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A Dream Realised

I can now cross off one of the few items I have on my wish-list or ‘things-I-must-do-before-I-die’ – that is, take part in a real marathon. Yes, I took part in the Tokyo Marathon 2010 last Sunday. Not the full marathon – that is too much at my age. I’ve not yet put it on my wish-list. But, who knows 😉

It was only the 10km part of the Tokyo Marathon, which I completed in just over an hour. Maybe nothing much to boast of for the pros and the sportsman-types, but for me it was a culmination of a dream – something I’ve strived for and worked hard at during the past seven years or so.

All those early morning (and some late evening) jogs finally paying off and culminating in that precise moment when I crossed the finishing line was something I will not forget. Though there were no TV cameras, or for that matter any type of camera, recording the precise, ecstatic, moment I crossed the line, I can recall and savor the exact moment even now. And I know it will remain one of the highlights of my blessed God-given life.

I knew from the moment I awoke at 6 in the morning that all the predictions of bad weather and rain had come true. I lay awake for some time just taking in the fact that the Big Day had finally come and listened to the rain lashing against our bedroom window. I felt like a small kid on Christmas morning thinking of the presents Santa would have left around the Christmas tree the night before as I finally got up to dress for my first ‘marathon’ and have a leisurely breakfast before leaving for Shinjuku where the race would start at 9:10. I peeked through the window and saw the steady drizzle and overcast sky in the early morning light and thought of the first time I started seriously jogging all those years ago.

I think it was the winter of 2002 when I first seriously thought of taking up jogging. We were then in Maputo, Mozambique where the seasons are opposite what we are normally used to because it is in the southern hemisphere and winter there falls during our summer season in the northern hemisphere. So it was sometime in March-April 2002 that I decided to try jogging. A beautiful park overlooking the Indian Ocean just below our apartment which was usually full of early morning joggers was a big factor in my decision. Plus the sight of all those fit and beautiful joggers who seemed to go on and on without ever getting tired.

Anyone who has ever known me will testify to the fact that I have never ever been the sportsman-type. As a child growing up in Sielmat, where everyone played football, I was always the last person anyone would pick for their side. Though I love football and tried my best, I could never master the dribble or any of the moves that could have made a ‘captain’ pick me for his side. On the few occasions some friend took pity and picked me, I was so pathetic at the game that I would soon be substituted. So I remained a spectator at most of the games. This has continued throughout my life – the only place you will be sure to find me during any sport or games is in front of the idiot box or in the spectator stands. The only sport I have a little skill at and which I played regularly was badminton and, to a small extent, volleyball. But, looking back, I sometimes have the feeling that the only reason I got to regularly play badminton with my friends back then was simply the fact that the rackets belonged to us.

And so, except for the occasional game of badminton and volleyball during my school and college days, I never really played any real sports. Even the occasional games came to a complete halt once I left home for my job, got married and our kids came along. Having been born with an excellent appetite and marrying the girl of my dreams who is also an excellent cook did wonders for my weight which started to slowly balloon till at one stage I tipped the scales at almost a hundred kilos just after my son was born in Morocco. But after getting back into the daily office commute and grind in Delhi, I settled back into my ‘slightly’-overweight-for-my-height/age status which I have more or less since maintained.

When I first attempted jogging, I used to get so out of breath even within the first 100m or so that I simply had to stop to catch my breath. With my irregular schedule, it took me more than a year to comfortably jog for up to a kilometer. Though I must have made a pathetic and embarrassing sight, I kept at it till the day finally came when I found myself jogging without running out of breath even as I passed the old, gnarled tree which marked the spot where I usually stopped to catch my breath. I still clearly remember the incredible feeling of well-being and excitement as I realized that even though I had already crossed my usual landmark and was still running, I was breathing normally and my legs were moving in a steady rhythm pounding the dirt tract. At some stage I even felt like I was out of my own body and watching this handsome, strong jogger out on his regular morning jog, casually passing lesser mortals with a slight sneer on his lips 🙂 It really felt like an epiphany of some sort, a kind of spiritual feeling which I had never experienced before. And I have been hooked ever since.

