Moulded out of the Soil


The attainment of a worthwhile goal is a rewarding accomplishment. It is a measure of our success. On the road to the attainment of a worthwhile goal there are, however, bound to be sharp turns, crossroads, steep inclines, obstructions, potholes, boulders and delays. A sure way to attain our goals is to enlist three powerful forces, namely visualization, determination and resilience.

– Phil Minnar

Northeast India, as the catch line goes, is virtually a paradise unexplored; a land of diverse cultures, traditions and unparalleled beauty and grandeur. The rich natural treasures and scenic beauty of the land coupled with the rich and diverse traditions of the people make this region a nature lover’s paradise. Not only has nature been bountiful to this region, but the people themselves are beautiful. Their natural grace, love for beauty, song and dance, is renowned all over the world. The region encompasses some of the most rich and vibrant destinations in this corner of the planet but unfortunately, the developments and success stories of the people residing here have been overshadowed by the roar of guns and cries for freedom. Insurgency, power politics and central government apathy are the three chief subjects under which the region is generally portrayed to the rest of the country and the world, while conveniently sidelining the success stories of the people residing here; the stories of those achievers who dared to rebel against the established dictum and emerge successful.

With the repeated portrayal of just the seamy scenario, people outside the region have begun to regard Northeast with dread and disdain. But time and again, some people have come out and proved themselves at par with their other counterparts in the country – taking the cynics by surprise with their tenacity, discipline and determination. Besides anything else, with their success stories, these achievers have ushered in hope in the minds of the youth of the region, proving that with confidence and determination in one’s own abilities, they can indeed move mountains. One such person in our midst is Lalhuma – a dynamic bureaucrat moulded out of the soil of the region and who retired as Chief Secretary of Nagaland a couple of days ago.

A man of strength who has managed to defy all odds on account of his sheer dedication and passion, Lalhuma epitomises the fact that talent, hard work and vision can move the greatest of mountains and take one to the greatest of heights. Born in a family of bureaucrats, this well-read and widely travelled bureaucrat believes that anybody can taste the sweet nectar of success, provided he or she imbibes in his or her life – dedication, determination, devotion and discipline. Lalhuma had served in numerous government departments in Nagaland in various capacities, including that of Home Secretary, Forest Secretary, Rural Development Secretary, amongst others to finally retire as the Chief Secretary of the hill State. Not just bureaucracy, Lalhuma’s interest and passion spills over to Sports and music as well. Being an avid sportsman himself, Lalhuma is aware of the value and necessity of a fortified personality and asks the youngsters of the region to inculcate the vital ingredients of hardwork, dedication and one-mindedness in their lives in order to fructify their goal.

I recently sat down for an informal discussion with the suave administrator at his official residence in Kohima and listened to him talk about his formation years which made him the person he is today. Following are excerpts from our discussion.

Aiyushman: Could you give us a glimpse of your childhood?

Lalhuma: I was born to late Lalhmingliana and Biakliana in the picturesque hill town of Shillong. My father was a bureaucrat who retired as the Chief Secretary of Himachal Pradesh. He was earlier a member of the Armed Forces and had fought in the Second World War along the Burmese front. Due to his track record and dedication, he was inducted into the Indian Frontier Administrative Service, which later became the IAS in 1967. I have two sisters, both of whom are married and well-settled in life.

My childhood was basically spent travelling across the country due to my father’s official job postings. I regard myself to be lucky on this account as many children of my age do not get the opportunity to experience the thrill of visiting and meeting a lot of interesting places, people and getting acquainted with their unique culture and tradition.  Though my father’s job didn’t give me the opportunity to settle in any one place for a long period of time, I did a major part of my schooling in St. Edmunds, Shillong – the place where my foundation was laid. Another part was spent in New Delhi, during which time my father did his course in the National Defence Academy. I appeared for my matriculation examinations as a private candidate and cleared the tests in 1965.

Aiyushman: You make repeated references to your schooling in St. Edmunds as the place where you foundation was laid. Can you please elaborate a bit?

Lalhuma: I was in St. Edmunds from 1956 to 1963, and again from 1966 for my higher secondary education. Looking back, I would term those years as having some of the most memorable moments in my life; a period which greatly influenced the development of my personality and what I am today. Thanks to the guidance, instructions and support of the Irish Christian Brothers, my educational foundation was laid there. Then again, staying in an educational institute as boarders, certain bonds develop between people; bonds that mark the beginning of great and long-lasting friendships. Besides anything else, St. Edmunds instilled the essence of discipline in our lives, making us self-reliant.

Over there in St. Edmunds, we were taught to excel not only in academics, but also in games, sports and Art; it basically marked the all-round development of a child. Although our busy school routine didn’t allow us enough time to develop our call of hobby, I was more into music and sports. I was particularly fond of playing the clarinet. Again, though I participated in all kinds of games, I thoroughly enjoyed learning boxing under the guidance of our sports teacher, Mr. Rai. The annual games of St. Edmunds were again, another big event in which every student put in their best. Even afterwards, my tryst with sports and games continued as I represented Gauhati University in all the inter-university football, hockey, volleyball and badminton competitions.

