh thrashed Mizoram 12-1. The top scorer for Madhya Pradesh, who scored a hat-trick, was Ramngaihzuali Ralte, a Mizo. Another Mizo girl Lalruatfeli Hnialum too scored two goals for Madhya Pradesh on that same match. Yes, they just happened to play for a different state and there can be many reasons behind that, maybe they were brought up in MP, maybe they are currently studying there, maybe they have better sports facilities which can help them in their career, it can be anything… but a part of me felt pain. I know it’s not supposed to hurt (maybe) but it did. If, say, for example, Maharasthra beat West Bengal and the best player for Maharasthra happened to be a Bengali, I’m sure not many Bengalis would go, “How could you do that to your own people…” But in my case, it was hard to ignore the disappointment. Maybe it’s because we Mizos are still a very small community and the entire population of Mizoram is less than the population of Andheri East here in Mumbai… Maybe…

Of course I still remember what one of my friends once told me… If we are supposed to act as Indian, as one unit entity as a whole without keeping our ethnocentric roots and respective States first, then why do we keep having these National tournaments and competitions that pitches one State against another?

Hmmm… Food for thought maybe?

In the meantime, let me go reheat some of today’s leftover ham and salami pizza garnished with my own stash of bekang and ratuai pickle, and topped with good ‘ol spicy vaihmarcha rawt dip from Mizoram. Yummm!

Bon appétit to you all…



36 comments:

Mimihrahsel said...

I don't like bitter stuffs either, though I like nghapih and bekang and saum, I don't like dangpuithu, zawngtah, phuihnam, though I like behlawi bai, maian bai, and I still feel very Mizo :-). IMHO, we can have our own likes and dislikes, it surely does not make us un-Mizo, especially regarding food. But I remember what Mom told me many years back, "We have to try to adjust to any kind of food, esp the commonly served ones, so as to not trouble people so much". My supervisor here doesn't eat onion and garlic, so its very buaithlak to arrange food for him.

Chuan, when it warms our hearts while talking about our roots and feeling proud of any achievement by a fellow-mizo, that makes us a true Mizo. So you are a true Mizo, bro! :)

Mizohican said...

That is exactly why I don't go out when I come home for the vacations, because it is common practice to invite friends over for dinner, and I feel so bad not eating those dishes and at the same time, I honestly tried to eat them but just couldn't. So I just stick to rice, dal and the meat section :)

Likewise, I don't go over to people's house because it is customary to make tea for a guest, and I feel so bad telling them I don't drink tea after they come to serve it to me, since it is taken for granted that everybody drinks tea so nobody asks if he/she wants tea or not (and it feels impolite to tell them not to serve me tea when they haven't even offered me yet, hrethiam mai em?) :)

Ramesh Joshi said...

Keipoh "thingpui ka in ngai lo hrim2" ka tih tawp a, mahse min han pe lui tralh a...

Thingpui ka in ngai ngei ma.. mahse phai lam a mi anga tak tralh a nih lo chuan ka in peih der lo.. Mizoram a thingpui hi chu tui a diam dal deuh hi a ni tkangpui a.. tak tawking min siam la ka lo in ve ang tih a chakawm thrin viau.. Hmelhriat tha te inah chuan ka ti fo... lolzz

Mizohican said...

Tet te atanga ka thian kawm te chuan min hre chianga, min offer ngailo hrim hrim. An chhungten orange squash te hi min rawn pe thin, hahaha... Mahse hriatchiangloh in a leng te hi a ni ka inthlahrung phah vek tawh...

Alejendro said...

Sa ka eilo ka tih hian Mizo nilo, Vai ho hian, "Engtin nge North-east mi ni si SA i ei loh a?" min ti thin :P Mizo ho chuan min khawngaih thin. hahaha but that doesn't make me a any less Mizo :)

zakk_kima said...

