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This is one of the series of my account of my trail along the Monoliths and Landmarks of Mizoram. While spending few days at the Tribal Research Institute in Aizawl, I stumbled upon two volumes of the book called Monoliths and Landmarks of Mizoram, and I lost no time in trying to see all of the sites mentioned while I was visiting my parents last autumn.

Here is an account of my first day in Champhai District:

Mura Puk is located in Zote village, about 20 kilometers from Champhai town. It consists of six caves, and though the origin or use of the caves are not known, legend has it that it was a hide out for villagers in olden days as they were preyed upon by a gigantic eagle called Mura for food. Mura was known to be cruel and his tactic for hunting was unique. He would perch on the roof of the huts, and then he would push his tail through the rear door that would force the people to try and escape through the front door. He would then catch the victim or victims with his beak and feed on it. He would repeat this almost every day. Therefore, the villagers dug these caves to hide from him.

It is not very easy to find the caves if you are not familiar with the area, but bless the Mizo souls and the ethic ‘Tlawmngaihna’, the Zote villagers quickly organized themselves and found a guide to take me there.

The caves are rather small, but each of the caves could easily hold 10 persons or so when crammed together. Given the assumption that some villages had 50- 80 households in the past, it could have easily served the purpose. However, as I did not spend too much time there, I need to explore more to even assume that it was used for this purpose. I will be back soon to spend sometime in the village.

A few metres away, we came upon Sikpui Lung, which seems to be a stone commemorating one of the festivals by the Hmar clans who settled in the early days of migration in this area. Zote is still predominantly a village where the clan Hmar settles until today. On the stone, there is an inscription, HE LUNG HI HMANLAI HMAR HO SIKPUI A NI TIN KEINI KUM 28.12.1918 A HIAN KAN AWM TA ZAHLUA SAILO, which means that this is the stone erected by the Hmars in the past, and we have now occupied this place from 28.2.1918, Zahlua Sailo (Monoliths and Landmarks of Mizoram, TRI, page 26-27)


Prior to being defeated by the Lusei clans, the Hmars observed a festival called Sikpui when a village enjoyed good harvest for three continuous years, and the festivals used to be commemorated with erection of stones like the one in this photo.(well the stone now is no longer standing as it is on the verge of breaking..)

This area needs to be researched upon and some day, I hope that I will be working with people to solve the mystery of our past. It is not easy to elaborate the information about these places, and my account is based on my travel journal in the area and the book "Monoliths and Landmarks of Mizoram" by N. Chatterji, Tribal Research Institute published in 1979.


My Passage to Rih Dil

Rih Dil is a lake located in Burma, just about 3 kilometers from the Indian border and is associated with Mizo folklore, where the departed souls are believed to have made their passage before they go to their eternal abodes.


The Mizos in the past believed that the ‘other world’ was divided into two, and that all spirits went to a place called ‘Mitthi khua’ (village of the deaths), then some moved on to ‘Pialral’ (heaven); but to reach their eternal abodes, they had to pass through the lake Rih Dil.

According to the legend, after crossing the Rih lake, the spirits/ souls reach a hill called 'Hringlang tlang', where they look back at their village and weep for days longing for the world they had left behind. In this mythical hill, there is  spring water called ‘Lungloh tui’, which they drink to quench their thirst and this made them forget all about their past life. The hill is also said to be full of flowers called ‘Hawilo par’, which they pluck and wear in their ears and hair and this made them forget their desire to return to their loved ones and they proceed to ‘Pawla kawt’ and then on to the dead men’s village called ‘Mitthi Khua’.

The dead men’s village ‘Mitthi khua’ is where the common people settled, living just like they did in their past lives. But beyond that village exist a place called 'Pialral' or heaven, where only the men and families who earned the title called ‘Thangchuah’ through their piousness and having sacrificed animals and given the community feast could enter the heaven much to the envy of the people who had to settle in Mitthi khua where there is only hardship.

It was a lovely September morning when we started out for Rih Dil. The drive from Champhai to Zokhawthar, the last border village is about an hour, and after registering ourselves to the Indian police at the border post, we crossed a bridge, which was painted in two colours. The white half belongs to India and the red half belongs to Burma.


