on the upside, the new site is much easier to browse through, and content doesn't belong to google or depend on their servers. it is much lighter design wise, and can be user optimised for low-light or low-power conditions. there are also no irritating word verifications when typing in comments.
there is a mobile friendly version @ http://m.feddabonn.com too. the site automatically detects a mobile browser, and auto redirects to the mobile site. a link at the bottom of the feed allows you to go to the 'main' site if you want to. still a work in progress, and a ways to go.
on the downside, those of you who use RSS readers would need to point them now to http://feeds.feedburner.com/feddabonn. am hoping i won't lose readers in the switchover!
there is still some formatting work to be done, and i'll keep at it. hope to see improvements, especially with the mobile site. will also update a links section very soon. all feedback is very welcome.
thanks to geordee, who is seeing to the server space/domain rego stuff; and blind dayze who did the logo, the favicon, and tweaked the free template i got from tech designs. thanks too to the people who have made wordpress such a brilliant software to use, and who have managed to keep it free.
thanks most of all to you people who read and comment on the posts. you make this whole effort worthwhile. again, would love to hear your feedback!
while i know i've posted a couple of songs here, i don't think i've ever flogged 'naked and in love'. so here goes.
the sky is cold
nibbling at my edges
the earth is hard
chewing at my feet
where is the sea
where is the sea
one part sunshine
two parts sea
and throw our tantrums
crying like spoiled children;
while the mai-baap* government
plods steadily on
grand as a sunset
Bhopal is the classic story of corporate cost-cutting gone wrong, though it has only really gone wrong for the people who were and are being affected by the terrible gas leaks of 2-3 December, 1984. Warren Anderson is free to enjoy his millions, safe in the knowledge that neither the Indian nor the american governments have the balls to go after him. And with Dow Chemicals taking over the assets (but *not the responsibilities) of Union Carbide the shareholders were taken care of too. I, for one, would have been stunned if the courts had actually made anything more than a token effort at justice, seeing how the CBI has been trying to get poor Anderson off the hook for years, and how it was the Indian Government that let the bastard leave the country in the first place, after they had arrested him for manslaughter.
And then comes the Civil Nuclear Liability Bill. As if it were not enough to demonstrate that large American Corporations would have no real trouble from our police or judiciary, the government (by the people, of the people, for the people) has decided that this might as well be made law. The insurability of an American Corporation, you see, is SO much more important than putting in realistic controls to make sure they are not over-burdened with financial claims should the equipment screw up. Capitalist exploitation at its beautiful best, the profits without the responsibility.
I have little understanding of politics, much less of economics. However it doesn't take a degree in biology to realise you are being raped; by the same government (by the people, of the people, for the people) that is supposed to protect you. I wish the stranglehold of corporates and national governments over our lives was as easily removed as the labels from our clothes. But here we stand, in the curious position of a person sold into slavery, not knowing whom to hate more- the bastards that sold you, or the bastards that bought.
NB: Cut a label...sign the petition against this bill.
*mai-baap=father-mother, a role many see the government as playing, particulary in the imperialistic scheme of things.
the format is simple enough- a play’s script *read to an audience, not acted. from what i understood, the actors have the freedom to decide whether they would like to do a bit of ‘acting’ instead of just reading the plays aloud. while it is a ‘public’ event, open to anyone, the audience is small- last night must have had about 30 people. there is no ‘stage’ as such, just some empty space at the front of the room, and no mics. the play is read/performed, and the playwright and director and actors have a bit of a conversation with the audience.
i really enjoyed this format for two reasons. for one, this further breaks down the dividing wall between the writer and the audience, with many comments from the audience being on the lines of ‘you should have done it *this way’, or even ‘i don’t think that character/event was believable’. encouraged by the playwright, these comments acted as feedback, and i had a very strong sense that some of the comments were being incorporated into how the play would be staged next time. it was like watching a play half-written or half-rehearsed, and being able to actually contribute to the continued making of it.
