the promised land

torn away from our vision
of the happy hunting grounds,
we are condemned
to an english heaven.

so torn away, in fact
that the only term i know
to explain it
is borrowed-
a bland american rendition
of another tribe's afterlife.

[published in blackmail press 26]

[much thanks to deepthi for the title]

22 comments:

Peer Gynt said...

i hear you!

and i LOVE this line especially -

"condemned to an english heaven"

i'm not sure if there are a people who have so resolutely left their past behind and "tore away from the vision of the happy hunting grounds" much as we have done. and as you say, the irony is weird indeed.

i've often asked my Mizo pals, many of whom scorn the "elaborate rituals + noise" of a Hindu wedding, that they consider the fact that while a Hindu wedding is as authentic as it can get, we would have nothing to pass on to our children but stilted "I do's" at the altar and adulterated versions of a man eina. how do we even begin to rekindle the glory of our ancestors, is the question. 'd go so far as to say that Jung would have sadly pronounced us a people suffering from collective fugue.

and the repercussions are sad indeed! no wonder that, after a mere 100 yrs of total proselytization, our land is imploding from what i can only call a deep sense of loss strangely manifesting itself in the fissures erupting from the formation of over 70 "christian" sects and counting…

wish more Mizos could read your posts and share this wistfulness.

feddabonn said...

peer, i'm going to have to number my response to keep it coherent (for *me, lol)

1. much thanks! here i was, telling the wife that i'd probably get growled at by mizos who see this- and you prove me wrong! i'm delighted to meet another person interested in the 'pi leh pu te'.

2. i'm afraid i have also disliked the elaborate hindu weddings- but you have a very interesting point about authenticity. food for thought there.

3. wow. is it 70 now! very interesting that you would link these divisions with "a deep sense of loss". think you could elaborate on that?

Blind Dayze said...

No bastard in here but i insist... your poems could do well as lyrics in a metal song.. in fact something is coming up on my side ..band thingy so maybe if things work out.. i'll be glad if you allow me to scream out some of your poetry...

a bland american rendition
of another tribe's afterlife... pure metal i say \m/

feddabonn said...

lmao blind, thanks! i'd be honoured to have you scream out my poetry. think i/we might become a half-chinky zack de la rocha eh? [grin]

all my work is copyleft (creative commons) though, so i'm afraid you won't be able to copyright any derivative work.

Gauri Gharpure said...

while i can't exactly relate to the situation, i really like the sound and sorrow of the words..

feddabonn said...

@gauri: more the thanks!

look at this, if you will, as the lament of a colonised people for an old religion. may make more sense then.

'the happy hunting grounds' is the english 'translation' of the native american afterlife. the zo tribes (and the nagas?) had a similar idea of the afterlife, where animals would give themselves to be hunted.

probably a common theme among hunter/gatherer/subsistence farmer societies.

Peer Gynt said...

Apologies for the late rep…i seem to be able to collect my thoughts only a few hrs befo sun up!

y’know, your question was quite unsettling because when I put my mind to it, i found it more and more difficult to put my finger on exactly how i connect the two! but it got me probing deeper and many thanks for that! (apologies in advance for the loooong comment(s)!)

After giving it much thought, i traced it back to a trip i‘d made to Aizawl about three yrs ago, to consult a few people who were/are considered authorities on Mizo history: http://www.mediafire.com/?weioocdnmnm

Most of them were grudging in their praise of the old ways, and even more so when it came to religious sects which they put down to the result of mere ignorance of the goodness of the church or the result of a man’s egoistic claims to hearing god’s voice. This was a running theme in most books which dwelt on the subject of the church and sects.

But among them was a very senior gentleman, and his story has stayed with me. He said he grew up in a world where his parents/neighbours were ultimately shamed into conversion – and interestingly, he said pressure came not so much from the missionaries as it did from their newly converted neighbours. It became a matter of shame if one or both parents resisted conversion – to the point of feeling ostracised. So chief by chief, village by village began to see the ‘sensibility’ in adopting the new faith. A noted Mizo author, Mr. P.C. Biaksiama remarked on an interesting thing – the fear factor as he called it. He said in the old days, we were terrified of the dark, our superstitions, sacrifices, and fairies revolved around protecting people from the dark. So when a sap brought the ‘light’ with him, (I regret not having interrupted him then cos I still don’t know if this meant the first electric bulb in Mizoram) he said “Jesus is the way, the truth and the life”(and might well’ve been the lightbulb!). The same with sickness. He said with the missionaries came medicines and so it was seen that “He heals the sick”. One can’t blame them. I just wish there’d been more room (and time) for forethought, and that it didn’t require such absolute renunciation of who they were and where they came from.

