Defragmenting The Dampa Tiger Reserve: The Andermanik Frontier

September, ten years ago, we were assigned to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment of the proposed Indo-Bangla Border Road Fencing which transect through the Dampa Tiger Reserve (DTR). After a month preparation, we packed our gears and head to Teirei Rest House. Our team comprised of our PI, Mr Laltlanhlua Zathang, ACF, Mr. B. Malsawmkima (B-a), Ms Laldinthari (Madini) and I. At Teirei, we were joined by Wildlife Guards of the Teirei Range.

Fully packed motor-boat, in the middle is our boss, Pu Tlana. The availability of the motor-boat service in this region depended upon the level of water in the Khawthlang tuipui.

We were divided into three groups, I was the leader of team 1, who stationed at Sailui. Both team 2 and 3 were stationed at Andermanik Anti-Poaching Camp, they were led by Mr B-a and Ms Madini, respectively. Our mission was to conduct a vegetation analysis along the proposed transect of the Indo-Bangla Border Road fencing.

Mr. B-a and Ms. Madini

From Rajiv Nagar, we rode a motor-boat till the Sailui Junction, where my team would camped, the other teams sailed till the Andermanik village. We fortunately spotted a Jhum hut, which relieved us from constructing a shelter. We stayed at Sailui for two nights; we cooked our own food, slept on our own beddings, hence, we didn’t bother our host, the owner of the jhum hut 😁. Our camping site was outside the DTR core area, hence anthropological activities were not prohibited.

Ms Madini and the bridge on the River Khawthlang Tuipui

Andermanik Village ~14 Km from Sailui was, however, within the core area and was about to be relocated, negotiations were going on, then. After completing our task along the Sailui-Andermanik transect, we decided to join our friends at the Andermanik Anti-Poaching camp. Instead of taking the normal path, we decided to walk down the Gundasuri stream, that drains to the Khawthlang tuipui. Our porter, whom I fondly called “Bondu” led the way, he cut the bushes and cleared the path. As we move down the stream, I could spot several pug-marks. Undoubtedly it was one of the natural wildlife corridor. The plan was to reach Andermanik by means of a raft.

In the midst of the Jungle, we encountered these jubilant kids, they swam the whole afternoon. @Sailui
Our host at Sailui
Our team and the kids in the Jungle @Sailui
Our host winnowing the paddy. While her husband was working elsewhere, she was looking after their Jhum field and their kids.
Suron, the obedient boy @Sailui. He was always ready to strike a pose 😀
Suron…among the ripened paddy
My Team at rest…Somewhere between the Sailui and the Andermanik Village
My Men…at the mouth of the Gundasuri stream that we transect
Busy Bondu, the engineer, constructing a bamboo raft

Bondu was the engineer, Pu Samuel-a and Mapuia helped him in collecting the bamboo. I could overheared them saying “rawṭhing chu sât suh, a láng ṭha duhlo…” After completion, we tried once, and found that the raft could not bear our weight, we need to cut more bamboos. During the process, a gentleman from Andermanik was solo-rafting, without much belongings. We hitchhiked him; I rode on his raft, and the other three rode on the raft that we built. After 2 hours of rafting along the Khawthlang tuipui, we finally landed at Andermanik, it was already dark.

A gentleman from Andermanik, whom we hitchhiked
Captain Bondu and crew…rafting the Khawthlang tuipui
My captain! He was swiftly paddling the raft. The bamboo culm he hold would not be shorter than 18 ft, which he frequently dipped, as if he was trying to measure the depth of the river. He didn’t realised that his dipping and retracting of the bamboo-paddle horrified his mate, who couldn’t swim! And that dipping and retracting told how deep the river was!
After a few hours, he suddenly shouted, “Gui…gui” which left me confused. Later on, I realised that he was spotting a Tuipuisatang (Water Monitor Lizard – Varanus salvator) at a distant shore! To him, it was a nutrition that perish!
A Selfie! lewll
It was dark, when we arrived at Andermanik. These two youths left, as we landed.
Inside the Anti-Poaching Camp, Andermanik…Bondu, Tlangaupa and Pu Muankima.
They were all surprised to see us at the camp. Since there was no mobile phone signals, and we were also void of radio, we couldn’t inform them.
Reuniting with my comrade @Andermanik

We stayed at Andermanik for a night and the next day, we left for Rajiv Nagar, by foot. It took us around 4 hrs to cover ~ 16.41 Km of steep and slippery paths, up and down the gorges. Knowing the consequences and the biodiversity threats that was awaiting, we proposed that if at all the border had to be fenced, it should be done at the zero boundary, not even an inch inside the Tiger Reserve. Wildlife corridors should be reserved as plenty and wide as possible. We did the best we could. After all it was our first assignment since leaving the university, two months back! When we were approached for this project, our result was not even declared! But we were energetic and dedicated, we were satisfied with our efforts, since we gave our best.