the second reason i really liked this format was the simplicity and cost effectiveness. there were no sound systems or expensive setups. it was held in the foyer of a theatre building, but i imagine any largish room would do, as long as the actors can be heard. it was free for the audience, and i think this event has some funding, though it seems possible to do something similar without the funding too.
the plays were well worth a watch, and though we didn’t participate vocally in the discussion, it gave us much talk material for later. and while i do not feel ‘qualified’ to critique the plays, the discussions were an interesting insight to how people think, particularly how we ask questions.
it seems a pity to me that we seem to need to constantly compare the world of the play to our ‘expectations’ of life and our surroundings. for instance, there was some discussion about whether a manic-depressive would behave the way one of the actors did, a comment about a doctor’s assertiveness etc. i personally feel that the internal logic to the piece is primary, and not so much whether it conforms to ‘reality’ as we think we know it.
there was also this odd need to label, and therefore pin down the ‘what’ of something. while the playwright in one play had written in some behaviours for a character, the actor needed to label it ‘manic-depressive’ to understand and so to communicate the character. another instance was a discussion about whether the play should be a farce or a comedy. while i do understand (and appreciate) the value of labels as indicators and as comprehensible and therefore communicative symbols, i’m not sure either of these helped (me at least) in any way.
all in all a thoroughly enjoyable evening, thanks to everyone involved!
hanging in nooses
all shot to hell
damn your flag.
damn damn damn
under a tree at midnight
we watch the pedestrian lights
chatter madly to themselves
it is autumn now
and dawn is farther away
than it used to be
if autumn comes
can winter be far behind?
fire on the mountain
run boys run
fire on the mountain
run boys run
a little singed
around the edges
but tinged with exhiliration
and seasoned with a healthy dose
of sea salt.
who was to know, then
of dear john?
or maybe we did;
in this fire-play
(and in his water-play)
we briefly stand
before the darkness
that makes memories of us all;
fire on the mountain
run boys run
fire on the mountain
run boys run
RIP John. I will always remember you as the person who taught me to canter. And always thankful.
3 small stuffed toys, preferably from McDonald's, but Disney will do
1 noose, pre-prepared
1 sachet of ketchup, from any fast food joint
1 knife, sharp
1 pre-dawn darkness, with streetlight attachment to work by
Prepare the noose beforehand. Hang each toy by the neck till dead, 15 minutes, or till you get bored whichever is sooner. Bring the body down from the noose,and lay down on chosen workspace. Find the main stitch (usually the back or the belly) and proceed to cut open. start with the back/belly, open up the legs, then end with the head/jaw. Appropriately add ketchup (or not) as desired. Remove stuffing and keep aside. Repeat for all the three. Mix in remaining ketchup with skin or stuffing, according to taste. Sell the results on eBay/trademe, as preferred. Donate all money raised to Ronald McDonald House Charities or the Walt Disney Company Foundation.
Why did I do this? (Pick one)
a. To highlight the hypocritical bloodthirst of a civilisation that eats meat but shrinks from knowing how and where that meat comes from
b. To resist a worldview swamped by the cute and purveyors of the cute
c. As a pathetic attempt at registering some sort of pseudo-symbolic protest against how corporations such as McDonalds and Disney are taking over this planet, particularly our food and our imagination
d. Because I am a really twisted bastard
e. As a cheap stunt to increase my blog hits
f. All of the above
g. None of the above
maybe the laughter that stumbles drunkenly out of the cafés
Particular thanks also to zozem and peer gynt, without whose help I would have been unable to complete this translation.
Cheraw and the Mizo
I’m not going to speak of whether we have or have not made a Guinness World Record in a bamboo dance. I think we have said all we wanted to. As for me, I want to know how Cheraw became our tribe’s dance, and since when this has become part of our culture and lifestyle. I’ll say what I know of it, you can then add what you know. I think the people at misual.com might profit more from this discussion than from discussions about bamboo-dances and World Records.
