The Times of Manipur

Alright NASA has predicted a total blackout on 22nd, 23rd and 24th of this month. My concern, however, is whether we need to bother if the world is coming to an end this year or not?

If we look into the list of issues and incidents that continuously bog down our state, we need not be scared of the world coming to a dead end. And the reason or rather the ugly truth that authenticates this view is a simple logic.

In our state we are so far used to celebrating (yes, celebrating) many blackout days. A fragmented society that ours is, it has become a serious habit for us to lead our lives lamenting and celebrating at the same time. For an idea we can find the truth in the list — bomb blasts, blockades, bandhs, fairs and festivals, all round the year, all of them in a complete package that we made of.

We yawn every time we hear something about corruption or kaang khong chaiba state of affairs. It is nothing surprising for us to come across news related to corruption or a chaotic political situation day in and day out. Corruption for our state machinery is more of its spinal cord. Those who have the nerves to attach themselves to it get benefited. Otherwise, no further comments.

Well, it’s not a different fact that ours is already an infected system. And we are in lack of a good socio-medical support team or political-environmentalists to cleanse the system. It is therefore just sheer stupidity to even bother about cleansing the system.

I would like to compare the situation with that of a heavy chain smoker. The chain smoker knows that continuous smoking can harm his lungs and yet he cannot simply give up smoking. It becomes rather habitual getting used to smoking every day. Likewise, those who are part of the system know they are not doing the right thing but they cannot simply help. They get so used to corruption, they get used to the filth and dirt that have been polluting the machinery for all these decades.

It’s true that most of them once dared to talk so daring and bold about the issues that affect our lives. Some of them even did it at the cost of getting unasked brickbats. But once they become a part of the system, they mind their own corrupted business —‘esha esha soidraga loire’ — what else can we expect for?

As a matter of fact, I would not be less amused if I ever come across a high-ranked official admitting, ‘Paisa chaajagay nabu sarkaargi thabak touribani’. And trust me, I would not even blame him or her because one follows the norms that are meant not to be followed. And those who know not how to follow the norms get fooled and are tagged as losers or an abnormal individual.

For the thou-leitaba lots who want to introspect the current times of Manipur, many ugly truths are found smartly concealed here and there. It is like ‘Yenakhada amot akai peisinba’ while the shumang shines and glitters during a particular occasion at one’s home. We know how filthy the home is when we have a look at the yenakha, otherwise, we see what we believe from the surface; or should I say shumang again?

We do not want to cleanse or get clean up; we are only good at blame games. We keep on polluting every place and space because that’s what we are good at. I would love to address the role of ‘Ema Manipur’ as that of ‘Chaayaam pokpi mamagi dassa’ — of her inability to waarak watemba her children.  It’s funny to admit but yes if we cannot admit or identify our fault, we must find someone to blame. In that case, we can blame (the never existing) ‘Athouba, athoubi, mapaari, mamom kaya pokpi Ema Manipur for everything. Sounds politically correct as well, right?

Well, if the world does not end this year and if we live long enough to see our grandchildren in the future, we must be really ashamed to tell tales about the current times of Manipur.

We have grown up listening to our favourite funga waari and many historically nostalgic stories of their times from our Buboks and Edhous. Most of the stories we had heard as kids have had their own morals.

I feel seriously sorry for our grand children from the future for whom we have hardly any good, encouraging stories to narrate. Perhaps we can weave a few (not so interesting) stories from the bandhs, blockaes, bomb blasts, never ending list of festivals and melas and so on from the present times of Manipur. Do we even have an option?

This article was published on 16 Dec 2012

Goodbye Nostalgia!


My Mom asked me, ‘How long are you going to stay out of home?’ She did when I recently shared my plan for leaving Imphal. I did not have any reply to her question. I gave her this and that reason, with a feeling of guilt in my heart to leave home again. I knew not why I had to leave behind the most loved and cherished place on earth. My reason was something beyond earning a mere livelihood or searching for a better career option. Maybe I badly wanted to run away like a bride whose marriage had been fixed to the wrong guy. It might sound a little filmy but I have reasons of my own. Though it is right that I love everything about Manipur that includes my family, friends, various places and faces; it is equally true that there are many things that irk me every now and then when it comes to our home state.

At times, I do seriously wonder if I have started considering myself a tourist in my own home. Perhaps I share this feeling with many who have stayed out of home for more than a decade. I used to have this notion on my mind for all these years that home is really where the heart is. I had infected myself with an incurable nostalgia for all these years. And this time I thought I should stay back at home among my people. It took me only two months to prove that my decision was wrong and utterly illogical in a way. I must not forget to affirm that as far as Manipur is concerned ‘Home is not where the heart is but the hatred is’. And what is scary to imagine is that this hatred can take any shape or contour in the course of time. I know not what is really wrong with us but in the quest of power or easy money, most of us have become soft-feathered beasts.

We are uncomfortably numb and also dumb about certain issues that tickle our attention almost every day. We feel insecure seeing security personnel around us, when they are the ones in whose presence we are supposed to feel safe and protected. We are scared of a bomb blast that would occur anytime, anywhere across the town and elsewhere. I collectively consider it as a result of hatred. We abhor one another as if we are obliged to do so.

We do not mind wasting all the time, standing in long queues at petrol pumps — it happened even at the rumours of an impending economic blockade. A fools’ paradise that we are in, we have to endure ‘taaheidraba uheidraba’ words and incidents on a daily basis. Sometimes our nerves are more chilled than those waakchingi ullen, as a result of the never-ending brouhaha that takes many shapes every now and then.

Every cloud has its silver lining but when it comes to the deep-rooted issues of our state, we can see only the approaching storm. Those who are starved for power and easy money do not have any shame crossing any limit to appease their wants. From a mere thikadaar to a high-ranked state official, it’s difficult to figure out who is more dishonest and in what terms? Corruption has become a favourite naachom for most of the public sector employees, irrespective of gender or rank. It’s a perfect disorder that we are so used to and we do not mind it at all.

Most of us talk big about wind of change but it’s not surprising to find out that it’s the wind of hatred that is churning across the state. Thanks to this new-found wisdom, I am supposedly cured of nostalgia. But this does not mean I am going to stop missing my most favourite place under the sun. It’s just that nostalgia turns out to be a bad disease indeed but for my new found understanding, I must be thankful to it. I must also admit that I would reconsider taking a hard core decision of settling in Manipur in the near future. All in all, Goodbye Nostalgia!



This article was published on 9 Dec 2012

Post-Chakkouba Offer: Manipur Map on Sale!


Chakkouba is over but a couple of offers are not, even a week after the feast. Hope nobody has the sale at a loss. One of them is the great political offer, which concerns Manipur Masala.  As a Post-Chakkouba offer, the Non-existing Ministry attached to the Pumchai-chairaba State of Internal and External Affairs has decided to put the map of Manipur on sale.

A tender notice on the local dailies has confirmed the map of Manipur is really on sale. Vendors have also reportedly got the green signal from Non-existing Ministry. They are hopeful that this sale will benefit many bidders across the state. The map-makers are targeting, if reports are to be believed, the hill dwellers.

The ministry is expected to announce the date of sale through its publicity wing, probably by next week. Bidders are requested to submit their proposal letters for the bidding on or before this coming 30th.

This tender will primarily benefit our brethrens from the hills. They can claim their own districts and start redrawing the erased part with a darker ink, or rather afresh from the beginning. It is however a confusing deliberation on where they are going to start afresh.

A gala night is on the way once the tender is passed in favour of the hill brethrens, who are heading for this historical political crusade. A fiesta will be held across hill district headquarters. As a part of the celebration, many roads that connect Imphal to other districts will be blocked. Blockade will find a brand new meaning this time. But we should not worry.

If this is the means of earning easy income just like in the valley through ‘Diwali Lagao’—which was rampant until Chakkouba—nothing seems wrong. Like the plain people, like the security personnel, our brethrens in the hills are putting up an effort to have the same opportunity. For example, impose tax on everyone who passes through the blocked roads. Sounds real legit.

Inspired by Diwali Lagao and the beggarness of the security personnel of Manipur Mr. John, the president of All Manipur Blockade Association tells us, ‘This is a step towards the welfare of our community. This has nothing to do with any feeling of enmity or animosity with other communities in the state.’

He continues, “This is one important strategy to support various developmental processes of our community. Our people have been neglected for a long time. This time they will be taken good care of. Once we win the bidding, we will form a ‘United Districts of The Hills’. This body will look after the social, political and economical grievances of our people.”

In an unofficial notice of the Non-existing Ministry, it has been stated that one representative will be allotted one district each. Those who want to occupy more than one district have to bring a bag of fish to the head of each concerned department. Though this bidding is primarily about the hill districts, unofficial delegates are discussing on whether either of the Imphal East and West district should also be included in this sale or not.

So if Imphal East or the West district is included in this tender, the experts speculate the rate will be triple times that of the other districts for obvious reasons. The valley being the more populated area in the state, many bidders are already allured by the probable tender.

Every action has its reaction. As for this historical sale of Manipur map, it would be quite interesting to see the reaction of those who oppose it.  Unsurprisingly, the Associations of Manipur Frontal Organisations (AMFO) have pulled their socks up. Twenty JACs will be formed in each district and protest rallies are in the offing.

Members of the AMFO have also rehearsed the slogan: ‘Manipur gi ngamkhei kaiba yaroi’; and countless placards have been made ready in undisclosed locations. For the essential commodities—for petrol, cooking gas and other daily needs, nobody is sure about.

One of the not-so-famous educationists explains, ‘It is high time we replace the redundant B for Boy with B for Blockade or Bandh for the kindergarten kids. They will understand it better this way. I extend my best regards to the crusaders of this economic blockade for revamping the educational curriculum.