Inside the Andermanik, the Village that fragmented

Prior to its relocation, Andermanik was the only village inside the core area of the DTR. There were 200 houses, 3 primary schools, six grocery shops and a BSF Duty post. Like other Chakma community, their main religion was Buddhism and solely dependent on Jhumming for their sustenance.

A Chakma family
It was very rare to see people fetching water with a plastic container in this part of the land.
The Chakma way of fetching water
A motherly care
The Andermanik playground
Public urinal… It is a common thing in Mizoram
Mother and Child…and a cat
Power supply was not available. Some villagers harnessed the solar energy and watched a television.
A busy mother at work
Harvesting the Nawinâwk (Basella alba) leaves. They gave us some few, tried and tested, excess amount of Dangpuithu (Sidol) spoil the menu.
Communication was a problem. Since they could speak their own dialect only.
A country made daba smoker
“Pinon” in the making
A Chakma boy wearing a traditional Teng-chara
Protector of the Forest…Strike Forces and Wildlife Guards…and Bondu, my friend.
A view from the Anti-Poaching camp. In 2012, I met Pu Samuela, and he told me that Andermanik Village was relocated and those places like this were transformed into a playground of the fauna, the floral community dominated the landscape and transformed into a fawning and a stotting place for the quadrupeds.
Us

We tried our best not to imposed habitat fragmentation, but it was beyond our power whether the fencing should or should not be constructed. We were told, “It’s a matter of national security.” Though the Andermanik Village that fragmented the reserve was relocated, how would a fencing and a motorable patrolling path not fragmented the Tiger Reserve?

[Powered by Canon 1000D with 18 – 55mm IS USM]

The Heart of Worship

Music has something to do with everyone. Either they love it or annoyed at it. For some, music is life, for some it ain’t no music at all, it is just a sound, rather a noise. For me, music is something which I love to play, love to listen and love to talk about it, but not write about; it is a thing that must be felt.

I am among the generation when the traditional music and the contemporary music were at war; when rock music was pit against gospel music. This had left many music lovers in jeopardy. What makes music a Gospel music? What makes it a secular music? Is it the genre or the tune? Is it the words or the person writing it? There are many un-solved questions.

Transformation in Worship

Looking back at the Christian Youth Events with reference to the North East context, we can clearly see the dynamism of music. The praise and worship services in all those PYF and NEICCYA programmes had undergone lots of transformation. Few years back, traditional hymnals form the major part of the hymn books, and so was, in the praise and worship services. However, since the revival centenary (2006), in most of the services contemporary hymnals and choruses were seemed to be preferred more.

Why do we shift towards a contemporary worship service? Since, when? What might be the factors? Recollecting my college days and my experiences in the PYF and the NEICCYA, I have developed a hypothesis trying to address those queries.

In the pre-revival centennial era, we often sang, as a choir, in certain Khasi and Jaintia Presbyterian Churches, usually on Youth Sunday and Music festivals. The praise and worship songs were mostly traditional hymns and choruses. It was the same trend in the case of the Mizo Presbyterian Churches. However, in recent years, especially after I actively take part in the NEICCYA and the PYF, I had witnessed a drift towards contemporary hymns and choruses in these events. Apart from the hymns, the worship services also gradually shift towards a more congregational style of worshipping.

Meghalaya being the provenance of Presbyterianism in the North East, the Churches had well maintained their traditions and practices. The revival in 2006, I believed was the turning point, to a bit of contemporary style of worship. Shillong, being an eductation hub, have been harbouring students, of all faiths, of all denominations, from all over the region. Congregational Churches, with their style of contemporary worshipping are attractive to youths, much more than the traditional mainland Churches. This had a deep impact toward the shift to a contemporary worship. The contemporary worship movement has equally been ignited by the advent of multimedia.

