Of Dark Nights, Generators and Moreh Lamps -- Pages from My Imphal Diary

On that very day I reached home, I was glad my loving family and a few good friends greeted me. Later when the afternoon transcended to evening, my sister informed me that it was a load shedding day, a privilege we enjoy only in Manipur. With an optimistic mood, I thought it was a fabulous excuse of enjoying a lamtaa evening with the thaabal lighting up our shumaang.

Of course I started enjoying one such evening until the sound of generator from one of our neighbours perturbed the serenity of the lovely calm evening that was later surpassed to a noisy night. I yawned and called that a day. Waking up to the chirps of early morning sendraangs or sembraangs has been an aesthetic experience for me every time I visit my hometown. But the first day I woke up, it was already 6 A.M. and quite sadly I wasn’t awakened by the chirpings of those sendraangs or sembaangs. A pestering sound of some machine perturbed my ear drums and on being asked I found out that it was the same generator from the previous night. It was a daily ritual for the family to put on the generator to make up for the energy, probably, that they need during the day. I swore something under my breath but could not make it audible for anyone. I had no choice but to reconcile my logic with my expectations out of the sabbatical. I murmured: ‘Welcome to Manipur where electricity is a luxury only among some sections of the hoi polloi’. 

Most of us consider it a ritual to buy generators (that come at a price range between 5 and 20 thousands INR) and inverters. We would never ponder on why we are deprived of getting regular power supply. We are like running around the problem rather than finding its permanent solution. In my earnest opinion, electricity should be one strong issue for which a wake-up call among the masses is a must. After all, the electricity bill is asked to be paid regularly if not ‘mei kakpa’, hey naa? (Guess whose habitual word it is.) 

Statistics may lie but this sounds interesting. Last week, in a meeting of the State Advisory Committee for Manipur of the Joint Electricity Regulatory Commission for Manipur and Mizoram, it was mentioned that out of a total 20 lakh population in Manipur’s valley districts, there are merely 1.5 lakh consumers. So in a leikai of 100 people, nearly seven to eight people consume electricity and these people never pay their bills on time. The other seventy-odd people either get their own electricity with a little help from the bamboo sticks, which are always available near a transformer. Or they don’t use electricity at all. 

By the way, I can’t understand one thing about the billing system on the consumption of electricity at each and every home. I asked one of the billing guys on what basis the bills are charged and also asked why the pay-per-metre system is not applicable in our state. He thought he was humorous when he replied, ‘Ebemma metre da paradee tha amada lising-gi mathakta adum laakani... akhoina saariba rate si yarabani’. I scratched my head in disbelief, halted the conversation but asked myself, ‘meibu kayaam laakladana akhoina sijinaba fangdoino’. Ridiculous! Right? Well, that’s the truth most of us are used to. Most of the homes in Manipur are charged with an electric bill though they hardly get the electricity. Now isn’t that ironic? Don’t you think? It’s like dark nights when you are paying your bill; and it’s a Moreh lamp when you have the inverter-charged tube lights switched off. (recalling Alanis Morisette’s ‘Ironic’) . Nevertheless, the Moreh lamps are a blessing in disguise for many families in Manipur. 

These lamps are available everywhere at the Kwairambandh Keithel or the International Moreh Market. The price of these Moreh lamps range between 100 and 600 INR and hence easily affordable. One can make the choice as per the budget and carry home any of the lamps with the brightest hope to light up the dark rooms. The Moreh karobaar-waalas have benefited a lot from this Moreh line of work. Every day you will find hundreds of customers swarming up at those tiny shops or roadside spreads of Moreh lamps that are available in many shapes and size and in any colour of your choice. I did get two lamps, one for my sister so that it could be of some help during her tuition hours and one for myself just to flaunt among my friends in Delhi that ‘this is the YO lamp which is damn popular in Manipur these days and guess what it lights up the entire room just like a small tube light’. Of course it would sound really stupid to flaunt about one such lamp in a city where power issue is a siki-anaah problem. Well, well, one of the good stale news is that Manipur may get 20 hours of electric supply soon, very soon. 

The concerned bodies are working hard (really?) on making this project a success (Hope it’s not another successfully failed attempt). 20 hours of electric supply on a single day? Let there be light!

This article was published on 1 Apr 2012
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