25 February 2010

Top 10 Mizo Stories - IV

Crazy crazy times at work! And tomorrow and the next few weeks still look as hectic so I'll sacrifice a few sleeping hours and do this now before I lose interest in it completely. Okay, here it goes – number 1!

(By the way, 1 is the magnitude or absolute value of a unit vector and a unit matrix, and is also the only odd number in the range of Euler's totient function φ(x), in the cases x = 1 and x = 2. Just in case you'd like to know :D)

1. T.H Lewin (Thangliena) leh Dari

I’m not sure how many of us have heard of Thangliena. He seems pretty well-known even today and I don't know where I've been but I only learnt about him last year, but I was hooked the moment I started reading about him. I find him interesting as a person, a historical figure (both to admire and criticize) and his influence on the Mizo people makes me want to study history full-time, but the story of him and Dari touched my heart in a completely different way. One thing to know - there are two ways to look at this story. I can endlessly question everything, looking for facts and figures and trying to decipher people's real intents etcetera, but it touches me only when I set the critical, questioning part of me, the hunger for historical facts and data aside and just let the romantic enjoy the story.

Thangliena was a soldier in the British army, he first came to Mizoram in 1865 and was later a part of the Lushai Expedition in 1871. He sounds like such a poet to me - for a soldier. But a poetic soul is never ever bad. Intrigued by the land and its people, he would play his violin and sing of the Phawngpui - ‘The blue hills secret shall be yet, shall be mine...’

In 1873, the great Mizo Chief Rothangpuia built him a house in Sirte Tlang on top of a hill which his friends called ‘Uncle Tom’s cabin.’ There are no accounts of how he and Dari met, but shortly after he moved into his Sirte house, he took in Dari as his wife. (Frankly, I’m not sure what exactly this 'union' was - did he just take her in as his woman? Did he officially marry her?)... But for the sake of romance, let’s just assume he saw her and fell madly in love with her and properly married her following all the Mizo customs :)

But in any case, I believe he certainly did have deep affections for her. Apparently, he mentioned ‘Dari’ so often his soldiers thought it was the Mizo word for ‘young woman.’ This to me clearly shows that Dari was a big part of his life, despite the lack of historical record stating as such. I know how it feels to be crazy in love, and it’s only when I’m crazy about the other person that I say his name every possible chance I get. They also had a child together who unfortunately died when he was just a toddler.

However, Lewin fell out of favour with his superiors in Calcutta. I believe it had something to do with him being too overly fond of certain tribes and so was considered biased in his judgement. Not permitted to return to Mizoram, he was stuck in Calcutta during which time he missed Dari a lot and would send her clothes and other things from Kolkata. There came a time when he had to go back to England for good, and he wanted to take Dari with him. But Dari refused as she couldn’t bear the thought of having to live out her life away from her people in a land of foreigners and so far away beyond the sea, and so they parted ways.

Dari went back to her village where she had to endure snide whispers behind her back about being a foreigner’s kept woman but she eventually remarried in time. Lewin also married an Englishwoman, Margaret Elliot in 1876 after he returned to England.

And here’s where my favorite part comes in. Years later came our first missionaries, who all looked up to Captain Herbert Lewin as the ultimate expert on Mizos. J.H Lorrain, sent Lewin a letter on 25th April, 1899 - about how much he was missed by the Mizo people, he wrote -

I have further news to tell which will gladden your heart even more...Your own influence upon the Lushais is still felt. I do not think there is a man or woman in all those hills who does not know the name of Thangliena. It is handed down from father to son, and they are never tired of singing your praises. We have sat for hours and listened to them talking of the bye-gone days and the wonderful white chief, who has become to them the ideal Sahib or Englishman. Some few we have met who could boast that they had actually seen the great Thangliena in the flesh...”

(Page 316 - A fly on the wheel)

In October 1915, Lorrain, that sly old matchmaker (who would’ve thought it!!), sent Lewin another letter, another general report of some Mizos he met that remembered him, and then he added - “And more than any of these people, there is a woman who remembers you always - my friend and a good woman, Dari..”

He then proceeded to tell him about how Dari’s husband had fallen sick and died, how Dari was now a Christian, and how even her sister Chawngi, and here he added within brackets (Dari says you’ll remember her very well) was also a Christian. He told Lewin that Dari begged him to tell Lewin personally all of this because she knew he would feel sorry for her if she were to die without anyone to take care of her. I think with her being widowed, and no living relatives except her sister, she must have felt alone and wanted to take comfort in the fact that there was still one person who cared enough to share her pain in some way...

