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
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