Hmmmm...I never thought about that(The tea thing) but it is actually true, if your Mizo it's taken for granted that you must love tea. and this whole concept of branding people (inti changkang etc.) should stop it's a personal choice and has nothing to do with being a true Mizo.
Whoever came up with this whole boundaries of likes and dislikes of a true Mizo? I hate bitter food, I'm not a big fan of 'bai' but these are not and should not be a factor in me being a true Mizo.

This name calling has gone so bad that I have to think twice, thrice before I speak in English in Mizoram, and just because I pronounce words correctly without the typical Mizo accent doesn't mean I'm showing off.

Good post buddy, you are a true Mizo.

Mizohican said...

@ Alej: Sa eilo mahse Sa siam thiam te chu Mizo a lawm :D

@ zakk_kima: Yup, that really sucks. And there's a fad that when Mizos update their status in English or comment in English, certain people, who have been educated outside Mizoram or know English, comment stuff like, "Sap tawng i va thiam em em, kei chuan i sawi engmah ka hrethiamlo"... somehow, not knowing English or being ignorant is now something we should be proud of? Crazy world we live in :)

claytonia vices said...

This behaviour is easier to find than common sense, actually. I have seen similar behaviour during world cups when your patriotism is questioned according to which country's team you support.

Mizohican said...

@ claytonia vices: True true... I've seen that thing too...

Anonymous said...

No matter what I do, I'm still a Mizo :(
Trollolololo

blackestmizo said...

Nice read.. a lot of my thoughts exactly, but why stop at tea? "Hey, you're from Mizoram, so you booze a lot?" "Do you play the guitar?" Both generalizations, but one positive, another "possibly" negative.
"..where for breakfast and dinner, we eat the same food every day for the rest of our lives.." Isn't that a bit harsh?
And I feel being Mizo outside our state is a feeling of belonging to a close-knit community, sharing and caring for each other beyond religious affiliations, physical appearance, social and financial status, etc... all because we are Mizos. Its that simple.

Felnunmawii said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Felnunmawii said...

Dude, we have ALOT in common.. I won't even start with it. I grew up in Guwahati, and Now in Delhi, so I know exactly what You're talking about.

ku2 said...

Pork, which I don't eat, is like the staple Mizo guest-fare. One time, we visited this village and they served just pork and dal everytime. I didn't want to hurt their sentiments because min duhsakve sia, so I'd spoon a couple of pieces onto my plate, hide them under my rice, transfer them to my left hand, then surreptitiously return them to the frying pan. I still had 2-3 servings despite the lack ofchawhmeh, though :D I have been called "inla changkang" and "inla sap" because I don't eat pork. Why oh why can't they see that I'm just being "khirh" and "buaithlak"? Why attribute Mizoness or the lack thereof to it?:(
Good rant, man.

Aduhi Chawngthu said...

I have no trouble with the food and tea, but the things which "define a Mizo" - the tlawmngaihna, the regular church attendance, KTP YMA hnatlang etc a kal, i fail miserably in all these things.

Amelia Lalremdiki said...

i feel u, yes i do, my foodie soulmate :P!!!i spent most of my pocket money on food too ;)
n on the subject of your post, i totally agree. like here in cal, on sundays, they always announce dats we sud "puan bih", because its mizo n we should be proud of our heritage. i dnt have anything aganist puan bt i'm more of a skirt person (esp in dis hot, humid weather). sometimes i wonder if we are too subjugated by trivial details that we fail to see the more important picture. u can praise the Lord perfectly fine in skirts. if u puan bih and play with ur mobile or chew eatables in church, wudnt that be much more of a disgrace to GOD???

Mizohican said...

@ anonymous: lolz... then why the sad smiley? Don't wanna be one? :)

@ blackestmizo: Ah those generalizations are ok with me. In fact I started learning how to play the guitar only later because people just assumed I could play because I'm a Mizo. Because of that stereotype, I can now play the guitar, lolz. And very true, yes, being a Mizo is more about how much we care about our fellow Mizos and have that bonhomie attitude.

@ Suzz: A friend once asked me why many Mizos who have been brought up outside Mizoram tend to stick together even when they come back to Mizoram, and that is exactly the reason... because we have a lot of things in common.