Though I knew it would take me less than 30 minutes to reach Shinjuku, I left home at 7:30 to ensure that I reached well in time. It was around 5 degrees, chilly, with an overcast sky and drizzling as I stepped outside and practically hit the ground running as I jogged down to our Metro station to catch the Toei Oeda line for Shinjuku. The metro was full of other runners, all decked out in their best running suits, excitedly chatting. As we filed out of Tocho-mae station, we came upon thousands of other excited runners checking for directions to their own allotted blocks. I joined the throng and, after making sure I was on the right track, decided to take off the extra sweatshirt which I had worn for warmth and keep it in my allotted ‘baggage bag’ which I had to deposit with Luggage Truck No. 4 that would take it to the finish line to be collected after the race.

As I came out of the station, I saw that it was still drizzling. I adjusted my cap and put up the hood of my wind-cheater below which I wore the official Tokyo Marathon tee-shirt. I looked at my watch which showed exactly 8:05am. I followed the sign for the Luggage Trucks to first deposit my ‘baggage’ and then find some shade from the rain near my starting block. Having deposited my ‘baggage’, I started looking for ‘K’ block which was my allotted starting block and finally found it, the last of the starting blocks, at least 200-300m from the start-line.

I only found out later, long after I submitted my application for the Marathon in July last year, that the starting blocks were allotted from ‘A’ for the elite runners and so on to ‘K’ for amateurs, first-timers and those who were not exactly expected to break records, according to the ‘estimated time expected to finish the race’ which every applicant had to fill in. Seeing that the maximum time given to complete the 10K race was 100 minutes, I filled in 90 minutes as it was my first race and I had never even run 10K at a stretch in my life. I was, accordingly, allotted the last starting block, ‘K’.

Though it continued to drizzle and I could feel the rain water starting to seep into my sneakers and I was starting to shiver in my tee-shirt and wind-cheater, the excitement was palpable as I made my way towards K block which was a small grass-less park now turning muddy with puddles all round. I looked at my watch which told me I still had about 45 minutes till starting time. I looked around for some shade, a tree maybe, or some structure, and found none. So I made my way towards the front of the excited pack and stood in the rain and mud like the rest. It was probably the coldest 45 minutes I have spent in Japan with the steady drizzle and more rain water seeping into my shoes every passing minute. But the excitement of being in my first marathon (ok, 10K race) and being in the midst of 35,000 excited participants more than compensated for the cold and soon enough the announcement came that the race had started and a couple of crackers exploded overhead. It seemed like ages as we slowly shuffled along with the crowd towards the starting line. Being in the last block, I made it to the start-line at exactly 9:31 and I was finally off.

With the ever-present knowledge that I was attempting to run a distance I had never done before, I started tentatively but running amidst thousands of excited runners and crowds lined up on both sides despite the steady drizzle seemed to pump in extra adrenalin into my body and I found myself picking up pace as we crossed the first kilometer. Concentrating on my run, I was surprised when I saw looming just ahead the 5km mark, which was the maximum distance I had ever run. Before the race, one of the recurring thoughts that came back again and again was of me trying to keep my pace while runners continuously passed me by. But I surprisingly found that I was able to keep my steady pace and, in fact, was passing more runners than the other way round. As I passed the 5km mark, my watch showed 10:02 and the big electronic clock showed exactly 00:52:49 which meant just over 52 minutes had passed from the official start of the race at 9:10am. A quick mental calculation told me I had done 5km in 31 minutes! At last (like a true sportsman), I now have a ‘personal best’ time of sort, I thought.

And so, just as I had passed that old, gnarled tree which served as my landmark when I first started jogging all those years ago in Maputo, I passed the 5km mark without stopping and continued on. Except for a slight pause to get some drinks at the drinks table which came up just after the 5km mark, I pushed on almost as fresh as when I started. The tiredness in my legs started to creep in as we passed Iidabashi and approached the 8km mark on a slight climb, approaching the Imperial Palace. By the time I was running past the Imperial Palace with the Finish Line in Hibya Park just round another bend in the road, I started to feel the full effect of what I was doing as I felt my leg muscles starting to protest. I realized I had reached the stage where I simply had to put one foot after another and tell my poor, faithful, tiring legs that it was just a matter of a few more minutes to the finish line.

For the last few hundred metres I hardly noticed the waving crowd as I concentrated on reaching the finish line – and making a last sprint as I crossed the finish line. Which I did, and was rewarded by some clapping from the crowd. My watch showed 10:37 and the big electronic clock showed the time from the race start as exactly 01:28:11 when I crossed the finish line. Which meant I had finished the race in 67 minutes, or more precisely, 67 minutes 11 seconds or 1 hour 7 minutes 11 seconds, counting from the moment I crossed the start line at 9:31.