(According to my source, Lewin cried when he read this part, but it cites no solid source so I don't know if I should believe it. )

Lewin replied to Lorrain’s letter, and included some money and a photograph of himself for Dari. These were faithfully passed on to Dari by my favorite missionary himself :-) After she received the picture and money from Lorrain, Dari weaved a zawlpuan. Zawlpuans are special cloths that Mizo women used to weave to cover their husbands' corpses with when they die. It’s a very beautiful tradition but sadly it’s no longer practiced today. In fact, I think most Mizo women today - including myself - don't even know how to weave.

Dari went to Lunglei to give the Zawlpuan to Lorrain and ask him to send it to her husband Thangliena. The cloth was carefully woven, red in color with blue and yellow stripes. Dari had made it from cotton she grew herself on her own farm.

Don’t forget that all of this happened 42 years after they last saw each other.

I can’t explain in words how deeply special this action is. It is the action of a woman truly in love with a man, whose feelings for him evidently still lived even after 42 years of not seeing him. I think she realized that they were both old and close to dying and that this was the only and most special way she could show her love for this man one last time.

It also said a lot about Lewin himself. If she felt like she could turn to him for sympathy and missed him so much even after 42 years, the man must’ve given her good reason to. If she loved him so well, he must’ve treated her well. We women love with good reasons, and to earn such long-lasting affection, I believe Lewin must’ve done his part.

This zawlpuan reached Lewin’s house in Parkhurst on 2 February, 1916. However, he had left for London with his wife that very day to see his doctor. On February 11, after a consultation with his doctor, he collapsed in his hotel room and died shortly afterward. He was cremated in London and only the urn that contained his ashes returned to Parkhurst so he never got to see Dari’s zawlpuan. He was 76.

I’ll admit I shed a good amount of tears over Dari and Lewin’s story. It was quite unexpected as I thought I was just reading up on some Mizoram history.

Disappointingly, I can’t find any original account of Lorrain’s letter about Dari or the Zawlpuan story on any of my limited resources. It’s too bad that Lorrain hadn’t met Dari when he wrote the first letter to Lewin. Then Lewin would’ve been able to include it in ‘A fly on the wheel' and I would've been able to read it to my heart's content.

Well, that's it. This probably was too long and too interracial for a lot of us, but for me, it stands out for the fact that all of these indeed really happened even though it sounds like it came from a movie, and that even our very own Pu Buanga was involved in it :-)


Now romance and good-story factor aside, I'm not sure what I think of Lewin, the man. I don't like his photographs, he looks too snooty, too British. And I get this nagging feeling that for him, the Mizos including Dari were only part of some fantasy-like, crazy adventure where he's the hero, loved by even the wildest people of an exotic and strange land.

There are, however, other interesting accounts that make me think the man in real life was somehow different from this man portrayed in these pictures. His first meeting with Rothangpuia was very interesting, and gave me newfound admiration for our old Chiefs. You can read A fly on the wheel online, this meeting is described in detail on page 200 - 201.

Every time I decide he was just another Englishman who reveled in his power gained from his country's imperialist ways - I also have to wonder why he was so popular with the Mizos. We have always been proud people, and they were no different in those days. So what made those wise and haughty Mizos accept and love this man so unconditionally? This makes me hesitant to judge the man too harshly.

Maybe it was because they saw that he really did love them and genuinely had their best interest at heart...

"I knew and loved my hill people. I lived among them and was their friend. They admitted me into their homes and family life as few Englishmen have been admitted. I ate with them, talked with them, played music at their feasts, and joined in their hunting expeditions. They concealed no thoughts from me; I had their confidence. They gave me their sons to educate, and invited me to the marriage-feasts of their daughters. I was ready to spend and be spent in their service."

(Page 312 - A fly on the wheel)




permit me to speak in my native as i'm more comfortable in Mizo than English.I tend to agree with you, but i do not follow your ideological supposition.
Mizo history a training mek tan chuan, T.H Lewin-a hi mithar a ni lo phawt mai. I rawn tarlan chungchang hi erawh ka lo ngaihtuah ngai miah lo. Pocahontas story in a influence viau che a ni mahna le..A interesting khawp mai.

I topic mil lem lo, thildang daih ka lo comment ve teh ang. Min lo hrethiam dawn nia.