I have not heard of the Cheraw being danced at the Chapchar Kut. Somewhat like the Sawlakia, this was one of the dances of the Pawi before we came west (from Burma). Though I don’t have documented proof of this, I’m going to tell you what I’ve heard. I have not heard a clear explanation of how the word ‘Cheraw’ came to be used. It has many names. As far as I know, in the Pawi language, ‘Cheraw’ means ‘to move oneself around’. I have also heard this (dance) called “Hreichhun Zai”, “Ramkhat lak” and “Ngam lam”. It is also said that it was popularly called “Cheural Lam” before we crossed the Tiau river (between Burma and Mizoram), and that those that came west called it Cheraw.
Our Pawi siblings don’t use the term ‘Kan’ (cross) when referring to dancing Cheraw, they use ‘Tlawh’ (kick). I have also never heard of Cheraw being danced at the Chapchar Kut. The reason they dance this today seems to be as part of a show of our culture. Cheraw (known as Ngam Lam) was danced at the time of Buhza Aih* and Mim Kut.**
It seems the Pawi call Buhza Aih ‘Hrangza Tlawh’. You cannot throw a Buhza feast/Aih just because you’re already wealthy– you should have been blessed with a Buhza harvest consecutively for 10 years for you to be able to throw a feast. My father told me “In your grandfather’s Buhza Aih year of 1956, they definitely danced the Cheraw. They sang Cheraw songs, though men did not sing.”
Mim Kut was observed in Thitin month (August). Cheraw was also danced so that the spirit of a mother who dies in childbirth could pass peacefully.
Nowadays many different ways (steps) of dancing the Cheraw have emerged. Each place has its own way of dancing the Cheraw. Bualpui lam and Buhza Aih Lam seem to be among the more popular ones (steps). Apparently the dance steps that the Arts & Culture department has introduced is a conglomerate of steps taken from various areas, arranged in the most pleasing way. Pu Tlangrema from Hnahlan seems to have had a lot to do with these standardised steps.
* Buhza Aih/Ai: A feast given by a family for the whole village when they have been blessed with a surplus harvest. Buhza would have come from the fact that to have/throw such a feast, you should have reaped more than a 100 sacks of paddy, which is usually far more than the family can eat/keep/manage. This is a time of feasting for the whole village, with meat and zu (rice-beer).
Literally, Buh phur Za = 100 sack loads of rice grain
1 Buh phur = approx. 3 tins of buh hum (paddy)
1 Tin of of buh fai = 6-7 kg
** A festival that follows the (mim/vaimim) maize harvest, usually around September. Part of the celebration involved force feeding one another with eggs and other food in the graveyard.
One, there are quite a few people like me brought up on the fringes of or outside Zo culture. Some of us barely know the language, but still wish to be a part of our culture and claim our heritage. Others know the language, but are slow readers and much more fluent in English. Still others are not the most interested because of the language acting as a barrier in getting to know Zo culture better. Most importantly, then, these translations are for ‘us’.
Second, much of the writing (in English) about the Zo tribes has been by others, from the early British missionaries and colonialists to more contemporary journalists in Indian papers like The Telegraph and Tehelka. While I would not deny the immense good these writings have done (the missionaries gave us writing) I believe we should also represent ourselves. While many bloggers are already doing this, my particular concern is with the opinions, ideas and information in the Mizo language and therefore not accessible to the larger world.
Having said that, the choice of articles to translate is fairly arbitrary, and are influenced by my personal interests (culture, art etc.), length of the piece (my own Mizo skills are minimal) and the time I have available. I would welcome more help with translating more pieces, maybe eventually in the form of a Wiki. Please also feel free to correct my translation where you feel it is inadequate.
Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree (or disagree) with the opinions of those I try to translate, though I find the piece interesting. As far as possible, I will edit only to illustrate/explain what the author is talking about. This may mean there is a stiffness of language I apologise in advance for; the fault is with me, not the author.