Another recurring thought I had before the race was of me collapsing during the race or even as I crossed the finish line. But, happily, nothing of the sort happened and, except for my tired legs, I felt as fresh as ever as I walked towards the race officials waiting to guide me to the ‘reception’ area. As I walked to one of the race volunteers to have my computer chip (which had my details and recorded my exact race time) taken off, my happiness was quite obvious in my smile. As she gave me my chip and pointed me towards where I could exchange it for my medal, she gave me the sweetest smile and congratulated me. I gave her my best Japanese-style bow and simply said, ‘Arigato’ but she was already congratulating the next finisher, little realizing that had she looked my way she would have seen the happiest person in Tokyo at that moment.

Though there was no formal medal ceremony or opportunity for me to climb the medal podium, I did have a real proper medal hung around my neck by a bonafide race official when I went to the next table to cash in my chip. As I went to retrieve my ‘baggage’, my medal proudly hung around my neck, I passed by happy, fellow runners and more smiling race officials who handed me a towel emblazoned ‘Finisher Tokyo Marathon 2010’ along with a bag containing a chocolate bar, some fruits and a bottle of water.

It was still drizzling with specks of snow starting to mingle with the raindrops as I walked towards the exit of Hibya Park to go home. I started to tuck in my medal into my wind-cheater but then thought, ‘Why not?’ and with it dangling on my neck and the brightly colored ‘Finisher’ towel draped over my shoulder, I walked towards Sakuradamon station for home. I proudly wore the medal all the way home on the metro. After all, I had done it. I had realized a dream.


Year-end Reflections

The last time I blogged was on 4 May. Yes, its been a long time. Almost eight months. Of course there was that nagging, guilty feeling that, having once started the blog, I should be updating it. But, for one reason or the other, I just couldn’t.

December came and, as the days shortened and the cool winds turned chilly and we started rummaging for our Christmas decorations, I thought that, even if my mind has been blank for the past seven months, surely the spirit of Christmas should give birth to a blog or two. Despite the usual sentimental thoughts of Christmases past, of family and friends, nothing. Nada.

Then my wife left on 18 Dec to spend Christmas with Andrew and friends in Delhi, leaving Esther and me to spend Christmas on our own. On the drive back from Narita, I thought, this being the first time our family would be spending Christmas apart, it would get so terribly lonesome and sentimental fool that I am sometimes, surely a blog or two would burst out naturally. But Christmas came and went and, still, nothing. It seems you can’t even miss your loved ones like you used to anymore, at least not enough to produce a blog or two, because of modern technology which means everyone is now just a phone call away. Suffice it to say, my phone bill should be quite hefty this time. But still no blog.

Then, with the year coming to an end and a long weekend ahead, I thought I simply have to put in at least one blog before the year ends. Besides updating my blog, I think I owe it to 2009 which has turned out to be such an eventful and landmark year for me and mine.

2009 was when my son left us, for university, to carve out his own future, to try and be all he can be. As we planned and agonized over his future plans I came across a quotation in one of Bill Bryson’s books; ‘Once they leave for college, they never really come back’. It made me look back on my own life and made me realize that the moment I left home and my parents was when I joined college in Imphal. Imphal being just two hours away by bus from home, I would come home every weekend and it was like I never left home. Till my son left us in July, I used to think that the year I left to join my job was the moment I finally left my home and family. But I now realize that I had left my home and parents much before that. Because, except for the weekends and a few months during the holidays, I never really went back once I joined college.

I also realized that I had never really once thought of what my parents would have felt. I was young and the future was before me. I left home for far away Delhi, got married and then went even further away, beyond the seas, to other continents, and got caught up in the struggle of starting and maintaining my own family. My son’s leaving us this year made me realize that a cycle had been completed, in a way.

Life goes on and my son has now left, to go his own way. But it is so difficult and almost impossible to let go, to accept that our boy has become an adult, old enough to live separately, old enough to fend for himself. Old enough to make his own mistakes and, hopefully, learn from them. Because all we can do now is watch from a distance and pray and hope that in the short time he was with us, we managed to imbibe in him some qualities that will help him carve out a future for himself.

And so, another year draws to a close and the circle of life goes on. Relentlessly. A new year will soon dawn and, even as half our thoughts are with our son, we are already looking ahead with trepidation to parting with our other baby as she gets ready to complete her last year in school next year.