T.H lewin hi a texts hrang hrang atangin anthropologist or ethnographer tih chu chiang sa a ni. Hei vang hian tribal culture-ah tuina thuk tak a nei ang tih chu chiang sa a ni. Tin, imperial policy tih hlawhtlinna tur chuan a in huam zau hle ang tih a chiang khawp mai. Mizo nupui neih pawh a hreh lo tih chu chiang sa a ni. Ama text-ah ( for European audience) dari chungchang kan hmu mumal si lo hi ngaihtuah tham a ni. CHuvangin, inquire thui deuh chu trul viauin ka hria.

Hetianga tribal history a tuipui em avang hian Mizo ten kan ngaisang hle mai bawk. Mizo hnam hmangaih viauin ka chhuah bawk. Mahse, Mizo tan a hnathawh hi uluk taka kan en chuan, politic engemaw bakah lehkhabu ziak a ni. Heng a lehkhabu kan chhiar chuan, european ho audience a address der si lo. Chuvangin, Mizo min hmangaih dan hi chhut tham a ni.
mahse, hetih lai hian Mizo min hmuh dan kha, tribal bawl theih a ni tho mai. for instance, Mizo lalte hnenah Silai zen chauh thunin, an inkah tir vel a. Sap (vunvar ho) chu kah hlum theih an ni lo tiin fiamthu atan min hmang hreh lem lo bawk.

Hei vang hian dari nen an romance hi ka thlir dan a dang viau mai. Mahse, hetiang rawn phawr nachang i hria hi lawmawm ka ti tak zet.


last second para... Heng a lehkhabu kan chhiar chuan, european audience bak a address der si lo. tih tur a ni../

aduhi said...

Ka rin loh deuh!! I was expecting a love story, the traditional ones like Lianchhiari etc, but this one completely took me surprise. I have never heard of it.

So in a way, you can say Lewin "went native" and fell for a local girl. Romantic! The Zawlpuan part is so sad, even sadder because he never got to see it.

jerusha said...

Boss, tiang comment hi lawm hmuh hope a ka ziah! Nakinah inkhawm banah la discuss tur anih hi :) Hetah chuan a limited lutuk time leh space.

Aduh - I knew the women would see the romance in this! Zawlpuan tah hi zir ve mai thra in ka hria haha

mesjay said...

This one is completely new to me and so interesting & informative. The story is charming--whether fiction or fact.

EPISTOMOLOGY hi chu historian leh research timi ania, thawnthu chhiara 'willing suspension of disbelief' hi a ti lo aniang.

illusionaire said...

I really like the last line of your post... "I was ready to spend and be spent in their service." Thats what all of us should learn from such great historical figures - Be ready to be spent in the service of women. Such chivalry!


illusionaire said...

By the way, Philo (whose Mizo name is my namesake) has written a post about this book to. Maybe you or Pu Hruaia will be interested in reading his blog, linked above.

Lucy In The Sky said...

Ka hnuk a ulh....

Jerusha, I ziak khawngaihthlak thiam ve hrim hrim in ka hria.

Alejendro said...

WOW!! I've never heard this story before.. seriously I wanna come down to Hyderabad and hear all the good stories you kept. This one is better than Romeo & Juliet I can say, and it's real. I wonder how the Love was still alive even after 4 years, I call that True Love. I Love it. Thank you so very much sharing it, feel free to share more :-P

Jerusha said...

mes - It's a relief to hear that I'm not the only one who didn't know about Thangliena! It was kind of funny just when I wanted to write about this story there suddenly was an epidemic of Lewin articles everywhere :) And from what I can see, he seems to be pretty unpopular among most of the Mizos now. Me I'm still undecided.

Kimkims - I'm guessing you don't have much left to learn when it comes to being spent in the service of women :P Thanks for passing Philo's blog link on. Very interesting post there.

Jerusha said...

Lucy - Keipawh ka chhiar tirh chuan ka trah an chhuak em em khawp a, ka bula mi zawng zawng nin khawpin an thawnthu hi ka sawi a haha Ka thrian vai ho leh ka nu thlengin, Lewin chu an hre hnehsawh tawh hlawm khawpin ka hria haha

Alejandro - Thank you! It makes those extra hours staying up writing this worth it when someone comes and says they love it. Come to Hyd, we can swap stories all night :)

ku2 said...

