Monday, February 25, 2008

A Place Called Mizoram

Quick, what's the capital of Mizoram? Heck, where is Mizoram??

I just read this article in Vanity Fair about this remote state in northeast India near Myanmar where the inhabitants look (to me) more like Myanmese than Indian. You may hear more about this state in the months to come because Mizo is expecting a plague of rats and ensuing famine in the next few months.

Apparently a specie of bamboo (mautak to the Mizos, Melocanna baccifera to the botanists) that flowers once every 48 years produce nectar that attracts corn-kernel sized bugs that suck the nectar and grow so fat that rats from all over India would rush in and eat everything that exists. The last time this happened, in 1959, thousands of Mizos starved to death and guerillas raged a war against the Indian govt for not doing enough to help.

Guess what? The bamboo in Mizo have started flowering again. What will happen this time, or rather what can be done to help the Mizos?? The state is very poor (update: I stand corrected here. This was my own impression from the pictures in the mag) very isolated and unknown to the outside world. The people are 90% Christians, thanks to early missionaries, and have a surprisingly high literacy rate. The place is so unknown that there has only been 2,319 foreign visitors in the last five years!

Fascinating isn't it, that this world is still so undiscovered. If you are interested, the article appeared in VF's December 07 issue. And the name of Mizo's capital? Aizawl.

Update: I've had some comments from the Mizos themselves regarding this post and their country. If you are interested, do check the links in the comments. I also found an interesting article from which one can grasp some idea of the current situation in Mizoram regarding the issues they face.

28 comments:

ekeng said...

Oh god...i really don't know this place exist until i saw your post..what a special place with special name.

Samaw said...

Ha ha, you make me laugh. Type Mizoram at google or wikipedia and you will find what you are searching for. Like me, many bloggers may flood you with their postings soon. Its a small world on the net and no one can escape... :)

Mautak? C'mon where did you get mautak word, its Mautam....Its just that you don't know.

You said,
The state is very poor, very isolated and unknown to the outside world.

I do not agree with you fully, infrastructure is very poor though. They are not as poor as many the poor that we know of. Its just that you don't know.

Undiscovered? Haha... Mizos take pride themselves being the second highest literacy in India, the literacy is above 80% which is quite high for national average hovering around 50%. Its just that you don't know them.

Some Mizos have even claimed that they are Jews and have migrated to Israel. Its just that you don't know them.

The bottomline is that if you may post such post recklessly, I may also say its that you don't know about Mizoram and the people you are talking about.

Precious Pea said...

Good info! I never heard of this place before. But to solve their problem, can't they just burn the flowers to avoid this bug problem? Hmm...

Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...

precious p: the place is well-covered with mautak n they also depend on it for producing things like paper.

the rats are so hungry they won't leave when they r eating n "you can even pull it by its tail". one of the problems in eradicating d rats is tt d Hindus n Buddhists, altho minority but are majority in d rest of India, accept d rats as "senient beings" meaning they can feel or perceive. we know dogs can, don't we?!

Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...

samaw: u shd check pg 154 of VF. 'mautam' refers to the whole bamboo-rat epidemic, 'mautak' or'mau' is the mizo name for the bamboo.

i didn't know i had to define poor but based on the article n the pictures, i have the impression tt they r poor.

doesn't getting only 464 foreign visitors ANNUALLY (mostly missionaries) indicate tt the place is not exactly a Bali destination? a high literacy rate does not mean tt it is discovered, just tt the ppl r educated. i did in fact mention tt they have a high literacy rate but did not quote wiki's 98.1% bc tt seemed too high!

i wikied mizo when writing this post last nite but didn't quote frm it bc wiki articles r stubs, meaning anyone, even you or me, can contribute info. i use wiki for general info but prefer using more authoritative sources where references r quoted n contributors r known authority.

out of the nearly million population in mizo, a few thousands claim to have decended frm the Manesseh trbe of Israel, making them Jews. it's all in the VF article, samaw, n i did ask tt u read the article. all my facts r frm there, n in fact what u mentioned SUPPORT these facts so i really don't know why u said this post is 'reckless'. but thanks for ur comment, its good tt ppl read n give me feedback :) But rmber, wiki is generally accurate but not authoritative!

Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...

samaw: since u believe in wiki, wiki also refers to 'mautam' as the whole process of bamboo flowering, rats coming, tt mizo is the state tt's lagging behind the rest of India...thought tt u should know.

Lal said...

'Mautak' (from 'Mau' and 'Tak') is one of the bamboo species, and whose botanical name is 'melocanna baccifera'.

What is poor?
What is high literacy?
What is development?
What is peace?

These questions should be redefined properly in our world of chaos and inequality where the gap between the have and have not has risen steeper and steeper today.

