Pan Dukan Eney

Consumption of pan is literally banned in Manipur but no one stops consuming it. Some do have a craze for a single kwa matap right at the start of the day. With a couple of elaichi pieces or katha, with a long maru or yubi ataoba, a matap of ek soh beesh or saat is unavoidable for many of us. Age or gender is not a criterion for anyone to get used to a kwa matap. So mou naha or leisabi, pakhang or hanuba, a kwa matap is meant for all and sundry.

It is nothing misleading to claim that the Pan Dukan and Manipuris have an unbreakable relationship since time immemorial. A pan dukan is a landmark for many new visitors to a leikai; it is one of the favourite joints for the folks who would catch up during many a load-shedding evening over several conical ‘kwa matap’; and it is also a place where a ‘nupi lumba laakpa pakhang’ spends time waiting for his sweetheart to turn up.

‘Jarda matap ama chadradi kok kasi chik-ee da, Ebemma’, I have many ‘local’ aunts repeatedly telling me like this. Most of these aunts prefer the saat or beesh matap to any other sumptuous treat of snacks at a local eating outlet or tea stalls. With just a single kwa matap treat, you get all the blessings under the sun from them. I have personally got some heart throbbing blessings from some of them, such as ‘Nungsine echanupisi, maram na mok ee ba masakna fajariba, nupa afaba fang u ko’. I could not help but grin over their funny approbations.

Running a pan shop is a means of livelihood for many families too. And for a few, it is just an extra means of earning income or to remain occupied with something beneficial. I do not envy those pan dukans run by a Khura but I sure do envy the one run by an Eney. A pan dukan eney is usually a cordial woman with an attractive charisma. She is a friend for everyone. A little talkative perhaps she might be, but there is no question over her affability. She has this down-to-earth attitude along with a great sense of humour that attracts many customers. There are many pan dukan in a leikai but all of them are not frequently visited by customers for obvious reasons. Everyone loves to visit that particular eney’s pan dukan, that eney who is friendly and fun to be with.

Come numidangwairam, the most famous pan dukan of every leikai is swarmed by customers from every nook and corner of Imphal town. Vehicles are parked and it is quite a sight for onlookers to watch those well-dressed and also those haapoo-chuba types of guys loitering around the pan dukan, indulging in chit-chats with their buddies over various kwa mataps. The topic of discussion could be anything. It could be the same old discussion on the issues of Manipur, it could be a business plan and it could also be an elopement plan for one from among the group. Just the right time for the best sparkling ideas to horde their mind, they have an unbeatably good time around the very pan dukan. For a busy Eney it is the prime time to sell as many chewing gum packets and kwa mayoms as she can.

For a drunk Gorojaoba or Tomba, the pan dukan is again one of the places in the leikai where he can yell out his grievances till his wife or mom shows him the homeward road. Eney doesn’t mind all his classic nonsense. She has ears for all.

It is indeed fun to befriend a pan dukan eney. You never know how time passes away while indulging in an interesting conversation with her. You can share so many things with her that you cannot even share to your siblings or parents. You would most often find a friend in her irrespective of the age gap. She keenly listens to your problem (if any) and sometimes comes up with amazing solutions you have never thought about. You can have an open talk with her without any regret. She always creates a pleasant aura around her shop with a smiley face greeting everyone in an amiable manner.One of the differentiating traits of an ideal pan dukan eney is that she never puts up a notice board near her dukan which reads ‘BAAKI TOUJADEY’. It’s really odd to come across those shops with such a notice right? Whatsoever, it does not mean ‘Sotlaga chaba’ is also encouraging.

The reason of addiction could be anything for anyone but it is a much observed trend that consuming kwa is quite a nisha for many in our very localities. Some are really addictive to it; some have a check on its consumption. As for me, I would not mind being considered as a kwa-matap ambassador and my heart goes out to every pan dukangi eney and her kwa matap.

Statutory warning - Consuming tobacco in any of its forms is hazardous for health… who cares? ‘Eney katha teidaba sada matap amata somda’

This article was published on 26 Feb 2012

On the Educated Morons from the School of Cynicism

We are pretty familiar about the fable of the cunning fox, who could never relish those ripe and juicy grapes. It consoled itself from sheer helplessness that the grapes are indeed sour. The fox has found new company in some of us.

Allow me to introduce a breed of individuals from our very community who can be best compared to that sly fox. This breed has a typical mindset that the grapes are not just sour but bitter too. Oh! Please do not be taken aback when you find that this particular group belongs to the very society where we live. Most of them look smart at least in their outward appearance, and it also seems they are well educated. The only problem with them is that they are too impractical, cynical, discouraging; and negative energy entirely possesses them.

Pessimism is a tag they have rightfully bagged. They are the ones who are prone to whine on trivial issues, good only in raising up their cynical voices to discourage others who are at least trying to contribute their share in shaping and constructing at least a live-able society. For more information on them, I have defined few of their characteristics in the following manner.