Such is life.

A Cremation in Tokyo

It took us about two hours to reach the crematorium in Ichikawa. The funeral service had almost ended by the time we reached. Our pastor had already performed the last rites when we entered the hall where the service was being held. We made it just in time for his final prayer after which we filed past the coffin as those gathered sang ‘Abide With Me’. His wife and young son had arrived for the funeral just a few hours earlier and the hall was filled with her wailing as his bewildered young son looked on.

Though I had expected just a few mourners from the Mizo/Zohnathlak community, there must have been about fifty or so mourners all dressed in black. Most of them were from the Burmese community with representatives from some NGOs dealing with refugees in Japan. He may have been all alone when he met his Maker last Saturday but he certainly was not alone on his last journey.

Next to the hall where the funeral service was held, across a corridor, was the electric crematorium. After the service, we were led to a big hall which was separated from the crematorium by a huge ceiling-to-floor glass wall from where one could see five identical steel doors looking very much like elevator doors which turned out to be the crematoriums. Our pastor led the small funeral procession consisting of his wife and son and close friends into the crematorium as we watched from behind the glass wall.

We watched as one of the steel doors opened at the press of a button and the coffin which had been placed on a trolley slowly moved inside. It was my first ever experience of a cremation and for some reason had expected some huge fire and brimstone kind of sight as the crematorium doors opened and the coffin was swallowed up. But it was nothing like that as the coffin slowly disappeared into what looked very much like an elevator. I half expected some passenger to emerge from the elevator-like doors as they were about to close. And, just like that, it was over.

Our group of mourners then trooped over to another part of the complex, to another hall which had typical Japanese-style long low tables where one had to sit cross-legged as well as a more conventional long table with chairs. We quickly filled the hall and commenced waiting for the cremation to be over so we could collect the ashes, or so I thought.

We were served typical Japanese oolan-cha (Japanese green tea) as we waited. A good and opportune time for a lengkhawm, I thought. But the time was used for the leaders of each community that had come together to stand up and say a ‘few words’ of condolence at the passing of a brother. There were words from the Zomi Christian Fellowship, the Burmese Fellowship, two other Fellowships (from Burma/Myanmar) and lastly, words of thanks from Pu Tawna on behalf of the Mizo Fellowship. In the event, with the lingua franca being mostly Burmese, except when his wife gave a very moving short speech in Mizo thanking everyone for being there, I had no idea of what was being said. But I felt myself being absorbed into a strange feeling of camaraderie, of being amongst brothers, of being one community.

After about an hour, we were informed that the cremation was over and we were escorted to still another hall where another ceremony awaited. The same trolley (for want of a better word) in which the coffin/body had been swallowed into the crematorium was now placed in the centre of the hall. In place of the coffin/body, there now remained only white bones with ashes all around. The hall, unexpectedly, smelled of burned wood – not unpleasant and not what I had expected, though I did not exactly know what I expected. In a typically Japanese ceremony (so I was told), two mourners with a pair of chopsticks each picked up a bone from the trolley and placed in an urn placed upon a table next to the trolley. We walked up to the trolley in pairs and, with the wooden chopsticks placed there for the purpose, solemnly picked up one of his bones and placed it into the urn.

It being my first experience of a cremation, I think I had expected something like a small mound of ashes, or that an urn or container with the ashes would be handed over to us. Coming up to the trolley with the white bones starkly visible and in contrast to the white ashes all around was a complete surprise for me. I think it dramatically brought into focus the fragility of what we call life. In almost the twinkle of an eye, a fully recognizable human body with its own unique face and features had become just a pile of brittle bones.

And so, a life once full of hope and dreams for the future ended in a faraway land.  He had dreamt of the day when he would be able to once again hold his wife and son whom he’d last seen when he was a six month old baby. They came, finally. But he was no longer able to hold them. The few hours that they were finally able to spend together was with him in a coffin, just a strange, pale, ashen face to a three year old son who will grow up never having known him. And, for his wife, an indescribable loss with only bittersweet memories remaining.

A Death in Tokyo

It was just after nine on Saturday night, as I was waiting for the traffic lights to turn green at Roppongi crossing on my way home from dinner with friends, that I received the call. Sawma called to inform that they were frantically trying to find him. He’d left home earlier in the day, dressed in black. He’d called all his friends to say goodbye for the last time and then switched off his phone. 

