When Spring Arrives, Can Yaoshang Be Far Behind?

When the full-moon brightens up the sky of lamta, when spring is finally summoned by seasonal lairembi, we celebrate Yaoshang — the much awaited carnival of the year. From angaang-nubi to ahal-laman, the festival is meant for everyone. During Yaoshang, there is no rich or poor, every one celebrates the festival in high spirits.

Yaoshang is a sweetheart for every one for weather and various other reasons. The only sad part of Yaoshang month is that yongchaak starts dry-cleaning his black overcoat, ready to put it on and say goodbye for the whole year. Yes, dear Yongchaak, you will be badly missed in many chakhums in Manipuri. The akangba maru is no match for the fresh and energetic Yongchaak, who rocks every chakhum a season ago across the state.

Unlike in North India and other states, Yaoshang, in Manipur, is celebrated for five long days. I do not feel envious about the North Indian way of celebrating Holi. All my good memories about the festival (as I mentioned in one of my earlier columns) trace back to those childhood days. The norms of celebrating Yaoshang have changed over the years, but the essence still prevails. The very mention of Yaoshang triggers our taste bud for pafor, gulla macha, heiyaai, baraf and of course, the most cooked insaang — kobi (foon) saag.

When it comes to the Yaoshang related achapot, modern kids are luckier to relish branded ice creams and snacks of all sorts. Back in those days, ice cream meant to us that plain, white colour ice (sans cream) cupped inside a plain cone. We relished it with utter delight; licking the more of ice, less of cream yet to our heart’s content. I believe, even Baskin & Robbins cannot compare the branding strategy of that particular ice cream, eh!

Well, children have their own reason why Yaoshang is a favourite of all the festivals. They have the license to be notorious playing with water and peshkari. Yaoshang is also one such festival that provides the license to children to ask pocket money from anyone at the leikai. They visit homes humming their favourite slogan — ‘Nakadeng laak-ae paisa piyu’. Some of the kids keep on the legacy of ‘Yaoshang special chaak chaanaba’. Holding a thumok in their hands, they visit from home to home buzzing, ‘Cheng leire cheng piyu, paisa leire paisa piyu’ — one does not have a choice but to offer those kids why they are asking.

All these while, I have been writing this column with a deep longingness for the festival and its essence. However, I feel good in my heart for all my folks back at home who are eagerly waiting for this festival. For the theist in me, I cannot help thanking God that we at least have Yaoshang. Yes indeed “Thank You Lord — Ebudhou/Ebendhou /Jesus/Krishna/Alah (whosoever) for Yaoshang”. We can have this break from the ennui that has become a part and parcel of our lives.

We need many Yaoshang-like festivals in our state to cherish life and to fight back the chronic and nauseating issues. From the context of Hinduism, Holi is celebrated as a triumph of good over bad. I wish to live that day when all of us celebrate our typical Yaoshang with the same spirit. It would be like icing the cake and I am already starving for it.

This year’s Yaoshang festival is going to kick-start in a few days. I am sure everyone is on high-spirit to celebrate the festival. I, through this column, personally wish everyone ‘A Very Happy & Colourful Yaoshang’. I would love to see many colourful pictures of the celebration across the state. So, kindly jam my newsfeed on Facebook with pictures of Yaoshang during the festival. Once again, happy Yaoshang to everyone.

This article was published on 24 March 2013

A Stolen Page from High School Diary

Who does not miss school days? The very mention of school makes us nostalgic. It is not an abnormal wish for many of us to have a time machine, which would help us travel back to those amazing years of our lives.

Well, the invention of a time machine may take hundreds or thousands of years. So, it is not a smart idea to keep waiting for a time machine. The only possible option is to bicycle down the memory lane and recollect some of those wonderful moments of our school days, just as I am going to do through this column.

The more we remember those carefree school days, the more nostalgic we become. We, then, used to nag on many petty issues. Homework was the most boring thing next to the Employment News in between the weekend movies on Doorsarshan; class works were equally deadening. Exams made us sick. And the day the school management announced the peikha routine, we would start worrying about how much we are left to study. Who else had more to study?!

Presently, the hectic corporate schedules do not score higher mark than the then list of activities we used to indulge in. Morning and evening tuitions, reading together with friends (which indirectly refers to lesser study, more fun), mom’s braja-taarakpa like esou when you keep watching TV during exam time and of course, asking for more pocket money on the last day of exam to enjoy forbidden snacks or to go for a movie with friends, and the list goes on. The sad part is that there will not be a repeat telecast of all those moments. We can only thank memory lairembi for making us remember all these days. I hope this memory never ever fades away.