‘And the flag—is there any discount on it?’ Uninformed, he concluded.

This article was published on 18 Nov 2012

The Salaried Beggars of Modern Manipur


When power is misused, chaos becomes the norm of a society. In our society, sad but true, power is misused in each and every sector. It is too obvious to come across many incidents that testify this bitter truth in Manipur. The oppressors enjoy oppressing the oppressed; and those who are luckily out of the league of the oppressed, enjoy the show as mute spectators.

For long we have stopped questioning ourselves, implying our society is getting defunct. Our logic has ceased to work. Isn’t it bitterer than power being misused?

Among the oppressing lots, those who are supposed to protect us from lawbreakers are the scariest ones. I am, of course, referring to the security personnel a.k.a as the ‘Salaried beggars of modern Manipur’, because many a time they are on the other side of the law. They have a job in hand, alright. But all they need is an excuse to beg money from civilians and they are shameless about it. Admit it.

It is quite ridiculous for the sake of earning a ‘side income’, they are ready to cross any limit. We feel pity for the beggars and urchins in metropolitan cities. I feel pity for these well-dressed, authorised personnel licensed to beg money on the street. All in all, I feel sorrier for these personnel who have to do so despite having a job in hand and earning a monthly income. Possibly there are reasons better known to them.

The jokes are on them. Annoyingly some would say, ‘Thabak changbada pijakhiba paisa hanjinaba tourini’. I am amused by this plain joke in which the ugly truth is always brushed under the carpet. I have also come across many funny incidents and cases of security personnel adding more glory to their democratic power.

In one of the incidents, one of my cousins was halted and checked, all for twenty rupees by a VDF cop, on the way to Wangkhei from Porompat. My cousin was guilty as charged when he was stopped for frisking at a traffic-less location because he had no helmet and so his punishment was to shell out 20 rupees.

When have the VDFs replaced the role of traffic policemen? It has been going around for sometime. I know not yet it is also a newly implemented rule to carry at least 20 rupees when you are driving around the shanty Imphal town. Otherwise, you could get a slap or an unasked threat from the commando or VDFs who loiter around the streets. Forget that traffic police exists. Mind you everything is possible in Manipur. All you need is to believe in the motto: Might is right.

If you have this false notion that they are supposed to maintain law and order in our society, feel sorry for yourself. The absurd reality is that they need to be educated about what exactly is law and order. They need to be officially tutored on what are the roles of security personnel in a society. They need to be acknowledged that ‘khonda waoba’, ‘mee usitaba’, ‘paisa neeba’ etc. are not a part of their duties; and their discipline needs not be compromised to call themselves cops.

I know they do not understand the meaning of discipline or politeness. They should at least try to spell it correctly if not follow it. I envy, however, two traits about them — their enduring capability and gutsy mannerism. They know that most of us hate and curse them; still they sure can tolerate to overcome our judgment about them and theirs about us. Quite courageous.

I don’t understand what the heck they consider themselves. Away from the familiar streets, stray dogs who loiter around the keithel do not even bark at the ema-eben but these trained, human-looking creatures can cross their limit, any time of the day.

I am also quite confused about their origin. I feel sorry especially for their families who have to share a kind of relationship with them. They are the licensed law offenders. They do no have any civic sense. They are supposed to protect us but on the contrary, their presence around our leikai or leirak khulak is synonymous with fear and anxiety.

Ladies and gentlemen, look forward to come across them anywhere in the valley. If there is a long queue at the ATM, they have every right to break the queue and offer themselves the privilege because they are the cops. People have to spend long hours in a queue for every commodity — from ATM to petrol pumps — but they don’t belong to the people and can have their own way. They can scare you and do and finish whatever they want.

Needless to say it will be hard to admit that these semi-educated men of law and order are serving the state. But it is unsurprising from the first day of their honourable career; because they would start with an offering of 10 to 20 lakh and more to their contacts. Bribe? No, it’s just returning a favour. The biggest lesson we can learn from them is to pay an amount and get ourselves what we want.

Much to our dismay, they have the license to bend the law and oppress the civilians, who are already bugged down by a fear psychosis that runs in the vein of every Manipuri. But as mentioned earlier, without money or contacts, we would find ourselves behind the bars. If we have a bit of them, well, life goes on.

All the crimes have a price in Manipur, just like there is a cost for every available job. Those arrested for Gooli or from a liquor vendor means 500 or 1,000 rupees, while for naharol case, it’s a bigger amount of some 50 thousand or more. Money talks. All said and done, I cannot understand why they have to act like moral police frisking at the vendors or leirak khulak, besides being a multitasking traffic controller. Is it the so called norm, ‘Sabina mama noknaba?’ Despite this, I know not how they can smell and endure their own craps.

Pity their lives. I extremely feel sorry for the many curses that people are used to swear on their name. Dear God, please grant them the wisdom and inner peace. They badly need them. Dear you, ‘Get well soon’. You have the key for the destiny of a group of people and your sickness is adding salt to the wounds. How true: power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely!

This article was published on 4 Nov 2012

An Odd Ode to a Few Innocent Memories


Knowledge has its own pros and cons. Meanwhile ignorance is bliss. Ignorance and innocence, in my view, are almost synonymous. An ignorant fellow is unlikely to be found guilty on many aspects and hence his innocence remains intact.

At times, I do wish to be ignorant about many social, political and historical aspects about our society. What seemed so picture perfect in the past somehow becomes a reason for introspection at present. This introspection has many side effects. To relate a simple example, the ongoing festive season leaves many deliberations open on my mind.

When we were kids, Puja vacation was one of the most awaited breaks from school. We used to contribute our pocket money to adorn the Dol for Goddess Durga. We would also spend our last rupee buying bamboola of all sorts — Alu bomb, Kabok chaibi, Rocket paibi, Uru-ru ungbi and others. And on the Bali day (the third day of the celebration), we would relish a sumptuous curry together.

As for Wangkheilites, Durga Puja means one such festival that lasts for five days. Besides the worshipping part of the Goddess, Puja vacation also means five days of merry-making. Leela, cassette dance, tambola games etc. are events exclusively meant for late evenings. The best part is however the series of live Shumaang Leela played by as many parties.

We would rush to Puja Lampak with moraah in our hand eager enough to watch the plays. Everything seemed quite picture perfect then. We grew up with many memorable celebrations of Durga Puja and of many other festivals. I have missed this vacation for quite a long time and was eagerly looking forward to it until reality intervenes.

Here’s the part of my absence, where I would particularly prefer to be ignorant and innocent. It’s more or less like a transition of a colour television to a black-and-white set. What was once so flamboyant suddenly seems so unoriginal and plain now.

This mindset, regarding the change of heart, is perhaps because of a few results related to our history and origin. It’s like an absurd discovery — something one had never expected about but is accurately true. It would perhaps be not fallacious to state that we are standing at the threshold of an age of awakening ready to step out from the confused era. Once we step in, we have to pay odd odes to many flamboyant memories of those innocent days. And if we don’t, we are prone to become more restless and frustrated by our own choice and action in the near future.

We can never withstand the fact that we would be called the mindless generation without any root if we do not make this move now. And if we do, we are equally aware of what we are going to lose forever. The recoil has however many ill effects than demolishing a few memories. If things are meant to change in the future, this is perhaps the transitional phase. And if they are not meant to, everything will be the same as before. We will live with a false identity, follow a faith that we were forcibly lured to.

I do not abhor any particular religion. What I cannot digest is how we were forced to follow a faith that was never ours. I do not question the spirit of secularism but I have questions a many for abolishing an already established faith and culture that we once had. Perhaps one can say that colonialism found its new meanings then with religion as one of the easiest tools. We have been the dumb, moronic and mute spectators for all these decades. And when the age of awakening finally comes we find it tough to bid adieu to many precious memories and habits. Baah! What an absurd confusion indeed!

This article was published on 21 Oct 2012

A Frantic Search for Wangkhei Phee


Beauty is contagious. So is it evident in the intricate artwork of the Wangkhei Phee. Its origin can be traced back to those of Mama-Shija Leisaringei days. A saagei abok right from our kolup, (late) Akoijam Ningol Anabi, is credited for introducing the Wangkhei Phee. It might have taken an artistic ingenuity to design and weave the first of such a fine and delicate piece of cloth.

In the early days, older folks narrate Waikhu Matha and Thaangjing Tangkhai were two of the most popular designs; other designs followed sporadically. In the world of handloom and handicraft, Wangkhei Phee has found its niche, winning the hearts of connoisseurs and designers alike from across the world. However there is a catch.

Of late the trend of weaving as well as wearing the Wangkhei Phee is becoming out of fashion. When we were kids too, almost every household in our locality had a yongkham, the weaving machine, and at least one female member of the family was adept in making the finest Wangkhei Phee. But the times they are a-changing. There might be reasons, of course, for this downfall. Yet whatever these are, we can see there is a great chance of Wangkhei Phee sinking into oblivion in the near future, if the present trend continues.

No wonder the number of Wangkhei Phee weavers has drastically decreased in the last decade or so. I did a little survey on this issue and found a couple of reasons. Most of the weavers are simply not interested to weave and keep its tradition alive. Now the potential customers are going for the cheaper, though beautiful alternatives that are available galore in the market.

Another obvious reason is the demise of the pioneers of this type of garment. Most of the skilled weavers have also gotten married and are running errands, earning a livelihood from a better means. Also some of them have got other opportunities of employment.

Weaving is quite an art. However, pursuing it as a lifetime occupation is not an artistic endeavour, but literally a pain in the back for many weavers. So, most of them prefer to opt for an easier career option that does not require long hours of sitting, bending and weaving. Earlier, there were a few means of earning income for the unmarried and married women in our society. Weaving was, thus, one of the easiest means to start earning a livelihood. But the situation is different now.

