Saturday, June 26, 2010

REMINISCENCE

~ By: D L Muon

Childhood memories are hard to forget. Either sweet or not, they linger in our mind for a long time. Besides just being memories, I think they represent at least a fraction of who we are as adults. The experiences that we have as a child are so important that they are the most talked about experiences of life. For some people with a deterministic view (such as Sigmund Freud), childhood is so special that the first six years of life determine who we are supposed to be. I don’t know exactly how much of six-years old’s life could be explored so as to know how they determined his or her adulthood. But one thing I know for sure is that childhood is an important phase in life. The following few recollections are from my own experiences with people and events in my earlier years of life.

As far as I could remember Tangnuam has never been credited with anything good. Almost every fight, either in schools, conferences, or elsewhere, involved a Tangnuamian. It’s ridiculous that Tangnuam with such a small population could have a representative of at least one person in every fight. In terms of participation I guess that’s a good-enough percentage. It could be our most important heritage which we, the new generations, have however chosen to disown. Let me just mention one incident.

It was a sports event called (if I’m correct) Subroto Mukherjee Trophy. This was, and still is, a football tournament played between schools – district wise, then state wise. Willing schools sent their own students to play in the tournament. At one match that I witnessed at Lamka Public Ground the late Pu Cin (Hang Za Cin, youngest brother of Pu L. Tuan Za Kap) was supposed to be one of the schools’ selected players. I remember how well he played the game (he was my star player from Tangnuam that time). In fact, he was so good at the game that one school actually hired him to play for their school. He was not a student of that school. When the match was about to commence the match officials began to check the legitimacy of each player. The illegitimate participants were screened out. Pu Cin was one of them.

He insisted that he was a student of that school. But one of the opponents knew for sure that he was not. The argument went on for some time. Ultimately, Pu Cin was out. While the rest of them played the football match Pu Cin sat near the football field as if he was ‘cool’. Nobody would have guessed what he was thinking until a little while later. At a perfect timing, he pulled out a catapult from nowhere and fired a shot at the fully exposed thigh of the one who was so sure about his illegitimacy. I could still visualise that poor guy rubbing his thigh and groaning in deep pain. Pu Cin then played Tom and Jerry with the police. As you know, Jerry always has a way out. Later, some of us went watching a movie at CCPur cinema hall. Pu Cin happened to be there as well. He talked about football and mentioned that me (writer of this article), the late Neng Khan Lian (youngest son of Pu Zam Song) and Kham Za (Kham Za Mung) are going to be football stars one day. I took his word. So my heart soared. Actually, my heart really skipped a couple of beats! It was my dream to be a football star one day. It never happened though. It will never happen anyway. But I still remember the impression he made on me. It’s hard to forget such comments; especially when it comes from someone you considered your ‘star’. Now that he is no more I can only treasure the memory of him. When I was young I would go after older people. Some of them took me to the forest in the early part of the year when it was dry. They started burning the forest with fire, and then set “Pial Thaang”, a kind of bird snare made from a piece of squarely-cut thick turf. I used to go home with a couple of Baibeks everyday. But, honestly, I have never caught a bird from a pial thaang. It was all Pu Tha Pau’s (Thang Kho Pau) creative idea to give me some birds every day. At his advice I told my mother that those birds were my share of the hunt. I still wonder whether mom really believed me or not. The Bible says that the love of money is the root of all evil. Besides agreeing with it I also feel that the “need” of money is as much evil as the love of it. Let me explain.

It was just one day away from Independence Day. During those days there were march-past parades at Lamka Public Ground. People would go there in large numbers just to see the contingents marching. During those days, with Rs. 5/- in your pocket you considered yourself rich enough for a treat. But the problem was I don’t have that Rs. 5/- in my pocket. Now in desperation the mind began to function at double speed. Me and my front neighbour-friend Tha Lam (Thang Khan Lam, now in Sairang, Mizoram) kept on thinking for some ways and means, and then came up with a PERFECT IDEA: Steal some pineapples from the nearby farm that belongs to Pu Kap (Pangzawl) bordering CBA headquarters, and sell them at the market. Shortly that perfect idea was carried out in the afternoon. All went well until somebody (whom I would rather not mention) saw me carrying the pineapples toward New Bazar (I was alone then). After selling them I went home with all the money in my pocket elated enough, not knowing that the whole thing have been brought to my father’s knowledge. As soon as I reached home I can sense that something’s wrong. I quickly ate food and tried to sneak away from home as soon as possible. My father was quick enough to stop me when he commanded “Don’t go anywhere”. Now that I’m sure of something wrong, I started panicking. Again the mind started to take its double speed. For better or for worse, there was no PERFECT IDEA this time. Later I and my accomplice were taken to Pu Kap’s house in Pangzawl by my father. We were forced to surrender the whole amount of money and ask for forgiveness. Better believe me, it’s painful and embarrassing. In spite of our embarrassment Pu Kap’s family served us a very special tea and snacks. Now I was more embarrassed, not because of my fault, but because of Pu Kap’s hospitality and understanding of what had happened. He never accused us. When all the proceedings were over he also presented us with one huge pineapple each. He told us to come to him and ask for pineapples instead of stealing them. We went home sheepishly with the huge pineapple held against our chest. I don’t remember the three of us saying anything at all on our way back home. Oh yes, I said “Good Night” to Tha Lam. Except for that it was pin-drop silence. All for the need of five rupees! Since then my concept of stealing totally changed. (Note: At least 98% of my male peers at those times will surely have this experience of stealing pineapples from Pu Kap’s farm. If not, he’s either Mama’s Boy, or he’s lying).

