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
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