Mizohican said...

@ ku2: That's the main problem with our Mizo society. We tend to throw this "in la changkang" far too many times. If person A doesnt like what person B likes, then that person is "in la changkang". The thing is, these people don't know how words like those hurt us, especially when it is thrown at our face.

@ Aduhi: Yes, those too! Nowadays, it seems like we have to struggle just to remain a Mizo :-/

@ Amelia: Yay my foodie sis! Awesome. You should move to Mumbai when you are done studying. This place is a foodie's Heaven. I mean Delhi has much more variety of food stalls on the road side etc. but Mumbai is where you'll find all the Foodie clubs. We gather at some place new just to socialize with new people and enjoy the awesome food. I am a part of many such groups!

Angaiha Chhangte said...

E khai aw... Thingpui i in ngai loh thu chauh maw i ziah a? "I am not interesting of drinking tea but...." te han ti tal la ṭha tur!

Mizohican said...

hahahaha :P

HERMIT said...

"Thingpui" in Mizoram i very tuilo. After drinkign the roadside tea of kolkata and other places, the tea that you get back in aizawl i very ho. I don't about other dishes but any mizo living outside always has cravings for the timeless VAWKSAREP.

Unknown said...

Another Irony - A mizo who loves tea, loves bai, loves voksa rep, loves hanging out with fellow mizos and would go an extra smile to help fellow mizos anytime but happen to belong to a place outside Mizoram is labelled as 'MIZO 2' in Mizoram.
Isn't that just sad?

Philo said...

I always thought you were a Bong going by your garrulous blog!

mangbuhril said...

the more we see variety i.e. more people, places , our very stereotyped definitions changes. For those who would like to define a particular identity (like being a mizo or.. ) , they are bound to offshoot that somewhere once they go out from their natural surroundings. I've always do what's called "Generialization" ie generally those people from that places are like this and that... but there are exceptions ... and some people fall into that exception category.

Dee Dee said...

Kan lo kal a lawm hey! Kei leh ka thiante nen hey booty bang bang....thumbs up to smoked pork, bekang, ratuai/mautuai etc...down with thingpui I say! And uisa eaters..booooooo!!!

Tharax said...

Ka nuih a ti za deuh tlat!! nang te hi i lo mizo chiangkuang vak tawh lo aniang a hetiang teh duaha rawn insawifiah te a ngaih tak..
Just kidding yarr :P

mnowluck said...

Ka upa telhtelh a Zo food ti mai ila hnah(leaves) a piang ka duh tulhtulh lol.. when I was a kid, I don't like anything which have green leaves even mustard.


I captcha hian ka lu a ti hai zo vek .. ka van ning tak em

sz puii said...

Hmaaaanah Mirc uar lai khan eng chatroom berah emaw ni bai ka ei ngai loh thu ka sawi a, Mizo i ni lo a nih chu min tih rawn luai luai kha ka hre chhuak zawk mai

Mizohican said...


@ Hermit: Oh yesss I loveee the vawksa rep. And all my non-Mizo friends here in Mumbai love it too, always asking me when is the next time my folks are sending me another parcel of vawksa rep :)

@ Unknown: Yup, that is truly sad. If you're not from Mizoram, even though you belong to the same race and tribe, many people, especially those in Aizawl, don't consider such people to be Mizos. Sad sad...

@ Philo: lolz, yes I am half bong, half tamil, and 100% Mizo :P

@ mangbuhril: Very true. Sometimes we tend to stereotype things so easily that we do them unintentionally too... and its only when the other person brings this point out that we end up realizing what we've done...

Mizohican said...


@ Deedee: Thingpui - booooo booooo.... murdabad murdabad :)

@ Tharax: Hahaha... ka kalna apiangah insawifiah ziah a ngai a, chuvangin hetah pawh hian ka rawn insawifiah ta law law mai a nih hi, haha :D

@ mnowluck: Kei ve ka upa telh telh a, hnah lam ka nghe telh telh, lolz. captcha a awmloh te chuan spam a rawn lut dawn aaaaa :)

@ sz puii: hehehe an va thing ve :D nia, hei hi kan mizia a ni tlat sia... hahthlakawm...