Until I failed Class-IV I was studying in Don Bosco High School, Salem Veng. Like I have mentioned earlier I don’t have the luxury of carrying enough money to treat myself most of the days. One particular afternoon I went home after school. I was badly hungry. As I reached Go Cin Khup Veng, just in front of the present Dr. T. Hatzaw’s house, U Bul (Kham Za Bul) came from Leimarang. I have never talked to him in my lifetime. He caught up with me. I could see that he was eating something. Out of my surprise and beyond my expectation he asked me if I would like to have some of it. I didn’t dare to answer. Then he, probably knowing that I was scared, handed me a few round balls (something like a ladoo). I never said “thank you” to him. He passed me by. Then I ate. It was sweet and very timely. I could never forget that little act of kindness. Though he’s gone home before us I still remember that small act of kindness he did, which meant a lot to a little boy like me.

Though I was not a star player or anything of that sort, I have my own career as a football player. I don’t remember the beginning of my football career. I played for clubs like Sporting Club of Tangnuam (SCOT), Lightning Sporting Club (LSC), and Brothers of Enthusiastic Sports Team (BEST). This is the bubble I lived in. Earlier there was Tangnuam Sports Club (TSC), which was later changed to Tangnuam Youth Club (TYC) for reasons too obscure to me that I’d rather not attempt to try to mention them. I don’t remember me playing for TSC or TYC. I of course had the opportunity to give patriotic support to these teams several times at several places, as far away as Mission Compound.

Since we were still young and small we have less chance to play a real game (except for 4ft. 10inches tournaments). So with the initiative of me, Sangboi (Lang Sang Lian) and U Kai Cin (Kai Cin Pau) we started the SCOT. Not a big deal anyway. Later, while TYC was still active some of us started the LSC. There was a little bit of disapproval from the older leaders of TYC, claiming that it was unacceptable to have any other team(s) in the village except TYC. We were told to withdraw/surrender, which we somehow did a few years later. Again, after some years, intolerant of the dysfunctional sports authority in the village, the former LSC members decided to gather one sunday afternoon at the residence of Varsiam (Van Lal Siam).

It was there that we all decided to form a new football team again. The meeting was led by Lamboy (Zang Khaw Lam), who some people would preferably call KHUAPHELEP (i.e., lightning). I was privileged to propose the name Brothers of Enthusiastic Sports Team (BEST), which the members unanimously accepted to be the name for the new team. According to my personal observation BEST became the apex body governing sports activities (especially football) in the village from then till date. I was also the Founder-secretary of BEST. The best thing during those days was that we spent most of our time together. We would even date the same girl together. Imagine more than 10 boys dating one girl at the same time! We have to sit on other’s lap because there was not enough space to accommodate the ten of us. On a couple of occasions our dates keep themselves locked inside their bedroom. Now it’s up to you to guess why. Once as a team we were hired by Ni Niang (Ciin Lam Niang, now in Tuibuong) to dig a pit for toilet. We did this as a means to earn money for buying football. I remember there was me, Kultoni (Do Za Siing), Var Siam, and Khuaphelep, apart from the others. When it’s about 12 noon, we thought of going home for lunch. It seemed that Var Siam told Khuaphelep to call him or drop by when he came back after lunch. When we all came back Khuaphelep came by himself. When we asked why he’s alone he said that Var Siam never replied his repeated whistle(khutkawi), so he thought he’s gone. Now the matter can only be settled when Var Siam arrived. When he arrived, Khuaphelep angrily asked Var Siam “I was calling you so many times, why don’t you answer me” (Ong ki samsam a bangdia nongdawn’loh maw?). Var Siam simply replied, “I thought you were lying” (Na zuau di kasa a a’i vele). We all laughed.