In a minute we were in a foreign land, and I felt a rush of angst gripping me. I was a bit apprehensive about carrying expensive equipment to a place where the Indian law would not protect me, and I really did not know what to expect out of Burma, but then, I brushed aside my fear, prayed for a safe passage, and then we were on our way.

In stark contrast to any Mizo village or town, there were liquor shops everywhere, and my boys started shopping and had their first beer, I guess after years! (Alcohol is prohibited in Mizoram, but...)


The people in the village speaks our language, they were friendly and inquisitive. We had our first Burmese meal, which was really delicious. I was just amused by the way they traded chickens and other commodities, because they sounded awfully expensive and it took us few minutes to realize that they were trading in Kyats and not Rupees! They are also highly enterprising about the way they trade goods between the borders.

We could not take our sumo jeep with us as the water was too high and the bridge was too dangerous to cross. The bridge actually swings and expands when one walks on it. We did have the option to hire a motorcycle, but we decided to walk, as we were told that it was only 2.5km uphill walk.

It was a pleasant walk, though it was very quiet. We met another group of Indian tourists, which was comforting, to know that we were not alone. It is hard to describe the fear that I felt while we were there, but I realized that it was not very comforting to be in Burma. In about an hour we reached the village Rihkhawdar, which was surprisingly well developed and there were some beautiful modern houses.

At last, we sighted the legendary lake in the middle of beautiful green hills and paddy fields surrounding it. While I have seen many mountain lakes, this one was indeed special as it brought forth memories of what we used to learn in school, my grandmother's tales, which was so long ago and I found it startling to be standing by a lake held so high in Mizo legends.

As we walked on, there were beautiful rest houses standing by the lake, which I guess were meant for the Burmese tourists, though I doubt that many would come this far when their roads connecting to the main cities are said to be very bad. Indians are given only a day pass to visit the lake.

And then we walked in to the restaurant, and I was dying for a cold cold water, but it was stocked with alcohol! Who in the world would drink in the middle of the day, especially when it was over 30C and then has to track back almost 3 km to the Indian border?? Well, some do, but it would have been nice if there was a bottle of chilled water.

Then we walked beyond the lounge, and heard a loud crowd boarding a boat for a ride. We sat and watched them as they were boating along the lake. I found it rather amusing that they have boats to ride on, but the charge was rather high, which was 400 Rupees per half an hour ride in the middle of nowhere!

Rih Outlet

While taking photos, I saw reflections of the trees on the lake and wondered if this was what the ancestors called ‘Mitthi pal’, the name of a mythical row of trees in the Rih lake said to mark the path across the water traversed by departing spirits on their way to 'Mitthi khua'. These trees were said to be connected with one another beneath the water in such a way that if one shook the one.

The men who were on the boat ride finally came back, and we were happy to find out that they are from Mizoram and that some had even worked with my dad in the past. I was pleased that they invited us along to visit the village, and then showed us the outlet of the lake called Rih Dawk.

All this while, I was ignorant of the fact that there was an outlet, because I was made to believe that the lake has no external or internal inflow! I guess this was to make the lake more mysterious than it already is in the folk lore of the Mizos. The water was clear, but we were told that some when in the autumn season, the water becomes muddy, and remains so for several days, till it clears itself.

My new friends explained to me in details how the lake drains itself below the village and then made its way down to paddy fields just before the Indian border. They took us for tea to a house, which I found to be of great comfort to find out that their name was Hualngo as part of my family are of the same clan.

Though there were more places to see, we had to leave because the gate at the border was going to close at 5pm, and it was already 3pm. A walk down to the border was much more relaxing, besides being in a group, I could consult the elders who were very versed in the history of the Mizos, and also gave me an insight to the Indo- Burmese trade in the border.

They had a laugh when I asked if the British had purposely drawn the line of border to make us suffer and make us long for our revered lake, as they had done with many countries before the empire fell. Seriously, do you not think that just 3 more kilometers would have mattered at the time they divided the Arakan and Lushai hills?

The anthropologist from nowhere

The other landscape of Mizoram

Hilly indeed, but we do have other places that one must come back to discover...This is Champhai valley....