“Heta tangin...saw saw a lang
They had swarmed through forests of bamboo and been poked, pricked and prodded in every way imaginable. They had slid and slithered on the shiny bamboo leaves that were strewn on the ground. They pushed through dark dank caves that were full of the smells of wet earth and old old secrets, to come out very near the same place they had gone in. Trudged up over the bumpy boulders and the rough fallen branches that were brought down by last year’s rains and down through a desolate grove of banana trees left all dusty and greenless by the Sumos that drove in a great almighty hurry on the road to Lunglei. The best, of course, was when they went over a river and woh could feel the cold-ish ticklish slightly zing-zing underneath. Sort of like the feeling you get when you sit on that rock in Wah-ka-dait and put your feet in the rapids, just MORE everything because a river has a lot more water in it than the streams we have here.
Now you probably guessed already, but Chhumleivak are one of what you call 'clouds'. All clouds are the same, they just take turns at doing different jobs. Which reminds me, it is your turn at feeding the chicken this week. Anyway, they take turns at being in the sky, when they are called Chhumvanraang or Chhumtuipai (or Chhumtuipailo) and a dozen other names you wouldn't remember anyway so I'm not going to tell you, and when they are on the ground they are called Chhumleivak.
Chhumleivak, like I was saying, was tired. It was nearing the end of their season, and the excitement at getting a turn on the ground was fading. They longed to be back in the sky, being pushed along by Tohmon (the wind) or basking in the warm lap of Ka Sngi(the sun). And as you know very well, when you have been walking through the hills and you get tired, it becomes very hard to concentrate on where you are going. And just like that, just because they were so tired, Chhumleivak began to break apart. What had started as a large strong brooding mass began to show cracks. They started to get thinner, and some bits began to straggle. That’s right, when you are in the hills, it is not a good idea to straggle at all! And just as they were passing a little village that was heroically holding on to a hillside, it happened. One of the bits of Chhumleivak accidentally wandered into an open window!
Now Dhobi-ka-Kutta (this was before he went to Secunderabad and became a big star) kinda-sorta-accidentally-deliberately was in the same village at the time. He was kinda-sorta passing through, but kinda-sorta looking for something to eat, and maybe even a warm place to sleep. And the smell of fresh pork-smoked-on-a-charcoal-fire was enough to make him kinda-sorta want to stay. It was an easy hunt. A nonchalant keep-to-the-shadows walk that brought him up close, a slow on-the-belly-creep-up behind the woman washing dishes outside and a mad dash to grab a mouthful and run run run! The run itself was punctuated by a muffled yelp as a well-aimed stone warned him not to try that trick again. But the pork, with a bit of leftover rice that was kept by a backdoor for pig feed made a great meal, and now he wanted a nap. And for some strange reason I cannot account for, he decided to go into a house, crawl under a bed and get some well deserved rest.
Chhumleivak was scared. This place smelt different from all the places woh* had been so far. It smelt warm and closed up, but not like the damp warmth of the caves. It felt hard, but not like the hard of the rocks in the streams or the packed earth in that large flat place. It tasted like the trees, but was too smooth to be them. Woh felt wohs way around, moving towards a strange sound, like one Tohmon would make, but quieter, somehow.
And Chhumleivak (the rest of them) was angry. They had regrouped on the other side of the village and found that a bit of them was missing! This had never happened before! Missing! And almost end of season, just as they were getting ready to become Chhumtuipai! How? Where? Now if you’ve watched clouds, which I know you have, you know that they can get together very very quickly. Just while you’re not looking, the sunshine will fade, the trees stop whispering and giggling, and the almost dry washing has a very real chance of getting another rinse. And that is what happened. Chhumleivak told the Chhumvanrang, who quickly got everybody together. Some went to go wake old Thunder (fast asleep as usual) while others went to call Chhumtuipai. Tohmon got involved as only Tohmon can, blowing this way and that, into every cave and through every tree. Chhumtuipai let go their load of rainwater, hoping to flush the missing Chhumleivak out. Even Kong Sngi lent a hand, shining as hard as possible everywhere that wasn’t covered by Chhumtuipai. And Tohmon. Whoosh here and whoosh there, blowing so hard that the lost Chhumleivak would have been blown to bits if woh were actually in the way! What a to-do there was! Even old Thunder (late as usual) bellowing away, telling everyone (who already knew) that Chhumleivak was missing! What a to-do I say.
