The Instinct of Survival in Malsawmi Jacob’s Zorami

Article Posted in: Research Articles


By – Swathika Y.S. (introduction at the end of the paper), Vol.III, Issue.XXIX, June 2017



Among the most impulsive behavioral traits exhibited by all beings, there are a series of defensive patterns imbibed within their nature that manifests itself in the moments of catastrophe. This behavior however tends to arise from the strong instinct to survive despite the countless struggles against the opponent force in combat. Though, on a surface level the term survival takes on to a mere physical existence, on a deeper level it can be purely psychological in essence. The paper is an attempt to study the survival of protagonist in the novel that is simultaneously merged with the survival of the state Mizoram. The paper proposes to focus on the incidents that project grappling stance of people against various intricacies presented throughout the novel.

Key words: struggles, survival, intricacies, force, psychological, Mizoram




Of all our bad times, Khaw Khawn is the darkest;

All Our Zoram has faded like worn out clothes;

Men, Women and Children, gathered from all hills

Go hungry and homeless like a Riakmaw bird. (116)

 “Mizoram previously known as the Lushai hills or the Mizo hills lies in the Southern most corner of North-east India. It is bounded on the North by the Chachar district of Assam, on the East and South-East by Burma and on West by Tripura and Bangladesh” (Nunthara 24). Credited to be the pioneer of English novels from Mizoram, Malsawmi Jacob’s Zorami endows a picturesque view of Mizoram and its socio-political climate catering to the profound readability of the literary arena. It encloses chapters with relevant titles and a concluding one liner evoking the sensitivities of the readers with myths and folklore adding on to its aesthetics. Named after its protagonist Zorampari, in short Zorami literally meaning ‘The flower of Mizoram’, the novel is an all-encompassing blend of aspects that succeeds in allegorizing the protagonist with the state beginning from the title to the end. It is bound with the eventualities of her life that runs parallel with the journey underlying freedom of Mizoram. By decoding each strand of its efforts to endure as an independent state the author endeavors to offer a realistic portrait of the Mizoram unconsciously mapping the political developments of the place. Acquisition of statehood was never a plain sailing expedition and accordingly Mizoram had to live through many impediments to undergo this metamorphosis. Zorami born in a remote village of Mizoram serves to be a representation of womanhood that prevailed in the place. Her journey as an entity of the pre-independent Mizoram coupled with the events of her personal life gives in a melancholic strain throughout the novel. She recollects those reminiscences saying, “Twenty-five years since we got married, and Mizoram has changed drastically…Nearly eighteen years since the signing of Peace Accord between Central Government and the Mizo National Front….The word ‘peace’, a sound so sweet to all echoed throughout the land. And then the Mizoram became a state”. (225)

 The chaos takes its roots with the attack of plague in the village termed as Mautam, a famine leading to deaths and destruction of crops. The blissful ignorance on the part of government and its effort to accommodate power by thrusting unknown language upon the villagers tend to ignite a fuel of resistance among Mizo’s who object, “In a procession, holding placards and shouting, “We do not want Assamese language! We do not want goblin-scripts! Down with Vai rule! … It is impossible for us to learn the script. Why should they impose such a difficult language on us?” (40).

 Analogous to this condition, a Mautam springs up in Zorami’s life that takes a form of an attack by a Vai (Indian) army man. She is subjected to be a victim of physical abuse through which her inner commotions coincide with the political unrest surrounding the state. The author captures her swirling emotions through these lines “She runs home panting and crying. Her stomach seems to have come up to her mouth. She gets violently sick. Her mother asks her questions but she can’t won’t tell. Such a thing is not for telling. She keeps vomiting throughout the night.” (43)

The aftermath of the famine and the struggle for survival call for a rebellious confrontation between the members of Mizo National Front (MNF) and the Indian government. With reference to the situations prevailing in Mizoram the MNF leader Pu Laldenga has this to say in regard,

“My dear brothers and sisters, let’s be very clear about one thing. We are not Indians. We are Mizo people”. Several voices answered. “Mizo Kan ni! We are Mizos!” Our culture is different. Our customs and practices are different. Our religion is different. So they do not consider us their people. That is why Assam government, who rules us now, is indifferent to our sufferings. The rulers would not lift a finger to save us from starvation while famine raged in our land. When we asked for help, what did they do? They sent us a few bags of rotten, inedible rice. What do they care if we all die?” (68)

In so far as Zorami is concerned, a sense of burden prevails within her persona. Unable to vent out the aggravation towards a stigma attached to womanhood and being unheard throughout the novel, she considers herself a ruined woman and plunges into a denial to accept the zenith of wedlock by asserting,

“Damaged, Damaged, Damaged!” Zorami muttered to herself. “I’m damaged goods they want to get rid of! They want to dump me on an unsuspecting customer. But they will not fool him. I shall tell him everything. He’s likely to reject me once he knows. That’s all right. Better than getting married with a dirty secret on your conscience” (62).