Summer Bloom

looks like lions...

One of the many interesting flowers that bloomed on my balcony till the storm came on Sunday....

Impression of Limassol, Cyprus

If you are not too fond of the sea, sun and sand, there is not much to do in Cyprus:-) As you can see, I did hit some tavern doors:-), but this one is the most beautiful of all I have photographed.


Few weeks ago, Nadia arrived - ...My first niece and I was dying to announce to the world that I have a niece....but she was born premature and was so fragile that I dared not tell the world about her except my close friends...today, my brother announced that she is kicking and fighting the world...there you go...I love her spirits:-) She is just like me:-)))

Nadia - not many Mizos would know the meaning of the name:

African/ Egyptian - She means the Caller
Arabic: She means the Beginning, First dawn on a flower, Announcer, The Caller
French/ Slavic/ Rumanian/ Russian: She means Hope

Quoting Wikipedia:

Nadia is a female name. In the western world its origins are in the diminutive of the Russian name Надежда (Nadezhda) which stand for "hope". "Nadine" is a French form of this diminutive.

This name is also very popular in the Middle East where it originates from Arabic (ندية), from the Qur'an. It was first used as a name in the Muslim world and later in the Western world. The meaning of this word in Arabic is "the caller" or "the announcer" or "the first dawn on a flower."

Nadine, Nada, Nadyn, Nadeen , Nadeah or Nadezah is the variant of the name Nadia.....
Whatever the name says, she is our  Dawn, our Beginning, our Hope and our Caller and most of all our Love....I cannot wait to meet her......

The World would be a perfect place if we live in the same town with our friends and family ......................

I cherish every friend’s visit in Vienna and I love showing them around my adopted country, food, culture and lifestyle…Last week I had very ‘rare’(very old friends, esp. Melody as we go back 20 years together - in a place, called at that time, St. Paul's High School)  visitors from my hometown, Mizoram and they left yesterday..back to their respective adopted countries…. Suddenly, the apartment and Vienna seems to be very empty……

Lucy arrived on Wednesday from Oslo and Melody on Friday from Amsterdam - We spent few days together, chatting till the birds were chirping in the morning, woke up at mid day, had breakfast at 12pm, lunch at 5pm, and dinner at 12am….More than sightseeing(though we did see a bit), we spent  time cooking Mizo food (one can find most of the ingredients in Vienna), catching up with each others lives, reading Mizo jokes from Thinchhia’s  Blog….. Their visit completely threw me out of my routine, but I loved every moment of it and wish that it could last a little bit longer….

But life is so, and I must accept that one place is too small for all of us to be together…but would'nt the world be a perfect place if we all live in one town..............??

 PS: I learnt that Anhling is found in Europe and Lucy made sure that I recognise the plant...Yipeeeee.....it grows wild in Austria.....

My Encounter with Camilla Sinensis

The great thing about having  work experience (but not working), poor photographer and a poor student is that your kind friends think of you when they hear of short term jobs and make contact for you with the people who needs short term skilled workers… and I am glad I have many kind friends, besides earning a bit, I am learning a lot of new skills in life and I am making the best of my time –though it is ending soon as I will have to go back to work....at least part time..before my course in the Uni starts in September

 Few weeks ago, a friend of mine called me if I needed work for few days….he said that all I had to do was wear a sari and host  tea parties for three days and a seminar on India in one of the best hotels in Austria. It did not sound so hard and the money was great…and the opportunity to wear my finest Assam, Mysore and Benaras sarees was too tempting to turn down the offer…(though it takes me about an hour to bind it….ha ha ha … I did end up wearing my Mizo puan one morning…)

So without knowing what I had committed myself to, I went for a brief up meeting with the PR guy and there I encountered Camellia Sinensis…. ….what do I know about Camilla except that she is our favourite drink in India….

 Commonly known to us as TEA, Camilla Sinensis is an evergreen plant, ingenious to both India and China. It is said that it was discovered by the Emperor Shun in 2737BC, but I guess one can argue that it was in India that tea was discovered….I will leave that to the experts as I only have about 24 hours a day….

