It was ’97 Dec. Me and my Junior from Hostel reached Guwahati by train (North East Express) from New Delhi, on our way back home. I was in class 10th and the junior had just joined in 8th. We put up at a friends place for the night and took a night-bus leaving for Aizawl the next evening. It was a journey I was never to forget my whole life.
We met a few Mizos on the bus, happy cos’ we never get to meet our own from where we came. The bus started off, late as usual but we never really cared much as long as we were nearing home. I woke up around 4 in the morning to find the bus had stopped and all I could see was darkness. But as dawn broke, we could see a whole line of buses, trucks and other vehicles facing the worst Sonapur landslide ever.
The plan was to cross the landslide with whatever luggage we had, to the other side where another bus of the same Travel Agency would take us onward. We gathered our bags, which was hardly heavy, 2 boys back for vacation from an Army hostel don’t bring home much, and made our way among the winding line of people.
At one point, there was a Tata truck which was covered in mud to the point where the driver could’ve barely crawled out from the top of the window. A lady had slipped off the makeshift path of rocks, to step in waist-deep slush of yellowish mud. It was drizzling lightly which didn’t make the trip any easier. We were wet to our socks.
We reached the other side, covered in mud from the knee down and finally managed to find our bus. Only a few co-passengers had reached, so we loaded our bags and, being the honest boy scouts we were, started back to help out others. By the time we reached the old bus, we found it to be empty and everyone had gone. We started back lightly, but happily, running a few paces, to the other side again only to find our bus had left.
We had kept all our cash, except for a few change, in our luggage with our wallets. We didn’t want them drenched afterall. So we were ROYALLY SCREWED. There were no more Mizos, no familiar faces, and we were stuck in the middle of nowhere, without our luggage or money. Cellphones hadn’t even reached India. That was the worst feeling ever.
I knew some Hindi at that time, so I approached a bus driver who had just emptied his passengers and fortunately not many to bring back. He was kind enough to hitch us a ride till as far as he went, which was on the outskirts of Silchar. Upon reaching there, we started asking around for any vehicle that might take us to Silchar so that at least, we can somehow make it to Vairengte. That was as far as we had planned, to reach Vairengte and somehow make a call home for help.
It turns out that Silchar was far, far away from Vairengte (Never knew that then!) and the localites told me I needed to get to Bagha first before I can even think about Vairengte. Finding no means of transport and unable to afford the available ones, (We probably had less than Rs.100 between us) we started walking towards what we figured was Bagha. We didn’t have anything to carry so it wasn’t such a bad idea.
It was high noon. We had walked for quite a while, enough to dry even our then-wet shoes, when we reached a CHOWK kinda place where there were a couple of roads that led out. We hadn’t thought of this possibility and we were screwed once more. With the little amount of money we had, we decided to have chai and think it out.
In the midst of the confusion, a miracle happened. There was a man with a small shop next to the chai-wallah, whom we had asked for direction. He happened to know that we were Mizos, and could speak a little broken words himself. Who would’ve thought that in the middle of halfway between Silchar and Bagha, one would meet someone who actually spoke Mizo, no matter how bad. He had worked in Aizawl for some years and used to stay in Tuikhuahtlang. I still regret not getting his name or something, but then, that was the last thing on our minds.
He showed us the right direction and said we might get a Town bus had we waited for some time. We were too excited to be on the right path again that we left once more, on foot. We tried hitching a ride as vehicles passed by, but no one wanted to give a ride to us 2 dirty, slit-eyed young boys lest they rob them or something. We really didn’t notice time passing cos’ neither of us had a watch, but after what seemed like an eternity on a humid Silchar-winter, we finally hailed a Town Bus. Never in my wildest nightmares had I thought I’d be riding in a Town Bus in Silchar, surrounded by people who eyed us suspiciously. We weren’t a normal sight.
We somehow reached Bagha. It was probably my 3rd time in Bagha and 1st time on foot, it took us quite a while, but we managed to find the MST Bus station. We were told that the next bus leaves in the evening, but we didn’t have enough money to pay for the ticket. So, we started off again for Bagha Bazar where they said we could get an Auto to Vairengte post. It didn’t take us much time reaching there. It was late and starting to get dark, but we still had a long way to go.
Bagha Bazar was like heaven compared to what we had been through. There were a lot of friendly faces, and even the unfriendly ones at least could speak Mizo. We saw an old lady who was tugging a huge bale of PAAN leaves, too big for her anyway. We helped her load it and she agreed to share an Auto till the post. With uplifted spirits, we reached the post and on Mizo territory, we were halfway home.
We hardly noticed the walk from the post to the first shop. It was too good to be true. We had a few change left and we decided to use that for a phone call home. Knowing the telephone connection those days and the price of STD, we just had enough time to freak our parents out. I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes at that point, ever!
It was dark, and chilly. we could hear the sound of dinner in the houses nearby. Without a plan, without money, with no direction and no hope, we started out for the post, hoping the guards there might be of some help. They were kind enough to allow us to check the registration numbers of Vehicles coming in from Silchar. We had noted the number of the Bus we had loaded our luggage into, and it was 3443, but it was nowhere on the list. By our calculations, by then, the bus would’ve crossed Vairengte hours prior, if not reached Aizawl. We were once again.. you guessed it.. SCREWED!
I don’t really consider myself a very religious person, God-fearing, yes, but not religious. But at that point, I decided it was time to put the situation in His hands. We had done our best, but it was not enough. I excused myself to go to the loo, locked myself up and prayed like I’d never done before in my life. I came out the same person, nothing different.
An hour later, a bus, smaller than the one we were supposed to be on, stopped at the post. We wouldn’t have given it a second look had it not been for the Number Plate. Interestingly, the number was 3434. Upon closer examination, we saw the familiar faces of our co-passengers. They had stopped to change buses in Silchar and had, MIZO-ly, loaded our luggages onto the new bus, thinking they would at least leave it at the station in Aizawl had we come to claim it. They had even asked the driver to wait for sometime in Silchar, in case we might turn up. That was why they took so much time to reach Vairengte.
No words could explain the relief that overwhelmed us at that moment. It was pure bliss. I thanked God all the way home and couldn’t believe what we had gone through the whole day. Later on, I wondered if the situation would’ve been different, had I stopped to pray when the bus had left us.