At present, for some keen weavers who want to culture this practice, weaving is a passion rather a preservation of a precious art. They make it a lifelong passion and strive to pass on their skill to the younger generation. Thanks to them. But for the major chunk of weavers, who used to take up weaving as a means of earning a nominal income, they lost interest in it once they have a better means of income. Needless to say, most of the skilled weavers seem to have taken a collective resolution not to pursue their weaving interest these days.

With wedding season round the corner, young and old have started importing Mayaanglamgi Phee. A friend’s wedding is scheduled in the last week of this month. I asked my two sisters about a decent Phee to wear on this occasion. They suggested a lot of options – Jhamaki Thinbi, Lighti-Fitting types and all.

I feel sorry for them who are spending only on the export-quality products, while doing away with the original and aesthetically pleasing Wangkhei Phee. An appreciation of alien beauty is ubiquitous at the cost of losing our own culture and identity. Well, it’s not their fault either. That’s the hard-to-digest, yet prevailing reality.

We are not keen to preserve what we have and what is ours. We are stingy enough to buy a locally woven piece of garment but when it comes to a swanky piece of imported cloth from a different region, we do not mind emptying the pocket. The expression ‘Lamgi Sun-na Machi Saang E’ has found new meanings.

I hardly have any suggestion; neither has it been clear whose attention we have to draw in reigniting an interest of weaving among Wangkhei weavers and those from elsewhere. But I’m planning to dig deeper and find a few more details about Wangkhei Phee and other types of garments that were once popular in Kangleipak. Beauty is indeed a joy forever and it is found abundantly in these kinds of clothing. My frantic search for ‘Wangkhei Phee’ and its weavers is a reason to spread the beauty. This hunting can also be a reason to be ridiculed by many people from our modern society — the so-called ‘Standard Ta Netpa Kaang-goo’. But I can ignore their cynicism for I’m used to it. Que sera sera, the pursuit is on!

This article was published on 14 Oct 2012

The Curious Case of the Missing Housewives


Cases of domestic violence and crimes against married women have reportedly increased in recent times. In our society, most of the time, womenfolk play the dutiful role of scapegoats. They endure anything and everything to run their homes. Manipuri women have been generally glorified with many adjectives such as akhaang kanbi, thouna leibi, mapuroiba ningbi and so on.

Of late, there is an astonishing discovery related to the changing mindset and nature of Manipuri women. Some of the married women break all the social norms and elope away with guys of their own choice. It has infact become chajik news for us to find out reports in the paper such as ‘mou maangkhrey or chenkhrey or hanjillaktrey’. I was quite unaware about it until my sister cracked a joke about it. She told me, ‘Hujikaangi chatnabini, akhoi asomgi mou amasu mayum ahumlak paankhre’. I had found it hard to believe but I started believing. Welcome to Modern Manipur (At least it sounds so modern).

THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY

If I have to share my thought salad on this issue, I think it reflects two sides of the same society where we live. On one hand, it is a death blow to the age-old patriarchal norms set by the over-hardworking Manipuri men. These women dare to break the cocoon built by these male lots. They have, all in all, proved that the dominating attitude of male folks and their chauvinism are an 18th-century tale.

On the other hand, it can also be considered as a blot to the typical image of Manipuri women. For all these years, Manipuri women have been glorified as epitome of various virtues. History has witnessed how Manipuri women have been taking active participation in many sociopolitical and economical causes.

It is debatable, however, if these new range of women belong to the same category or not. We would not be astonished to find out that a married woman has eloped with another guy on a few grounds.

It would be understandable if the woman elopes away with another guy — if her husband does not provide a good life, treats her badly and is a master of domestic violence. Shockingly true but some married women deliberately do it even when their husbands provide a decent life and treat them well. Some of these women run away from nupamayum at the cost of ruining their own married life. Some of them even abandon their own kids; and then, endure or simply snub the wrath of our society’s wathi.

TOOLS IN THE MONKEY’S HAND

We do not probe much into the reason why this is trending so fast in our society. Don’t you think we have to discuss why this is happening in our society? Has technology got anything to do with it? The answer is yes. Technology is perhaps a responsible factor.

Let us be bold enough to admit that we do not have any sense of civilization but we make the best use of every technology that is available in the market. And that’s because we can easily afford it. For example, mobile phones of all brands have flooded the market. There is such a craze of mobile phones among us.

One does not have to bother if there is enough grocery at one’s home. But it is really important to recharge one’s mobile balance. It is really sad to acknowledge how the value of relationships has been compromised in our society. Simply put, the mobile phone is a product of the industrial society, but in our shanty town, it is like a tool in the monkey’s hand, so out of place.

MISSING HOUSEWIVES’ CLUB

For married ladies whose husbands are off to work (or off to date other unmarried girls) they want to occupy themselves with something interesting. A random missed call given to a random guy is a reason enough to spark an extramarital affair. No one has the shame and there is no feeling of guilt to indulge in illicit acts with their new-found boyfriends. All in all, they do not have any shame leaving their nupamayum just to elope with a different guy. The case of ‘mou maangkhrey’ is therefore nothing shocking if we can see our super-modern trend.

There is no remedial measure for this unwanted trend that is spreading so rampantly. One cannot blame the Manipuri government for such cases. In our state, even future teachers can block the highway and the government is accountable for it. It is responsible for every mess. Sigh! Our government is at least not responsible for the missing housewives.

This article was published on 7 Oct 2012

The Return of the Native


There is not a slightest intention to plagiarise Thomas Hardy’s characters or plots through my column. It’s just a name of his work that I have borrowed otherwise the entire content is but a narrowed version of my own views about returning home after several years of a self-imposed exile.

Well, many of us know not the reason(s) why we are not reluctant to decide on something that has a close connection with our heart. We just make the decision sans any second thought about how or what its impact would be. I did make one such decision — to return home, leaving many lucrative career opportunities and amenities of the capital city. Many ask me if I have found a decent job back in Imphal; many also ask me if I am finally tying the knots. I find it funny yet appreciate their intention to know my relocation plan at home.

Life in a metropolitan city like Delhi is perhaps something that many people, especially from small towns, fancy about. When you have time and money you can buy ‘fun’ in a big city. Yes I mean it. I am not sure about happiness but fun comes at an affordable rate. The night life or day life, there is always something for someone in this city. From the gardens to the various historical monuments, from a gamut of eating outlets to clubs and pubs, one has a plethora of choices when it comes to unwinding a good time. And if that’s not enough, fairs and festivals are frequently held throughout the year. People can choose and select their own menu of having fun. I must admit that people lead a vibrant lifestyle here.

The twist of the entire tale is in the irony of staying here. Despite all the facilities and technologies we are availed of, most of us end up with an empty feeling at the end of the day in the metro. We feel as if we are on a paid-exile that only accentuates the nostalgia of home. It is also a matter of luck to find good friends or companions in the city. People whom you have known for quite a long time change their colour like chameleons. And mind me, telling this, that it is true that if you have the dough, friends swarm around you. Let me put it this way: ‘Feeraal mamai chumlingei marup waatey meeramlenda (khoiradi khangde)”.

The scenario back in our state is a complete contrast to the one in Delhi. Life starts at 4 AM and ends almost at 4 PM. During weekends or on special occasions, there is hardly any place where friends and families can have a good time. Besides the special premiere shows at BOAT, for example, there isn’t any nice movie theatre that screens evening shows. We know clearly, for there are only a few ways, how we can plan to spend quality time, such as feasting, sightseeing and visits to the new-fangled eco-parks; otherwise, there isn’t a life back in our hometown.

Compare and contrast the life in a metropolitan city and the life in Manipur. Even if there are glaring issues that make life so dull, the latter has got the better edge for the time being and that’s why I am relocating away from Delhi. However, I am not really sure how long this decision is going to last. I may get pestered by my own plans and may head for some other city or country in the near future. I may get used to everything and even become immune to the ennui or brouhaha, which marks our life at home. It’s like a test drive of a new vehicle. If I like the test drive, I will plan to stay forever. If not, I will pack my bags and leave for some other destination.

Come rain or shine, I am mentally prepared for everything in store for me in Kangleipak that includes load shedding, long queues at petrol pumps, the accident-prone potholes, untimely flood, cheap bomb blasts etc. As I earlier mentioned, I don’t know why I am no more reluctant to be a part of the ennui or dismantled sense of happiness at home. I am, at times, tempted to give up the relocation plan. But my temptation has been conquered; I have already packed my bags. My last word for Delhi (in a typical manner) is that I have miles to go before I sleep.

PS: Adios Delhi and Hola Kangleipak!

This article was published on 30 September 2012

Bombs, Bullets and Bulletins

In modern Kangleipak, the price of petrol or cooking gas would be unaffordable for many individuals. But when it comes to bombs, bullets and their bulletins, you would not be surprised to see that it’s all free of cost to find any of them; be it bandh or blockade or bullet. It is no more a shocking incident to discover that a bomb was hurled at your neighbour’s home; it’s no more a matter of concern to find out that someone got shot by a cheap bullet. And for all this fiasco, there are bulletins ready to awaken the people out of their slumber but equally unimportant and redundant to let them sleep for another couple of hours. Applaud us as brave hearts. Brave, yes, we are. But we would never admit the very fact that this bravery is a result of compulsive traumatic disorder that we have often come across.

This evolved sense of bravery, however, took some time to get mature and acknowledged. Earlier, we used to get quite shocked to come across news of bomb blast or police encounter with the rebels. Later, after tormenting ourselves with questions a many, we have finally got used to everything that happens around. Three people dead today; oh, that’s very bad, but “Where should we have some hooch shots today, Mooji or Kakhulong?”