This had led to the formation of praise group and worship team, equipped with musical instruments of non-traditional scales. Even in the PCI General Assembly in 2016, the praise and worship services were led by the worship team, which included a band of musicians and singers; Congregational singing during the worship service was traditional, though. But in the 2018 General Assembly, there were no praise and worship group as such. On the other hand, the PYF and the NEICCYA programmes continued to have a team, leading the praise and worship services, singing contemporary gospel songs.

The shift towards contemporary and congregational form of worshipping has led to applauding by clapping of hands, even during the worship services. Which, as far as I could recollect, was not the trend in the pre-revival centennial era. Especially in the Mizoram Synod, applauding the choirs or special items during the worship service by clapping of hands is still not practiced, and had often kept the youths from other Synod in an awkward position. However, clapping of hands in par with the rhythm of the songs during congregational singing is very much appreciated in the Mizo Churches. To be noted, in the PYF programmes, half an hour of songs of praises session is always included. I find the terminology a bit absurd. Is it not a session of singing, but not a session for listening songs?

Music for a purpose

Music is dynamic. It cannot be the same all the time. Genre and style keeps on changing, they have their own period. Like the old leaves are replaced by the new leaves, a new style repeatedly replaces the old styles. However, the most important thing is the heart of the worshipper. Sometimes, a loud sound draws our attention, but sometimes, a complete silence draws our heart. In an attempt to be traditional we can hamper the development of the Church; on the other hand, chasing all the newbies can be detrimental for the Church. We have to know the limit.

When talking about traditional and contemporary music, many often quotes Cliff Richard’s “Why should the devil have all the good music?”

Another question arises out of this quote – what is good music?

Is there a criterion to quantify the goodness or the badness of music? Or is there any equipment to examine the degree of goodness or badness? A debate on this topic will never end. But in the light of Christianity, we have an answer. Gospel music is good music, simple as that. To rectify this, we may need to talk about the psychological and spiritual impact it has, on the performer as well as the listener.

The goodness of Music doesn’t aptly depend on the tune or the scale, but on the collective characteristics of the song viz the tune, the words, the writer and the theology it contained. Good music is like a beautiful flower, whose beauty draw the attention of the pollinators; their sweet fragrance attracts the pollinators closer, and their nectar nourishes the pollinators. Through their action, singers draw the attention of the spectators, the tune of their music attracts them closer, the words of their songs feed the audience. While the pollinator gets nourished by the flower, it in turn helped in the reproduction of the flower. Likewise, a good music nourished the audience spiritually and the spirituality of the audience is the key to produce good music. There has to be a mutual relationship between music and audience. Some music are very attractive, draw lots of audience, but unable to nourish the audience. The main purpose of Gospel Music is to exalt God and inturn, nourished the audience and the performer. A gospel music without nourishment is like eating a cotton candy, appealing but void of nourishment, the crave for food remains the same.

How about the song writer? I firmly agreed that nobody is perfect. However, in music ministry, we have to be very careful in the songs that we select. We have to consider the context of the song, how was it written, what is the philosophy of the song writer (it can be known from his other works), and should also be analysed doctrinally. For instance, there are several songs which contain the holy word “Hallelujah” but all that contains “hallelujah” are not gospel music. All that glitters are not gold.

The verdict

Be it classical, traditional or contemporary, be it western or eastern. Be it rock music or jazz music or may be grunge music, the most important thing is the message that it contains. Based on the platform where we manifest through music, we have to choose which type of music to perform and which not to. A good tune may ecstasies, but if the words are equally not prophetic, then it would be futile.  A prophetic word but worst tune is hardly appealing. Hence, it has to complement each other. After all, worship is all about Jesus, not about us, and not about music. But music can lead us into the heart of worship, and hence we require a music which draw us to worship God in truth and in spirit.

Let me wind up with a song from one of the most spiritual contemporary artist, Michael W Smith.

When the music fades, all is stripped away
And I simply come, longing just to bring

Something that’s of worth, that will bless Your heart

I’ll bring You more than a song, For a song in itself is not what You have required
You search much deeper within
Through the way things appear
You’re looking into my heart…

[This article was published in a book titled “Ministering to the Youth: Challenges for the Church” by the Presbyterian Youth Fellowship, 2019]

As one: A Wedding Album

I still remember the day I first saw her, and the dress that she wore that day, a decade ago. Since then, we were friends, till today and forever it will be. Our bond, our love, our mutualism has been made stronger with a vow before God “to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer; in sickness and health, to love and cherish, till death do us part .”

