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On Gandhi Jayanti, as I was walking past the United Theological College (UTC) on Millers Road, I was delighted to see a banner regarding its centenary celebrations still displayed. Although I was aware that this renowned institution turned a hundred in July 2010, I was unable to participate in any of the relevant events. Curious to know what was on that afternoon, I entered the green and serene campus. The helpful security guard and a staff member directed me to the large group of Mizo youth (our siblings from the state of Mizoram) chatting and playing merrily.
Learning that there was an event beginning in an hour and that one of my friends, Dr. Rini Ralte (a researcher, powerful writer and UTC’s faculty member) was around, I decided to wait for her. Incidentally, Dr. Ralte’s house is treasure trove of beautiful and interesting Mizo cultural artefacts! As I sat observing the youngsters enjoying themselves, I spotted some elderly people in their lovely and colourful traditional attire. Unable to resist the temptation for a candid shot, I requested them for a quick photo. Not only did they agree immediately, but they graciously invited me to attend their beloved annual autumn festival, Vangpui Kut.
Dr. Rini Ralte (second from left) with her friends
A Mizo lady wearing elegant traditional jewellery
BMA President (extreme left) with the 2010 festival’s parents (last on right) and other elders
Cherubic little ones
My host in the BMA silver jubilee shirt
Youngsters dress in a mix of the old and the new
A packed auditorium
The programme began with this melodious song – Mizo dialects use the English script
The Dar Khuang (with a bamboo rod and copper plate) is an integral part of the programme
Another singer in colourful attire representing a different Mizo tribe
Dominic Chwangthea rendering a soulful number
Josiah Ralte (a professor at Aizwal Theological College currently pursuing his doctoral studies at UTC) then became my spontaneous host for the afternoon. Introducing me to the president of the Bangalore Mizo Association (BMA), Rev. C. Vanlaldika and the parents of the feast, he explained the respect and importance accorded to elders in Mizo society. The father for the day, P. S. Chhuasa (a senior employee of the insurance industry) also welcomed me warmly. I discovered later that there are also children of the fest who are introduced to the event’s audience along with the parents, as a family. Although none of them are actually related to each other, this act symbolizes unity.
Walking around the quaint surroundings with Mr. Ralte, I gathered a few interesting facts about Mizos in Bangalore. Started in 1984, the BMA has 3000 registered members at present. Many of them are college students who become aware of BMA through organizations like the Bangalore Mizo Christian Fellowship (BMCF). BMA brings together a few hundred Mizos every 2nd October through Vangpui Kut with traditional food, indoor games and cultural activities. It also hosts a yearly football tournament for its active league of over 10 teams. Its office bearers and other members facilitate all its activities on a completely voluntary basis. The BMA publishes an annual magazine which focusses on current issues in Mizoram like the state government’s ban on alcohol which some people may tend to defend. However, Mizos living outside their native state and especially the young, contribute alternate perspectives. “Bangalore is a nice city which has accepted us very well”, Mr. Ralte quipped.
The pictures above offer a peek into the programme which I enjoyed thoroughly, thanks to the patient and insightful translation provided by Dominic Chwangthu, a second year undergraduate student at the St. Joseph’s College of Arts and Science, Bangalore. A talented singer, this enthusiastic Aizwal lad plans to return home to teach computer science, after finishing his higher degree.