One of my childhood friends was U Kai Cin. We were very fond of going for movies. Just for your information, we watched the Hindi movie “COMMANDO” for over 15 times together. Another time we went to watch Brashtachar (starring Mithun Chakraborty) at Light House cinema hall. It was rather rush. So we asked one bigger boy to help us get the ticket for us. When he agreed we handed the money to him and waited. After sometime he pulled himself out of the tightly packed crowd and quickly handed us the ticket, and off he went. We were so happy. Now we were supposed to enter the hall. But wait a minute, that “son of a bitch” (sorry to say that) just handed us only one ticket! With no other options left we came up with a very innovative idea:U Kai Cin will watch the first half of the movie, and me the second half. All set. He went in. I waited alone outside for the first half. When it’s half time he came out. It’s my turn. Then he told me that there were some empty chairs to sit on. So we both sneaked in stealthily and watched the remaining half. On our way back home he explained the first half to me. As such, I considered myself watching the whole movie. (Only some days later I learned that U Kai Cin had watched the movie all by himself the previous day).

In 1988 my dad bought a Salora Black and White TV. We happened to be the first family in Tangnuam to own a TV set. I felt so great. You should have seen the pride in me that particular day. This TV came with an antenna which was erected on long bamboo top to receive the signal. Those days you don’t need to pay TV fees. It’s like “BUY TV-WATCH FOR FREE”. Why? Simple: only one channel. And that channel was DOORDARSHAN. Early morning we would sit in front of the TV monitor waiting for something to come up. It’s funny because we were so eager to watch just about anything that came on the screen, not knowing that programmes started only by 7:00 a.m. I was one TV worm. I remember Mom having a hard time sending me to have my food most of the time. One thing that irritated me during the 1988 Olympic Games was that being the house owner I got to watch many times from outside by hanging onto the window bars. Because the house was packed inside! TV shows like Chitrahaar, Rangoli, feature films, Donald Duck, He-Man and Chandrakanta were some of the most popular ones. Oh yes, we would even sit there just to watch advertisements!(Like ‘Washing powder Nirma’).

There were some disadvantages of owning a TV set those days. First, you have a dirty house. Secondly, the family privacy was lost to a certain degree. Thirdly, you just can’t go to bed or leave the house anytime you want, because people were there watching TV. If you turn off the TV at your will you automatically became a PROUD owner. I mean you’re misunderstood. Fourthly, it disturbed studies. But now that there are so many TV sets in the village you have to invite people to come and enjoy TV shows with you. That’s how we have developed within 20 years.

Though I am not very old I’m old enough to experience the pain of losing someone I love. One was my sister U Man (Cing Ngaih Man, Pa Thang Suan Khai’s mother). The other was my Pa Kham Suan (Kham Suan Pau, Nem Ngaih Mang’s uncle). As a person I’m an introvert. They may not even know that I loved them. But I do love them. I was with them at their dead bed. It’s not easy to see them gnawing in pain. You wished to do something but there’s nothing you could do. Just sitting there helplessly by their side and watching them go was nothing but PAINFUL.

U Man would heartily laugh at any joke I cracked, irrespective of how silly it might have been. She’s more of a friend than a sister. I missed that beautiful smile always beaming from her face. To me she’s too young to go, leaving her little children, a loving husband and an aging mother behind. And Pa Kham Suan was one person who’d always make me happy with his funny jokes and stories, most of which were spontaneous. I realised that he’s a very good orator and entertainer. I’m not saying he’s a good person as such. He might have wronged you or anybody else. But to me he’s just the kind of person you’d always want to have talking to you. I would like to pay a tribute to both of them as I write this passage. Well, finally, there’s this cousin of mine whom I called U Pau (Do Lam Pau). He was playing carrom match with Pu Ban(Pau Khan Thang). It was during the first American-Iraq War (Gulf War-I). U Pau was kind of cutting jokes with Pu Ban, while PuBan took the better of U Pau in the game. When Pu Ban stroked the striker he used his middle finger and thumb, at the same time lifting his other fingers upward. U Pau might have observed this closely when he said, “Ban, how your fingers can even resemble missiles!” (Ban, na khut zungte zong missile a bang zezen a le!). Pu Ban being over-conscientious of U Pau’s comment couldn’t play the game anymore. So U Pau won.

CONCLUSION

There are so many other experiences I would like to mention. But due to lack of space I have to limit myself to this much. These are more of a personal account than an official one. I have no intention of hurting or embarrassing anyone. So in case of any difference between your account and mine, I respect yours as well. But in the end I have only one thing to say about childhood: IT WAS FUN.

[The Author worked as a teacher and now awaiting his result in MA Counselling from Martin Luther University, Shillong]

© D L Muon & 62nd Anniversary Tangnuam Souvenir Board

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