5/3/2011 to 5/4/2011 | India , Mizoram

Saiha to Lunglei: Lawngtlai’s “Cement Queen”

I had planed to stay a night in Lawngtlai (pronounced long-cly) and proceed to the town of Chongte the following morning; however I had to change my route after I found out the only place I knew of to stay in Lawngtlai, the tourist lodge, was full.  I decided to transit through Lawngtlai (as I had already purchased my sumo ticket) and head to Lunglei.  I had a few hours in Lawngtlai before my sumo to Lunglei would leave, so I began to wander the streets of Lawngtlai and check out the dusty hot town that is the headquarters of the Lai autonomous region.  The Lai are a group culturally similar but linguistically distinct from Mizos, though it seemed from my brief survey of Lawngtlai that most people in the town spoke Mizo in there everyday transactions rather than Lai.  It was during my meanderings through the streets that I met the “Cement Queen” of Lawngtlai.  A very hospitable and fiercely independent young woman, who ran a construction supply shop along the main street in Lawngtlai.  Certainly business was booming judging by the number of cement walled structures that were in the process of being raised from the dusty streets.  She proudly proclaimed that Star Cement (a brand of Indian cement) had given her an award for selling the most cement in the northeast.  Whether or not this was a bit of an exaggeration, I can not say, but this “Cement Queen,” made up in confidence what she lacked in height.  She was an prime example of the type of strong self made women I seemed to keep running into in the northeast tribal areas but who seemed to be not nearly as prevalent in plains of India.  The “Cement Queen” took it upon herself to entertain me during my brief layover and show me her town with an auto rickshaw tour of the area, which consisted of a bumpy ride up a nearby hill, arriving back just in time for me to thank my host and hop on the sumo to Lunglei.

Lunglei is the second largest town in Mizoram behind the state capital Aizawl to the north.  It is situated in a particularly pretty location on a ridge high above a carpet of lower undulating hills that stretch to the Bangladesh border.  I spent a single night in Lunglei, long enough to be invited for a tasty Mizo dinner at the house of a forest department official I had met through Himpuii in Aizawl, take in a hazy sunset, and spectacular sunrise, before I hopped on to an early morning sumo to the village of Tlabung (pronounced claboong) near the Bangladesh border.

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