Then Puia called around eleven on Sunday morning to convey that he was no more. They had found his mangled body besides the railway tracks less than a hundred meters from where he was staying with friends. 

I did not personally know him that well, having spoken on phone with him only once or twice. The first time we spoke on phone was when he called to apologize for not being able to make it to the special dinner and get-together we had organized in our home for the Mizo/Zohnathlak community in Tokyo. He said that he had not been keeping well for some time and it had gotten worse that evening. I told him that we would miss him as we had so looked forward to him leading us in the singing of old Mizo classics after dinner. He said that he too had looked forward to the evening but was simply unable to make it in his condition. I told him to take care of himself and hoped he’d be able to make it the next time. 

My son had specially tuned our two guitars for that evening’s ‘lengkhawm’ and we’d even got new guitar strings. But, in his absence, all our grand plans for a good time singing late into the night came to nothing and the food and the dinner which was supposed to be just an excuse for getting together to sing became the main highlight of the evening. 

The first time I met him in person was at his workplace more than a year ago when, since we were passing by, my wife and I dropped by to pick up a bottle of kimchi from Puia. We shook hands, introduced ourselves, and he graciously welcomed us to Japan. Puia had already told us that he was a great singer who’d composed a few songs himself and had even recorded an album back home. That was the evening when the idea of getting together for a ‘sing-together’ of old/new Mizo songs was born. 

I next met him about a month back when we went to Ichikawa to participate in the fortnightly Mizo service. Apart from exchanging a few words after the service, I did not get a chance to talk to him further. But my kids had a great time with him in their small bedroom, singing and jamming together. I remember my daughter playing the guitar and singing while he accompanied her on another guitar, playing bass and switching to lead as the mood overtook. It was one of the images that came to mind when I heard the sad news. After a sumptuous early dinner of boiled pork and assorted Mizo dishes, we parted. That was the second time we met, and the last. 

We grabbed a quick lunch and immediately rushed to the small rented house in Ichikawa where he stayed. The place was already full of friends from the Mizo/Zohnathlak community, some of whom we had already met while most of the others we were meeting for the first time. As always, at times like this, thanks to our concept and practice of tlawmngaihna, they had all rushed to offer their condolences and offer any help they could. 

Later in the evening, we went to have a look at the place where his broken body had lain besides the railway tracks, up an embankment, visible from the house, just a few meters away. We climbed up the embankment, on top of which one came upon a breathtaking view of the Edo-gawa river which marks the border between Tokyo and Chiba. To the left was a railway bridge and to the right, about a hundred meters away, another bridge upon which one could see a constant flow of traffic coming from and going to Tokyo. Sawma pointed to the exact spot where his body had been found earlier in the day, hardly two meters and almost at touching distance from the fence, at almost the exact spot where the railway bridge began. He pointed to an opening in the fence where a determined person could have managed to squeeze himself in. We saw with fascinated horror the splotches of dried blood that the previous night’s rain had been unable to wash away. I looked beyond the river towards Tokyo, saw clouds in the horizon reflecting the last rays of the sinking sun, and, incongruously thought, what a beautiful day to die. 

We gathered round, just the fence separating us from the splotches of dried blood, a meter or two away, as our pastor said a prayer for the departed soul. As we came away, I glanced back to see one of the ladies quietly picking up a bunch of wild white flowers from the embankment and place it near the fence, a few meters away from the cursed spot. 

I was told that he left behind a wife and two young sons, aged seven and four. What tortured thoughts must have passed through his mind as he breathed his last, in a foreign land far away from his loved ones, I can not even begin to imagine. But I will ever remember him playing his guitar, singing, eyes closed, in his own world, fully into the moment, tapping his feet to the rhythm with thoughts, perhaps, of loved ones back home. Or, maybe, of some lost love, long gone. And, whatever the circumstances of his passing away, I can only wish that he has found his peace at last.

Prelude to Okinawa

This weekend I had the chance and privilege of returning, after a little more than a year, to my favourite place in Japan – Okinawa.

Despite the lingering winter chill, the sun was up bright and sunny on Saturday morning as I rushed to catch my early morning flight from Haneda airport. By the time I had figured out how to operate the ticket machine (or whatever it is called) and obtained my ticket, I was already beginning to regret my decision to go fully suited and tie-d up so that I could rush straight to my appointment without having to change. I greatly looked forward to changing into my jeans and exploring whatever I could of the southernmost part of Japan. But I first had to contend with the dreary 3 hours I would be spending in the air to get there.