Mizoram people are more fortunate than their brethens in the bordering nearby State of Manipur where the government proactiveness in fighting the Mautam menace can be said to be completely nil and who are acutely suffering from shortage of food, and who cannot be easily accessible do to the deteriorating of road conditions, which is again due to neglection by the concerned authorities for more than a decade.

I wrote of their situation in my post at:

Food Insecurity in Tipaimukh

Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...

lal: i just went to ur website. u r from India? hi!

your Qs are so deep n i get d feeling u really feel for these ppl.u have my respect.

Lal said...

Hi terri, yuppie, I am from India and I am a 'Mizo'.

Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...

no kidding?! i am totally flabbergasted!! i've never heard of Mizo b4 this article n now i 'meet' someone frm there. the wonders of the net!

i would love to visit Mizoram, with its hills n perfect temp of hi 10s and low 20s, and guitar playing everywhere...i can see where u r coming frm, in regard to ur frustrations about poverty n govt ineptness/bureaucracy.just hope that with more media exposure, things will get better there. keep in touch, even if food is not ur thing (in a way it is isn't it).

Lal said...

ha ha. yeh. food is not that much of my 'thing'. but looking at yours and your blogger friends blogs. i am almost tempted. :-)) but i prefer our traditionally cooked 'smelly and hot dishes' the best. actually, i am addicted to it. IMO, I am a great cook(er) too. I can't almost beat my grandma, who i think is the best cook (with our kind of food). :-))

BTW, I am not able to access the "Waiting for the Plague" article of VF. If you have a scanner...would you get me to read it too? :-D

Thanks.

Jerusha said...

Hi Terri - I love Google alerts! I wouldn't have found your page otherwise. A proud Mizo "Myanmese"-looking girl here :-)

I think the bamboos have stopped flowering or even bearing fruits, and the worst part's supposed to start now I think, now that the rodents have feasted on the protein rich bamboo fruits for quite a while now..

Anyway, not to be mean, but I always find it surprising that people don't seem to know of our existence. I remember being a little kid and reading about the littlest places in Australia and Africa and others, the people, their history, what aborigines look like, what they eat, what Ned Kelley said before he died, and how he wrote without punctuations :P And this was even before I had even stepped out of Mizoram :PP (Hope that didn't sound rude cos' it wasn't meant to.)

Anyway, check out my flickr pages for Mizoram pictures. It's like somebody above me'd already mentioned, I would not consider ourselves poor. We're clean and happy and well-fed and well-educated, I don't think we really lack much. I've never seen a single Mizo beggar. Just bad infrastructure, horrible politicians ruining the state - we're missing a lot of things, but we're okay. I was in Australia for a couple of months some time last year, and I love it. Mizoram looks a lot like certain areas around Cairns & Cape Tribulation :-)

Jerusha said...

and @ samaw - it IS mautak! The famine is called mautam, the bamboo species called mautak..

illusionaire said...

Hehe guess good 'ol Samaw and Lal beat me to this one. I didn't check my mail yesterday and hence didn't see the "Google Alert" on this post until now. :-) I'm sure the Admins of lawrkhawm.com and misual.com are not far behind me too. lolz Jeru, didn't know you "google alerted" yourself too :-) Nice!

Well, terri, I know your post was in good intentions and I really appreciate the way you tried to educate yourself with the name of the capital of Mizoram etc. But one thing you should know is that we Mizos are also a highly ethnocentric and passionate tribe (aren't we all?) and most of us will do anything to clarify any misconceptions about our beloved Land. That might explain Samaw's outburst.

All in all, we would really appreciate it if you visit our blogs and websites if you really want to know more about Mizoram and the Mizos. Apart from the ethnocentrism, we are also a very helpful and assistive tribe :-) That's one quality you will find among every Mizos: "Tlawmngaihna" - A Mizo term for selfless altruistic sacrifice.

Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...

lal: sure, i will send it to your email.i like smelly n hot food too, sometimes :)

jerusha : wow wow wow i just went to ur blog, n ur friend joseph's blog. is tt Aizwal?? the place looks like Tokyo by night! by comparison we r probably more backward here even if we r more known. i was going to ask lal until you came along-what kind of cuisine do Mizos eat, more indian or myanmese, or am i being rude again..i don't mean to be.i know what u mean about reading about other places. often, ppl in the west know nothing about us bc they r more advanced n so on, but the irony is many ppl in us, canada etc have never stepped out of their country. i've met a few britons who came here to visit, n its their 1st time ever on a plane.yet like u, many of us unknown-places ppl have travelled wider!i've checked ur flickr but there rn't many pics of Mizoram. but those i saw r exactly as described in the article--spectacular n hilly .

illusionnaire: thanks :), i don't mean harm too. i guess i'd feel the same thing if i read about my town being unknown n all tt, but honestly, in all fairness, i have written according to what i read (n updated on the poverty fact) n i understand how u feel bc if i read about my own town/country being unknown, i'd think the guy who wrote it is ignorant too. but really, there r many places in the world tt we haven't heard of n tt's why this article is so appealing, even romantic given tt nobody outside knows much of it.its great tt u guys have written n now i/we know more about your land; i'm glad i posted this piece up n many of us learnt something, plus get feedback frm the ppl we read about. wow, this is one of my blog highlights.

