An India Wedding in Aizawl, Mizoram.

by Surya Bhattacharya

Some time in the beginning of October 2012, my best friend from college, BT, called me up and said she would be getting married in 3 weeks' time. ‘Dress classy’, she said. ‘I don’t want you in a soap opera sari’. Saying this, she hung up.

Aizawl Mizoram, Aizawl photos
Night lights of Aizawl. Photo by Zoramthara Fanai.

Tickets were booked, outfits were tailored in double quick time and three weeks later, I was at Kolkata airport waiting to board my flight to Aizawl (via Imphal). I was extremely excited, not just because it was BT’s wedding, but also because it would be my first time in that part of the country.

I deboarded at Lengupui Airport, the only one in the north-eastern Indian state of Mizoram. I had to get a special permit to be in the state, then I picked up my luggage and waited outside for my ride. BT’s driver arrived in a while. Meanwhile, I was extremely relieved to find a complete lack of the pushy touts that most other airports in India are famous for. (There were, of course, a few but they mostly left me alone after I told me to).

The 40-minute ride home was breathtaking. I wish I had taken pictures, but I had a seriously handicapped phone. Instead, I had to rely on my friend for photographs. Much to my relief, after a long time, I was seeing a lovely blue sky and light green trees, unlike the grey sky and dust-green trees in Delhi. The winding road was mostly empty until we reached the city, where it became incredibly quaint and lively.

Aizawl photos
The view on the way home from the airport
I reached BT's home, and within a couple of hours we were all prettied up for the first ceremony.
The first ceremony, called Man Hlan, involved ‘buying’ the bride. What happens is this: the groom’s family pays the bride’s family a token amount of money. Originally, this was in terms of Mithuns -- a type of cattle. Now, however, it’s just some money. This money is then distributed among the bride’s closest family and friends (yes, I was one of them), and a little bit is returned to the bride as ‘security’. Of course, the security is never required!

Mizo wedding
The two happy fathers (and now fathers-in-law!)

Mizo Wedding
Man Hlan

After the ceremony, we were treated to a lavish and wonderful dinner. Indian food in the north-east is quite different from what's considered a standard meal in the rest of India. There is a lot of rice, with a lot of meat (works well for me) and vegetables (I had squash for the first time, a very interesting experience). Most of it is cooked in little oil, which makes it very healthy -- the amount I ate, however, would definitely have negated the ‘healthiness’ of the food. Many dishes use bamboo shoots as well. It is quite possibly an acquired taste -- it did take me a while to get used to it.

The beautiful bride (pictured below) had also arranged -- to our utter delight -- two traditional Mizo Puans for my friend and me.

Wedding in India
The bride (centre) with her friends
That same night, a number of us -- minus the bride -- went for a drive. The roads were dark and still, and we saw the school our friends had studied in, the church where the wedding was going to be held, and then we visited the groom’s house. It was rather chilly -- even though it was only October -- and we lay on the terrace of his house, looking at the stars and drinking hot tea. To my surprise -- and I don’t know if this is typical -- I found that Mizos drink copious amounts of tea. In fact, there were tea dispensers everywhere in the bride’s house!

The wedding was held the next day. I think I was suitably dressed in un-soap opera style clothes. Look at us! The happy couple, bridesmaid, best man and all the ‘College friends of the bride’.

Mizo Wedding Photos
All decked up for the wedding

After the wedding there was a little reception followed by a humongous meal. (I still cannot forgive my phone’s camera for dying on me and leaving me without photographs of the wedding!) Then, of course, there was a party -- alcohol-less albeit, since Mizoram is a dry state!

Ultimately, it was a short trip to Aizawl. I longed to extend it, but it was impossible, because we had another wedding to attend in two days' time in Shillong, Meghalaya -- which turned out to be another wonderful little trip!

Anyway, back to Aizawl. Mizoram’s beauty astounded me. I don’t remember the last time I saw so many stars at night. The sky was a bright beautiful blue, something that is virtually unbelievable in Delhi. Here is the view I got from BT’s terrace. Beautiful isn’t it?

Aizawl Mizoram

Photos of Aizawl
Another stunning view of Aizawl

More than its ‘physical’ beauty, though, I admire the society. The sense of community is unbelievable. A particularly unforgettable example comes to mind:

When someone dies, the entire community goes to the deceased person’s house. They stay awake together and sing songs through several days, just so the mourning family doesn't feel alone. The youth cook and serve food to the gathering.

When we were in Aizawl, a little child had passed away a few houses down the street. Every time we crossed that area, there was constant singing, constant light and constant life emanating from that house. It was amazing. This close-knit society keeps its citizens happy just as it keeps its streets clean.

Mizoram is not easy to reach. You either fly in, or take a miserable 24-hour Sumo ride from Guwahati, Assam. Part of me wishes that everyone gets to experience this beautiful place -- the first thing I did when I had seen quite a bit of Aizawl, was to tell my family that they have to visit it.

However, a larger part of me wishes that it remains as it is. Secluded, undisturbed. I would hate to see its gorgeousness destroyed by the recklessness of tourists.

About the Author: Surya Bhattacharya is an architect from New Delhi. She is currently a design student in Milan, Italy. She wants to travel a lot more than she actually does. She can be found recounting her 'adventures' at her blog.

Images by Vidushie Shriya

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