What is it about star-crossed lovers that makes them sooo romantic? Maybe it's because the glitter has'nt had the chance to fade, and because their stories are incomplete..I don't know.. I find this so romantic, and whatever his failings may be as a 'superior' colonialist, it is clear that when it comes to matters of the heart he was the conquered as much as the conqueror.
BTW, the numbers thing- competely lost me there :)

Alejendro said...

Yeah, Jerusha... let's do it.. I'm coming down there one of these days.. Hyderabad is my next destination.. :-D be prepared and equipped yourself with all the good Folktales you got. :-D See you soon!!!

Anonymous said...

Va ziak romantic ve le, historian te hian in duh leh han phuah belh ula a movie chantlak-ah a chhuak thei ang a.

Tlangval hrisel pangngai han vah ril deuh hian phuuloh hi tawn a awl khop reng ani. TH Lewin hi ka thiam lo lo, chu mai bakah tribla a belchiang peih em mai.

Zawlpuan hi hman deuh khan a bialpa hlui ruang tuam nan pitar pakhat in mi a thawn lai ka tawng.

mzvision said...

A va ngaihnawm vel mawle, ka lo chhiar fuh har anih hi le. Kan Mizo History hi zau taka chhui zel zawng a trul khop mai.

Thrangthar te hriat tam tir pawh hi a trul, mahni ram chanchin hmanlai tak tak leh tunhnai pawh hre lo kan tam lutuk.

keimah said...

A va ngaihnawm ve! Chhui chian leh zual atan a va tha em! He thawnthu hi a dik thawkhat ka ring ve tlat nia!

DayDreamBeliever said...

oii interesting story, first time I've ever heard it. I will definitely be looing it up. Thankssss

Jerusha said...

Kus - haha very well put - 'the conquered' :) It's nicer to think of him that way for sure. And the numbers thing is just info that I hate so wanted to share with everyone :P

Alej - Always prepared! But I charge a fee for every story I tell. The fee varies depending on the length and content of each story :P So be prepared!

virgochhas said...

Chhurbura expect lai a... :D

ka vawi khat hriat na ni tlatz...i ti thra e...

Zawlpuan hi...ka hriat dan chuan...correct me if I'm wrong...tunlai ah chuan pawndum kan chhawm hi Zawlpuan (pasal ten min boral san se kan tuam na tur puan) chu a ni mai...

Alejendro said...

Just hope the fee isn't in cash :-P

Jerusha said...

Anonymous - film siam hi lawm, thiam tawkin siam se a hmuhnawm dawn lutuk in ka hria. Zawlpuan chu hmanlai pitar ho chuan an lo la uar zek anih dawn hi..

mzvision - nia keipawh an ngaihtuah lo ka ti thin a, mahse age hian a keng tel ve chho deuh zelin ka hria. Mizo history te kha chu high school leh tleirawl lai chuan ka ning bur a, lo upat ve zel hian ka tui telh telh chauhin ka hria.,.,

Jerusha said...

Keimah - han chhui ula han ziah belh ve teh u. Detail chiang deuh a hriat hi keipawh ka duh tawp. Pu Buanga letter ho ber khi ni, chhiarna tur hria in awm chuan rawn thawh teh u!

Daydream - At least I seem to have took everyone by surprise! :) Share any more info you find..

Rams - I guess the main idea is that the puan should be for your pasal ruang :P Anmahni ngeiin uluk bik tak a an han tah leh keini, bazar atanga lei hi chu in sipisial hleih tak ani.

azassk said...

Thangliena leh Dari chanchin hi ka lo hre ngai miah lo. A bengvar thlak khawp mai. Thangliena leh Dari chanchin i sawi ta sa sa, Zosapthara(Edwin Rowland) leh a Mizo nupui(a hming ka sawi mai thei ta lo) chanchin te pawh han ziak leh la ava tha dawn em. Zosapthara pawh kha khawngaihthlak deuh asin!

Jerusha said...

Boss - nang Zosapthara chanchin lam chu rawn ti ve thung la..ka hriat loh zawng tak ani.

Lian said...

Very Interesting story. In ziah ho hi ka lo leeng ve trina, a bengvar thlak lu tuk. Gambate kudasai!!!
Raltiang ram a trang in.

Tony Flash said...

Hello. I have 93 pages of original lewin poetry and stories from india 1863. They should probably be in a museum somewhere.

Tony Flash said...

Hello. I have 93 pages of original lewin poetry and stories from india 1863. They should probably be in a museum somewhere.

Tony Flash said...

Hello. I have 93 pages of original lewin poetry and stories from india 1863. They should probably be in a museum somewhere.