A consciousness of giving up core belief systems would’ve been painful indeed – be it zu or their superstitions and lore. i have often pictured in my mind the image of each mizo who knelt before the cross, and the terrible moment when, say, a venerable chief who’d all along believed he’d done right by his people (or a pasaltha even), would ultimately surrender to the conviction that he’d been leading a life of sin, that he been wrong all along and that a new, foreign God was to measure him with a foreign yardstick! The more I dwell on it, the more the old chief’s surrender makes me lose my shit, and I can only think of it as yet another sacrifice, be it relatively bloodless but bought with a price that was just as dear. Another feather in the cap of the new Lord’s chosen emissaries. A sacrifice of old souls and spirits for new ones.

Peer Gynt said...

Many people might find a connection between a displaced feeling of loss and sectarianism in Mizo-Christian faith too far out and a tad romantic. But more than anything, I suppose it’s more of a lament as you said earlier, and my own need to find a connection, however outlandish the idea.

I feel that these sects are in many ways, little sub-tribes of their own. Many of them even bear an uncanny, clannish stamp of the old ways – manifested sometimes through their un-hymn-like songs, lyrics, drums, and rules and always with a ‘chief’ at the head. I feel proselytization happened far too swiftly and offered no space for gradual shifts which may have permitted a far more wholesome blend of the old and the new. I really don’t think they were ready for Presbyterianism to sweep em off their feet.

This radical shift in worlds and world views accompanied with christianity’s free gift package of guilt, i feel, can’t but have repercussions…leaving our poor forefathers more than a little shell-shocked, barefoot and pregnant with their faith. The hysteria seen in the charismatic revivals of old and even today’s are also I feel, quite symptomatic. Our frenzied “Halleluiah!!”’s may well have replaced the stirrings of ancestral war cries or sacrificial chants inherent in our tribal blood.

You might find the dreams/visions of Khawliantlira in March, 1913 and Challianthanga (who dreamt of Mizos being the lost tribe of Manaseh) in 1947, interesting -

1913: Khawliantlira (Tlira) went to church to deliver a sermon and while the first hymn was being sung, he had a dream/vision - a dreadful dragon (python), as big as a house, lying prone on the wide sandy shore of the Tiau River, with its mouth wide open, and inside, he saw a big Christian congregation singing devoutedly, waving their hymn books and Bibles. He said “I realized then that python was one that could swallow the human race. Because I have been spat out by the python, I know the horrors of that place. It is suffocating and claustrophobic!” After this incident, Tlira was seen as the one who had the devil, or Khawliantlira was Satan himself because of the simple fact that “he dared to deviate from the Bible and the church as early as 1913” (Lalsawma, 1994), occupying a distinctive place as forerunner of all other deviations in the history of Christianity in Mizoram, and was needless to say, promptly excommunicated.

Thirty four years later.

1947: Challianthanga, claimed to have dreamt of a voice telling him that “Mizos are the descendents of Israel and therefore, the Lord will guide you back to the Ancient Land”. Then in 1948, a fellow villager Darnghaka also saw a similar dream (Vanlallawma, 2005).

Dreams like these have amplified my belief that our sects (which arise nine times out of ten from visions/dreams) are inexorably linked to a deep-seated sense of loss in the abandonment of the old life, more than the oft-condemned egoistic thirst for recognition as a separate pawl.

I had initially looked at these topics based on a Jungian approach for my masters dissertation, but I withdrew my submission 10 days before D Day after I fell out with my supervisor. I don’t know what the hell happened, but he completely threw me off guard 2 weeks before my submission date by pronouncing me a Jew! :-/


Biaksiama, P. C. (2004). Inchapchar, Mizo Nge Israel? Aizawl, Mizoram: F. Kapsanga Enterprise Tuikual ‘S’ & The Christian Research Centre
Lalsawma, Rev. (1994). Revivals, The Mizo Way. Aizawl, Mizoram: Mission Veng Thlang.
Vanlallawma, C. (2005). “Mizo Israelism”. Kristian Thalai, September Issue.

feddabonn said...

wow peer. those are comments worth waiting for!

'conversion' is a very complex thing, isn't it. while i wouldn't say pu biaksiama is 'wrong', this is the first i have heard of the zo being 'shamed' into converting. sadly, i know how likely it is!

was it pu tlira's group who first brought back the drum to church worship? i love the sound (and the zai khawm singing) and was surprised to hear that it was at one time banned in the presbyterian church.

are you planning to resubmit it for a dissertation? i'd love to see this on your blog, or, if you'd like, can post it as a guest post on mine. sounds way too fascinating to be buried at the whim of a silly supervisor.

"I just wish there’d been more room (and time) for forethought, and that it didn’t require such absolute renunciation of who they were and where they came from." exactly. i feel robbed, somehow, of a history, of a perspective, of a connection to my ancestors and their way of seeing things. a huge pity.

mesjay said...