Well, many of us would not be reluctant to admit that we, the Manipuris, have this interesting habit of adding a local flavour to most of the Angrazi terms. Hence, we usually call a notebook as ‘boi’ and refer to an instrument box as ‘kompass’, so similar to ‘kompakk’. We even shorten a local term for school bag — ‘lairik khao’ to ‘laikhao’. I am sure this trend continues among the school kids these days.

We need not feign, though. Our typicality is something that makes us stand apart from others. When we say ‘hoten’ (instead of hotel) or ‘hospitaan’ (hospital), we must say it loud and with pride. For that matter, we had never seen the difference between ‘see’ and ‘she’. Alternatively, how would Pink Floyd even sing ‘We don’t need no education’, with a double negative? Grammar Nazis and language ‘oja’ might excuse my opinion in this regard, or take my view just as another opinionated brick in the wall of Manipur Masala.

It was right during our school days that we learned about the art of squandering. Does it sound so fancy a word?

Well, on a positive note, squandering is not at all bad if you squander something that makes you happy. For example, the art of squandering the last page of Hindustan ‘boi’ or any boi was one of the best ever fun we had. That is the page where we would play zero konbi, word building, bingo, name-place and what not. At times, we would simply tear it to write messages to one another or to make a paper plane or boat out of it. That rocket never flew in the sky, that paper boat never sailed in the river but the memories still make us feel good. That’s their beauty!

Life would be a mistress of distress, if we had no good memories to cherish. Equally, films and novels have illustrated how life would be a disaster if we can remember every bit of it. I am thankful to all my classmates, senior and junior friends with whom I share my wonderful memories of school days. Surely, life is an unpredictable odyssey. It is but a part of our fate that we will land up somewhere we earlier expected or never expected before.

We move on loading sacks and sacks of memories in our hearts. Before being wavered amid the humdrums of mortality, we must remember and cherish all the good things and moments we have lived in the past. Long live memory lairembi!

This article was published on 17 March 2013

Celebrating Leisabi-Aribihood

We make it a ritual to celebrate the International Women’s Day on 8th March every year. We should keep showing there are things we can do good and things we can do better, much better than the ‘unfair’ sex a.k.a. men. This is a day we remind ourselves of our world and those around us.

As the years pass, as the whole world commemorate this year’s women’s day recently, I have this recurring mixed feeling if many of us are simultaneously celebrating womanhood and leisabi-aribihood. For a change, Manipur Masala through this column will be taking a noble initiative to see what lies behind and beyond the leisabi-aribihood days of ‘matamgi’ Manipur and ‘matamdugi’ Manipur.

When I was child, I had my own notion about a leisabi aribi. There were in fact many of them in my leikai. Those eche- and eney-like ladies were the ones I always looked up to for some fun and interesting event in the leikai during any type of festival. Come Yaoshang, for example, they were the ones who would organise thaabal chongba at the leikai lampak.

I have the fondest memories of Yaoshang with all of them. Many local games such as chafu thugaibi, pafor chabi, cha thakpi, thouri chingnabi etc. were specially organised for the so-called leisabis. As kids, we were not allowed to interfere in the games and events categorised for them. Then, the organising committee, usually those club members, would bark on the microphone like they were a Nazi group, at least, it looked like that.

Remember those long, long time we had to wait for the various angaang-gi thouram. Deep in my heart, however, I felt good that they were having their own share of fun. Well, that was a slice of how things were during ‘matamdugi’ Manipur.

In ‘matamgi’ Manipur, kids cannot wait to grow up so fast. We do not have a huge generation gap, but at times, I feel like a dinosaur when trying to understand the current trend of modern kids.

As far as Yaoshang is concerned, I have totally felt out of place. Taking part in various games and events of Yaoshang ‘sports’ held at the leikai lampak have a totally new meaning nowadays. The same goes for thaabal chongba. Things were different when we were kids. ‘Hujikaan gi thaabal di leisabi amata chongnadare, angaang ngaakta ngaire’. I wonder if this is really true.

Do modern kids grow up so fast? If yes, what is the secret behind their growth? Has the innocence of childhood days gone with the wind?

I do not have ready-made answers for all these questions that hum on my mind. I had been absent from my leikai for many Yaoshangs. And last year when I turned up there trying to recollect the memories of the wonder years, I felt like a fish out of water. No one can be blamed for any of these. This is perhaps the cycle of life that goes on and on. Perhaps, it is also time I get enrolled at the club of leisabi-aribi, bidding adieu to the wonderful memories of childhood and many festivals I had taken part in.

