Quintessence of Kangleipak in the Capital City

Home is sometimes so close; it seems, even when you are living in the National Capital City. It is quite an exciting experience to feel the essence of Kangleipak whenever and wherever I travel across New Delhi. A sense of being at home is instilled in me, which has been gradually tinctured from several factors. To cite just one of the reasons, for starters, it’s the delicacies in the Manipurised eating joints that can match the same delightful level that we usually enjoy at home. Indeed, it’s more than just food for thought.

There are so many things why life is so typically Manipuri in Delhi, even after a distance of 2,443 km from the valley. Maroi nakupi is available at the INA market for just 20 rupees per 250 gram. From lafu, lafu tharo, thambou, sougri to kolamni, all of these vegetables—that share a blood relationship with the Manipuri taste buds—are available at most of the local vegetable markets, usually referred to as ‘sabji mandis’ across the city and which are never issues for us to just drop by. After all, there is never a trouble of economic blockade too.

If the maroi nakuppi is insufficient, there are ample choices and several other stuffs to try out. Just a visit to Munirka, our own ‘Churachandpur’ in Delhi, offers an easy way to make a monthly kitchen inventory. Out there, vegetable vendors sell imported original Manipuri vegetables and those matchless products from Moreh. There are some particular shops at this area, where one can visit and grab some fresh vegetables or food items from home.

The prices are no doubt a little high, but that’s no issue when the stuffs have travelled more than two thousand kilometres to tickle our taste buds. For example, a packet of dry u-morok, containing five to six pieces, costs around 30 bucks and a tin fish (what we call a ‘nga kouta’) is sold at double the MRP. Also when it comes to ‘yongchak pantha’, we never mind buying a ‘yongchak’ piece at the cost of 50 bucks.

The North Indian cuisine is a major hit in Delhi. But for the Manipuris, for us, nothing can compare the aura of a plate of steam rice served with a tengkot (bowl) of kaangsoi, with some fried vegetables (what we call kaang hou).

Typical though it sounds, this is quite an observed style amongst the Manipuris in the Capital City. And the trend ever prevails. What is further interesting is that some Delhites are pretty influenced, as we observed, by the North Eastern delicacies, especially those of the Manipuris.

There is a meat shop in Kotla, one of the crowded ghettoised corners for the North Easterners in South Delhi. The meat-seller has played around with the name of his shop, calling it the North East Oaksha/Vawksha Shop, quite a witty way to attract his potential customers. People from North East (especially, the Manipuris) throng the particular shop almost every day, enabling the seller to sell away his stocks like scrummy singju.

Never has the tongue twisted, to recollect, when it comes to relishing any homely cuisine—be it a bowl of ooti or eromba. I am more than sure that the same trend prevails in each and every city or town outside Manipur where our folks reside. Hear the drumbeats, the trumpets: we carry the essence of Kangleipak, no matter where we reside or go. And we are so proud of this fact!

It’s not all food without digestion. Apart from the cuisine talks, it is also encouraging to observe that some of our folks have been celebrating various religious and traditional festivals here in the Capital City. I have personally attended a few celebrations organised by one of the groups called Khonthang in Delhi. The last ‘Khongjom Day Celebration’ was no doubt a cool way of get together. It was also a nice way to remember the ‘Athoubas’ who sacrificed their lives during the Khongjom War and infuse in us a sense of responsibility. I’m also glad to know that the thoughts—of belongingness and the love for Kangleipaak—deeply reside amongst most of the Manipuris who are living outside Manipur.

Apart from food to thoughts, in my personal view, I have also ‘Kangleipaak-tised’ my daily commuting route from Maharani Bagh to Safdurjung Enclave, taking it in the same way I would travel from Wangkhei to Khwairambandh Keithel. Likewise, South Ext reminds me of Konung Mamaang most often, while AIIMS reminds me of Veterinary Hospital (kindly read vetinary hopspitaan for Kangleipak’s sake), the flyover at AIIMS retells me of Sanjenthong and the right cut from Ring Road to Sarojini Market reminds me of Nityaipat Chuthek junction that turns to the Kangla direction.

It may sound stupid to a lot of people to exaggerate things like this but who cares? This is my style of what I usually call ‘Kangleipak-tising’ things. Maybe it has become a seasoned means of consoling or compensating for everything I have missed about home. Maybe it is the rightest way to let the outsourced era pass away swiftly. No matter it’s Sajibu or Lamta-tha, I feel good to bear in my heart such a ‘Quintessence of Kangleipak’ even in the Capital City.

This article was published on 13 Aug 2011

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