Of Imphal and Its Matam Matamgi Waafam

Imphal town has now two Shamumakhongs to flaunt—the one at Khwairamband Keithel and the recently built piece at the Bheigyachandra Open Air Theatre complex. Meanwhile, my own leikai has two community halls to flaunt too.

Manipur Masala presents the Imphal town and its matam matamgi waafam—a brief take on some irredeemable norms, some overtly visible, some covert, at various localities across the city.

The other day, out of curiosity, I asked a nephew, ‘Nang swa saaanaba heibra’. He replied, ‘Swa haisibu keino nene’.

I had to explain the rules and regulations of playing swa. I did share my experience of playing the game when we were kids. He was impressive with my explanation; it was obvious from how he was listening. He continued, ‘Nene swa si computer dei download touraga saanaba yagadro?’

I was quite amused by his innocent question but I was equally disturbed. I could not help greet myself — welcome to modern Manipur — where the kids no more play at the leikaigi lampak. Imphal Talkies’ Lullaby started humming as the background music on my mind and I sang along: ‘Te te tenawa kangleipaaki tenewa angaangna moonlaga tenwaana haraowi, uuuu... Una saaba nongmeini mana pangba makhoini’.

During our angaang oiringei days, we used to play all sorts of local games such as swa, u-paibi, amangbi, langri-taang and so on. Most of the kids in Imphal do not play these games anymore. What could be the reason for their indifference towards the local games?

Is it the rising trend of constructing community halls in each and every leikai which do not spare the leikaigi lampak where kids can play? Is it the fear psychosis on parents’ minds that their kids may be kidnapped while playing at a lampak, which eventually forbid their children from playing at the lampak? Is it the new-age syndrome of hainingai leitana chaokhatlaba Manipur? Obviously, the questions are varied though we have the same answer: ‘Khangde tourisey’.

Everybody can get the feel for the rising trend of using mobile phones and computers aka internet in our society. For instance, from school-going kids to keithel-fambi eney endol and aboks, having a mobile phone is a must these days. However, when it comes to the construction of more than two community halls in a single leikai, I have my own indigestive opinion. Of course, having a community hall in a locality is a must and it offers many benefits to many families in a leikai.

In a state like ours where thoudok-waathok and ushop-mela are frequently observed throughout the year, a community hall serves multiple benefits especially to those who do not have a proper shumaang. Also with the rising cost of Maantop khanba, community halls are an affordable option for many. However, having a single community hall in a leikai is enough. There is no logic behind constructing two community halls in a single leikai. Maybe the contractors have different opinions but nothing is certain these days.

Well, I have observed another trend in which one has to destroy something to build something else. A sign of modernity? Such is the case of sambhals being replaced by chekpals. Earlier, when we were kids, a sambhal was created just to fence an ingkhol from shaa-sun. In modern Manipur, especially in and around Imphal, sambhals are becoming cousins of the dinosaurs; meanwhile the chekpals are getting taller and taller each day. Besides the ingkhol khopchinbagi khatnaba and mindless nungsinadaba nature in the keirol-leikai, constructing a wall also means securing one’s family from miscreants (read extortionists whose population keep rising at an alarming rate).

As the walls get thickened with leikhom-leinaang over the years, memories of good old childhood days are also eventually fading away. We had our days of singju suraga chanaba, nungthilda chara waanminaba and leikai koinaba. Meanwhile for modern kids, computer games and cartoon characters are building a Random Access Memory on their mind.

I am not surprised by the very fact that most of my nephews and nieces do not have any idea about the local games we used to play as kids. At times, I wonder if I should start taking free tuition for kids to tincture innocent memories on their minds about their childhood days. Would not it be something innovative, eh?

This article was published on 8 Dec 2013
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