By the time I found my seat and sat down, I could feel my stomach rumbling because, in my rush to get up and dress up, I had barely managed a cup of tea for breakfast. From past experience I already knew that, apart from a single (half-filled) paper cup of juice/coffee/oolan tea/soft drink, there would be no breakfast on flight to look forward to, even if it was breakfast time. I remember my first domestic flight in Japan when I kept waiting for the snacks which never came after that measly half-cup of juice. Unlike in India, and all other places that I have flown in, they don’t serve snacks on domestic flights no matter how long the flight is except in Business/First class. And you don’t even have the option of buying something to eat during the flight like you do on budget airlines in India. This realization only served to increase my hunger pang.

I flipped through the inflight magazine, checking the entertainment options – apart from some dreary documentary-types, all in Japanese, no movies. The only English programme available was the ‘international pops’ audio channel on Channel 6 called ‘cool cuts’ featuring a wide range of so-called hits which, in normal circumstances, you wouldn’t catch me listening to, ever. But I could see some interesting 70s numbers which included ‘I think I love you’ by the Partridge Family which sounded familiar, ‘Bridge Over Troubled Waters’ by Simon and Garfunkel and another number by Diana Ross. The programme ran for exactly an hour and would be repeated from the beginning each time it finished and in the end, counting my return trip, I ended up listening to the Partridge Family 6 times. Which, I suppose, was some sort of highlight of my trip.

And so, trying not to think of the 3 hours I would be cooped up, I settled in with the Partridge Family and a copy of Bill Bryson’s ‘Neither Here Nor There’ for company. Bill Bryson, for those who haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading his books, is one of the funniest writers around. In fact, his books should come with some sort of statutory warning (like on cigarette packets) ‘Not to be read in public’ or some such thing because they are so hilariously perceptive and funny that it takes great effort not to suddenly burst out laughing and make a spectacle of oneself in public (I had several such urges but managed to control myself and mostly just had a sort of permanent smile till the time we landed). Instead, my copy of the book only had blurbs like ‘It’s very, very funny’ (Sunday Times) and ‘Hugely funny (not snigger-snigger funny, but great-big-belly-laugh-till-you-cry funny)’ (Daily Telegraph). Seriously.

Though I felt drowsiness sweeping over me several times, I managed to keep my eyes open with Bill Bryson and David Cassidy. Another big reason was my quota of the half paper cup of juice. I once dozed off for maybe half a minute on another flight during which the air hostess managed to pass by with her tray and I ended up not having even the measly half-cup of juice that was rightfully mine. Ever since, I’ve had this feeling that the air hostesses keep an eye on me and the moment I doze off, rush to serve the one and only half-cup of juice they serve on the flights. And, ever since then, I keep an eye on their movements to make sure that I don’t get passed over when the time comes.

In between the times I had to put down the book and try to ward off sleep, I dreamed up various topics for blogs I could be writing. Such as the Eric Clapton (‘legendary guitarist, only rumored to be God’, as the publicity read) concert on 15 Feb which my son and I had been planning to attend, but could not because by the time I enquired, the tickets had long sold out. Or an account of the most exhausting thing I have ever done – climbing Mt. Fuji, and how I cursed myself for being so stupid and swearing to never, ever do it again but will probably be there again when the climbing season opens this year in August. With all the time on my hand, I actually dreamt up quite a few topics I could blog on. I remember thinking that I should write all the topics down so I could expand on them later on. But I didn’t, and here I am now, not able to recall any of them. Apart from the two above. I must really be getting old.

Hey, this is becoming really long. One of the things I have noticed lately is that I never read the really long blogs. Unless they are really interesting or well-written. Some of my earlier blogs now really make me cringe because they were so long. No wonder nobody bothered to read them. So let me call a halt right now and blog about the wondrous thing I saw, witnessed and experienced in Okinawa at a later time. Provided I remember them.