Beita Jr said...

Q from Terri, "Quick, what's the capital of Mizoram? Heck, where is Mizoram?"

That's an interesting way to begin. It will be difficult for anyone to know the capital of a tiny state in a big country like India especially when the state is closed to outsiders and the state is too peaceful (without a bomb blasts and protests). That is Mizoram. It could be the same : if you will ask me the capital of Qinghai or Ningxia (provinces in China), many people wouldn't know about it except Chinese in China. But in India, even many Indians don't know where is Mizoram. Now the fun begins.. These Myanmarese looking Indians are not just Mizos, we have Nagas (Nagaland), Manipuris, Khasis and others - in fact people from Northeast India don't look like the rest of Indians. They have often complaint about the hostile treatments from their Indian brothers in other parts of India.

So, who are these Mizos?
According to the official website of government of Mizoram (mizoram.nic.in/about/people.htm): "Historian believe that the Mizos are a part of the great wave of the great wave of the Mongolian race spilling over into the eastern and southern India centuries ago." That explains why Mizos look more like Myanmarese/Burmese or other Asian looking people.

Mizo is a language spoken by Mizo people. And the meaning of Mizoram is like this, the suffix 'ram' stands for land in Mizo. Mizoram means Mizo and land, which is Mizoland, unlike Nagas who called their land Nagaland, Mizos used their own language and call their land Mizoram.

Coming to Vanity Fair Magazine, I have not seen it but the journalist who must have covered the rare phenomenon in Mizoram must be someone from central India. If he the writer happens to use poor and stuffs. Because Mizos never considered themselves poor :)

The bamboo responsible for 'mautam' famine is mautak... mau stand for bamboo, tak stand for 'real, true, genuine' it is one of the bamboo species found numerously in Mizoram state.

precious pea: burning of flowers cannot tame these rats. Good suggestion though.

What will happen this time, or rather what can be done to help the Mizos??
Indian government is acting together with the state government and have generously aided the victims of rat menace - the farmers with special funds like 'Bamboo Flowering and Famine Combat Schemes' (BAFFACOS) but in a democratic setup such funds attract controversy as politicians blame one another for the funds not reaching the deserved recipients or enough fund not reaching the real victims. You can definitely help the victims by contributing whatever amount to a voluntary organisation run by some Mizo guys at Mautaam.org and others.

Q from Terri: "The place is so unknown that there has only been 2,319 foreign visitors in the last five years!"

When Britist left Britist India that consisted of today's India, Myanmar, Pakistan and Bangladesh, the people(Mizos) living in a landlocked between India and Myanmar were administered under the new independent India. But with special treatment. Inner line permit and Restricted Area permit were put into action so that numerous people in the plain in central India will not come flooding this tiny population in the hill. Some Mizo intellectuals are of the opinion that these two restrictions should be scrapped (Zawlbuk.net) but it has not come into any effect so far.

Q from Terri, "And the name of Mizo's capital? Aizawl."

You got it right Terri. Its Aizawl but sadly it is often mispelled by many Indians as Aizwal.

If you want to come to Mizoram, you can get permission from one of the Mizoram Houses in Indian metros (mizoramhouse.nic.in), Aizawl 'Lengpui' Airport is one of the finest and most modern airport in the northeast India region. You are welcome to Mizoram, you must feel the different atmosphere offered by pro-Israel Indians who look like Myanmarese. :)

samaw: yes, you are right, if we google mizoram the official websites of Mizoram state gov't - mizoram.gov.in and mizoram.nic.in are on top. Does it mean you believe in Wiki, samaw? I don't think so.

Poor? Mizos are not that poor comparing to the poor in Indian metros and slums. However, the state government stats says over 40% lives below poverty line. Anyways, we don't have beggars in the streets - they may not have many luxury things that we know of but they have food to eat and a clean place to live on.

We have many of our brothers living across the Myanmar side of the border - they are called Chins in Myanmar and Mizo/Kukis in Manipur.

We are closely related to them. Thanks for taking your interest in Mizos.

By the way, the dishes on the left are tempting.