We are still reluctant to find out why all these unwanted ruckus continuously happen in our society. Forming a Joint Action Committee is a much easier task than discussing among ourselves the probable solutions to the chaos and the consequences. Day by day, we have started forming a solid mindset that we are supposed to be prepared for anything wrong that happens in our society. Who knows who will be shot dead today? So, when there is a bomb blast at a nearby locality, we are not supposed to walk out of our homes because there would be frisking everywhere at the leirak-khulak and those unlucky Hongba, Chaoba or Tomba would not even find the time to change and wear a khudei for the ensuing combing operation.

The anti-government outfits and the system keep on playing fire-fire (what we locally call dhaang kaapi) with each other. Meanwhile, we, the moronic mass, become victims of abductions or atrocious killings and sufferings. ‘Noong anigi marakta haa oirabane, Upai karimata leite’.

We still don’t know the escape route. Where do we run away from our own homes? Why should we run away in the first place? We lead our lives with a belief that we are supposed to follow a rule or norm of living. We are leading our lives with a crisis of our own identities. We are reluctant to define ourselves as the proud citizens of a republic nation and when we try to talk to our own brethren, we are baffled by the churning wind of disintegration and hatred that have been scripted coherently in some size of a huge coffee-table book.

Alright, let us agree that we badly need a revolution in our society. However, I detest the very idea off one such revolution based on violence and force. I rather believe in an intellectual revolution. The ‘how’ of this intellectual revolution is still an open question. If it’s really a revolution that we are seeking for, then it should see its light of the day someday, but it should not take such a long time. And it only depends on us, Period.

I have this earnest belief that any revolution is possible only when there is a collective effort among the hoi polloi. We seriously don’t need any gun to bring revolution in our society, needless to say their declining support from the people. Any draconian law like AFSPA cannot even bruise our spirit. But the most important call is — are we really ready to change ourselves?

What kind of revolution are we expecting to see when we lack a collective sense and political consciousness? I know I would be called a ‘thou leitaba’ person who is unnecessarily worried about all these (But it would be no surprise, seeing we are always master critics). Well, I have a very selfish motive of getting concerned with all these issues. Bulletins of bombs and bullets really make me depressed and I can’t wait to cure this depression as soon as possible. But where are our Avengers? We are sick of these daily bombs, bullets and bulletins.

This article was published on 9 Sep 2012

Manipuri Moms — Adorably Sweet!


Hundreds of dewdrops to greet the dawn,
Hundreds of bees in the purple clover,
Hundreds of butterflies on the lawn,
But only one mother the wide world over.
— George Cooper
Ema — just a three-letter word but the essence is incomparably meaningful. There is a special charm about Manipuri Moms, with their idiosyncratic nature. And this typicality is something that is adorably sweet about them. Well, it would be fallacious for me to say that Manipuri Moms are the bestest moms in the world. But I would seriously not mind if I ever have to acclaim one such opinion. There is in deed something special about our Moms. We find most of them naïve and pretty slow to pick up in many fields but this is equally true that we adore them, the way they are. Their typicality is perhaps an intriguing reason why we are so fond of them. I dedicate today’s column to all the ema in Kangleipak.

It’s perhaps true that with each passing year, we grow older and wiser yet our old habits die hard. How old have you become does not really matter as long as the angoh in you cease to grow up. After all — growing old is inevitable, while growing up is not. So trust me, there is a child in each one of us who would whine on petty issues of life and would even cry bitterly till our mom comes to rescue with the most soothing words under the sun. Especially for many of us who stay out of home for study or professional reasons, missing home and mom are quite synonymous. When it’s a bad day at office or college and when you even feel like calling it a quit, you remember her and badly wish she could just sit by your side and console you, “Life is not so bad ebungo/ebemma, this too shall pass”. When you are in pain or in a frightened state, ‘aiyo ema’ defines it all. Our society boasts itself of its patriarchal norms but I must admit the real norm is set by our women folk and the exclamation of ‘aiyo ema’ does the talking.

It is equally true that we, at times, find their typicality quite pestering. They have their own views about what we wear, what we eat and where we go. They get over-sensitive at many petty issues of life. Irritating though they sound for a while, we never get tired of their quirk nature.

From my own perspective, it’s an endless list of memories when we talk about our mother. I believe my memories would share affinity with many of my friends and brothers and sisters of my own generation. When we were toddlers, she tightened our naohong then and sang for us the sweetest naosum esei. Later when we grew up and started running on our feet, she would come chasing us, just to make sure we relished our last chakhom. When we dozed off to sleep listening to funga wari by bubok, she made sure we all slept at peace at the cost of her sleep. When we were sick, she nursed us without catching a single wink the whole night. She has taken all the hardship while preparing us to become who we are today. With less or more achievement, life would be unimaginable without her.

I want to spend a good time with mom not long before I have to relocate forever at nupamayum. And that’s one of the main reasons why I have decided to leave my current city. I want to make up for those many moments I could not be with her. She has been a beacon of hope to me so far. To the rest of the world, she is just someone but to me she is my world. East or West, Mom, you are always the best. This one goes to my mumma:
I’ve seen your face a thousand times
Everyday we’ve been apart
I don’t care about the sunshine, yeah
‘Cause Mama, I’m coming home
This article was published on 2 Sep 2012

A Crumbling Memory of 'Shamu Makhong'

My granny had her tiny ‘potpham’ right beside Shamu Makhong, the most well-known landmark in the entire Kwairambandh Keithel. She used to sell mangal, chana, heingaan ladoo, heimaang matum and so on. As a child, visiting Kwairambandh Keithel with my mother was such an exciting experience, especially with this very anticipation of having ‘mayoms’ of mangal/ chana and my favourite heingaan-ladoo, often offered by ‘Keisampatki Abok’(my granny).

The nearer I would follow Mumma towards the Shamu Makhong to pay her a visit, the thuds in my heart would continuously grow with exhilaration. The crowd at Shamu Makhong used to excite me further. The ‘kwa mana’ selling non-Manipuris, the various wholesale shops of varieties of commodities, my granny’s fellow potpham fambi eney, endon and abok-like ladies, the hustle-bustles of the thronging crowd around those potphams — these are some vivid memories I often recall about the surroundings at Shamu Makhong. Sometimes, it would be yet another experience taking a close look at the unattended statue of Meidingu Bhagyachandra and his pitiable Shamu, and of course, the various posters blatantly pasted on it. My elders used to tell tales about how the great king caught the wild elephant and how in honour of his bravery the statue was created there, but I was least interested to find out the historical connotations. For me, that was one favourite spot for me in the entire Kwairambandh Keithel because that’s the very landmark, beside which my skinny granny had her ‘potpham’.

Last time, when I visited home and went to Kwairambandh Keithel, the nostalgia was inevitable. I saw the flyover, saw the renovated Shamu Makhong, the statue of Bhagyachandra was infact wearing a new paint, and his shamu was also repaired — though it has lost its charm. Now it is in such a pathetic state, there is no aesthetic value as such; possibly because of the flyover and in the increase in the level of the road. It looks just like another unremarkable construction, like a wall, rather than a landmark with historical importance. Needless to say, I felt no envy or happiness to see the renovated statue out there. I was also quite sad not to see my granny or her fellow potpham fambis around. I am not sure about others but to me this crumbling memory of Shamu Makhong somehow means a lot. The nostalgic nuance is perhaps playing its trick.

Well, there is now this newly built Ema Keithel. I did visit it once or twice during my last home trip. I don’t know why but I badly missed the essence of the same old Keithel. The women vendors looked more prosperous and swanky to me. It’s not that I wanted to see a distressed look on their faces, worried over poverty and shortage of monetary assistance. But as far as I remember the then Ema Keithel, I have vivid pictures on my mind of wrinkled faces beside dimly-lit podons/candles, who were in a hurry to head back home but were equally worried to find a discerned customer for the last mayom of maroi nakuppi.

The modern Ema Keithel flanks Kwairambandh Keithel and the view of the very Keithel from the flyover is quite endearing. I found out that the present Ema Keithel, with its East-Asian-inspired architecture is pretty decent. For the convenience of the potpham-fambi ladies, tubelights have replaced podons. There are also ceiling fans installed on the roofs. I really feel glad to know that those eney, endon or ema-like ladies will be protected from adverse weather conditions. But whenever I came across Shamu Makhong there was an agony in my heart. I kept glaring at the renovated statue. If I remember, the earlier unattended Shamu had a broken tail while this renovated one looks quite healthy, though with little value as a whole. And I just could not believe how much I missed the earlier statue at Shamu Makhong. Perhaps, it’s because a memory lane was almost demolished only to create a place that is less familiar with me for reasons more than one.

My granny is bedridden, and god knows, how long she will be among us. The last time I paid her a visit she showed signs of lost memory. It is ironical how with every ounce of her fading memory, my fondness for a place at Kwairambandh seems to fade away day by day. I will be homebound soon but I know I have lesser reasons to visit Kwairambandh Keithel, precisely because that’s not the same old place it used to be. I remember a quote by Sigmund Freud, the founding father of psychoanalysis, ‘A civilization which leaves so large a number of its participants unsatisfied and drives them into revolt neither has nor deserves the prospect of a lasting existence’. I partially agree with Freud though my perspective is confined to a particular spot at Imphal Sehar.

This article was published on 26 Aug 2012

We, The People (With No Country)

The exodus of North Eastern students and professionals from various Indian cities has thrown up many unanswered questions. It has made us doubt ourselves, quite uncomfortably, of our own nationality. It has made us wonder if the country has never been ours in the true sense of the word. Had it been, we would not have been scared or rushing for home — now the situation is like we have to show our passports for proofs of our citizenship, not anywhere else but in our own country. This is not the first time.

