Aizawl – 29 September 2006 – 5.30 am onwards
Clouds are what you see looking up. Clouds have names and classifications an incompetent geography teacher in early school could never make me understand. Clouds are beautiful, majestic, frail, wispy, billowing, foreboding, smoky, whatever it is they appear to you when you get to their level. Flying within clouds in an aircraft is fascinating. Yesterday's flight from Calcutta to Aizawl's Lengpui airport via Imphal, gave me what can only be termed an eye-level view of clouds which I cannot recall having seen before.
Above the dense, dark mass of monsoon clouds there was sunshine first of all. (In our rain drenched world below, we often forget the sun shines anyway.) Then there were the other clouds: thick, mountainous creatures towering in shapes that bloomed with gentle curves and rounded edges. Dark grey, horizontal strands which stretched the length of the plane and well beyond, mysterious in their relative anonymity. Other random, winsome flecks and puff balls scattered across my vision.
This morning I watch the clouds plow through the valley cleft between the hill my hotel is on, and the hill opposite. Turning my head to the right a bit, sort of east-south-east, I see the blue tinted mountains rising out of a veritable ocean of white, amorphous, masses drifting at the speed of tortoise. The mountains seem etched on to the azure sky, as if in bas-relief, and the surface of the clouds are almost incandescent from the rays of the rising sun.
The valley separates inhabited parts of Aizawl. The advancing clouds weave through the open windows and doors of houses awaking to a day of holiday for Saptami and Dussehra, going by Mizoram Tourism's official calendar on my wall. I leave my windows and doors open too, but the clouds do not deign to rise up to me. I see wispy mist ascend the slope of the hill opposite and rise further into the sky, perhaps to eventually form the mountains up there.
I can appreciate how one might become susceptible to religion and the existence of God at times like this.
There is a small cemetery below the balcony of my hotel room; not exactly below, in front of my sight, occupying a tiny corner of the hill we are on. Residential buildings surround the graveyard, the living living comfortably with the dead. Mizoram's ethnic population is claimed as being 100% Christian, yet I know they are all converts from as recently as 130 years when the foreign missionaries came to the North East. The Church has immense influence and domination in this state and have surely provided the reason for it being a “dry” state. The imposed morals of Bible-thumpers has always offended me. No matter what, if people wish to get drunk they will. I'm told local brews are awful but popular among those who can't afford, or have no access to, high-priced, branded bottles smuggled in every day from Assam and Calcutta.
I am always in conflict when confronted with situations and scenarios that have Christian over- and under-tones. It has of course to do with my own Christian upbringing and my Christian family. I'm no longer prone to believing the fairy tale that is now considered Christianity. Yet a faith in a supreme power that needs no designation is not something I wish to ignore. So I remain in mild confusion, not letting it affect me so much, yet remaining sensitive enough to it when I sit and wonder about clouds, mountains, trees, birds, animals, people...