 Is it me? Now that I have more time to ponder about many things, anything I touch in the last few months seems to have so much history that I dare not venture to a new topic anymore…so I will stick with my Mizo History and I better finish at least 2 chapters this month……ha ha…have to wait till Beck bring my books over hopefully in the middle of this month.

 So, after the meeting, I took home with me a book on tea and hundreds of pages of information about tea presentation.I was almost banging my head on the wall as I dreaded to read yet another book, from which I have to do a crash research………….

 As I began reading, I thought it would be good to write it down as I will forget it …and maybe I can share with the others later in case they know as little about tea as I do though I love to drink it….

 How did Camilla land up in Darjeeling, how is it processed and why is Darjeeling tea world famous….?

 In 1841, Dr. Campbell, the first Superintendent of Darjeeling brought tea seeds and planted it in his garden at Beechwood. He was quite successful with the experiment, therefore, the government in 1847 decided to put tea nurseries in the area. Tea plantation requires numerous labours to plant, pluck, tend and manufacture tea, but at this time, Darjeeling was sparsely populated; therefore, people from surrounding areas like Sikkim and Nepal were brought in to meet the needs of this labour intensive enterprise.

Unlike Assam tea, all Darjeeling teas are hand plucked and the region produces the world’s best aromatic teas. The smallest shoots, comprising of two leaves and a bud are plucked. It requires 22,000 such shoots, all plucked by hand - to produce 1 Kg. of Tea.

Tea in Darjeeling is harvested four times a year, and the same tea bush gives different character of tea over the harvest seasons. Tea is not plucked during winter months.  

The four harvest seasons are:

·        First Flush - End of February to April: The first tea plucked after the dormant winter months is called the First Flush tea .The liquor is characterized by a light translucent colour and a fragrant floral aroma.

This is the tea I went to present, it was plucked in March 2007, and was already here in Austria...delicious....

·        Second Flush - 3rd week of May to 3rd week of June: The Second Flush crops are more mature and are full of aroma. It is during this period that the famous "Muscatel" flavour becomes pronounced. This second harvest is the most expensive tea from Darjeeling.

I will be going back in June to present the Second Flush…

·        Rain’s Flush- End of June to middle of September: At this time of the year, tea grows in abundance and is produced in bulk. The brew is dark and the aroma is not exclusive due to rain, and is said to contain too much water.

·        Autumn’ Flush -Middle of September to November: At this time, the crops had already gone through summer and monsoon. The harvest is said to have strong aroma and the appearance in tea cups is copper in colour.

Darjeeling tea is produced with an Orthodox Method or the so called CTC method (Cut, Tear, Crush) and this starts with the process of withering.

WITHERING: After the plucked leaves are brought in, they are spread evenly on a withering trough and hot and cold air is blown simultaneously for about 14-16 hours. The aim is to remove 65-70% of the moisture so that the leaves becomes limp and can withstand the further process without crumbling.

ROLLING: The withered leaves are put in the rollers and this procedure lasts for 45 minutes. During this process the green leaf turns brown because when rolled under pressure, the cells ruptures and release the natural juices promoting oxidation and acceleration of pigmentation.


Fermentation begins with the process of Rolling. The rolled leaf is kept on the fermentation racks. Fermentation process is carried out at a low temperature in cool ‘naturally’ aired rooms, and the fermentation period lasts about 2-4 hours. The colour becomes dark and coppery and this is the stage, in which the flavanols combine with oxygen in the air, and develops the unique flavour of Darjeeling Tea.

FIRING or DRYING : After fermentation, the leaf is loaded to a dryer, in a perforated moving trays and dried for about 20 to 30 minutes.

SORTING & GRADING: After Firing, tea is then cooled and sorted using mechanically oscillated sieves for grading purpose. There is a gradual decrease in the sieve size from top to bottom which facilitates bigger size teas to remain on the top and the broken to the bottom.

So, that is the tale of the Darjeeling tea………… Today, there are 86 tea gardens, which produce about 10 million kilograms of tea annually, employing about 52, 000 people and additional 15,000 people during the plucking seasons.

