Will Lamka be the final frontier of the Zo people in their present struggle for a common language? Or specifically, who does exert more literal influence on this city, the Mizo (Mizoram) or the Paite (Lamka) or Tedim (Chin)?
Lamka is the most multi-ethnic and Zo cosmopolitan city situated in plain area adjoining to Imphal. Others like Aizawl, etc. being situated in hilly areas. As such it has so many advantages which other Zo towns lack. The city is inhabited by several tribes mainly grouped Chin, Kuki, Mizo and Zomi, all the Zo people including the so-called Naga people in few and Meitei, a Zo tribe who clings to Hinduism. Lingually, Paite serves as the lingua franca in the city relatively followed by Thadou, Hmar, Vaiphei, Zou, Simte, Gangte, Tedim, Mizo, Kom and others on the basis of dominant dialects users.
Coming back to our question at hand, who ever can exert influence on this city stand to gain a lot and may even the official language (lingua franca) of the Zo people in the times to come when the re-unification fulfills. Naturally, the present largest speaking and most influential language, the Paite has been really boiling down to extert affinity. Who do the Paite tend to look up to and in terms of its socio-economical, religious and political views and setup, the Mizo (Lusei) or the Tedim-Chin? More important is that which of the two Zo dialects, Lusei or Tedim has more influence on the PaiteLiterature?
Tedim-Chin Influence On Lamka:
Over the years, the Tedim-Chins and the Paites are the two main tribes who subscribe to the Zomi identity alongwith the Zou, Vaiphei, Simte, etc. As such there is more political affinity. Besides enhancing similar elementary education, the latest Paite Bible also incorporates so many Tedim words that their Bibles are now more or less the same although there is still be a gulf of difference between the language used in the Paite Bible and what is used in the street. Interestingly, the first recorded musics and songs to hit this city are from Tedim and therefore these impact the local dialect too. Religious revival camps and crusades usually from the Tedim speaking ministries the local has greatly influenced the Paite local dialect. Tedim and Paite more or less both belongs to the 'R' and the 'G' group of the Zo people as described by Dr.Vumson Suantak in his book 'ZO HISTORY'. Both Tedim and Paite share the same surenames, meaning to the same branch of the Zo family tree. It may only be due to migration that there appears slight dialectical differences between them. Moreover, the Tedim speaking people from Chin state and surrounding towns started settling down in Lamka from about a decade ago. In fact, some high schools in Lamka are run such families who now live and settle there. All in all, nowadays, it is hard to distinguish Tedim from Paite as demonstrated by the Mizos who gatherly call the twin dialects 'Paite'. Nevertheless it is also noted that the Thodous, Gangtes, Vaipheis, Simtes, Zous, etc (of G-roups) all are known 'Paite' by the Mizos. That may also be why there is so much inter-tribe marriages between the North and the South.
Lusei/Mizo Influence On Lamka:
The Mizos although belonging to the R group of Zo people nevertheless have been enjoying a special position of its own on the people of Lamka as Bible and hyms are usually translations from the Lusei since Christianity came. As such the Mizo influence on Paite is profound. The Paite word for God 'Pathian' is, one suspects, directly derived from 'Pathian' denoting God in Lusei (Pa - Father and Thiang- Holy/Clean i.e., Holy Father. It is to be noted here that the Dapzar dialect within Paite is more or less a combination of Mizo words and Paite itself. It seems the Mizos have a better position to have influences on Paite with more peaceful existence coupled with development in education, industry and social life poised to extert favourable goodwill from the Paite. The influence of Mizo songs and lately videos from Aizawl cannot be underestimated. If you now go to Lamka in every nook and corner of the city, the Mizo songs and videos are enjoyed by young and old alike. It may also be noted that the street dialect of Paite is full of Mizo words. Moreover, it is not uncommon to find R names amongst G names. Mizo names usually end with 'a' for male and 'i' for female. The same is increasingly seen in Paite names as well although Paite names still maintain the distinction between woman's name and man's name. There is also a great ongoing inter-tribe marriages that influences on the mixtures of G and R words.
Time will only tell the answers to my questions but one thing is clear- Paite is being influenced by various dialects of G and R groups of Zo people as it can pit against them. Instead of absorbing, the Paite Literature is gaining more approximity.
*The article is adapted and re-edited from Carey Suante's Column of ZomiDaily