A mini Mizoram in Chennai

With sawhchiar to snack on in between cheraw dances, a mini Mizoram gathers in Egmore

It is the combination of white, red and black fabric, and the intriguing headgear that stand out at the backyard of the Police Officers’ Mess, Egmore. The excitement around clicking selfies in the traditional Mizoram attire is palpable. The women were dressed in puan — a colourful wraparound apron, while the men had the thangchuan puan on — a black striped cotton shirt worn as a mark of chivalry. In fact, the idea of chivalry resonates in the Mizo community’s collective consciousness. The city’s Mizo community recently gathered for its annual Chennai Mizo Kut, organised by the Chennai Mizo Welfare Association.

In the lawn, a one-year-old sporting a thangchuan puan, is running around, waiting to be scooped up by an elder. In another corner, a group of college-going students, has gathered to practice their cheraw bamboo dance — it is part of the line-up for the evening. The atmosphere speaks of togetherness and comfort.

A mini Mizoram in Chennai

Amidst running around breathlessly to coordinate the event, ex-president of the 600-strong association, Lalnuntluanga Colney hands me a plate of sawhchiar — rice porridge laced with small pieces of chicken and garnished with onions. I share this midday delicacy with retired IPS officer PC Lallawmsanga, who has been in the city, for the past 28 years. He was also the founder- president of the association which has been active in the city, since 1998. In the 80s and early 90s, the Mizos who came down to the city, were mostly in Government service, he says. “The population profile has undergone a change in the last 12 years. Of late, most Mizos in Chennai seem to be working in restaurants, salons and hotels. The student population also follows closely, in numbers.”

Save the climate, everything down South offers the community a certain level of comfort — especially, the hospitality of Tamils. Lallawmsanga fondly recalls, “When there is a death in our community, it is our tradition to not sleep until the corpse is buried. When my mother-in-law passed away, we had to wait for our relatives to come down for the burial. As we waited without sleep, our Tamil friends waited with us.” Safety and security of its members is a big consideration for the association: “If they come across any problems in their workplace with regard to salaries and otherwise, we get involved,” says Colney, adding that they also help send those who die here back to Mizoram; it is a challenge faced by many.

As the evening draws to a close, a group of Mizo students from Madras Christian College gear up for their bamboo dance. Hopping and skipping through the bamboo maze, colourful paraphernalia in tow, the student dancers are nothing short of professionals. At the farther end, another group, tries its hand at the signature step — stooping low with flailing arms while trying to outdo the partner. Thus, this evening a mini Mizoram slowly took form in Egmore.

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Printable version | Apr 6, 2020 2:42:50 PM |

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