After my crash course, I was on my way. I was pleasantly delighted to find out that the hotel was located in the Türracher Höhe, the same place where I had gone skiing with my friends. Then, I was quite embarrassed to find out that while immersed in my skiing activities, I missed the much talked about Chinese Pagoda in Austria, and found out that the top floor of the Pagoda was my working space……

What a beautiful Tea House, and I was so fascinated by the variety of tea they have in the House. What does a Hillybilly like me from Mizoram know about tea except Thingpui – boil the water, add milk, tea and sugar? So, I learnt more about Chinese and Japanese tea and by the third day, I was a tea expert

Well, the event turned out to be much bigger than anticipated. We had journalists representing all major papers in Austria and a group from Italy. The tea parties were successful and my seminar on India - about history, culture, tourism, handloom from the NE, especially Mizoram fascinated the people....

Came Sunday, and after many tea cups later, it was time to go home and prepare myself for my Monday class………….

Discovering Mizoram -Part 1



Covering 21,087 square kilometres, the 23rd state of India, Mizoram lies in the most southern extreme of northeast India. Sandwiched between Myanmar in the south and east, Bangladesh and Tripura in the west, Assam and Manipur in the north, Mizoram occupies an area of great strategic importance covering 722 kilometres of international boundary.

Mizoram is a mountainous region broken up in lengthwise into five major mountain ranges. The majorities of the hills rises to about 900 metres and are separated by rivers flowing either to the north or to the south creating deep gorges between the hill ranges. The highest mountain is called Phawngpui, which towers to 2210 metres above the sea level.

The State is divided into eight districts: Aizawl, Lunglei, Saiha, Lawngtlai, Serchhip, Champhai, Kolasib, Mamit and Aizawl is the capital of the State. (Updated December 2008 - Meanwhile Mizoram has three new districts Hnahthial, Khawzawl and Saitual since her last travel.)

With a population of about 8,91,058, Mizoram is inhabited by the Mizos, including several tribes  (and sub tribes) like Lusei, Hmar, Lai, Mara, Ranglong, Riang, and Chakma, etc.

The Tropic of Cancers runs through Mizoram, Aizawl in specific, making the climate pleasant all year round with temperatures ranging from 20C to 30C in summer and in winter from 11C to 21C in winter. The best time to visit is from October to May.



January 2007:

Week 1 and 2: South of Mizoram:

On a bright January morning, myself, my brother Tea, our friend Ritin and our driver Dika got ready to leave for our journey to the south of Mizoram. We had our own sumo jeep to travel around with and the destination that day was Lunglei, 240 kilometres away from Aizawl. We estimated that we would take about 7-10 hours depending on the road conditions and the number of stops we were going to make.

This journey took us through: Tuirial, Phaibawk, Seling, Thingsulthliah, Tlungvel, Khumtung, Chhingchhip, Chhiahtlang, Serchhip, Keitum, Bungtlang, Rawpui, Thiltlang, Pangzawl, Hnahthial, Tupuipeng, Leite, Mat (R), Dawn, Zobawk and Hrangchalkawn.

My childhood memory of the journey between Lunglei and Aizawl was - a never-ending journey in a Mahindra jeep, guarded by army convoy back in the 1980’s during insurgency. My dad was posted in Lunglei and we often had to travel back and forth to Aizawl to visit our families in Aizawl District and Assam, where my dad is from.

Today, 23 years later, the journey was different – I embarked on a journey with curiosity and excitement to see how things might have changed in the years I have not been to the places I had spent time in my childhood and the passing through the villages brought back memories of a very different Mizoram I knew. 

 Like many, I left Mizoram at a young age to study and have lived outside Mizoram for many years. I have travelled to many countries and have seen beautiful places in the world. But this trip is one of the best that I had ever taken and Mizoram is indeed beautiful. I am blessed to have met so many kind souls who were our hosts, our guides, travel companions and new friends. I am very indebted to all who imparted in me their knowledge about the places and legends associated with it. I hope that every Mizo youth would take a journey to these roads less travelled to discover the beauty of their homeland. Every person we met, village or town we travelled through has a story to tell…and I cannot get enough hearing the stories….


The second capital of Mizoram. Lunglei got its name from a bridge of rock found in the riverine area around Nghasih  -a small tributary of the river Tlawng and literally means the ‘bridge of rock’ Lunglei is blessed with great natural beauty and one can see one of the most beautiful sunsets in the world.