I personally feel extremely sorry for all those students and professionals, especially in Bangalore, who have to go through such trying times. I equally feel sorry for the Indian system that cannot bring any solution to such brouhaha. The nation seems to have been engulfed by chaos from all its directions. It would be apt to say, from the number of people in the exodus, that it resembles the re-partition of the nation. As a North Easterner and as a Manipuri, I have my own concerns about my brethren who are frightened, which the government and its law-enforcing agencies say, is only a result of rumours. Would they care to read between the lines of the exodus of more than 20 thousand people? Quite ironically, the India that once annexed us, promising our fundamental rights now fails to protect us from mere threats. The India that boasts itself as one of the biggest democratic nations has repeatedly failed to uphold its spirit.

We always had/have our own share of grievances against the system but we never imagined that our existence would be threatened by some miscreants who perhaps share the same nationality with us. Perhaps, it’s time for a serious introspection among all of us. India, are you really our country? Why has such a question cropped up?

From the context of Manipur, many deliberations are to be discussed — and like open wounds, the more we discuss about them, the worse our emotional pain gets. But it is now more than being emotional or getting excited. Let us admit the very fact that Manipur’s merger with India has aggravated the problems.

We were gifted with the AFSPA — the most unwanted law that arms the effeminate military and affects the people. The very mention of AFSPA brings along many bitter memories. There was a time when any impending combing operation used to scare the hell out of us. The sound of hammered electric posts leaves trails of those nightmares. We were scared of getting raped, we were so helpless when our brothers, fathers and uncles were beaten black and blue right in our courtyards. Some of them were arrested without any warrant or on grounds of mere suspicion. Many of them never returned home. Later we would hear about how their lifeless bodies were found at nearby turel or paathi-komthi. Fear psychosis is still the order of the day, thanks to the power which has been passed over to the state police these days. It is ironical how fear takes different shapes and roles in our society and hinders us from leading a life of dignity, all in all living in the biggest democracy of the world.

The dilemma between written democracy and practiced democracy needs to be solved among the leingaak-pathap holders. They have tried to polish the spirit of democracy but ended only in polluting it; they talk so loud about the achievements in various fields, ignoring the remotest problems at its nooks and corners. They too boast of a hollow republic concept that ensures each and every citizen to lead a free and fair life without even the ability to protect the lives of innocents. Have they realized how many of us are dying every day right in our own land? Have they ever tried to put themselves in our shoes?

I am equally amazed by our own political leaders and representatives, who hardly pay any heed to most of our grievances. But what to do, we have done the favour ourselves by electing them. And there are our honourable rebels, the motherland lovers- the so called sons of the soil- who leave no stone unturned to add more salt on the wounds of the people. Baah, Kangleipak! What have they turned you into?

If this is the norm of democracy, sorry but we would rather prefer a dictatorship by a sensible leader, who would at least be concerned about the grievances of its citizens. India, please let us have a choice. Are you really our country? Stop all these step-motherly treatments. Need I remind you again that we are not children of the lesser god; we are neither born to spend our lives with fear. Please restore us our dignity, please make us proud to introduce ourselves as the citizen of this country and if you can’t, it is better we call ourselves and take ourselves as the people with no country.

This article was published on 19 Aug 2012

If I Become the First Ever Lady Cheap Ministress of Manipur!

Politics is not my usual cup of tea. I hate everything about politics. However, if I ever have to avail myself to become the first ever lady cheap ministress of Manipur, I have a long list of political/social wishes, which if come true, would make me one of the most (un)happiest persons on earth. I know not how the leingaak-pathap holders draw the margin of state politics in Manipur. Well, never mind, let me come to the point and acknowledge you all on the strategies I have framed to work out and are planning to implement once I become the first ever Cheap Ministress of Manipur.

Good citizens disobey bad laws. Therefore, during my tenure I will encourage all the citizens of Manipur to disobey those bad laws that were forcibly passed in my state. My first concern would focus on AFSPA. This inhumane draconian law has to become dinosaurs, an extinct piece of species, during my tenure as a cheap ministress. If required, I will adopt all the cheapest strategies to pester central government to remove this law as soon as possible.

My second emphasis would be on the development of infrastructure. In order to implement this plan, I will have a look at the long list of corrupted officials in each and every department and suspend them on grounds of ‘sen-haalengdana chaaba and ekai khangdaba’. Trust me; from the top-ranked officials to the peons, they have crossed the shameless limit of asking bribe from anyone. They are impediments in any type of developmental process in our society. They will however be given a chance of improvement during their temporary suspension and if there is no sign of improvement, they will be terminated from their service. Redemption centres will be especially opened for them where they can spend the rest of their lives trying to lead like normal beings and also a bribe-free life.

My next focus would be on education sector. I will make sure all the surrogate-teachers are rewarded with their deserving posts thereby terminating the service of those who officially hold the posts but never attend the schools and colleges. On grounds of humanity, the teachers who have been terminated from their posts would however be financially assisted by the same amount they earlier used to pay to surrogate teachers.

As the first ever cheap ministress of Manipur, I will voice the grievance of our people to central government in proper Hindi or English or Meiteilon language (by seeking the help of a guide). I earnestly feel that improper communication is quite a problem faced by most of the earlier cheap ministers in our state. They had tried their best to speak up on behalf of our people. But due to their own shortcomings in communication, they had continuously failed to do so. Or maybe, their ceaseless request and begging for funds have made them too dumb to speak to New Delhi.

In terms of projects allocated from the Centre, I will make sure that every single project is delivered to the right department in a free and fair manner and sans any 10% mindset. Earlier, the projects from the Centre reached the concerned departments but were completed on haabi-jaabi grounds. I will hire a special team of intelligence who will probe into all the official matters of each and every department.

I have many more plans on my mind but I do not want to publish them all. The earlier ministers had talked so much on the growth and development and done nothing. I believe in the credo ‘action speaks louder than words’. So I better stop hammering my keyboard and rather focus on my strategies.

All the above jokes apart, let us admit that an aggravating famine has been affecting everyone’s life in Manipur for all these years. This famine is the most unnatural famine we have ever come across. It is ghastly, it is deadly and it can gradually ruin everything/everyone. Intellectuals and mindless politicians are treated at par during this ongoing famine. Though the major victims are mostly laymen like me, like you or like everyone who is lurking or looking forward to see a better Manipur (maybe on a 32nd December, eh!). Our great political leaders have given their (un)valuable opinions and (im) possible means and measures to fight this famine. And hopelessly by the end of this century or maybe next century (if there is time restraint this century), this famine shall be controlled and everything will (not) be back to normalcy. But there is my (dis)honest question: ‘Can theoretical means fight practical problems?’

This famine could be anything — a famine broken out of lack of understanding, barbarism, misused law or power or unethical socio-political norms etc. etc. etc. Consider any factor, give any name, but trust me this famine has but affected everyone’s life quite severely. We cannot be mute spectators continuously affecting ourselves with this famine. We must have a solution, we must have a means, and we must have good comrades who can help us fight this famine. The pursuit has to begin soon. Count me in for the search and let me count you all too.

PS: I don’t want to become the first ever lady cheap or chief ministress of Manipur. I just want to be a free citizen who resides in Kangleipaak without any fear of insurgency and other social, financial or political chaos.

This article was published on 5 Aug 2012

Bring home the medals: Best wishes for the Manipuri Olympians

Five Manipuris, who have given us a reason for our pride, are in London for the 2012 Summer Olympics which starts yesterday. India has sent an 81-athlete team, the highest for the country in the history of the Olympics. From such a small land battered by unending conflicts, it is unsurprising how so many Manipuris could find a place for themselves, given our sporting spirit and skills. Our best gold-medal wishes are with the stars, who will be taking part in this sporting extravaganza. We also pray that they will bring home more laurels and make us more proud.

For the record, the list of our stars includes: Laishram Bombayla (Archery) from KhuraiKhongnang Makhong; Laishram Devendro (Boxing) from Yurembam Awang Leikai; Mary Kom (Boxing) from Samulamlan, Moirang; Ngangbam Soniya Chanu (Weightlifting) from HaoreibiMayai Leikai; and Khadangbam Kothajit (Hockey) from Lairikyengbam Leikai. Of course, we know most of them don’t even need an introduction. And most are them are hopeful for winning a medal each — the more the better, the higher the best.

The Indian flag will rise high every time when one of them delivers the goods. However, there is an overt sense of gunning only for the players who hail from our state. We admit the open support because we appreciate sports and our sportspersons. In our hometown, there is nothing like only a slothful game such as cricket is the most popular game and we have a blind eye towards other sports.

Cricket, for the mainlanders, means everything. A legacy of colonialism in India, cricket is the unofficial national game of India while hockey is just for the name sake. It does speak volume of the typical Indian mindset from cricket to an NRI son-in-law — anything that is foreign bred seems more alluring to most of the Indians. Lamgi sun-na machi shaangba helle ye. Luckily, we from the North East India are game for any type of sport.

Our attitude towards games and sports is far more commendable than to the not-so-fascinating mindset of the country as a whole. This kind of representation, five out of eighty-one in different events, is also our best answer to the question of arrogance from the mainland. We can be damned but we cannot be ignored. We can play, for that matter, any type of sport without any prejudice.

We are typical; we love to eat ngaari and hawaizaar, though it may be surprising to them — we can compete with anyone at the global level. We are not the children of lesser gods. Even if we are neglected because we belong to a frontier of the country, where the military has to rule the roost, we have the guts to stand up on our own and fight in any discipline. India can discriminate us by our looks, though it is regretful many of them, the well-stocked Aryans do bear the brunt of racism on and off, elsewhere in some corners of the globe. And our stars have shown the world what we are made of.