As per the Mizo tradition, the whole wedding process requires certain protocol. Both the families have to negotiate, prior permission from the Church Court Committee has to be acquired, the availability of the Minister (Pastor) is also a must. Passing through all these ain’t not the toughest, for me, to confess to my parent that “I am ready…” was.

The day was fixed, arrangements were made, we were excited. Being a photography hobbyist, many a times I had covered wedding here and there, even though I am not the best in the business, I am very peculiar in my choices. I normally don’t like a prep-up shot nor a clinical pose. But I prefer an impromptu, a candid, the moments, which portray the real us or them. In fact, that is one of the reason why I gave up commercial assignments like wedding photography, where clients mostly prefer glamorous pictures. I request Zualtea to cover our wedding, which he graciously accepted. He did a wonderful job… no prep-up, everything was candid, and he was always in the moment. By looking at each pictures, I still have the same feelings.

Feb. 8, 2018 will always be cherished, for it was on that day that Becky and I became one. To commemorate our first anniversary, here are some pictures, a photo story of our wedding.

Final checking with the bridesmaid
The happy one
Kimkimi, my neice
…I do
“I now pronounced you husband and wife…”
Receiving a blessings from the Minister
What were we discussing, was it Chemistry or Ecology? 😀
“Hallelujah! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.”
The congregations…Never expect such a big turn out!
The Mizoram Synod Choir sang one my most favourite hymn…All that I am, and ever wanted to be, I owe it all to Thee! (My Tribute by Andraé Crouch)
A prayer from Upa Thangchhunga
Benediction. Rev. C. Rosiama
Down the aisle…Mr & Mrs
Our parents…interchanged 😀
The Chhakchhuak
The in-laws
The Chi-Uih Crew…our Crew
Khawvel thiante – Group Insomnia
The Old Model [Lungmantam] since 1996
Rawngbawlpui te
with Dr. B-a, a research colleague

Without families and friends, we are nothing. It is divine to have such a lovely family and a supporting friends. Our Wedding was a perfection because of all the well wishers, families, friends, the Choirs and especially the bridesmaid, Am-i and the best man, Aduha.

A grand Welcome

I am more comfortable behind the camera than in front; neither was she. Yes we love the portrait session because we laughed heartily. We were not a great poser, but we don’t fake! We just love being ourselves…these are us, nothing more, nothing less.

Gorgeous are they

Let me wind up with a song by Steven Curtis Chapman, dedicated to my lovely wife, Rebecca Lalmuanpuii. A song that wrote my heart…

I will be here

Tomorrow morning if you wake up,
And the sun does not appear
I, I will be here.

If in the dark we lose sight of love,
Hold my hand, have no fear
Cause I, I will be here

I will be here when you feel like being quiet
When you need to speak your mind,
I will listen and I will be here when the laughter turns to cryin’
Through the winning, losing and tryin’
We’ll be together ’cause I will be here.

Tomorrow morning if you wake up,
And the future is unclear
I I will be here
As sure as seasons are made for change,
Our lifetime’s are made for years
So, I, I will be here

I will be here and so you can cry on my shoulder,
When the mirror tells us we’re older,
I will hold you and I will be here to watch you grow in beauty
And tell you all the things you meant to me
I will be here

I will be true to the promise I have made
To you and to the One who gave you to me
I will be here

And just as sure as seasons are made for change
Our lifetime’s are made for years
So, I I will be here we’ll be together.

I will be here.

On the Top of Mizoram: A Royal Ascend

‎Aizawl to Sangau

It was Dec. 5th, 2012 05:30 a.m., I was awakened by the most irritating tone of all…an alarm! Waking up at such an hour in a winter morning was not in my routine, if not for a very special occasion. The previous night, I packed my backpacks, keeping everything ready for an early morning Royal ride. As usual, camera, tripod, gps, ors, chocolate, country made knife, torch,  a puan-nuam embedded in a sleeping bag etc. were in my bag. Since it was winter, no insect repellent cream was required. Tent was with B-a.