 No sooner than ever the thirst for freedom had to be quenched and as a result, on 28thFebruary 1966 the formal Provisional Parliament of Mizoram originated as major polity. It ensured that the members signed the forms of Declaration of Independence and the “MNF Army would launch surprise attacks on selected targets by hoisting MNF flag on DC office in Aizwal” (87). The attacks were followed by an abrupt retort of the Indian government with a mighty army and armaments. Consequently the Houses were burnt leading to the imprisonment of many villagers. All together the issues culminated itself into a war between the Assam Rifles and MNF soldiers. The MNF soldiers who were involved in an underground operation were captured and tortured to death. The targets of Vai Army men were a successful accomplishment of horror often directing people to the forests as safer zones in crisis. The epoch of terror was so strong that an event in the novel brings out the horrible pathos of Mizos.

“One evening, as the neighbors who had flocked to Pu Biaka’s house were preparing to retire for the night, there was a knock on the door. Siami went to answer it. Two army men were standing there with their guns. They began to assault her, at her screams her father –in- law came to her help. One of them knocked him down with the butt of a gun. By this time, all the others had come running, shouted loudly and pushed away the soldiers. An army officer appeared on the scene and commanded his men to leave, and the pregnant woman was saved”. (105)

 Regardless of the age, death took its toll on most of the civilians who were beaten up in an open ground. They were transformed into coolies and were asked to carry bulk of loads on their back, failure of which paved a way to demise. Their identities were torn in between the MNF soldiers and the Indian Army as there are evidently noticeable occurrences of Mizo’s killing their own men. However, it is interesting to note that people never capitulated even when they were forced to fence their own locales and were restricted to cross them.

“The Indian soldiers who were keeping watch over them were puzzled at their behavior. They did not know that stoical endurance is considered one of the ultimate virtues among the Mizo people….How could the outsiders know that they have been taught to smile when in pain, to show a calm face when the heart breaks.” (114 -115)

 Meanwhile, as Zorami gives into wedlock with a man named Sangha, emptiness lurks within the marital life and eventually gets embedded on her conscience. Sangha remains to be an outsider to Zorami’s thoughts that were never articulated. These lines in the novel suggest a sense of isolation in the relationship shared between the couple.

“No serious quarrels, no heated fights. But on few occasions, Zorami had shed tears of frustration in secret. Though she wasn’t sure what all she had expected out of marriage, she was disappointed with what she got. And she felt Sangha was disappointed too. She wondered whether he had regretted marrying her. He had decided to go ahead with the wedding after she had told him about her past. Did he do that out of a momentary impulse? Or did he marry her out of pity? (189).

“Two broken lives brought together. Can they ever become whole? she wondered.” (196)

 The advent of peace talks and debates surrounding the political developments of the state are intelligibly addressed in the novel. Longing for peace according to the state was an ongoing process that would end sanguinely. The anticipation for freedom is expressed through the speech of former CM Pu Chhinga who declares,

“We know talks for peace are going on between the Central Government and our MNF brothers. We hope that an accord will be worked out some time. You see, our brothers have been camping in the jungles to shoot big game. We do not want them to return empty handed. Let’s respect their sentiments. Since they have not achieved independence, let them bring home at least state hood with them” (182-183).

 While for Zorami longing for peace and freedom obtained a different meaning all together. It was from the wounded self, the shattered pieces of her soul, and the ghastly experiences of her past that haunted her in the dreams. As for her “There’s no such thing as bygone as long as the effects last. We cannot separate the dancer from the dance as Yeats says, she thinks”. (243).

These illustrations in the novel are further contributing to the developments involving a range of political parties and leaders in Mizoram eventually resulting in freedom. Similarly Zorami is also relieved from her psychological distress and dejection of her life acquiring a sense of self. Though the journey seems to be loaded with conflicts, the protagonist stands as an allegory of the situations adjacent to Mizoram. The trope of survival becomes a significant concern for both. The thoughts of an imprisoned MNF soldier reflect upon the journey of Mizoram towards a liberal statehood.

“There’s no doubt that we are fortunate people. We could have been extinct by now otherwise! Often ravaged by famine and disease since olden days, and frequently engaged in inter-village wars, we were getting killed in hordes. It’s a wonder that we survived as a nation” (167- 168).

Zorami’s approach towards personal healing is represented through these lines in the novel,

“Color comes to her deathly pale face. Life comes back to her limp body. She opens her eyes. Her face beams as she looks around. She jumps into the pool and splashes about. She smiles broadly and swims back towards the man” (250).


Even though the protagonist and the state are considered to be the two different entities in the novel, they somehow seem to be the amalgamated under a single cranium of survival. Independent though they may be, the overarching principle of survival intertwines the duo by depicting several issues concerning the significance of life in the novel. As Albert Camus declares “But in the end one needs more courage to live than to kill himself”.


Introduction to the Author:

Swathika Y. S is a research scholar and she has completed her post graduation and graduation in English literature. She often produces quality research articles and also participates in national and international conferences on literary topics.



Works Cited:

Jacob, Malsawmi; Zorami.; Morph Books publication; 2015; Print.

Nunthara.C; Mizoram Society and Polity; NewDelhi; Indus Publishing Company; 1996; Print.

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