So far, many friends have joined the marriage club. Many of us are still having phobia about tying the nuptial knot. And there are people like me who lead their lives without a plan. An independent career and sole dictatorship of our lives are two main reasons why most of us are reluctant about tying the over-rated knot.

I do not intend to sound like a Nazi and do not even consider my married friends as the Jews. Yet I must admit that being a dictator of one’s life is a hell lot of fun. I do not take any bullshit from anyone and I make it sure others do the same. Things sound perfect this way!

Tomorrow things may be different but today I enjoy my freedom and that’s more precious to me than the most expensive jewels on earth that I would never ever dream to buy. It is important to celebrate our own life before we think about celebrating or commemorating a particular day. We have many things to celebrate every day.

Come what may, live life queen size sans any regret. Hail Leisabi-Aribihood! Cheers to life!

This article was published on 3 March 2013

Has Manipur Become a Haven for Smugglers?

Besides the news and woes of armed conflicts, insurgencies, blockades and bandhs, we have one more infamous reason to be sedated with. The recent drug scam in the state opens many deliberations, which if openly discussed, can possibly trigger our narcotized sense.

We need to ask how it has been going on unabated for all these years. What has been the narcotics department, which we know it exists, doing all these years? Are they on morphine or heroin too, so high and numb to do anything?

Let us listen to the stories. From our childhood days, we have been hearing about Moreh, not only for the international candle, torchlight and numitlei, but also for being an international drug route and a haven for drug peddlers.

Recently, the two controversial, huge drug haul – at the airport and Pallel – have reopened the Pandora’s Box. This time, we have more than a crore’s worth fact to rely on. Quite surprisingly, the VDF personnels have done something really admirable. They had something to occupy their attention after successfully calling for bandh across the state. We appreciate they did something we never expect them they would, in nabbing the smugglers red handed.

Well, it is time to celebrate the fictitious victory of our brave hearts after so many games of chor-police played for many uncountable years. Well done, again. Now we expect them to nab many drug peddlers and wrong doers in the future too. Keep up the good work.

By the way, I have been wondering if our security personnel have become smarter because of a particular source, say for example, the television? No offence, but could it be possible that digitization of cable televisions in Manipuri homes is playing its tiny part in tackling such an issue of societal importance? Have we been watching too many episodes of Crime Patrol and CID on Sony Television? Is that how we have suddenly become street-smart and brave enough to come out of the dungeon of cowardice? Let me apologise all these dramatic nuisances with a ‘Bazinga’.

And yes, how cannot I mention the possible involvement of an MLA in one of the scams? Should we accept this news in a more dramatic way – like rolling our eyes in bewilderment, wearing an utterly surprised look? I don’t think so, because this has been be going on for years.

This time, only the dice did not roll in their favour. Lo and behold! The few poor souls are finally nabbed. I have listed two probable reasons why they were nabbed:

a. Failure to sign a mutual pact, make a negotiation between their group and the (we all know who) other party; and

b. An overdosed belief that they would walk out clean this time without any trace as it had always been.

With all the probable evidences, we can conclude that it was a case of overconfidence and dependability on temporarily unreliable sources.

Role of media during the scam

The questions about ‘not’ having good, reliable journalists have always alarmed us every now and then. While the issues in our society become lousier day by day, media seems to be always under control. Sometimes, I wonder if the whole media is on Hawaiian maui-wowie.

As for the national media, why do we bother if they really care about it or not? The story of stone drinking milk in a temple makes sensational breaking news across the country. Our stories, however, are not sensational enough to go live on the news channels. Let’s not be shocked to admit it.

Well, history has been the witness how we are used to dumping one case over another. These two scams may as well vanish into thin air even before we know who else are involved in these cases. Who can afford to remember all these things as we lay blissfully in our eternal ennui that identifies our state? ‘Nong nini leiraga kaonakhidouraba ngaaktani’ – yes, this is our pathetic mindset. We do not remind ourselves and others on various issues that are meant to be our concerns. This is where our local media fails, being pathetic in following up the stories.

This is perhaps the right time we ask ourselves a few questions that concern our youth and the future generation. Has Manipur really become a haven for smugglers? Have drugs become a daily dose for our survival? Are we not ready to consider probable solutions?

Are we raising many Escobars in our state? If not Escobar, is Zhenli Ye Gon one of the drug lords that our local peddlers worship? I know not any of the answers. It seems the civil society organisations are on hallucinogens, the system is on raw ephedrine and we the public are happily morphined. This must not go on forever.

This article was published on 3 March 2013
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