We reached the place after sunset and we stayed in a very nice hotel called Elite as the Circuit House was fully booked. Elite Hotel, in my opinion is one of the best and cleanest hotels in Mizoram. It was interesting to discover that I had followed the footsteps of the owner of the hotel, Lucy all of my life and it took us 23 years to meet, me as a traveller and she as a hostess! We were neighbours as kids (but never met), went to the same schools, university and have spent time with same friends at different times of our lives.

Back in the 80’s, there were only two houses below the Circuit House and today, there are few more houses and the place has changed a lot. It was quite a nostalgic moment for me to stand by the Circuit House and look around.  Memories and images flashed in front of me- of my siblings, myself and our cousin riding bicycles and skating down the hills till the police canteen. We were quite daring then when I look back and see quite a steep hill that we used to race on, oh but the fun we had….

I had breakfast with the cooks and caretakers from the circuit house who were still working there and remembered my family and me. It was a delight to catch up with them and hear about their lives. 

Lunglei has a lot to offer to tourists, but we stayed there for two nights as a transit point as we wanted to see interior villages that cannot be reached during monsoon. Lunglei can be easily reached from Aizawl and I decided to come back and spend more time in my next trip.


We proceeded to Tlabung, 83km from Lunglei. Tlabung falls under the Lunglei district and borders with Bangladesh.

The journey took us about 6 hours passing through Pachang, Phairuang, Rotlang, Lungsen and Tuichawng. We gave lift to the locals and sometimes our jeep was fully loaded with people with chickens and pigs and we even had passengers on top of the jeep.

It was a beautiful journey and bamboos, which were at their prime flowering season, thickly populated the jungle. For those who are not aware - over 30% of Mizoram’s forest is covered by bamboo species called Melcanna baccifera, and they flower every 50 years. This flowering is followed by invasion of rats that feed on the seeds and then on to the crops and have caused famine in Mizoram in the past. However, the Government of Mizoram has taken lots of steps to prevent famine in the state and is doing a good job. I heard that our people in the Myanmar side are not doing too well, and are going through many hardships due to this phenomenon called Mautam in Mizo.

 We then spotted wild pheasants during the drive and as I was quietly switching my camera on to capture the very rare Ram Ar as we call it in Mizo –Dika, our driver decided to race the car to kill the birds…and alarmed by the sound, they flew away. Two people sitting in the front of the car had different ideas of shooting wildlife picture! (and this would not be the last time that we would have different views about shooting wildlife).

…Alas, I could only laugh about the incident much later during the journey, but I will never forget the sight of the beautiful birds that I have not encountered for years and years….

 We reached Tlabung at late noon, and checked in to the newly built tourist lodge. Then, we proceeded to the river hoping to find a boat for hire. The sun was setting and I almost panicked not able to find a boat to hire…after sometime, and almost too late, we finally convinced someone that we wanted to photograph and not shop in Bangladesh and he agreed to take us in his boat!

 The sun was just setting and after an initial equipment hitch and stabilising my camera for the shots, we were on our way.  

For me, the people who live along the riverbanks of Mizoram represent the most fascinating and captivating scenes of life in Mizoram. I am so fascinated by the way they dry their clothes along the banks, cultivate their crops and also the unique means of arrangements they have transporting people and crops using the boats.

It was an amazing scene that would be embedded forever in our minds. Those scenes can never be captured with cameras, though I certainly did try it. Along the river bank, there were women washing clothes, people bathing, getting water in pots, men fishing, people returning from the Bangladesh bazaar, from their jhums and children frolicking around. Before we realised, we had reached the Indo –Bangladesh border and we had to register our boat. We went a bit further till the first village of Bangladesh but we had to turn back as it was getting dark.

After the river trip, we retired in the tourist lodge and spend the night in the dark, as there was no electricity. I was awakened by the sound of someone shaving wood with an electrical wooden plane.

Well, as the village hardly gets any electricity, it was humming with life even though it was 3am in the morning…this was when I wished that I had earplugs with me …besides the sounds of the electrical wooden plane, someone decided to blast the music and I almost had a breakdown listening to ‘It’s the time to disco’ at least about 10 times early in the morning! 