Wintery Christmassy Feelings

I can feel it in the air. Though the sun was up and bright this morning and the sky was exceptionally clear and blue when I dropped the kids to school, there was a distinct chill in the air. The temperature read 15 degrees at the Akasaka-Mitsuke Crossing at around 9 in the morning. When I glanced at the temperature board on my way back this evening, it read 10 degrees. Yes, its that time of the year again. Some of you might think it a bit early, but suddenly it feels like Christmas, snow (hopefully), cold feet searching for warm skin under layers of blankets, snuggling under a blanket, listening to the cold wind blowing outside the window, downing a few to ensure the ‘inner’ blanket remains warm, hot miso soup on a cold morning, those old Christmas carols and songs on the car stereo, Jim Reeves’ Christmas songs, Anne Murray’s ‘sad old wintery feeling’, memories of Christmas carols back home, Christmas ‘lengkhawm’ songs….. And, most of all, we’ll be going home for Christmas and New Year. At least to Delhi.

With all these in mind, thought I’d also change my ‘theme’ to the same old Christmas theme with which I started this blog round about this time last year. 

Here’s me (probably the first in all of blogosphere) hoping we all have a Wonderful Christmas this year 🙂

Rockin’ in Tokyo

I am probably the only driver still using audio cassettes for my daily dose of music in this hi-tech city. In this age of DVD/Blu-ray players or at least a CD player fitted in almost all cars, I ain’t got a CD player in my car – only a stereo cassette player and radio – that’s how ancient my car is. Though one of the rear woofers has started giving out strange, scratchy sounds when I turn up the volume beyond the half-way level, it is still a great stereo. Whenever the need for ramping up the sound arises (usually on the drive home after office on Friday evenings), all I need to do is adjust the setting and silence the rear speakers 🙂

The usual suspects accompany me on my faithful car stereo during my daily drives to and from office. From classic acts like Deep Purple, CCR, AC/DC, Rainbow, Van Halen, to the occasional soft ballads and country to Mizo/Hmar and sometimes, lately, gothic rock (Evanescence, HIM – courtesy my kids). But for the last few weeks Mizo-rock from t-melody (Thinlung Thawnthu) and soft ballads/covers of old Zodi/Vulmawi hits and others from the newly released ‘Zoawi’ CD seem to have elbowed out my perennial companions.

Before I got the new ‘Zoawi’ VCD a few weeks ago from a friend, it was t-melody’s ‘Thinlung Thawnthu’. I had really looked forward to the album especially after the superb ‘Sweet December Concert’ CD of a few years back. I had expected more ‘Sweet December’ type numbers and was initially disappointed with the ‘heavy’ stuff when I first played the CD. But after I transferred the album on to audio cassette and played it on my car stereo, some of the songs began to cast their spell on me. I especially love the heavy-metal-rock sound of ‘Nun Khawhar’ – a really superb number. The other numbers I like are the blue-sy ‘Inpuana’ and the heavy rock sounds of ‘Dawn La’ and ‘Hringnun Hi’. But I must confess that my fingers automatically hit the forward button whenever the other songs in the album start playing until one of the four numbers I’ve just mentioned come on. Sadly, I just can’t stand the others.

The new ‘Zoawi’ CD, on the other hand, carries on from the ‘Sweet December Concert’ and is a superb collection of terrific songs and melodies. Songs like ‘Duhaisam’, a great cover of the Zodi original song of longing for a united (mythical?) Zoram, brought so many nostalgic memories of Zodi and Vulmawi during their heydays all those years ago. Another great number is the superbly arranged ‘Liandote unau’. I love the musical arrangement in this song – starting slowly with a slow, folksy

“Oh, Liandote unau unau

Dar enge in tum in tum

Dar engmah kan tum love

Liando bur chhete kan tum kan tum”

which immediately brings on visions of a more simple time and memories of children holding hands, singing in the village fields. The simple guitar riff that follows is followed by more lusty voices before the mood suddenly changes as a heavy-metal guitar riff suddenly explodes before slowing down again and the song goes on:  

“Zo hnathlak te unau unau

Dar enge in tum in tum

Dar engmah kan tum love

Insuihkhawm leh zai I rel ang u kan ti…”

The song ends with a group of small children singing the refrain. Superb (at least, to me). The odd number, and the worse, is ‘Mizo Takin’ set to a reggae beat (or is it blues). I love the reggae music of Bob Marley, UB40 and African singers and bands but I have yet to hear any of our songs set to their (reggae-type) beat that I like. Maybe it’s a cultural thing, I don’t know, because I find them most mis-matched. Our songs set to the beats of country, rock, heavy metal, gothic, even rap, are all fine provided they are well arranged, but reggae is just not on. 

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