Part 8 : Unfinished Business
When we moved to Mizoram, our friends would say that they were looking forward to exploring the North-East along with us. Little did we know that we would move again, even before we could see it ourselves. The list is too long if one starts enumerating, but we had no chance of visiting any states other than Mizoram and Tripura and I might be a rarity who lived in the North-East without ever visiting Guwahati. During the month of June, we managed to visit Tripura, in a touristy way. Our friends Sruthi and Vinayak live and work in Agartala and we visited some popular spots with them.
We visited the South Tripura district, which could be easily mistaken for our home state Kerala with its paddy fields and rubber plantations, given away only by the roadside signages in Bangla. Here, we went all the way to the Indo- Bangla border and across the Feni River (yes, a non-alcoholic Feni!), one can see Bangladesh. There’s no land crossing here yet, but there’s an active international crossing near Agartala city, complete with a daily evening parade but we couldn’t manage to visit it. Bengalis are the major ethnic group in present-day Tripura and the influence of Bengali culture is very palpable. It took me a couple of visits to realize that the Bengali thali has a “build-up”. It starts with rice and a vegetable preparation, followed by Dal, and then comes the non-vegetarian goodies, one after the other. Manohar benefitted from my prior experience and did not fill himself up on the rice-dal and enjoyed everything that followed.
The highlight of the trip, however, was Neermahal Palace. History goes that the ruler of the erstwhile princely state of Tripura was inspired by the water palace of Udaipur and commissioned a palace to be built right in the middle of a huge lake, the Rudra Sagar. The access to the structure is only by boat and the white-red building right in the middle of the shimmering water is a sight to behold. We also visited the stately Ujjayanta Palace, a white edifice with sprawling, albeit non-maintained grounds, now converted to a state museum paying tribute to the tribal culture of the Northeastern states. We also visited the Sepahijala zoo, and saw some spectacled monkeys, with their distinctive google eyed appearance.
Regretfully, we could not visit Chobimura, where one must take a boat ride to see huge carved rock panels on the banks of river Gomti. Massive rainfall during the current season had rendered the approach roads non-motorable. We also had left out Unakoti, one of the most famous archeological sites of the state, also having huge rock-cut reliefs. We had planned to systematically visit these, in the future. However, plans stand stalled with the relocation outside of the North-East.
With the departure date closing in quickly, we decided to make the best use of our remaining time in Mizoram. We went for a day’s trip to Thenzawl, a four-hour ride from Aizawl on our Activa. We started from Aizawl around noon and stopped in Hmuifang at a small teashop for a quick lunch. From there, we rode nonstop to Thenzawl enjoying the view, dotted with numerous mini waterfalls amidst the green hills. It was already sun-down by the time we reached Thenzawl and we were too tired to do any exploring on the same day.
Early next day, after a quick breakfast, we went searching for Vantawng falls and Tuirihiau falls. Searching, we did, because of the poor quality of the maps, lack of signages and our lack of fluency in the unbroken Mizo language. Anyways, our efforts were not in vain, and we immensely enjoyed complete solitude (in each other’s company of course) at Vantawng falls, a two-tiered beauty and one among the highest waterfalls in the country. At Tuirihiau, one could attempt going behind the curtain of the water, but the waterflow was very strong and the rocks too slippery, so we gave up the idea and simply stood watching the falls to our heart’s fill. We also visited Dilpui, a small lake within a veterinary farm, with a few recreational activities. We opted for a speed boat ride (fun!) and ziplining, out of which I chickened out at the last moment. We returned the same day, stopping at the same shop in Hmuifang for refreshments, before heading back to Aizawl.
Next weekend, we decided to go visit Lungleng with our friends Mariya and Ruah, to see the Lal-In, translated as the Chief’s house. Mariya and Ruah had brought with them a grand picnic lunch which we enjoyed on the way. In Lungleng, the Lal-In was unremarkable and we found people’s laundry hanging all around it; but Manohar had spotted something more interesting on the way- an adventure park. We decided to give Ziplining and Quad bike a go. We all bought tickets for ziplining, and soon it was my turn. I almost pulled out of it, but then since everyone was zipping about, I decided to give it a go. Long story short- I am never ziplining again. Nothing wrong with ziplining, but I realize that I am not a fan of any adrenaline rush-inducing activities. I could barely stand when I landed due to the shivering, and I kept asking a very confused guy-in-charge, if the cable is still intact after all the action. Turns out, I heard the brake and stop-block engage and thought that I managed to snap the steel cables, much to the amusement of the rest of the party.
Later, we headed to the Quad bike zone, which was a mud path with a few ups and downs, and a forested hillside on one side. I love riding and driving and had a go without any incidents. So did Manohar and Ruah. Mariya, however, lost the control of the vehicle and tumbled down the hill, the momentum of the descent halted by a sturdy tree. We found Mariya hanging onto dear life from a few hangings tree vines, Mowgli style. We lifted her out and the guys-in-charge pulled the vehicle out with ropes. Fortunately, injuries were minor and Mariya was later telling everyone how she felt like a female version of Tarzan. We also tried paintball and I was quickly finished by Ruah’s paintball, which landed neatly on my helmet’s visor. By the looks of it, I am unsuitable for armed attack and adventure sports alike.
Time ran out quickly and once again, we found ourselves in the frenzy of relocation hoopla. Our stay in Mizoram was relatively short, but we met many wonderful people in our professional and personal circles. I am going to sorely miss my colleagues and friends; goodbyes have always been difficult. We have now landed once again in Bhopal, and some might claim that this is proof for the earth is round. I hope to regale you again with stories from India’s heartland, Madhya Pradesh.
PHOTO CREDIT : DR AISWARYALAKSHMI | MANOHAR KRISHNAN
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