Wonder, what is this English heaven? The Mizo heaven was pathetically unexciting. And the old Mizo way of living, though it had a lot of good,is not something to look back at with much longing.We were always living in mortal fear; fear of raids by other villages, fear of evil spirits,and many other fears.

It's often complained that the missionaries weaned us away from our culture. Perhaps they did. But they/we have upheld the core values

mesjay said...

like 'tlawmngaihna.' Perhaps much of the conversion was not real, was only out of peer pressure. That's why there's still a lot of bad stuff carried over, like making light of sexual immorality.Perhaps, as the commentor remarked, it was too sudden without true conviction sinking in gradually.

But i'm so thankful the true conversions did take place. If not, who knows, our community may have been wiped out by now.

In civilization,we were far behind our neighbours like Tripura and Manipur, who were already kingdoms when we were still illiterate. But we also advanced, thanks to education and Enlightenment brought through the missionaries.

(Mizo concept of heaven is posted on emystoryland.blogspot.com & old Mizo life is referred to in the story 'Weekend Journey' on letmetellyouamizostory.blogspot.com)

samda said...

Nice read. Seems coming from an armchair romantic. Actually Mizoram, and for that matter North East India has not come out of that Golden era of head hunting. Only the weapons have changed. Reason probably is that they give as much respect to Christ as they gave to ‘Pathian’ in the old religion. ‘Pathian’ of old is a benevolent ‘god’ who does not harm anybody or bother anybody.

Equating Christianity with the Anglo-Saxon culture is a travesty of history. Anglo-Saxons race did not exist when Christ was born in Asia. If the Anglos got it wrong, one cannot blame Christ for that.

Christian thought is not the result of some old folk seeing dreams and visions. It has the history of many millennia behind it. The proof of the truth of Christ is the fulfilment of hundreds of prophesies and his resurrection from the dead.

The historical Christ is there, for anyone who wants to know the truth, to see and read and understand.

The opposition to Christ has come from people who are unwilling to accept their sin and guilt. They think that sin and guilt will stop existing by denying their existence. One cannot stop the sun from shining by closing the eyes.

feddabonn said...

@mesjay: much thanks for the link to a post on the mizo afterlife stories.

i agree that we gained a lot from the missionaries, and mean them no disrespect- many (most?) were people who loved the tribes. i do, however, regret our tendency to rush headlong into anything that is western/sap, forgetting where we came from, and often looking back with shame at our history. peer/blind may be able to corroborate this- referring to something/someone as "a zo" or "i zo" is an expression of how 'backward' it/they are! i think this headlong rush to lose a culture is a (partly at least) long term result of our 'ngaisang'[thinking highly of] for what the missionaries brought us.

i go back again to what roob said about headhunting- it is hardly any worse than *any sort of killing. it really is just a matter of sensibilities if we recoil from having the head (or scalp) brought back. why then are we so ashamed of those days? has the white man taught us not to kill? did the 'civilized' tripura and manipur not kill?

i agree that some of the core values have come through, even that some old cultural elements (like the khuang [drum]) are now used in churches. yet the attitude remains- to 'progress' is to become western. and so we have kids that know all about how singing love songs will send me to hell, but little about rih dil.

feddabonn said...

@samda: thanks, lol. i will not deny being a romantic, armchair or not!

"North East India has not come out of that Golden era of head hunting": no people group ever did, i think. most countries i know have standing armies on call to kill. the shame is in the killing, not the headhunting.

while i tend to agree with you on the difference between a historical christ and anglo/cultural christianity, i do not see the division so clearly. sadly, though, what we have inherited is the anglo christ, not the fisherman carpenter and his radical message.

Blind Dayze said...

Yes!... another line i've got for some real headhunting ... sorry headbanging metal lyrics..
"You can't stop the sun shine by closing your eyes.."

Okay on a serious note..talking about the historical Christ.. Lee Strobel's book - Case for Christ is really2 good.. I'd be glad to "share" it...to anyone interested...

The "zo" part. Yes sadly, it's true... and following the sap lifestyle=changkang...and as Mesjay has pointed right down to making light of sexual immorality...

Peer Gynt said...

thanks for your kind offer! but now, all i can see are chinks in my research and the stiffness in my writing! it’ll take a lot more time and work before i can come up with a sound whole. but BIG thanks for your interest and encouragement – this subject had all but died with my paper and now its making me think!

not sure if Tlira’s group re-introduced the khuang during worship. it’s a very interesting & plausible point and shall surely look it up! i too love the haunting strains of the drum beat especially during zai khawm.

P.S apologies for the lack of clarity in my writing – the senior gentleman I mentioned (a retired lecturer from Aizawl College) and Pu Biaksiama are different persons.

Peer Gynt said...

mesjay,

The tolerance in your comment has just made me realise that what i’ve written could easily be offensive and insensitive to a person’s private faith and first off, please allow me to apologise for my harsh take on conversion and Christianity in Mizoram. I see tlawmngaihna and faith have indeed trickled down to some.

