A Facebook message to a Mizo choir member who wanted
to know who I was and why I was publishing material about the Mizos.

I am not Mizo. I am not Welsh. I am not Presbyterian.
I have never been to Mizoram.

John and Ronald Ellis on the steps leading to the
Composing Department, Baptist Mission Press, Calcutta,
in the early 1950’s.

‘Hi, I am v. old, but I grew up in Kolkata where my parents were Baptist missionaries. They knew the Baptist and Welsh Lushai (1) missionaries in the 1950s and 60s who all passed through Calcutta. The Press my uncle and father worked at printed some of the first Mizo Gospels soon after 1900, and were printing the first Mizo Old Testament in the 1950s when I was there (2). I met a missionary daughter in Derby, where I live, the daughter of Pu Lloyda, around the year 2000, who talked about Mizoram and Aizawl. I’d never heard of either. When I was visiting Serampore College in 2008 (3) I discovered Lushai and Mizoram were one and the same, and I got very excited, because I had already heard a lot about Lushai from my parents. I looked up Mizoram on Google and found a blog about Mizoram by a Dutch tourist who said Mizos spent their time in the evenings at choir practice, and knelt by the road and prayed before any journeys. That caught my attention. Then I found some YouTube choir movies and fell in love with Mizo choirs. The fact that you have learned to sing in parts, men as well as women, was something I had never, never seen before in India, and was a revelation. I created a website of links to YouTube Mizo and Manipuri choir movies because I found it very difficult to tell them apart. I then decided to add some church history and found that Pu Lloyda had written a history of Mizoram, and his daughter allowed me to add the text to the choir movies. Hence the birth of my Mizo Story website.

The reason for my fascination is that I find it hard, from mine and my parent’s experience of missionary activity in India, to believe that such a thing is possible in modern India. Eirlys, Pu Lloyda’s daughter, still believes such success is inevitable. I promise you it isn’t. Nearly all of the seed, spread by missionaries in India over 200 years, has landed on stoney ground. That is why Mizoram is so very, very special. To find that my parents had a very small part to play in the success (the press had printed Bibles in all the languages of India, of which there at least 220, over 150 years) (4) motivates me to do what I do. Mizos have very recently discovered that the site is created and owned by a non-Mizo, and visitor numbers have fallen substantially as a result. That is the reason for their indifference I think. I feel as if I have hit a brick wall. I am willing to hand it over at anytime, but no one has taken me up on the offer. I can bring what skills I have as a professional graphic designer to tell the story in as clear and skilful a way as I possibly can for whoever wants to visit it. I never get bored with watching Mizo choir movies, and the Choir pages are there partly for my own benefit so I can access them easily nearly every day. If it helps others it makes me very happy.

Lushai, in fact anywhere in Assam, was a prohibited area to travellers like me, because it was always considered far too dangerous, so I have never been to Mizoram. I think it may be very different now. Today I am a bit too poor and a bit too old to make the journey. But I have learned so much about your homeland through creating the site that I can see it in my head. It is very different from any part of India I know, which is why it intrigues me. One of my greatest wishes, which I have spoken about to others, is to visit Aizawl and experience your choir. I would just love that.

No one here understands what I am talking about. I hope you do. Thank you so much for asking me the questions. Sorry my reply is so very, very long.’

Notes.

1). My uncle visited Lushai to give expert advice on printing Christian Literature. Baptist Mission Press was one of the oldest and most respected presses in India. My father and uncle printed and edited the trade magazine for the Indian printing industry called ‘Indian Print and Paper’. They also edited and printed the trade magazine for those involved in Christian Literature throughout India called ‘Service Forum’. Because they were so trusted they printed the university examination papers for most of the universities in India in a special Security Department. Security was never breeched.

2). My uncle and father were continuing the work of one of the founders of the Serampore Mission (and Serampore College), William Ward of Derby. He founded the Serampore Printing Office in 1799. By the time he died in 1823 he had printed the Bible, or parts of the Bible, in 20 of the languages of India.

3). During my visit to Serampore College I asked the Mizo Principal, Rev. Dr. Lalchungnunga, if I could publish a website using the pictures I had taken, which he consented to. You will find it at: virtualserampore.org

4). According to my uncle, Norman Ellis, at the time I was there, Baptist Mission Press could, and did, print the Bible in all the languages of India. They had also recently completed printing the first Tibetan Bible.

Norman and Bernard Ellis, between them, worked at Baptist Mission Press from 1931 to 1966.


A Hindi New Testament printed letterpress by Baptist Mission Press in 1955. Click on the image to enlarge.

Hindi_New_Testament_2.html