I don’t know what Dhobi-ka-Kutta was dreaming about, but dreaming he was. But there was something on the edges of his dream, something kinda-sorta wet, but not in an unpleasant way, kinda-sorta cold but not sharp. And he could feel that kinda-sorta wet-cold something on his nose. He twitched once, he twitched twice, then he opened his eyes. Now I must tell you this, I rather admire Dhobi-ka-Kutta’s nerves. It is a rather startling thing to wake from a nice after breakfast nap because there is a wet-cold on your nose, and to open your eyes and find yourself face to face with a bit of Chhumleivak! It’s not funny, I tell you. You’d probably die of fright if it happened to you! But Dhobi-ka-Kutta (with his nerves of steel) wasn’t frightened at all. He just sniffed once at Chhumleivak, and cocked his head in surprise. Now THIS was something you didn’t see every day! Not that there was very much to see, mind you, just a little wispy-cloudy sorta thing under a bed in a room. And there definitely wasn’t a wispy-cloudy sorta thing there when Dhobi-ka-Kutta went to sleep!
And what was that ruckus outside?
Grumble grumble grumble BOOM went old Thunder. Grumble BOOM! Dhobi-ka-Kutta wondered what old Thunder was on about. Never the most articulate at best, old Thunder could be quite hard to understand when woken from a nap. And since he seemed in no danger from the wispy-cloudy thing, he sat down again to try and understand what old Thunder was saying. Aaah, thought Dhobi-ka-Kutta, as he finally made the connection between the great excitement outside and the cloudy-wispy thingy he had just met. So he stood back up, took a nice long stretch (as you should always do after a nap), reached under his super-cape into his super-utility belt and pulled out a super nudge-o-matic. Heh heh no, he didn’t. I just made that up to see if you were awake.
Anyway, he knew that he needed to help. The cloudy-wispy thing didn’t look like it could be lifted by the scruff of the neck (what neck) and marched out. And it didn’t seem to react when he called to it either. Aaah, he thought again as he hit on an idea. And very very gently, Dhobi-ka-Kutta started nudging Chhumleivak with his nose. Nudge he went, nudge nudge out from under the bed. Nudge he went, nudge nudge towards the window. Nudge he went, nudge nudge up towards the window sill. Till finally one bounce, two bounce and OUT the window went Chhumleivak. Free! Home! Yay!
Things quietened down pretty fast after that. Dhobi-ka-Kutta managed to sneak out without too much trouble, and old Thunder went back to sleep. Kong Sngi had to work extra hard to make sure the laundry dried, and Chhumtupai went back to wherever it is they hang out when it is not raining. Chhumleivak became Chuumvanrang (change in plan) the next season, and had a nice long break before they took a turn on the ground again.
And so it is, before you close your windows at night, you should always look under the bed, just in case there is a little bit of Chhumleivak hiding there. How will you know if there is? Well, just like Dhobi-ka-Kutta, you’ll feel something kinda-sorta wet-cold on your nose!
thanks @ misual.com for the beginnings of this story!
"Mizoram has the most variegated hilly terrain in the eastern part of India. The hills are steep (avg. height 1000 metres) and separated by rivers which flow either to the north or south creating deep gorges between the hill ranges. The highest peak in Mizoram is the Phawngpui (Blue Mountain) with a height of 2210 metres." (from Wikipedia)
2. Church. This is not surprising, considering how much of Mizo social life is centered around the church and church-related activities.
3. Things. Ok, ok, this is hardly a coherent label. Under this, though I have grouped items of material culture that are familiar to most Mizos, like ar-bawm (a woven box where chicken are kept), chem (a machete-type knife) and em (a basket used to carry things).
4. Vawksa (pork). There were so many mentions of this it deserved it's own category. Of 10 responses, 8 were for vawksa-rep(smoked) and 2 for vawksa-chhum boiled). We are obviously a culture obsessed with food, eh?
5. The 5th place is tied between funerals, puan and singing.
- Funerals: Not surprising either, considering how the community gets together in times of bereavement, and give the bereaved family tremendous support.
