The ride from Aizawl to the border town of Zokhawthar was tiring. There are no direct transport to Zokhawthar from Aizawl. Shared Taxis go until Champhai and from there taxis can be hired for Zokhawthar. It took about 8 hours for the shared Tata Sumo taxi to reach Champhai and all those hours I was squeezed by rest of the 3 passengers in the last row and the winding mountainous roads with intermittent bad patches was aiding the squeezing. But the Mizos were very polite and never complained about the giant co-passenger from South India. In fact one gentleman who was travelling with his family bought me tea during the precious breaks during the journey. From Champhai it takes another 2 hours to reach Zokhawthar, the India-Myanmar border town which means I’ll be squeezed again. Sun sets early in this part of the world and the demand for a separate time zone for Northeast India seemed to be valid. But Government of India feels that it may arise the feeling of separation from rest of India in a region marked by insurgency while some people from Northeast use this stand as a political tool by pitching the fact the “mainland” people are imposing their will without considering the Northeast’s sentiments. Though a separate time zone can be beneficial it won’t be much helpful to my aching muscles and twisted ligaments. By the time I reached Zokhawthar it was pitch dark and the fatigue of the journey was overwhelming. I got out of the shared taxi, struggling to stand still and comprehend where I have reached. I overcame the urge to sleep on the side of the roads itself and the iris in my eyes slowly adjusted with the darkness. I quickly looked around hoping to find a hotel. There were no neon boards and the whole area was engulfed with darkness and it felt like I am at a small pit stop rather than a town or village. I could see the shadows of people, some still and some moving.
Rather than approaching a single person I shot my question into the darkness “Where can I get a room to stay”
A lady standing nearby was kind enough to respond but she replied in a local dialect of Mizo language.
I repeat the question in Hindi.
The lady this time raising her voice answered again in “Mizoian”.
Well make no mistake a vast majority of people in Mizoram understands and speaks Hindi and English and it was pure coincidence that I was striking a conversation with the insignificant minority.
I decided to cut down the words and rephrased my question with a single word.
Instantaneously her face lit up and beckoned to me to come over. She was standing inside a shop with rolling shutter and inside it there were some plastic chairs and tables. I could see silhouettes of couple of people sitting in the dark. While I stood there puzzled she repeated my question as an answer
I realized that this tiny dark shop in which she was standing was a restaurant. As the verbal conversation was having limited success I resorted to charades. I mimicked action of sleep and said hotel. She in return showed the eating action and said “hotel”
Not eat … I need sleep. I mimicked the action for “no” “eat”, “yes” “sleep” .
Decoding my message made her visibly happy. She murmured something to the fellow Mizos sitting inside in rapid staccatos and one man as if obeying an order came out and got onto his bike.
“Paradise” they both said. Their face were beaming.
The man said “Come on, we go to Paradise”
I got on to the bike of a complete stranger who is guaranteeing a ride to Paradise.
Mizoram is 87% Christian and it is common for the missionaries to promise a journey to Paradise.
Paradise he repeated euphorically while the motorbike wobbled through unpaved narrow path
“Paradise” he shouted. The bike was at unnatural speeds making me realize the drug menace in Northeast India. He sure was under the influence of drugs.
“We are going to paradise” he screamed as he took a sharp turn, the motorbike almost falling off into the ditch.
“We are going to Paradise” he repeated for the nth time. The fatigue stopped me from protesting. But my mind was full of thoughts about the imminent danger awaiting this journey.
How can you be so sure man. First there will be judgement day and there will be some criteria to go to paradise right? Riding bike under the influence of drugs is punishable and what if God gives you hell instead of heaven. Hey wait… If hell is the opposite of heaven where did paradise come from. And I am not a Christian so my God might be judging me with a different set of benchmarks. So don’t give your assurances of Paradise.
The bike skidded and we almost fell over. My thoughts ceased. He began “We are going to …”
“PARADISE” I interjected and then we rode for sometime in silence through darkness with the headlight of the bike piercing through it.
Soon the bike stopped near a 3 storey concrete building, the only one in the entire neighbourhood. The rider while pointing at the building said with immense joy “We have reached Paradise”
Well man! I haven’t been to Paradise before but I have a strong feeling that they have downscaled due to economic recession.
“Rooms available” he said in broken English
Hotel Paradise was one of the very few options for accommodation and it was more of a homestay rather than hotel. The room, though a bit tiny, was clean and the bed had mosquito nets. As soon as my body touched the soft fluffy bed surface it surely felt like Paradise!!!
Paradise had its effect on me positively for I, just like the God, gave forgiveness to the bike rider who was high on drugs. After all he didn’t have any plan to ride his motorbike and he only did it to help me. Lol
Travel is not all about picture perfect photos and compelling travelogues. It is filled up with moments of realizations and unadulterated emotions. There will also be embarrassing situations where you make a fool out of yourself which is perfectly fine for you are outside your comfort zone in a foreign territory. But these moments are hidden from friends to avoid further mocking. Lol. But as wine of travel memories gets stronger I have gathered strength to share these funny moments and this particular incident happened in 2013 in Mizoram.