What we eat and how we look do not count, especially in a country where we have to protest for our own nationality, not denying it but to include ourselves in. Yet the sheer discipline and passion in our chosen field determine who we are and what we achieve in life. This is the biggest lesson that our stars have taught us. This is also the same reason why we have more respect for them, why we desperately want them to bring home the medals and more medals.

Again we are extending our heartiest wishes to all the Olympians from the North East region, representing India at the Olympics. We also wish all the budding sportspersons, cutting across caste, caste and creed from the country, to rise and shine in London.

The Manipuri Olympians will always be more special than the others. May they win many laurels and bring glory to the land. Let us glorify them as much as we can. Unleash your Herculean sporting passion and bring home the medals. All the very best to all the Olympians from Kangleipak!

PS: With or without medals, they will always remain our stars. Cheers to them!

This article was published on 29 July 2012

On the Craze of Awunpot Among Contemporary Manipuri Brides

Is awunpot the weigh-oh-meter of a successful married life of a Manipuri bride? Does Awunpot really play its role in winning love and affection from the new members of Nupamayum for the bride? Is the culture of giving expensive awunpot in our society encouraging? Is there any ill effect of Awunpot culture among contemporary Manipuri brides? I am leaving all these deliberations to be discussed by the would-be brides from our society who would sooner or later tie their nuptial knots. As for my personal opinion, I am occupying the remaining part of today’s column with my own thought salad on the awunpot culture that prevails in our society.

Dowry system is encouraged to a new high in our society. Whether we admit it or not, most of us directly or indirectly become a part of this not so fascinating practice. Earlier, the concept of awunpot or awong awun tamba used to be a fond practice in our community in which parents affectionately gifted their daughters with what all things they could afford. Today, it has become more of an evil practice.

For today’s parents’ marriage of their daughters means quite a huge investment for which they have to save up a handsome amount. For instance, parents who have three daughters need to save up at least 30 lakh rupees just to buy awunpot (if it accounts to 10 lakh each for one daughter and the calculation goes on). So, that’s it? Parental love is measured in terms of awunpot or what? To the rich lots, it would not be a problem but what about those middle class families and those who hail from poor income group? Are they supposed to join this marathon like race of taking along maximum awunpot at Nupamayum? It’s quite a crazy practice I must admit.

‘Thangnabagi Thambougi machanupidi gari achouba unli, akhoi ebema gisu achouba natrasu macha amadi haapisi’- Is it a kind of competition or a quest to popularize oneself at one’s leikai by gifting one’s daughter or sister with maximum awunpot? I really do not think/consider so. Love, affection, understanding and respect for one another in the family mean much more than those chunks of unwanted items, expensive jewelries or electronic goods. How many times do we need to remind ourselves that relationships cannot be weighed on any ground?

If the bride wants to be financially independent even after her marriage, it’s better to have a big fat bank account rather than investing all her lifetime savings on the not so required awunpot. I have this suggestion that every bride should have an open and sensible choice- the lifeless brands or the precious relationships, a good amount of money in her bank account or chunks of unwanted yet expensive electronic or lifestyle items that would lie unattended at some corner of the Nupamayum.

By and by, it’s the high time we also stop poking our noses on whose mamounupi brings how much awunpot. Let us stop giving importance to those lifeless washing machines, refrigerators, LCD television sets and blah blah. We do need to evolve out from the typical rusty mindset of considering marriage as a burden. A marriage is not at all a burden; it’s a beautiful ritual through which a bride and her groom are united in front of their loved ones. A mere washing machine or refrigerator cannot weigh the love between the bride and groom.

Another luhongba-centric (yumfam yaodaba chatnabi) that pesters me is our craze for many things that are imported from other Indian cities especially from Delhi. To cite an example, there is this particular bed sheet exclusively meant to be used on the luhongba day. My sister even keeps on asking me to purchase a few pieces for her. Guess what? This in-demand bed sheet is sold at Imphal market at double the price as compared to its market price in Delhi. While the Delhi Karbarwaalas are booming with the business of this particular piece of cloth (adorned with some glitzy designs), our local weavers/designers who have the same potential to produce many innovative designs and samples are almost crippled. Most of the traditional wedding related attires have also been replaced by swanky imported garments. I cannot help considering it as a death blow to our cultural norms- the same cultural norms about which we pretend so hard to preserve- eh?

It’s very funny to admit that just for some bling bling factor (what I would call Kok Yaodaba Thouwong) we are crippling our local weavers & designers by relying heavily on various imported pieces of garments from other cities. The market in our state is comparatively petty as compared to the thriving market in Delhi. If Manipuris do not buy those bed sheets or clothes, the Delhi karbarwaalas won’t have much loss. But have we ever imagined the impact on our local weavers? Are we not crippling them day by day? On one hand we talk about change, reconstruction and progress in our society. On the other hand, we cripple all the means and measures of bringing change or progress in our society. It’s like looting with the left hand and repaying with the right one.

All in all, there isn’t a single reason why we should encourage the practice of dowry system in our society. Besides we should also have a check on our fascination with imported swanky attires or accessories from other cities. Awunpot never measures the amount of love and affection that parents have for their daughters. And there is no such evidence that a bride with truckloads of awunpot will win the award of the best ‘Mou’ of the year or so. So, dear would-be-brides from Kangleipaak, please be a little sensible and start evolving from the mindset of taking along as much awunpot as you can. Let us try to abolish many unwanted chatnabis that soil our society. I have this firm belief that this can be a collective effort among us.

The Creed of Love Sans Rubbish Religions

Would I be called an atheist when I get rid of a ‘Chanu’ or a ‘Devi’, being suffixed with my name? These suffixes purportedly identify my faith. Though I tend to avoid using any of these not-so-fascinating suffixation, sometimes I wonder if God is being politically incorrect in differentiating us on the grounds of religion. Why is religion given so much hype in our world? Why are the religious bigots continuously feeding on fanaticism? Can religion seriously contribute something in the shaping of an ideal society?

These questions keep disturbing me and unsurprisingly I have no answer. Perhaps I am just a confused person, lost in the religious complexities and all those moralities and mortality thingies.

Well, let me share a few personal experiences from my life on the religious clashes among individuals in our society. I grew up in a typical Hindu family. I enjoyed one such childhood period, listening to the words of wisdom from the Holy Geeta narrated by the late Karam Edhou. I enjoyed listening to his thoughts and the preaching on Hinduism and did enjoy most of the mera-mesh meal fondly shared with Edhou. Those memories are precious to me. I have grown up with many such good memories of those lessons on life that I have been taught by other edhou, bubok and many elderly persons who had left for their heavenly abode now. This was my father’s side.

My Ema, on the other hand, hails from a typical Meitei Marup family. My Keisampat Abok (my granny) had this tiny ‘khubam’ right at the courtyard. Around those days, she also introduced us the ‘heepu yaipubi’. On query, she replied Heepu Yaipubi is the Meitei version of Goddess Lakhsmi. The realisation amused me and I started developing a notion that God, no matter which one we worship, is known by a lot of names.

Since then, I had been fond of Sanamahism as much as I had been worshipping Hinduism or Christianity. Nonetheless, I have keenly observed the religious conflicts between my Wangkhei bubok and Keisampat abok during those days. It seemed to me as though they were born to dislike each other just because they followed different faith. They hardly came into terms with each other. Our two buboks would not show it openly but all of us know in their silence what was really going on between them.

As I grow up and see, hear and learn the truth, I have started disliking Hinduism and have almost denounced my faith, especially after knowing about how it was imposed in our society in the most forcible and barbaric manner. This fact has been etched on my mind. It’s like robbing and ruining all the good memories of childhood and I am equally helpless. I have started questioning my then beliefs on the various philosophies of Hinduism. But tell you what? I am not doing the right thing.

What had to happen had already happened, however hopefully, what can happen in the future is now entirely up to us. An enlightenment that leads to constructive thoughts is worth accepting but not the one that tinctures hatred on our mind for reasons that are best kept in the dark. We should have an open choice to follow our preferred faith or belief. Secularism should be promoted for an egalitarian society, but religion should not be misused as a lousy political tool. The more we misuse it, the more chaos we are prone to create in the society. Let us limit the use of religion. And the best thing is to keep in the closet of our private space.

Follow any religion you want to follow, who cares? Even if you want to worship Satan, it’s your choice. But make sure that you respect others who follow their choice of religion. Hatred cannot be a solution to rectify the blunder from the past. No religious book teaches us to spread loathsome philosophies. You are as much a Meitei whether you worship Pakhangba or Krishna. You are as much a Manipuri whether you follow Christianity or Islam. Let us stop building all these narrow domestic walls. Though the question of losing one’s identity after following a foreign faith can be kept aside for deliberations some other time.

I did not have any particular reason of denouncing my faith. I just have this feeling that religion cripples our view and make us petty. For example, if you introduce yourself as a Hindu, you are just a Hindu. It seems like building a narrow domestic wall when you differentiate yourself from others as a Hindu. So, I find it a much better option to denounce any faith. Instead of worshiping idols or chanting hymns, it’s better to hum songs of love for mankind. Let us believe in spreading happiness. Let us believe in making this world a better place to reside. Let us believe in peace not war. Let us abolish hatred. We need to manifest and infect one another with stirring ideas of social and political change. Manipur is laid back in civilization in almost all the sectors. Let us focus more on how we can chip in with our ideas of civilization.

It is not a death-dream to see a prosperous Manipur, if we all become united as Manipuris, and not as Meitei, Paangal or Hao. Let us join the global march in this progression of civilization. Let us not waste our time quarrelling or philandering on trivial issues. Always be a Manipuri first... we can be a hao, a meitei or a paangan later. Theism or atheism, today what we need in our world is love.