- Puan: Mizo garment, like a sarong, still very popular with the women, though the men have sadly abandoned it in daily life. The puan is the most obvious element of Mizo visual culture. While there are traditional and festive designs, contemporary weavers have come out with new designs and these change with the change in fads and fashions.
- Singing: Mizos love to sing. We sing when we are happy and when we are sad, and most often as a group. There are all-night sings held most commonly when some one had died or in the weeks preceding Christmas.
EDIT: I didn't mean the lines of text under the 'hills' to be read. For me, they signify the rivers/streams of Mizoram. On hindsight, they also look like a mirror image in water. I'll leave you to your own interpretation though!
against a bright(ish)
deep down in the silence
marty's whales are sounding
but i've turned
my back on the sea
my face to the hills-
littered with buildings
that snap at your heels
and leer as you pass...
and deep down in the silence,
marty's whales are sounding.
[NOTE:links for context- marty, whales, treaties, orakei, this hill]
We stopped and watched a street musical performance today, by a chap playing the various Andean pipes in time to recorded music. Dressed in ‘red-indian’ outfits, with the feathers and the beads, one person played the pipes, while the other sold CDs of the same music. The Andean flutes played well are a treat to hear, and a must listen for anyone interested in softer music. There was no doubt, he played well. Among other pieces, he played Chiquitita, the old ABBA classic, and El Condor Pasa, a tune made famous by Simon and Garfunkel.
The performance tore my heart.
On the one hand (and this is going to be a post of many hands) the cultural observer in me laughs at the irony of a ‘native’ peddling music that is an indigenisation of an Americanised pop culture version of indigenous music. El Condor Pasa was popularised by Simon and Garfunkel, but was composed by Peruvian composer Daniel Alomia Robles. The version playing today, however, sounded (the guitar plucking) very much like the S and G song. The cultural observer in me also smirks a little unkindly at the use of the ‘feathers-and-beads’ artifice to attract tourist attention and make sales.
On the other hand, here are two young (?) men making honest money from tourists and ‘westerners’ who can well afford it. While there is artifice, it is not dishonest, and the artifice is no worse than the mildest advertisements we see on TV every day. In the best traditions of movie making, these two men were giving people what they wanted to see, and there is nothing wrong in that, is there? They are also being entrepreneurial, and avoiding dependence on taxpayer funded social security, if there is such where they come from. The artist in me knows how hard it is to make anything like a living from my art, and when I work for a corporation, am I not guilty of the same artifice, if not worse?
On yet another hand, it hurts me, as a tribal myself, that we are reduced to peddling our culture on the streets to make ends meet. While I understand very well the attraction of feathers and skulls (having a decent collection myself), I find their use in promoting some sort of ‘tribal’ exotica pathetic, if not downright offensive. Are cultures something to be so easily peddled on the street? I feel quite the same when I see young boys dressed as Krishna-avatar begging on the streets of Bengaluru. Interestingly, though the Zo are a very musical group, the khuang (drum) of tradition is still only used in church, maintaining, somehow its sacred quality, and is yet to be used in the production of commercial music.
Then again (that’s the fourth hand in case you’re counting) is it very different when the North East Indian tribes put on our costumes and ‘perform’ our dances on stage for fat-ass dignitaries to gawk at? However, as an urbanite who has grown up away from my tribal homeland, I would hardly even be aware of these aspects of my culture if it were not for these performances I am deigning to scorn! Aren't such performances keeping elements of our cultures alive?
I’ll stop at five hands- you probably get the idea by now. While I understand and promote the idea that culture is not static, it does concern me that the marketplace is increasingly imposing on cultural expression, and may one day soon completely take over. Aren’t there some things that should be kept sacred?
Maybe there is hope, though. On the way home, we saw another irony- three scruffy teenagers practicing their skateboard skills in the office building of a large insurance corporation. Hopefully, as the markets take over our cultures, we will continue to find points of resistance, and develop new cultural expressions that challenge their dominance!
What do you think?