Two, no, almost four years since the project started out…and nearly three since I became a part of it. And today, I hold the book in my hand. Unexpected. We had been communicating frequently enough while the publication was in process. But complete silence once the manuscript and cover literature were finally approved. When the big sack was collected from the Post Office today, I had no idea what it could be. Especially since my addiction to online shopping finally forced me to surrender my cards to Mom, I consider myself almost “unsurprisable” by periodic deliveries. But today, today, I had tears in my eyes.
When Dad first spent months and a small fortune in collecting the debates over the Mizo problem at the Assam Assembly in Guwahati, I only looked at it as I always do his projects. Ambitious, finally won over by sheer hard work, with my input limited to the final editorial touches. Little did I know that this one was going to be so very different. All geared up to make my usual “correct English” contribution, the project that I had assumed was lifeless touched me to the core-deeper than the shamelessly frequent relationships I had abandoned. Many nights I could not go on because I cried hard. So hard one night I had to cover my face with two of my pillows for fear my outrageous sobbing would alarm the family who loves me.
Politics is what it is all about- not of popularism or of power but of identity and a hope for a better tomorrow. Life catches you when you least expect it. Lucky are those who reach out and touch the ball, luckier the ones who catch what’s thrown to them and make it count. Me? I am not one of them. Not enough conviction, lazy to the point of regret, wasted talent-I do say so myself.
But what of those who died, who were maimed, who lost the chance to make a life for themselves and their families-all because they hoped, with the faith and conviction to take a step towards making it a reality. They could have stayed at home and worked at their farms. They could have stayed and started a business. They could have stayed and started families they would have grown to love. Their cause, and the reasons for it will always remain a debate. Never have I been illusion-ed into thinking that everyone would approve, or that the cause, the all-important cause, would be unanimously approved. What appeals, instead is the human content. The drive that led young men into starving in forest hide-outs, into walking long distances into the unknown, into meeting and confronting powers they could never have overpowered- the politics of ethnicity and identity, of finding a rightful place for your people.
The book is out. With all its imperfections-typological or otherwise. Many sleepless nights, days on end when I did not want to socialise, nights when I would rather stay with my thoughts than with my best friend- all that in a single book with a bright orange cover that the Indian Postal service faithfully shepherded all the way from UK. When I opened the modest sack and by the time I removed the tape, I was shivering. With the book in my hand and the heartfelt congratulations from Mom and Sis, I locked myself up in my room. The book in hand, I prayed- there is no shame in it- I cried!
For in the pages of this book is a history of my people. Herein are the stories that tell of a dark age, probably the most difficult time we had to face as a people. And like every scar that won’t go away, it is a reminder of how the wound was inflicted and how it has actually healed. And like the occasional itch that calls for a scratch, writing this down and putting it up for the world to see has been a healing process. It will forever be my modest tribute to those who chose to believe, to those who rose to heal the pain and those for whom the scars will forever bring pain.
September 21, 2012