Firing my ride, I head on to our RV at Ngaizel. My friend B-a, with whom I’ll be traveling was from the West end of the city while I’m from the East end, and we’re heading south. B-a soon arrived. Filling up our fuel, we move ahead towards our destination. The plan was to reach Sangau as early as possible; which is around 230 Km from Aizawl. We took the World Bank road, and at Chalkhan we take a left turn  towards Serchhip. At Sailiamkawn, my partner was stopped by the Assam Rifle Jawans. He was also equipped with knife, camera, gps and other gadgets, may be those looks suspicious. After a while he joined me again. I don’t know why was I not stopped! After having our meal at Keitum, we continued. It was almost 02:00 p.m. when we reached the Tuipui D, where we had to wait for our Royal Enfield to be ferried accross the Chhimtuipui by a mar-boat.

At the Tuipui D pier, waiting for the mar-boat

The mar-boat service there had a special guidelines that made us to wait until two LMV arrived.

Vehicles were ferried by a mar-boat

Suspension Bridge for pedestrian

The mar-boat service here at Tuipui D is the life-line of the South-Eastern Mizoram. The service is operated by the BRTF, 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. daily except on Sunday. A pedestrian suspension bridge across the river was the only other option available, then.

During monsoon, when mar-boat service is not available, passengers transit, walking across the suspension bridge, catching another vehicle on the other side.

After waiting for a while, finally the mar-boat landed. We loaded our bobber, waiting for others to turn up. In less than 2 minutes, we were ferried across.

Finally we hop on, another vehicles joined us

The areas around the Tuipui D pier had been protected by the Villagers; as we transverse the river, a school of fish swum around the boat. It was so fascinating that I forgot to click a picture of them fishes!

From Tuipui D, The road to Sangau was mostly on the eastern slope of the hillocks, which make it kinda chilly. The moment when we were on the sunnier side, we have to stopped by, exposed and warm up ourselves. After reaching South Vanlaiphai, a Village next to Darzo, the sun was almost setting. The road was re-surfaced, which left lots of pebbles and made it difficult to ride swiftly. When we arrived at Sangau, it was already dark. We headed straight to our host, who was the relative of my partner.

Ticket Counter at Thaltlang

Sangau to Phawngpui

The next morning i.e., Dec. 6, 2012, we continued our journey, driving towards Farpak, the last point where a vehicle could reach. Since my partner had a permission from the CWW, to conduct his research at Phawngpui, we very oftenly had a field work there, hence, the workers were also familiar with us.

At the entrance of the core area of the Phawngpui National Park

Ascending ~ 500m with a Royal bobber was one hell of an experience. It was a fair weather road. That was not the hurdle, though. But the steepness was. From Thaltlang to Farpak, it was not more than 6 Km. Had we measure the slope percentage, it would definitely be 100% and above.

Finally, we arrived at the Farpak, we parked our bobber at the Old Rest House. We filled our gallon and bottles with water, gearing up for another 7Km uphill trek. The elevation at Farpak was ~1900m and our destination, the peak, was 2157m msl. Since it was not our first time, we were well aware of the patrolling path.

A narrow path, midway across Farpak to Phawngpui peak

Since there was no water-bodies near the peak, we had to carry maximum amount of water, and that put on another weight. On the way to the peak, sometimes, you have to crawl beneath the clumps of Schizostachyum fuchsianum. And sometimes, through the tall and thick grasses.

Rest to regain 😀

It took us 3½ hrs to reach the peak. Setting up the tent and igniting a fire were the first priorities. After which, we started our work.

Our camp at the summit

A night at the peak

An early morning portrait 😁

A view from the peak: Siachangkawn Village in the mid-bottom; Lungtian Village at the rigth extreme corner. Siaha town flooded by a mist.

On the top of Mizoram

I was accompanying my Phenologist friend. The main purpose of the trip was phenology. My comrade, B-a, how we call him, was pursuing his doctoral research on the phenological aspects of Rhodondendron vernacularly termed as “Chhawkhlei” in Mizo. Phawngpui National Park (PNP) is one of the few places where Rhododendron grows in the wild, here in Mizoram. Apart from PNP, it is also found at Tualcheng, Champhai, Ţan tlang, Lurh tlang, Farkawn and East Khankawn. The genus is confined in the Eastern highlands of the state.

Manipulating the polination of a Rhododendron vaechiatinum

Even though I often accompanied him on his field work, I have very limited knowldege of phenological sciences. What we usually did, as I could recollect, was covering the buds of a Rhododendron with a net, so as to manipulate its pollination; In a pixelated terminology, they might termed it hacking the pollination 😁. Most of the time, I was his photographer and his personal body guard. He was better in cooking, hence he cooked, while I’m better in chopping and splitting fuel woods, which I did. Like wise, we assisted each other.