This article was published on 15 July 2012


On Cynical Mindset, Illogical Nationalsim and Moronic System

As far as writing is concerned, there is very little hope that many of us would expect to find a solution out of our generation’s trouble with the society. A few good friends have even suggested that it is not worth writing on the issues of our state and its ‘pumchai-chairaba’ norms. They opine: Manipur will always be Manipur. Well, I have other things on my mind. Apparently, I find it a better option to write and express – and continue the deliberations — rather than resorting to unhinge my sanity with nothing but losing myself in ailing thoughts of utter chaos all around.

I do not intend to offend the inflated ego of my own brethren through this column. It’s just a small attempt to acknowledge a few facts and our own faults so that we can sort out what is going wrong and how we can mend the ways. Kindly digest with a pinch of salt and others who do not have gall bladders (like me) can opt for an enzyme syrup.

There is an endless list of things I hate about our state. We can admit the fact that ours is a land of chaos, corruption and disorders where absurd political melodramas have become a daily show, still we would indulge in it despite the angst. We know something is not right but we are either too shy or scared to point out the faults. A disturbed psyche is fine for us, who cares about it anyway?

I cannot help but perspire on our mindset. ‘Touja saarise yenguney’ – is one of our nauseating cynical attitudes. Take for example, when some of us start something innovative or even discuss about it, ‘Oisu oiroidabada thok mok keikaanaba’ – is one hell of a discouraging comment, even from our own families, sageei naatei and keirol leikai. How can an idea be nurtured if it is aborted right at its conceiving stage? I know not the ‘how’ but I am aware of the ‘why’. Cynicism has possessed us like an evil spirit. I think a ‘Khaiyom Laakpa’ is not a bad idea to cure ourselves, eh?

Believe it or not, we are so much used to live with a disturbed psychology. Bombs don’t frighten us anymore though we would sigh, hearing about them. By the mention of bombs, let me recall one particular news published last Thursday. ‘BOMB ATTACKS’ was the headline of the story. The bomb was hurled at the Shija Hospital and Research Institute. Luckily, it failed to explode after hitting the hospital’s wall. My question is what if it had burst? What if the civilians or the patients in the hospital were hurt or killed? Alright, a few JACs would be formed; a few more protest rallies or sit-in protests, a few memorandums, then bandhs and strikes would follow – all in all in the same old norms. There is nothing new about the same old news in our state. How pathetically true ?

Where do we stand when the bombs are hurled at us by our own brethren? Where is the question of unity when disintegration and hatred is the order of the day?

On one hand, the so called ‘Imagi Mapaaris’ relentlessly talk on nationalism trying to tincture a sense of patriotism in our minds. They talk about construction while resorting to destructive measures. They dream to see a bright Manipur but their strategies are so dark. Sometimes, I wonder, what kind of nationalism are they really talking about? Abduction, extortion, hurling bombs and killing innocents – these are not the means to fight for a cause as far as my belief is concerned. We have a very little idea with whom they are waging the war at. I doubt if they know it themselves.

The politicians, always hungry for power and money, on the other hand never leave the stone unturned to satiate their thirst for supreme control over means and measures of power/money supply from the centre. They have made it a habit to lend deaf ears to our grievances. Behind closed rooms, they discuss on the strategies to rule and not to govern the state. Needless to say, governance is not a contract work. I have an honest suggestion for them. If they think they are not worth their posts, they should give the chance to the deserving lots (but it’s again an eternally perplexing question: Who are the deserving political leaders in our state?) Que sera sera, ‘Yongna yubi konlaga kappaga leibagi feebhamdu khitang tokpadi fabra khanli’.

A cynical mindset, the illogical nationalism and a moronic system are some of the root causes that have contributed in the deconstruction of a fair and liveable society. Dear sensible citizens, we need to give up our cynicism; we need to say no to illogical nationalism; and we should stop enduring the moronic system too. Let us come up with ideas and a hell lot of them. We must fight against all these unwanted issues that have contributed to the unmaking of an ideal society. Let’s keep the deliberations open.

This article was published on 8 July 2012

Free anti-corruption classes in Manipur: Hurry limited seats available

You read it right. This admission season, it’s not just about enrolling for courses in Arts, Science or Commerce stream; but you can also try for a course on anti-corruption for which you don’t have to pay any fee. The free anti-corruption classes will be conducted at various study centres across the state. Individuals from all walks of life, irrespective of age, profession or race, can join this course.

The Non-Existing Council of Free and Fair Moral Education Department, Manipur has come up with this noble plan to encourage the countless corrupted individuals in our state to lead a peaceful and corruption-free life. A selection committee has also been formed to choose the eligible candidates for the first semester.

Considering the lack of mental solace and frustration they come across at several critical points of their lives, this is a special study program to promote their interest in leading a peaceful life, to encourage them to stop taking bribes and to allow them to live a life free from corruption.

Many officials and non-officials will be provided free anti-corruption classes across the state. The prime targets for these classes are the mantri mandols, officers of all ranks, thikadaars, presidents and secretaries of various clubs and NGOs and other organisations, plus anyone who has taken bribe in any of its dirtiest forms.

There are a couple of must-have qualities for those candidates who want to enrol for the anti-corruption educational program:
  1. Those who have relentlessly taken bribe without any shame. The manner of taking bribe could be official or unofficial in nature. Irrespective of when, where or how the note-chabun was accepted, the candidate can simply attach an experience certificate of bribery and submit it to the admission counter.
  2. Those who were reluctant to take bribes earlier but later succumbed to it out of temptation or helplessness. The course will be like a rehabilitation course to encourage them to give up taking bribes. They will be counselled on bribery and its ill effects by experience anti-corruption faculty members.
The course structure is roughly divided into four parts:
  1. The origin, growth and practice of bribery — Who were the culprits behind its practice, how it became a raging practice in our society and how it has numbed the common sense of our mass?
  2. Socio-cultural impact of corruption — How people have set it as a norm and how they are deeply affected by this social trauma?
  3. Means and measures to fight corruption — this includes valuable suggestions from Anna-Siki Hazare, encouraging holy speech by Baba Ramu-Dev and others
  4. Free counselling for underprivileged candidates who have so far started taking bribes from their own siblings or members of family.
Mr. Oidaba-ngaangdabamayum Luchingba, the brain behind this project remarks: ‘It is easy to talk about problems in our society, but it is a difficult task to even discuss about the probable solutions to fight the various perils that directly or indirectly affect us. This project is a small initiative to ensure that we are not mute spectators and that we want to see a corruption-free world.

‘The Sarkargi loisangs in our State are the main targets of this education project. Irrespective of your posts at the respective departments, please spare some of your valuable time to attend this free class’, further adds Luchingba.

Many officials have so far submitted their forms for this course. However, the leaders of the various political parties have not yet responded to the notice of this project. It may also be noted that this course is meant only for those who have some hope of improvement.

Our latest source reported that a few forms have been received from some ineligible candidates. Among the rejected forms, one particular form that was filled with an initial O was turned down with no particular reason. The counselling committee strongly appeals to the selection wing not to ever make such mistake in the near future.

Luchingba also says, ‘We are strict with our procedures of choosing the right candidates. We are extremely sorry to acknowledge everyone that this course is not open for those who have excessively taken bribes. We will keep them under observation this year and will decide whether they will be eligible to join this course next semester’.

News and views about this project are spreading far and wide. Many honest civilians have earnestly supported this project. Perhaps, change is finally on its way. Perhaps this particular study program will encourage many young government officials to stop taking bribes in the near future. ‘Otherwise, what use is of twenty years of formal education,’ Luchingba asked.

This article was published on 1 July 2012

Where Have All the Coins Gone?

Achoiba leitey lupa ahumdu meethai haapaklagey — at every dukan and grocery shop at every leirak and leikai, this is inevitably the only reply we get from the shopkeepers because they don’t have the change. When was the last time you got the change from a shop? Have you ever complained when the shopkeeper returned you a fistful of toffees, as if the few rupees are nothing but insignificant? Most of the time we would take the toffees grudgingly, if not, the only thing we can do is to ask for match boxes instead of the toffees.

We know the obvious response from the neighbourhood dukan-fumbers: there is a shortage of coins in the market so they are helpless and are resorting to unasked Chrolomints and Sunflower match boxes. But there are more reasons than meet the eye.

Last year when a couple of shopkeepers’ associations in Mumbai complained to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), which earlier used to dispense the coins directly but has given the responsibility to the bank branches now, the latter refuted and screamed that hoarding and black market are to be blamed for. Officially in India, the coins are distributed through RBI offices (in the Northeast, these are located in Guwahati and Agartala), bank branches and currency chests.

Closer home, there is another perspective. On conditions of anonymity, an official at the State Bank of India (SBI) gave me some plausible explanations. He said, ‘There was a coin dispenser installed at the SBI Imphal branch a few years back. But the unscrupulous agents would empty the container, leaving literally, no change for the unsuspecting public.’ That constituted a paltry portion of the black-market economy in Manipur.

Then there is also the high cost of transport, which results in a limited supply of coins. The anonymous SBI official added, ‘Coins are usually transported through flights. The present shortfall cannot be adjusted with more supply as frequent remittance is not possible. Besides, the coins are heavier and are relatively of lesser value than paper notes of higher denominations. So generally,the banks opt for bigger paper notes for transaction, ATMs and other dealings.’

Throughout India there is rampant hoarding and black marketing of coins as countered by the RBI officials to the shopkeepers’ association in Mumbai. For example, a hundred of one rupee is usually sold at a premium of Rs 10, but it can go up to Rs 20 in the fluctuating black market. The rate might be different in Manipur and it is open to question how the coins have vanished into thin air.

An examination of the scarcity of coins in various parts of the country might offer a bigger picture. Earlier this year, the RBI had decided to back out from retail operations and hence halted their distribution of coins from its offices. But there are allegations of procedural inexperience of the present distributors, which has further resulted in the rising price of coin and an uneven demand-supply ratio. Inadvertently this is affecting the economy very badly.