Needless to say, we were all very grumpy in the morning, and though slightly late than scheduled, we went back to the river and visited Chakma villages in the Indo- Bangladesh border, and it was truly enjoyable to experience their hospitality, and witness their lives. 

Lunglei to Saiha

Our journey from Lunglei to Saiha took us through Bualte, Thualthu, Tawipui 'N', Mualkawi, Tawipui 'S',Thingfal, Thingkah, Lawngtlai, Paithar, Chawntlangpui, Sihtlangpui, Kawlchaw, Zero point, and Tuitlawk.

 The road was good, and we covered the distance pretty quickly. We stopped by villages along the way, took pictures and had lunch at Lawngtlai. I was surprised to find so many auto rickshaws in the town; and we met a lady who left her shop and took us around town; she even shared her family pictures with me even though we had just known each other for an hour. I was very touched by her generousity and I hope that I will see her again.

 People joked that the most arduous journey for us would be between Lawngtlai and Saiha ; that we will see Saiha throughout our journey, but it will take us hours to reach the town. They were not joking, and by the time to reach Saiha, it was dark and it took us time to find the tourist lodge and we even landed in the helipad with our sumo jeep! Alas, we had to drive down to the town again than take off

Saiha is the third biggest town in Mizoram and is the capital town of Mara District Autonomous Council. It is said that in the earlier times, lots of elephant teeth were found in the area and hence called Sai -meaning elephant and ha- meaning tooth - therefore elephant tooth!

Much to our regret, we did not have much time to discover the area around Saiha. We did not visit the Palak Lake, but I have no doubt that I would be back as soon as I can to the south of Mizoram.

Saiha to Sangau:

The next morning, we then proceeded to Sangau, to see the Phawngpui, the Blue Mountain, the highest peak of Mizoram.

The journey from Saiha to Sangau took us through the villages Tlangpui, Lunzarhtum, Bualpui, Lungpher, Rawlbuk, and Cheural.

 The road was pretty interesting, and we sometimes circled a hill for hours. But the ride was rewarding as we passed through villages that are hardly ever visited by people. It was amazing to see young and old people especially men playing cards on the roadside. People were eager to talk to us and we spent time in each village and each person we met enriched our knowledge about the places and convinced me even more that I have to come back and spend more time.

 We also spotted many young boys with catapult and a cloth bag full of mudstones, also men with rifles. It was apparent that hunting was main pastime of the people there. Though I understand the need to hunt for food, I was quite saddened to see so many beautiful birds being preyed on for fun. I had never seen such beautiful birds in my life and it was quite easy for me to feel protective about the environment – I also understand that there is not much that the youth has to fill their past time with. Perhaps, with time, things will change, and we have to take on initiatives to develop something for the youth in the villages.


We reached Sangau, the nearest village to Phawngpui Mountain in the late afternoon and checked in the tourist lodge. A very friendly family looked after the lodge and we immediately felt at home and cooked our own meals in their kitchen. We discussed our plans with them and they organised our itinerary for the next day and also our permits to enter the Phawngpui National Park.

We were told that the road between Sangau and Farpak would be one of the most adventurous ones we had ever driven to. I was not planning to drive as I am one of those who believes that if people can, they should walk when entering a protected sanctuary…but my curiosity gt better of me, especially after I heard the story that the Governor of Mizoram who had visited the place earlier did not eat for a day after he took a ride to this road…

 I agreed with the boys that we would drive till Thaltlang to experience the road but no further. The road was narrow indeed but it was not as bad as we had anticipated. But I certainly recommend that one should travel in Maruti gypsy rather than sumo, as it is too narrow to manevour.

 Upon reaching Thaltlang, we trekked about 7km uphill to Farpak, detouring from the motor road and walked into the jungle. We had the son of the tourist lodge caretaker, his friend and a forest guard with us, who were most useful in guiding us to the area. We came across birds, mushrooms, plants and fruits, some we had never seen in our lives. We were told of legends that were associated with the place. We were actually most fascinated by the story of a Mizo warrior who is said to have combed his hair everyday in the most inconvenient places we saw and spend hours arguing about how he could possibly jump from the cliff to the stone and get down or back! The discussion did make the trek shorter as all of us had our own theory!