Bud of R. arborea

There were at least three different species of Rhodendron at PNP. As far as my understanding is concerned, these species grows in a very specific ecosystem. Survival rate and regeneration rate is also very low. Dormancy also is long. Wildfires often threatened its survival.

PNP

Phawngpui National Park (PNP) is one of the 10 protected areas, and one of the two National Parks of Mizoram, it covers an area of 50 Km². Entry is permitted after paying necessary fees. However, collection of specimen, cutting of plants, killing, snaring and catching of wild animals are strictly prohibited. For research purpose, permission has to be acquired from EF&CC, GoM. Entering the Park without a guide is also prohibited.

Fading glory … A dry Saiburh flower…one of the most common herb at Farpak.

Two Royals at Farpak

Homeward bound

We were done! We’re homeward bound. Trekking downhill and riding downhill were equally uncomfortable. As long as the wheel rotate, it was fine, but there were moments when the wheel could not rotate but slide on the pebbles. After carefully riding downhill, we finally managed to reach Thaltlang. We halt a night at Sangau; the next morning we continue our journey back home.

Homeward bound

At Tuipui D, it was the same ol’ story, waiting for the mar boat and two other LMV. But this time, it was an HMV that turned up.

A Royal pose at the Mar boat on our way back.

After an intensive research work for years, the Mizoram University finally awarded him a Doctorate degree. You can reach him here https://www.facebook.com/malsawm.kima.7

…in Translucence

I can see myself only through a mirror. And I know that I would never see myself like other would see me.  Being a mirror lover, I let people see the world through a mirror. Prior to which, there’s an array of glasses. An array of conductors and semi-conductors known as sensors, which lies behind the mirror, and senses everything. A gentle press on a button called shutter button let the memory card record what I saw through a mirror. And they call that a Photograph. A mirror aided cameras, with a memory card are  what they called Digital Single lens Reflex Camera 😀

Sometimes, like fashion, technology keeps on changing and revolving. Sometimes bulky cameras are the no. 1 fashion, sometimes not. Sometimes, handy cameras are more fashionable. Handy cameras with a flipping mirror is near to impossible…(may be). When size does matter, technology comes to the rescue…Hence a camera technology without a reflex-mirror was developed.

Being a Leica fan for a very long time, but who doesn’t afford, I sold my 7 years old DSLR and some accessories, and invested it for a camera which look alike Leica the most (they might not like it, though)… a Fujifilm mirrorless aka an SLT camera. Customizing all the knobs and buttons to make it more ergonomical (like my DSLRs), I started to see the world through a translucent glass. My vision is now in translucence.

Here are some few pictures through my translucent vision. Of course, this is not a review article of a camera…just about pictures made by using fujifilm X-E3. If you wanted to read about the reviews and comments of this camera, just google it! 😀

A view from my veranda…just a random shot

On the bank of Chite Lui, SIPMIU is constructing a sewage treatment plant. The course of the Chite lui has gradually changed, as compared to our childhood days

Some part of Republic Veng, Aizawl

One of the reason why I opted for a smaller camera is street photography. Just a few minute across the Bara Bazar…

A school boy waiting for his nanny was enjoying the sidewalk near Dawrpui Church

Two Wheeler taxis are a new addition to Aizawl Traffic, cheaper rates, faster mode…

A roadside fastfood stall…tea and snacks are available and so is “kuhva hring”

Non-locals freely work here in Aizawl, provided they have a statutory permit. If they have that permit, then, there’s no discrimination from the locals.

2nd hand garments

A 2nd hand toy vendor

It would be every child’s dream to have a house full of toys…a toy seller unintentionally often make the children cry…hehe

As the working hour is over, offices are closed. This young boy while waiting for his father, who was a caretaker of this office sat and play with his father’s phone.

Night life in Aizawl is peaceful…there are few food vendors selling tandoori chicken. But most of the restaurants and shops are closed in the evening.

I saw these youths playing mobile games in front of a closed shop, I parked my bike, and clicked…they didn’t knew that they were photographed! 😀

At the end of the day, I remember Gabriel Fuchs  words “the more people are interested in photography, it is the manufacturer who gained the most, not the user…”

[All pictures shot with fujifilm X-E3 + fujinon 23mm f/2 lens]

I’m on Instagram too → https://www.instagram.com/thevidcvan/

of Mud and Clay

Pedology is a part of an ecological science that deals with the study of soil. In which, determination of soil texture is an important part. Silt, Clay and loam are the three important particles of soil texture. Their concentration in the soil determines the texture and physical quality of a soil. These are some few lines that I could remember from my formal education about clay and other forms of soils.