Aiyushman: Born into a family of bureaucrats, was your decision to enter the Indian Administrative Service made out of choice or by compulsion?

Lalhuma: Well, I was not interested in the bureaucracy at first. After I completed my post graduations with honours in English from Gauhati University in 1972, my ambition was to become a lecturer and spend the rest of my life in the teaching profession. But fate had other plans in store for me. After my father urged me to enter the civil administration, I changed my mind and sat for the IAS exams. I still remember having had to slog it out ten hours a day while I was preparing for the exams. But in the end, hard work always pays off. I joined the IAS in the Nagaland cadre in 1974.

Aiyushman: How would you term your initial days in the Indian Administrative Service?

Lalhuma: Hard, for at that time the Administrative Training Institutes had not even been established in those places. Since there were no structured courses during those days, we had to learn everything on our own. But thankfully, we were well-grounded in the IAS Academy and the training imparted there prepared us really well. I spent my initial years in places like Mon, Mokokchung and Kohima before assuming charge as the DC of Mokokchung. Since then, I have served in numerous departments, including that of Home Secretary, Forest Secretary, Rural Development Secretary, amongst others.

Aiyushman: What would be your suggestion for other students aspiring to clear the civil service examinations?

Lalhuma: Everyone has an independent and analytical mind, which helps them make their own decision. But, I would like to ask all aspiring candidates to choose their subjects well. Don’t just choose high-scoring subjects, but select a topic which interests you. Reading maketh a man – it is vital that one cultivates the reading habit; in fact, I would suggest that you read anything and everything under the sun. Then again, with the increasing popularity of the internet, you now have the entire world at your disposal; so surf the net, get all the material that is available in the world – after all, they are just a click away. But above anything else, be confident. Be a visionary – pump yourself up; envision yourself in the role of the person that you want to become. With tenacity, dedication and faith in yourself, only the sky can be the limit – there’s nothing that can stop you from tasting the fruit of success.

Aiyushman: Please tell me something about your family.

Lalhuma: I am married to Zoramthangi and both of us are blessed with three children – two sons, Valnal Malsawama Valnal Duhawma, and a daughter, Valnal Awmpuii.

Aiyushman: Being a pretty well-travelled person, what do you feel is the general view of mainlanders towards the Northeast?

Lalhuma: For generations altogether, Northeast India has been wrongly hyped and perceived. Of course, violence does happen – like anywhere else in India, but I strongly feel that our region does not get the focus that she ought to get for all its diversified and splendorous beauty – its landscape, cultures and traditions. We have such a mellifluous group of people – each unique in culture and tradition and living together in harmony, but who still remains in obscurity for lack of exposure. However, only the seamy and undesirable side of the region i.e. the insurgency and bloodshed manages to attract the government and the mainlander’s attention.

There is a lot of ignorance with regards to the Northeast. The region is wrongly perceived and projected by outsiders as being an insurgency-affected and underdeveloped area. But that is wrong. We are as good as anyone else, provided we get the same opportunities that people in other States get from the government and external agencies.

Aiyushman: Being an avid sportsman yourself, what do you feel is proving as the main hindrance for the development of sports in the region?

Lalhuma: There is no doubt that there is a lot of talent in the region. What we are lacking in is proper infrastructure and good coaches. We need to have more dedication and commitment towards sports and sporting activities if more sportsmen are to come out from the region.

I have been an avid sportsperson and have also played professional hockey at Nehru Stadium. From my own experience, I can say that no one has ever taken any serious interest for the development of sports in the region. Even private agencies are not promoting sporting activities. Without sponsorship, sports can never hope to prosper.

Aiyushman: What do you feel about the emergence of an increasing number of nuclear families in Indian society?

Lalhuma: With regards to the increasing number of nuclear families, I don’t find anything wrong with it. Nowadays, children like to be independent; they want to stay in their own houses – out of the fold of their parents or guardians. That’s good. After all, a certain amount of breathing space is required for everyone. This trend is catching up all over the country; it is breaking up even among the Mawaris, who are known for their joint family structure.

Aiyushman: Many in Nagaland and other Northeastern States feel that the increasing influence of western culture in tribal communities is posing a threat to the existence of our regional cultures and traditions? What are your views regarding the same?

Lalhuma: I don’t think that western culture is posing any threat to the tribal communities of Northeast India. There is no denying that the presence of western culture can be strongly felt in this region, but that does not mean that people have cast aside their own culture. The perfect blend of western influences with our traditional culture has in fact, added an alluring look and feel to our region. It is vital though that with the onslaught of western culture, we should not forget our roots in the long run – we must always trace back our roots, our history in life’s journey. We need to know who we are so that we don’t go astray; a man can never be successful until he is aware of his or her roots.

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Posted on January 15, 2010, in Personalities/ Interviews and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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