If you have heard of the steepness of Thlazuang Kham, you would have also heard that any thing you throw, except yourself comes back due to the pressure of the wind…and it was true. The boys were throwing their shirts and bandanas and they came flying back as fast as it was thrown off to the cliff….amazing….

 It was wonderful to walk through the sanctuary and we spotted the first rhododendrons blooming in the forest but very challenging to photograph, as I could not find a place where I could stand steady. The peak is another two hours walk from Farpak, one has to be pretty fit to trek through deep forest path. The weather was very foggy and as we could not see much, we decided to walk back to Thaltlang in the late afternoon.

 Thalthlang is the village where Pu Vana and his group used to settle. I spent time interviewing the locals, taking pictures of their traditional jewellery and clothes. We went back to Sangau in the evening where a big feast was awaiting us.

It was time to leave the next day…and we had to embark on a 300km drive back to Aizawl via South Vanlaiphai, Darzo, Tuipui, and Tuipui Peng.

 We were told of the boat we would have to take to cross the Chhimtuipui River and did not believe it till we saw the MAR boat. Ritin and I were most excited to see a narrow hanging bridge and we decided to cross the river using this bridge whereas Dika and Tea were to cross with the jeep using the MAR boat. It was fun to cross the bridge, but I think I developed my first fear of height…no sure what triggered it…could be some movie scene that came to my head or the locals who were running behind me rocking the bridge as if they were walking on land that instilled sudden fear in me….(or perhaps my realisation that I am not in my teens anymore )

We rested for sometime and I interviewed the people operating the boat, while the boys were washing the Sumo and swimming. We then proceeded to Aizawl, stopping at Serchhip for food where we had the most delicious Tumbu bai (banana flower dish) and reached home, Aizawl  at about 12am…


Week 3

 Aizawl, Kolasib, Chhimluang, Bairabi:

 Ritin left for Kolkata and I was with my boys, Tea and Dika trailing further to the northern part of Mizoram, in Kolasib district. The destination that day was Bairabi, and a detour to a village called Chhimluang, a village inhabited by Riang tribes.

 Our journey took us through the villages and towns: Durtlang, Sihphir, Lungdai, Serkhan, Zanlawn, Kawnpui, Bualpui ,Thingdawl, Kolasib, Rengtekawn, Saihapui Peng, Pangbalkawn,  Meidum and Bairabi.

We travelled in one of the best roads in Mizoram and I wanted to take over the wheels…but Dika would not allow me to drive……….

We detoured from the main road from Pangbalkawn village to a settlement called Chhimluang, which was only 9 kilometres away but it took us an hour to reach the place.

I had never seen such an idyllic picture of a settlement except in Asterix comics and I was thrilled and excited. However, photographing in this village was one of the most challenging ones I have ever done. The people were apprehensive about an outsider, and they were not quite sure of what to make out of a woman running around with a camera, tripod and big lenses! However, we had given lift to one of the villagers on the way and he helped us talking to the people and explaining my intentions.

By the time I earned their trust, the entire village followed me and while I laughed with them to see their delight in discovering that they could see the photos though my LCD screen. I found it very hard, as I could not capture any picture without one of the kids running to be in the picture. But we managed some shots after we calmed down the kids with sweets. This tactic seems to work in many interior places I have been to…


The railhead town of Mizoram - As we could not find the exact time that the train would arrive, we discovered the village a bit and then off to the river Tlawng.

Bairabi is known for bamboo and teak logging. While rowing on the river, one can witness lively activities of the village life. It is worth spending time along the riverbank.

There were men floating bamboos, using bamboos as raft, which are then brought to the bank and loaded to the trucks to be transported to Assam. We met lots of villagers in boats who were going to their jhum, and chanced upon kids who were having a battle in the water. We spend time with them and their pictures are my masterpieces of the trip.

There is a MAR boat that transport vehicles across the river and one can reach Mamit district after crossing the river.

After three weeks and about 1500km later, I was running out of time and it was time to end the trip. I hope to be back again in autumn and continue my journey.....