There can be no other grand welcome for a bambusapiens than a clump of Bambusa spp. at the backyard of the studio

For me, soil is a growth medium. Soil is an anchor. But to many, soil is not just a growth medium nor just an anchor. It is a medium for their expressions.

Mr. Bhim, a traditional potter at work

Everyone knows about pottery. Normally we get our Porcelain and ceramic products from the Mandarin source. And of course, they are normally meant for domestic uses. Hence, pottery, to me, was more of a functional works, than artistry, until I met this couple in Aug. 4, 2017.

An earthen staircase

Being an art follower, my artist friends – John and Kimtea, a Kala Bhavana Alumni along with Thara, took me to Goalpara, a village next to Santiniketan. While returning, we went to the studio of this couple. Their studio and their house were a creation, skillfully crafted, and artistically conceptualized. It would be every artists dream to have such a studio!

Biagio Luca from Italy was training at the studio when we first visited in Aug. 4, 2017. (L-R: Luca, Kimtea, Thara, John and Bityut)

I have been studying, teaching and researching on ecology for quite a few years now. I campaigned for ecological conservation among the teenagers. I used to talk about living in harmony with nature. I used to enjoy camping in the wild, among the bushes and the trees. But never ever have been connected with nature as much as I wished to.

A house of mud and clay, the studio of Mr and Mrs Roy

Here at Boner Pukur Danga, Santiniketan, I met two artist, whom mother nature matched them together perfectly. They draw their inspirations from nature – the trees, the bushes, the grasses and the socio-cultural lifes of the Santhali community. Even though they could easily get their medium through online market, they prefer the materials which nature provided them. They dug the soil, and prepare their medium themselves.

A ceramic studio constructed by using ceramic and producing ceramics

For a 3dimensional art works like ceramics, shapes and forms are the two important elements, in fact the whole concept is influenced by these two elements. Being a nature lover, Bityut and Lipi’s inspirations of forms and figures which they incorporate in their art works are from nature itself.

Nature…

When asked why they live in such an isolated place, “I love the culture, traditions and the lifestyle of the Santhali community. If I lived in their village, I would distract them, so I choose a place where I could see them, where I could witnessed their simple yet riched lifestyle; a place near by them, without disturbing them” Mr. Bityut Roy replied.

Mr. Bityut Roy established the Studio in 1984.

“I am not a trained potter, but a painter. My interest and sources of inspiration is from the nature. My love for fine art and nature brought me here” said Mrs Lippi Biswas.

Mrs Lipi Biswas

Bityut and Lipi tie a knot in 1995. Since then, they have been in this field together. They enjoy what nature had provided them. For them, conservation is a lifestyle.

The entrance of the studio

As you walk into the studio, you can feel the swaying of the trees, the melody of the swirling leaves. It seems like a transect walk in a tropical forest, amidst the fog and the mist, accompanied by a drizzle to turn the mercury down.

Nature being fossilized into art work

You can hear the rippling streams. You can feel the chirping birds that are perching around, the croaking of a toad and the aroma of wild flowers blown by the cool breeze. At one corner, you can hear the rhythm of a Santhali percussion and the melodious tune of the womenfolks. It feels like we are more connected with mother nature.

Mr Jubal, a ceramic artist seriously analyzing the art works

For those of you who love nature and fine art, it is a must to visit the ‘Studio Boner Pukur Danga,’ but you have to be extremely careful not to break those fossils of nature embedded in an art work. And of course, buy from them!

The studio itself is an art work!

My second visit was on May 30, 2018. This time, I was accompanied by my lovely wife Rebecca and Mr. Jubal, a ceramic artist from Kala Bhavana. My wife was so much drawn into those art pieces that she was reluctant to leave!

