Monday, December 14, 2009

THE MIZORAM TRIP - 1

Just back from a tiring but enjoyable trip to Mizoram - one of the easternmost states of India. We were there to witness the priestly ordination of our SHTC student Deacon Dominic Thuan. A goodly crowd of about 1000 people had gathered to participate in the service which was presided over by Bishop Stephen Rotluanga of Aizawl. The service was held in Mizo and moved smoothly. It was a touching ceremony with moments of deep significance like the prostration of the deacon for the litany of the saints and the silent laying on of hands by the bishop followed by all the concelebrating priests. After the service there was a felicitation program for the newly ordained priest.

Well the journey to and fro was pretty eventful - and we did it in 4 days...albeit with many stops and at a leisurely pace. We began from SHTC on Friday 11 December morning - the original group consisted of Fr. George Maliekal - Rector of SHTC, Fr. John Zosiama - Registrar of SHTC, Ms. Blandina Lamare - a friend and collaborator in Salesian work in Shillong and yours truly. Of course not to be forgotten was our driver Ajay Tirkey. The first leg was through the Khasi hills into the Jaintia hills. We passed through the town of Jowai - part of the coal belt that has grown phenomenally rich due to the 'black gold' that is being mined constantly with all the repercussions that this entails. We paused for a solemn lunch at the Don Bosco centre in Khleriat. The Salesians here run a parish, a couple of schools and other youth activities. In the pipeline is a mini-stadium that is being completed. The MSMHC sisters are close collaborators in the work. Frs. John Mathew, Marius and Kenny were on hand to welcome us and treat us to lunch prepared with much care. We took a look round the campus and soon bid goodbye to our kind hosts and get back on the road.

At 2:30 pm we were moving on towards the border of Meghalaya and on into Assam towards the town of Silchar which was to be our night halt. The road was smooth and the going was good until we crossed into Assam at about 5:30 pm. Then began an ordeal that words cannot describe. The road seemed to vanish into a cloud of thick dust. By then the darkness was thick and the only thing that kept us going along that bouncy dirt track - which is officially part of the National Highway connecting Meghalaya with Mizoram and Tripura - was the procession of vehicles trudging relentlessly along the same path. This section seemed unending and at about 6:30 when the worst seemed over we paused for a tea halt. Unfortunately the place we chose served no tea just some 'chana'. So after the pause we took to the road again. This time the road was better but still very rough. Two level crossings also kept us from speeding to our destination.

Finally, at about 7:45 pm we sighted Silchar and our relief almost led us to miss the turning to our Don Bosco centre. Thanks to some very good lighting we sighted the centre and entered to enjoy the warm welcome of the confreres and the technical students who reside in the hostels. We were eager to get to the rooms prepared for us and to get the dirt, grime and most of all the memories of the torrid time we had endured out of our systems. By 8:30 pm we were in the refectory for a leisurely chat and supper with the confreres of the community - Frs. Sebastian Palatty, Ignatius Sangma and Br. Regi. They shared with us information about the centre and its activities - principally the school and technical institute. After supper we soon hit the sack and enjoyed the restful bliss of warm beds. It was a very consoling end to a day that had been fairly up and down.

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