Masters in the Art of Cynicism
Who would love to master in the art of Cynicism? Who, but them? They have successfully failed to think beyond the realm of cynicism. They are empowered and inspired to move on in their lives with a Master’s degree in Cynicism. If you ever try to prove them wrong, you are but playing with wild fire. They are seriously the hopeless breed of individuals who would always try to judge others with all their goddamn ego-ridden flaws. They are the terrible cowards who would go to any extent to scare you with their fears.

The Impractical Lots
Action speaks louder than words? Not really for this particular breed. This breed loves to build an imaginary virtual world. They prefer to hide themselves in some civilized but imaginary society created out of their impracticality. Their minds travel places, learn and collect experiences from every corner in the world. The new-found knowledge for them is the construction material for their dream homes. They are the ones who would cram the Thoreaus, Sartres and Camuses while losing their life, their thoughts so disconnected in a troubled society. They are too unrealistic like kids who play make-belief games and are not ready to face the harsh realities of life. They think they are the educated lots who know everything. They are not even near to smart but in every field, they would act over-smart. Quite an amazing trait, ha?

The ‘I-could-have-done-it-better’ Attitude
There is a saying in Manipuri: ‘Khudombina maantop khanba’. We know its meaning quite clearly and we know who we are talking about. The ‘I-could-have-done-it-better’ attitude is one of their defining primary characteristics. They would not mind brooding on their world for dog number of days, weeks or months; and when someone comes up with something different and practical, they cannot help but flaunt their sickening attitude ‘I could have also done that, damn it!’

All in all, if we evaluate their overall characteristics, it is nothing new to admit that the grapes are really bitter and sour for them and the reasons are clearly understandable.

These educated morons are threats to a decent society which each one of us dreams about. For every little effort we try to clear up the mess, they would ponder on finding flaws showing off their incorrigible attitude badge. They would never do anything worthwhile, and the only thing they are good at is in criticizing others. They might have read thousand of books on evolution and civilization but it’s sadly true that they are themselves threats to a civilized society we ever dream about. They do have a serious problem when their contemporaries try to think or act out of the box. They are fed on cynical-vitamins. They simply cannot survive without those vitamins. They eat, drink, sleep and even shit cynicism. They think it’s cool to morally discourage others for the very flaws they have. How very disgusting!

I am not a racist but I am extremely (not at all) sorry to admit that I sincerely abhor this tribe of cynics who try to drag us down every time we try to do something different in our day-to-day lives. They might be banks of knowledge, they might be brilliant, they might be personally very harmless but I seriously won’t mind calling them the educated good-for-nothing MORONS. I would also proudly and personally address them as the ‘sick race’ relatively vulnerable to ‘depression’. They need our wishes and prayers. I would personally donate a few bucks for them to buy the ‘anti-depression pills’.

This article was published on 19 Feb 2012

Full Mark For Surrogate Teachers

We have heard about surrogate moms. We have also heard that teachers are surrogates for parents. Have you then heard about surrogate teachers? You might have or might have not heard about them earlier but I can honestly guarantee that you know at least one of them in your friend circle, family or among your relatives. Their dedication is commendable for the very fact that they are ready to take up a noble job at the cost of a petty salary through which they can meet both ends or support their families. Hats off to them! They are the deserving ones who should be accredited for shaping and influencing the lives of many students in the schools where they teach.

In a State like ours where unemployment is a common woe among maximum number of educated individuals, being addressed as a surrogate teacher is nothing to be ashamed of. After all, it is survival first, sustenance is secondary. In the battle of survival, there is no ‘chilhao thiba’ among some desperate individuals who are ready to take up a job as long as it provides a regular monthly income. These teachers also belong to that guild of hard working and dedicated individuals but alas they don’t get any credit for what all things they do because of the very fact that their profession is not really theirs. It can be said that they are owned, redefining what it means to be in someone else’s shoes.

So here’s the ‘siki’ worth question: Who are the employers of these surrogate teachers? Should the employers be appreciated for arranging such provisions for the unemployed lots in our society? The employers play ‘ani-chabi’ games, availing full salary without compromising anything. Some of them even take up a second job thereby earning a double income. I am not sure whether they should be respected for what they do. If I analyse their mentality on ethical grounds, I feel like ridiculing them. On the other hand, I really want to thank them for utilizing the surrogates who earn a livelihood from that meager income, shared or gifted by them.

The whole month or even the year, they would never take a class yet avail of the salary. Their career is secured as much as their bank account. Maybe it’s because of that bundle of note they handed to the selection committee after the name-sake interviews that were held to select the right candidates. They shamelessly flaunt themselves as teachers without any slightest idea of what is the role of a teacher in a society like ours. They are supposed to be the ones who should shape and mould the lives of young students. They are the ones who are supposed to influence the young minds to grow up as promising youth in the future. (I think I am not making any sense trying to add some of my classical philosophies all the way sounding like a pseudo reformer, eh?)

It is more than an open secret that the concept of a right candidate is very questionable as far as the scenarios in Manipur are concerned. Those who can afford an amount between five and 10 lakhs have high chances of getting selected for the post. For those who cannot afford the money, the job is never meant for them. Qualification is the last criterion for any candidate to be selected for most of the posts in the state. Corruption is like an agony aunt who will never stop nagging us till ‘who-knows’ number of years. We can run, we can hide but we cannot avoid it. It will keep prying in every walk of our lives at least in a state like ours.