Let’s do a simple math. Suppose in Manipur, a one person loses Rs 3 a day while shopping; then the state loses Rs 81,65,268 daily, if we take into account the present population of 27,21,756 as per the 2011 census. Needless to say, some economists measure the shortage of coins is adding to 3% to 5% inflation in the national economy.

It will take a deeper analysis of the problems but there are several allegations on why the scarcity is happening at the first place, and these are not without reasons. The first of them is the rising price of metals. The RBI, for instance, has reduced the new 50-paise coins to the size of the 25-paise coins. The 25-paise coins are no more in circulation. This explains loosely the possible reduction of the number of coins being manufactured each year.

In an interesting way, there is also an allegation that coins, to the tune of crores of rupees, are in the strongboxes of temples across the country. Needless to say, all of these reasons are providing the banks to earn unethically as most of them simply round off the change.

When the whole country is reeling under the deficiency, it is no wonder our state is also pushed into the corner. But hopefully, consumer awareness could be one of the probable solutions to it.

Perhaps we could also approach the concerned banks with our queries; perhaps the financial professionals can voice on behalf of us.

A wake up call is quite a must and it should start pretty soon. Where have all the coins gone? We should have a solution right?

This article was published on 24 June 2012

Never Too Late to Stop Racism

I do not deny that racism exists in every corner of India; I do not even deny the very fact that in Loitam Richard’s case, the college authorities and the concerned department are tackling the issue with a racial attitude. However, my counter question is why they should have the will to resolve the case when our State Government is least bothered about it? We were shocked to read that our Government had contacted their Karnataka counterparts and their diabolical lies. How can we dare to blame others when our own Government is careless, unreliable and grossly irresponsible? Richard’s case is just another mundane murder case that can be left safely covered up, so the Government think. Is the notoriously-short public memory the government’s best weapon? The fight for justice has been reduced to a pathetic farce. The Government is supposedly prepared to lose more Richards in the future. But we should not give them the chance.

Now, can our collective voice against racism fight this cause? We pray – racism or not – Richard’s murderers must be sent to jail and must be given the most fitting punishment. But what do we want to prove when we admit the existence of racism everywhere? Will there be an anti-racism law, especially for the Northeast? In any case, will it give solace to Richard’s departed soul? Will it really end the era of racial discrimination and profiling against the Northeast people? These are a few open questions that are more bewildering than the law against racism, which some scholars have pointed out that it has taken an institutional form.

Our first priority is to drag our State Government out of its Delhi-dreaming slumber and ask them to get involved in this issue. Let there be more pressure groups. Let there be a one-goal focus from all corners. This is one way to fight the justice for Richard. And in general cases, we should not let our crummy egos and arrogance interfere in our fight against racism and injustice. And yes, we should also stop being mute spectators and mere commentators affluent with free comments. If you feed the troll, it gets more energy of trolling people around it. Let us first stop feeding the trolls. Let us also be a little bit more practical. It would take many years, for example, to pass an anti-racism Bill in this country. We should not waste our time feeding racism and making it a redundant topic that the public memory would get the better of. There is also a bigger problem in us having a facial look which is un-India in a country where the society is structured on caste system. Then we have a larger mission to fight the prejudices of the mainland people against us without negative emotions.

If we accept racism in this country, we become the law un-abiding citizens, because we are admitting to a view, which the government does not. If we deny it, we are nevertheless not different. If you want your voices to be heard, have the guts to drag out your own MLAs or political leaders from your very kendra. Ask them to join the fight in a politically-correct, though restless approach. Seek suggestions from the law makers and keepers. Yelling on social networking sites as keyboard warriors, hammering keyboards to discuss issues, displaying our arrogant badges to others – all of these are so damn pestering. Most importantly we should leave our attitude at home and flush it down somewhere before we commit ourselves to a cause. We should not take the advantage of playing the lead roles of a particular cause, if not in some extreme conditions. One may fathom himself/herself as the hero for a cause, but the ugly truth is s/he often gets tagged as a zero in other’s view. Precisely this is a textbook case of the utter failure of leaders and the lack of real leaders in Manipur.

We should not accept racism, in its raw toleration, because by accepting it we are indirectly providing legitimacy to its very practice in the society. But we should accept it and know the problems inherent in this barbaric social mores. Especially in a not so fascinating country like ours, there are many grave issues that need our attention. As compared to mainlanders, we the people from the Northeast have many things to be proud of. This statement is not about claiming superiority, but that we have a reason which the mainland people should know, we are not the children of lesser god, and that we have a lesson to teach the insensitive India. It is never too late to give up prejudices.

This article was published on 17 June 2012

From Wankhei, With Love!

Home is a place where you grow up wanting to leave, and grow old wanting to get back to. 
–– John Ed Pearce.

I cannot agree more on the above quote. When we were teens we thought it was a trend to leave home to pursue our studies and later to shape our career, staying outside Manipur. The lucrative career opportunities, the glitz of big city life, the big fat salary we would earn every month and most importantly, an escapade from the ennui of restlessness and hoo-hah in the state — all of these are a few accountable reasons why most of us prefer to stay out of home for all the years. ‘Yumda leiba bheebhula chudro... toufam chaafam keim khangdabani, meisuu suklaak laakte amambaduda matha sai...’: these are some of the most heard comments from those of us who prefer to stay out of home. We pretend to sound so cool while telling all these but deep in our hearts we know what we are craving for; we know what we want but since there is a big gap between our wants and means, we console ourselves with such make belief melodramatic dialogues.

But for an insane fellow, no one wants to leave home and settle outside Manipur. It has become a drift among most of the Manipuris to stay out of home, either to pursue higher studies or to settle with some lucrative careers. In pursuit of success, most of us reconcile with almost everything that we come across. We often miss everything about our home yet seldom admit it because we the outsourced lots are expected to be strong-hearted creatures. We are expected to be rational most of the time. Emotion should be always checked as it ruins our logic. All these are nonetheless not true as I have mentioned earlier too. The truth as I understand is that we miss home every single day right from dawn to dusk. From a very personal experience, at the outbreak of dawn, when the chirps of morning birds wake me up, I miss the sound of numberless sendrang. Come numidangwairam, I cannot help missing the similar chirps of sembrang and when it is lai-dhoop time, I miss the sight of that dimly-lit lantern (read laaten) at our maangon and the fragrance of burning mekruuk that spreads across the home, making us feel more blessed and pious.

Well, it does not matter whether you live in a big mansion or a thatched khaangpoksung, home is home and it is the best place on the earth, not just because it’s the place where our heart is, but also because it’s where our root belongs to. We cherish everything about our home and its surroundings. From a local perspective, the mundane of the most mundane things are found sweet or nostalgic when it comes to our very leikai. The lamjao sorok, the pukhri beside the road, the pan dukan or Potfham where we buy singju or achapot (it could also be a kwa matap), the hotel where one enjoys ideal chit-chats with leikai friends, the community hall, the leikai lampak etc. — all of these evoke nostalgia on our mind. Taking a golden chance of homesickness, I am filling up the remaining part of this column today with the same homely recipe. It’s about a very special penchant for a place in Manipur where most of my memorable childhood days were spent. So here is a bicycling trip down a memory lane through my lens that justifies the title of my column—‘From Wangkhei, With Love’

The beautiful ruins of Sana Konung, the sacred Govindaji Temple, the vast spreading Ningthem Pukhri, not to forget the quaint presence of Ramji Prabhu, the hub of hockey and football: the Eastern Ground, once a mini market: Keithel Asangbi, the famous Panthoibi and Durga Puja Lampak, one of the Government run schools for Girls in Imphal: Wangkhei Girls’, and of course Kaka Chaoba’s Pork Vendor at Thangapat, Rani Handloom at Lourembam Leirak, the faklaang segaiba school: Wangkhei Boys’ High School, one of the most happening clubs in the city: Lizard Library at Meihoupham Lampak, one of the mission schools in Imphal East: St George High School and one of the popular caterers: ACGRU tent house — these are some of the vivid pictures that continuously strike my mind whenever I remember Wangkhei, the very place where I was born and brought up, the place where most of my friends, family and saagei natei live. Nostalgia is a seasoned disease in my heart when it comes to Wangkhei and anything associated with the place. Call it the ‘frog in the well mentality’ or anything, but I am a typical Wangkhei Ningol who loves to flaunt as much as she can about this very place in Manipur.

I must not forget to mention that Wangkhei is also the place which is authentically associated with the origin of Wangkhei Phee. Small-scale handloom industry is a booming sector in this area at Imphal East district. Wangkhei maidens are always famous for their hard work and diligence. I have come across a very funny local saying ‘Wangkhei Nupada Leirunu, Wangkhei Ningol di Louba yai’. I am not sure if this random saying reflects the ideal image of a Wangkhei Ningol as if she is the epitome of all womanly virtues or otherwise it’s just a saying.

By the way, I am extremely sorry to hear about the news of (Late) Chungkham Rani. She was the one, who created a signature brand in Manipur handloom industry commonly known as Rani-Phee. Earlier known as the ‘Engineer-Phee’, Rani-Phee is an exclusive collection for every Manipuri woman. Thanks to that great lady who set her own trend in handloom industry in the state, she will always be remembered. She had been and will always be one of the ‘Prides of Wangkhei’. It’s a great loss that she is no more. May many innovators join her league in the future and make the place proud. And may God bless her soul to rest in peace!

Before I conclude this write up, I heartily want to thank all those individuals from Wangkhei from different fields who had made me proud in the past and who make me proud at present. This is to all the ‘Prides of Wangkhei’. Cheers!

This article was published on 2 June 2012
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