Tea and snacks, in a ceramic cups and plate

You can reach them here:

Call: +919679984008 (Lipi Biswas)

via e-resources: marangburu@yahoo.com; studiobonerpukurdanga; studiobonerpukrudanga

My wife, holding the art piece that we purchased, posed with Mrs Lipi

 

Panah Express: A Zenfone story

Very often, I have seen Myanmar. Mostly from the hills near the Indo- Myanmar border. But never have I crossed the border and set my feet on. The name Myanmar itself is mysterious. The country has lots of connection with the history of our fore-fathers. Our language is grouped under the Tibeto-Burman family. Our speculations about Myanmar on the other hand,  has been influenced by media reports, which are hardly the brighter side. Nothing was clear until you set you’re foot upon it.

Reverie

Reverie: A rendition of my speculations about Myanmar.

Myanmar, the land of the golden pagoda, has undergone several transformation. The moment I set my foot on Yangon, I can feel that those speculations were negative.

A volunteer named Silas and Eliezer received me at the airport. Ar first, I thought Eliezer was a cab driver, his dress code was so similar to that of the cab drivers at the airport. He was wearing a ‘Longyi‘ and a panah.  Moreover, he doesn’t mention that he’s a pastor.

A panah

A panah, or a slipper in English, like all other South Asian countries is the most prevalent foot wears here in Yangon. And for a guy like me who often think that the invention of a panah, or a silipar or  vawthlep in Mizo, is one of the greatest invention, it makes me feel at home…hehe…

Cab driver at Yangon International Airport

The best thing about a panah is its ergonomy. It is easy to wear, easy to take off, easy to dry and easy to clean.

Panah Express

As you stand by the roadside, you can hear the sound of flip-flop there, a flip-flop here. The faster they walk, the pitch of the flip-flop increase.
Adjacent to the Minyekyawswar Street, there’s a narrow, yet busy street. Its dynamism is beyond words. They were so much engaged that a gentleman with a panah on his feet, wearing a sleeveless shirt and a short, with a zenfone3m on his hands, clicking random pictures also seems to remain unnoticed.

An old lady selling a badam on the road-side

The best thing about Yangon is the street food. For a guy like me, who loves a street food and a panah, it is Canaan.

Meat shop

Had they known that a panah express is passing through, these meat monger at the junction of narrow street bazaar would have pose themselves more proper.

A cycle rickshaw on duty

For a cycle-rickshaw driver, a panah is a must. There’s no other foot wear which has a better ergonomic!

panah of the driver, panah for the passenger and panah worn by the passer by

Its my first time to see a cycle-rickshaw with a pillion rider on its side! Reminds me of a WW II  Nazi bike with a side car.

Roadside butcher

For a butcher, a panah is more feasible than other foot wear, and so is, for the lady. The Longyi worn by the lady looks like a Mizo puanzeh, and of course it is complimented by her panah.

Floridale

What I have noticed during my short stay here is their love for flowers. I don’t know to which varieties do those flowers belong, but of course, they belonged to Asteraceae family (of corse all the lovely flowers belong there :D). Working in the flower garden is so much a comfort with a pair of panah on the feet.

Nuts and beans

These two ladies were in deep conversation, may be about the panah that I wear. But my flip-flop sound didn’t distract them, either.

A rehab

While all the others were busy with their chores, a young man who seek for inner peace was confessing to the bante. Had it been a pagoda or a gompa, they would have removed their panah.

News stand

As I detour towards my hotel, may be the flip-flop was audible. I was spotted! And it makes me realise that my panah doesn’t support a silent mode!

A revisit

Since it was raining, the fear of my sneaker getting wet was making me in a dilemma, “What if i stay in my room and starve…” Then comes the thought of wearing a black panah which the hotel provided us. It fits me broad feet. The flip-flop sound slightly differs with my own panah. The cushion and the grip are however much much better, pity my old cushion-less panah.

Plastic capping

A quick re-visit in the evening amidst the rain offered me another sneak peek.  This lovely little girl was playing in the puddle. She was wearing a plastic bag on her head, may be to avoid getting wet. But on her tiny feet was a pair of tiny panah, that resist water!

Blending yourself into the scene is very effective while performing a street photography. Sometimes, carrying a big camera (DSLR etc) is often distracting to the subject, which often left us unable to make pictures as desired. Cellphone camera have lots of limitations, but sometimes, people are less distracted and it gives more chance of getting an emotional pictures. Being a photographer doesn’t mean that you have to dress and equipped yourself with apparels specially designed for a photographer. Blending into the scene by dressing like the locals is often effective. When the story is more important than the picture quality, cellphone camera is the best option.

[All images are shot with Asus Zenfone3Max]