From my peer group, I do know a few people who love to flaunt themselves as ‘oja’ when in reality they do not deserve an iota of respect as a teacher. They are damn proud to tell everyone that they have a secured career as theirs is a Gobber-men Job errr… sarkargi thabak. They spend time doing all the domestic chores at home. In a textbook approach, they keep surrogates for them to whom they provide a slice of their monthly salary. For example, out of 16K a real teacher would get as salary, 2K would be allotted for the surrogate teacher for taking classes on his/her behalf. Most of these fake teachers love to be posted at the far-off corners of the state, especially in the hill areas.

I, at times, have minced oaths and have wondered: What the heck do they think of themselves? They think teaching is like broker-ship. But on second, third, fourth and fifth thoughts, I suppose it is OK as long as the unemployed lots in the society can at least earn an income even if that’s peanuts, which we locally refer to as ‘heikru manada yomaga fangba’ type. As long as they are OK with it, we do not have any right to meddle in their noble profession, their duties. Let the trend of surrogacy continue. ‘Chaminaba haobani’—TOLOPSU.

This article was published on 12 Feb 2012

To A Khulgi Eeta

Muji, Mahabali, Moira-ngkhom, Keikhu, Kakhu-long and Keisamthong are some of the most visited khul (s) in the vicinity of Imphal city. The reason is pretty obvious why our young/old boys visit these khul (s) almost every ‘numidangwairam’. A 50 rupee note is more than enough to get several plastics of locally brewed boozes in these khul (s). In an equally delightful way, the booze is served with the choicest meats, which are cooked in a typically authentic style.

I have heard many friends telling tales about those beautiful Leishas at the khul and about those mouth-watering snacks served there. It has triggered my taste buds right from the very way how they keep telling me about that Manungsha Angouba at Muji khul and the inimitable Nganu Set at Mahabali. It must be one hell of an experience for them enjoying the boozes and snacks served by pretty khulgi leishas. I am quite envious (Don’t read jealous).

At times I really wish I were a boy just to visit those khul (s) one by one and find out what it is all about such a place. I can of course visit any of them with no boozing activity associated (I am, in fact, planning to visit a few khul (s) during my Yaoshang vacation at home this time). It would be like crossing a forbidden cultural bridge if my elders come to know about my plan but I will do what I want to do because I have my own reasons, copyrighted with all the rights reserved.

Confined outside Manipur for quite a long time, I had hardly got a chance to visit most of the khul (s) and mingle with people out there. A big thanks again to those friends through which I have heard a lot about many interesting khul-centric accounts. I guess people who reside in these khuls have few options when it comes to earning a livelihood. Selling meat and owning a hotel or a vendor are perhaps the two common means of livelihood for them. They seem to lead a pretty simple life. Well, it is nothing new to add that their innocent and ignorant gestures are really adorable. I do find it cute when they address ‘Ebung/Epung’ to lads from our community. They have a twisted accent of speaking Meiteilon but it’s really cute.

Many interesting questions are still open, especially when I hear songs that remind me of khulgi leisha. Sometimes I do wonder if the pretty khulgi echal with her captivating beauty has jailed the hearts of our very own Pakhangs and even those married guys. Let the driving force be anything, but we cannot deny the fact that the khul (s) are the most visited places by our very own young or old people.

From my very personal account, I remember paying a visit at Gaidilu’s (a friend who lives in Keikhu khul). It was just an unplanned visit. The whole khul was merry-making as it was Christmas’s eve. I adored the simple lifestyle people led there. As it was festival time, they were refrained from any occupational chore. I could not find her home on that day and did miss that sumptuous Christmas feast but never mind; it was a pleasant experience visiting her khul. The memory is still warm in my heart and every Christmas I am reminded of that visit (minus the lunch part).

I am sure that our association with people from these very khul (s) can be traced back to those historical days in the past. The bonding between us and them started without any reason. At present, it seems we have, for no reason, severed our ties with them. Many reasons are explained on grounds of ethnicity, integrity and what not?

Religion has always barred a major section of our community to mingle with them since time immemorial. They have been treated like outcast or untouchables. We have read in stories and also seen in movies and shumang leelas how there is a huge cultural gap between our community and theirs, which are all so ridiculously and artificially created. Secularism was a misconstrued concept then and I am afraid it has still got a vague understanding among people—which of course needs introspection now. If the religious minded parents were/are so rigid about their religious dogmas and doctrines, why didn’t/don’t they disown their own sons who visit the very khul? It would be a hard hitting question to them but I sure need an answer for the same. It did not make any sense then; it still does not make any sense why that khulgi echal should be treated with a different stance?

Instead of hosting the frog-in-the-well mentality, we should strive to build an amiable ‘pakka’ bridge between these khul (s) and our world. Their world and our world are intermingled. We should cherish and respect their culture and lifestyles as much as they appreciate ours.

PS- I wish to make friends with lots of girls from the khuls. If any of them is reading my write up hey there, would you be my Eeta?

This article was published on 5 Feb 2011
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