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Friday, October 8, 2010


As in countries like Scotland life in these hills is hard. One can hardly imagine the difficulty with which a Mizo or a Zemi Naga has to eke a livelihood out of his little patch of land. From before daybreak the womenfolk of a village march in processions, carrying a number of bamboo tubes in a cane or bamboo basket, hundreds of feet down to a spring or a stream to collect water for the day's use. The return journey uphill with the load of water on their back is strenuous. Immediately after their return they have to get busy preparing food for the family before they accompany their husbands to help them in their work in the jhum (cultivation). About half-an-hour is spent at mid-day in eating the pack-lunch (consisting of rice, salt and chillies) they carry with them to the jhum and then work goes on again till sun-down—hoeing, sowing, weeding, whatever work at a particular stage it might be. In the evenings the menfolk snatch a few moments of leisure and relaxation which they devote to zu (rice-beer or spirit) drinking and singing while the women have to carry on with their household chores—cooking and attending to the pigs, the fowl and their own little ones. On special occasions, there is dancing both by men and women in addition to zu-drinking and music. This is, or at least was, till very recently the normal routine of the average tribal's life in the hills which could not perhaps be better described than in the following lines of Thomas Gray composed in a different context:
Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife,
Their sober wishes never learned to stray;
Along the cool sequestered vale of life—
They kept the noiseless tenur of their way.
Apropos of zu-drinking, dancing, singing and feasting which are a common feature of all tribal life, one cannot fail to notice that all the hill-people are very musical. The Lushais believe that this has got something to do with the echoes which respond from different directions in the hills to their whistles and songs. It is this nymph or satyr, whichever it may be, echo, that, they believe, bestows on them their musical talents.

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