Zorami said...

hmmm....we'll look for a gal who can have idli for breakfast, pizza for lunch and nghapih for dinner. Hopefully that should fit your bill?:P

daniel said...

Kei pawh Mizo ka nih ah hian chiang ka in ti bawk a, in tih Mizo leh zual tul ka ti lem lo. Mizo chiang kuang lo chu in tih Mizo a tul te pawh aniang e.( Sarcasm)

Peer Gynt said...

"To find a connection and bond with other Mizos. To feel ashamed when you read the news about another Mizo getting involved in drugs or prostitution. To feel the pain when you see scores of your fellow Mizos fleeing a particular city. To feel elated when you get to know about a Mizo achieving something noteworthy in his/her line of work. To feel a deep kinship every time you come across a Mizo name in the newspaper." ~ i relate to all these too.

And as long as you share these and/or other such bonds i don't think there's any need to justify one's mizoness. ...not that there should be any need to justify your feeling of belonging to any culture in the first place!

The ones who demand justification are probably voicing out their mixed feelings of not being able to adjust to difference among mizos in general. Homogeneity, or a certain predictability has somehow always been encouraged and everyone's very comfortable with it. There's a certain charm to it too but when overdone can be dangerous. I think thas prolly why we often find ourselves reinforcing certain generalizations made by the rest of india - because we want to, but find it frustrating when the same generalizations become oversimplified or just plain lazy.
But this is changing as we speak. The more mizos the rest of india makes friends with and the more mizos the rest of mizoram meets, a time will come when being Mizo means more than a common love of tea or thingthupui (blech), but where there still exists a deep shared appreciation of all things 'good' about the culture and a profound sadness surrounding things destroying it, as in the quoted para. I love what one commenter said about her mom telling her "We have to try to adjust to any kind of food, esp the commonly served ones, so as to not trouble people so much". That’s a nice example of old school tlawmngaihna i thought. Though am sure the meaning of tlawmngaihna too will change as mizos are changing all over the world and are interpreting their culture in rapidly different ways.
aside: a friend of mine working as a primary school teacher back home posted the other day about how a 'vai' kid got fined for speaking in mizo in class with the rest of his mizo classmates :D

Mahminga Sailo said...

Long story than expected, but it's worth to read it. Your story to me might be like a pheromones in animals.. LOL. I read, continue to read and done at once. And, I do agree with you.. :-)

I thuziak chhiar a manhla thin teh e. Ka phuahchuah thiam si loh, mahse han chhiara ka hriatthiam vek theih siin i ziak thiam tlat... :-)

Hehe Inla-changkang tih vel hi chu thengah-thawngah laksak lo ila a hahdam maiin ka hria.

Mahse, kei erawh chuanin, thingpui senhang hi tui ka ti khawp mai.. :-)

gkhiangte said...

How can you not like bitter veggies? Who are you?? I feel like I dont know you any more. ;) yeah..I totally get what you are saying. I dont take kuhva, am I still a Mizo? Hell yeah!

Unknown said...

oh thanks ...i had such a blast reading your post ....
no i am not a mizo ...but i chuckled because i have been in your shoes - i am tamil - so ergo math must be what i speak in ! and carnatic music or bharatnatyam must be a certain skill set ...NO to both ;)....i suck at math ..and i am music and beat challenged !

and when we lived in shillong ...all the kids in school found all the things that tamils do so awfully funny - we plait our oily hair till the end of our ribbons ;0 ;;;tamils are uncomfortable wearing footwear ...tamils dont know much about furnishing a home ...hheeeee .if it were not for a big ego and three sisters to back each other in school i would have fled shillong ..instead i came to love it ..and the other kids came to accept us crazy black people from the south ;)
Your blog made me laugh and shake my head thinking of how same it is even when different ;)))

and it also opened a corner of the mizo world for me for which i can only say thank you ;) all
cheers
suja