You must visit Mizoram and taste Mizo dishes, especially soups made from bamboo shoots.

For further reference on Mizoram and Mizo people, websites like zoram.com, maraland.net, mizoram.nic.in, mizoram.gov.in will be helpful.

I hope that helps.

Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...

beita jr: wow. looks like i've opened d floodgates...thanks for this information! but 40% r in poverty?? tt seems like a high figure to me, tho like lal said, how do u define poverty.

my half-Shanghainese kids love bamboo shoots too.

Anonymous said...

It's the Year of the Rat, people!

Rat-a-tat-tat

David Buhril said...

Year of the Rat: Chinese and Us
If the so-called “mainstream” Indians mistook us for Chinese, we, Zohnathlak, have many things shared, particularly this year- 2008, with the economic giant, which the country will never catch up...Read more

Jerusha said...

:) wow I'm so stupid, when I first came here today, something made me think that you're australian :P Now I see you're from Sabah, which is such a coincidence because me and my friends had been googling Sabah all day, one of my friends nominated it as our one of next vacation destinations!

Beita Jr said...

I must apologize about the percentage of people living BELOW POVERTY LINE (BPL) in Mizoram. I didn't inspect carefully. 1993-1994 stats collected by Indian government puts BPL in Mizoram at 25.66%. - mospi.nic.in/comenv2000tab7.1.4.htm see TABLE 7.1.4.

It must have come down drastically and much lowered by 2008.
I must mention that Mizos are not too poor comparing to other poor people in central India but infrastructure in Mizoram is really poor still. However, if you visit every parts of India, there's nothing much to envy about central India too at this time except IT infrastructures.

Shan said...

Hi Terri. Thank you for blogging about this topic. Really learned a lot from you and from some of the other comments.

Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...

david: thanks for the article, it gave me a lot more insight into Mizo n their struggles.don't give up.

jerusha: no worries. i think bc i mentioned Melb in my post b4 Mizo. but if u do come here, contact me. sabahans r also very nice n hospitable ppl!

beita: hey, no problem, thanks for letting me know, really appreciate all ur info :0

shan: u know, i have in 24 hrs been educated about a part of the world tt i'd never heard of, n i am so glad i put up this article, n ppl have responded n taught me about not just their country, but about my presumptuousness n ignorance. i also learnt tt Mizos have a struggle just like us, against racial discrimantion, inept govt n similar social problems. i'm sure u went to many of the Mizo links n also opened ur eyes. have u checked out daydreamer also (on my steamed fish post); she writes very good poems n essays.

wow, blogging can have amazing benefits (n harm).

illusionaire said...

There's nothing wrong in ignorance when the matter to be learned is so voluminous! So don't blame yourself Terri. As Beita Jr mentioned above, even we of course haven't heard of so many other places around the world, and the only thing that sucks for us here in India is when our own Indian brothers and sisters have no idea where we are from.

Thats where blogging comes into the picture. I have a large network of blog friends among our Mizo and Indian community where everyone knows about Mizoram now. :-) Not just that, I also have a large network of blog friends all over the world where we share similar informations. The World is truly a Global village.

Since you are from Malaysia, let me say that I have a couple of very dear blog friends from Malaysia too! Mariuca, Emila, Jean Chia, etc just to name a few. I won't be surprised if you have come across them as they are all quite popular and very good pals of mine.

And of course, I would be honored if you link that post of mine you mentioned to this particular post. You have my heartfelt permission to link it :-)

Keep blogging. And hey, one good thing that came up from this post apart from your new found knowledge about Mizoram is that I will be visiting your blog regularly from now on as I love your foodies posts :-)

adrian varte said...

OMG....I'M A MIZO HEAR AND I CAN'T BELIEVE Y'ALL ARE TALKIN' BOUT US..... WE MIZO'S ARE SO LINKED TO BAMBOO UNLIKE ANY OTHER PEOPLE....MAYBE THATS WHY EVERY ONE IS MAKIN' A HUGE FUSS OUT OF IT....WE MAKE HOUSES WITH BAMBOO(in the old days o' course), HANDICRAFTS, CAPS, MANY DAILY ITEMS...AND WE EAT BAMBOO(bamboo shoot) AND WE DANCE WITH BAMBOOS

lallianzuala said...

wow!! am i late or what? newayz, it's nice 2 read the discussions u guys n gals had in the past months. i am a mizo. i'm zuala.
btw, all those food pics really makes me feel like i could eat a horse :)

Anonymous said...

wow!! am i late or am i late?? :) Newayz, it's really nice to read the discussions u guys had in the past few months. i'm a mizo. i'm zuala.
btw, all those food pics u have really makes me feel like i could eat a horse.

Anonymous said...

??? what did i just do??

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