Two ambulance drivers from Tamil Nadu received thunderous applause and the gratitude of a grief-stricken family as they drove into Mizoram's Aizawl today, after travelling over 3,000 kilometres to deliver a coffin containing the body of a young Mizo native who died of a heart attack in Chennai last week.
In heart-warming videos posted online by Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga, as the ambulance makes its way through the relatively deserted streets of Aizawal, where, as is the case across the country, a lockdown to break the coronavirus chain of transmission is in force, people can be seen clapping and cheering the ambulance drivers.
A second video shows the ambulance parked outside some houses as dozens of people clap in thanks and appreciation.
"This is how Mizoram welcomes the(se) real life heroes! Because we believe in humanity and nationality," Chief Minister Zoramthanga tweeted, adding, "Thank you from the bottom of our hearts! You've just shown what every Mizo heartbeat means when it comes to the term "Tlawmngaihna" (a Mizo term roughly translated as being kind and helpful to others).
"Three thousand plus miles of hardship and struggles won't dampen the spirit of resting the tragic earthly remains of Vivian Lalremsanga by his friend AVL Malchhanhima and Jeyantjiran and Chinnathambi," he added in another tweet.
Vivian Lalremsanga, 28, who hailed from Aizawl's Model Veng neighbourhood, died in Chennai on April 23. He was the employee of a private company in the Tamil Nadu capital.
However, there was a problem in burying his body in Chennai; it had to be transported to Aizawl, but with a nationwide lockdown in force, it was a difficult challenge.
Against all odds!— Zoramthanga (@ZoramthangaCM) April 28, 2020
3000 plus miles of hardship and struggles won't dampen the spirit of resting the tragic earthly remains of Vivian Remsanga by his friend Rafael AVL Malchhanhima alongwith Mr. Jeyantjiran and Chinnathambi, both from Tamil Nadu.
Mizoram salutes you!#Heroespic.twitter.com/0RW7Z8ox05
Two ambulance drivers - Jeyantjiran and Chinnathambi - offered their services. They were accompanied by Rafael AVL Malchhanhima, a friend of Vivian's.
The three left Chennai and reached more than three days ago and, after nearly 84 hours of driving, reached the Mizo capital this morning.
The coffin containing Mr Lalremsanga's body was delivered to his family and he was given a proper burial by family and friends, all of whom observed social distancing norms.
On their way from Chennai to Aizawl, the three men were welcomed with small ceremonies by Mizo communities in Kolkata, Siliguri, Guwahati and villages along the national highway in Mizoram, sources said.
The two ambulance drivers, to whom Chief Minister Zoramthanga said: "Mizoram salutes you!" received Rs 2,000 each from Dr K Beichhuau, a state minister, in addition to ambulance costs and sets of traditional Mizo clothes.
Along the way they also received mementos and cash in recognition of their selfless service.
Mizoram has, so far, only one reported case of the COVID-19 virus; the one patient is currently undergoing treatment.
The northeast of India has, fortunately, managed to stay relatively free of the coronavirus outbreak; today Tripura became the fifth state in the region - after Sikkim, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur - to be declared COVID-19 free.