The sacrilegious ideas i’ve spouted are romantic and can seem trivial for people with so much faith – a faith which seems lucid and stripped of colour and race – a faith for which I long but has been denied to me. i've inherited my grandfather’s love of folktales (your links were really nice and also loved re-reading to ‘A Weekend Journey‘ which I’d come across about two months ago :) ... but sadly, it looks like i‘ve lost out on my grandmother’s unwavering faith.

samda,

The (armchair, no doubt:) romantic in me links the old folks' dreams and visions, more to a longing of a bygone age and way of life than to Christian thought. Christ, or Christian thought is not the culprit, and as earlier mentioned, i cannot blame anyone. But i do feel that we take such little pride and know so little of who we were before, that i find it difficult to look forward without looking back at the ‘dark age’ of my ancestors and feel so disinherited.

In many ways, when it comes down to it, I believe it’s the stories and music which make a land rich and mythical. And i want every child to grow up with stories of our chiefs and our legends - of chawngchilhi’s story, of rih dil, and the beautiful hawilo par, not as something they just learn as part of the school curriculum - which is what is happening today. These stories and poems/songs deserve to be inherited and passed down with pride, orally and on paper...just as we make sure every kid today knows of joseph and his multi-coloured coat and all the stories in the Bible. There are societies where neither heritage is compromised.

My own search continues and who knows if one day, I might be able come back to this post with a deeper understanding of this distinction between, as you’ve so profoundly put it - the true Christ and the Anglo-Saxon one. At present, i cannot but see the two as one – doubtless, for want of a broader view and a deeper faith. For, to the man/woman of faith i suppose all this is immaterial.

Guilt and sin, i do possess (and acknowledge to possessing:) in plenty and i leave it to fate (or God) to decide whether I keep them for myself or commit them to him in this life or the next.

My thanks to you both!

blackestred said...

Lively discussion here. I agree with Gynt on every level. Not that I know much about Ancient Mizo History, but then, where do we have the resource save a few stories handed down generations or public libraries which are few.

"The only term i know
to explain it
is borrowed.." I love this.. Fed, You are truly a master in "Less words, more impact!"

@Peer: These comments are worth a post, please make a post and I'll be the first to read them!

feddabonn said...

@blind: saw some lyrics you might like...will get them over as soon as this chap agrees!

@peer: you really should post on the topic. you have quite obviously thought (and know) a lot about this!

@blackest: thanks! help me get some pressure on peer to post on this stuff, eh? [grin]

Peer Gynt said...

heeh. peer nearly yields to pressure. but a grateful (& now mindblank) gynt thinks it does just fine as a *bonny comment.

:D

mesjay said...

I do agree with you guys that we Mizos have the unhealthy tendency to run full speed for things we consider 'changkang' (civilized/advanced?)without stopping to think whether they're good for us. And if we're unduly apologetic or ashamed of our past/culture, that's silly.

Peer, like you, i'm terribly fascinated by our old folklore, tales and poetry. If time and energy allowed, i'd have liked to make a closer study of them.

But i believe the redemption for our nation lies not in looking back but in looking to Christ.

John Doe said...

well there has been many an issue which has been discussed here both in the post as well as the comments and I don't know which one to respond to.

@Peter "Hindu wedding is as authentic as it can get"

Well I am a Hindu and a Bengali. And yes, we have retained a bit of our culture. But as I see it, with every generation, some of it is being weaned away. We just finished the famoys 'Pujas' and the older generation was hard put to get me or my cousins interested at all.

None of my generation knows how to tie a dhoti or know anything about the millions of things that make someone Bengali.

The language too is much adulterated.

Maybe the 'loss' in this case is not as abrupt as in the case of Mizos, but it is real nevertheless.

@everyone

The comparison with the anglo saxon church, the pre-christian mizo religion, the red indian mythology and every other culture I think is a waste of time. to my mind, every culture known to man is tribal. what is baptism and holy communion if not tribal rites of passage? what is the cross (and I am sure to get some violent responses here) but not a totem pole?
head hunting... we still give medals to people who kill.

happy hunting grounds - what is the christian concept of paradise? sadly very little is written about it. the neo missionaries would like us to believe that it would be full of the devout dressed in white singing hymns constantly accompanied by naked chubby cherubs on harps. if it is so, I'd rather go to hell, but that is not the point.

the hebrew paradise was much more basic. a tribe used to living near desert lands, it is no wonder that their descriptions coincide with that of an oases.

the hindu paradise (swarglok) had a lot of drinking (soma) and naked dancing girls (apsaras) - more my style.

anyways my point is... show me a culture which is not tribal? i am yet to see one.

i think i have rambled on enough. i need my soma.