An Open Letter to New Prime Minister of India

Mr Prime Minister-designate,

Kem cho? Mazaama?

I heartily congratulate you on becoming the new Prime Minister of India. As another era of the Congress Government comes to an end, the nation is looking forward to a complete Modi-fication of the so-called Indian nation from every perspective. I am sure your government will bring a revolution, again, in the nation.

I have stayed in Gujarat for three years. No other Indian state has ever impressed me the way your state does. You can, in fact, consider me as the brand ambassador of Gujarat (if it were a brand like the way you want to pamper the flamboyant corporate). Again, I have unforgettable memories about Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar. The officials at Gandhinagar helped me and my friend to get our hostel admission. It would be a mammoth task to find officials like them in any of the sectors here in our state. Forget about the essentials, some people allege our education department is the most corrupt section. We have reasons not to refute it.

Well, in the arrival of a new political system at the centre, why would only our local government be hopeful about the impending funds and grants? I would not say I’m excited like the anti-Congress mass of the great Indian unwashed but I have a short list of complaints from my home state. Please make sure this list is not dumped in a dust bin like people would throw away those empty Styrofoam cups of teas.

To begin with, we do not have adequate power supply despite the fact that we have an enormous hydro-electricity plant. Even a five-year-old kid can explain about load shedding in a detailed manner. Electricity is a luxury that the majority of the population here cannot afford to have. The situation is worst during summer like nowadays. With just three hours power supply a day, it is quite an intolerable situation here. I wish you can do something about it — and we have lost our hope in the state government.

My next complain is about the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, or shortly, the AFSPA. I am sure you must be aware about it. It is one of the chief tools of Indian security system. Manipur has been living in the shadow of AFSPA for all these decades. Please imagine, if AFSPA were imposed in Gujarat because you share border with Pakistan, how would you feel about it? How would you feel if security personnel torture innocent Gujaratis simply because they suspect them as terrorists? It might be hard to even think about it, but that’s a sad truth that we have been compelled to undergo day in and day out. Sometimes we forget India has got independence 67 years ago, because you know, we have so many of these colonial stuffs.

It is encouraging in a sense. We do not have a leader like you here in Manipur. We do not have anyone who can stand up and speak out about such grievances that are continually faced by the hoi-polloi. Manipur has no doubt many name-sake leaders who are only interested in percentages. They do not have any sense of nationalism or belongingness to their state or to the nation. Please ensure to instil the same sense of patriotism that you have for Gujarat among our ministers.

As far as corruption is concerned, the price of a signature of any government official ranges from Rs. 200 to god knows the upper limit. I have personally been compelled to pay bribe to a few officials just for a few signatures. We have this habit of stealing from the public exchequer. These so called officials have reduced themselves to a shameless breed of morons who exploit the system as per their whims and fancies. I would not spare even my relatives or acquaintances who profess, practice and propagate corruption.

There is not a dearth of honest officers in the system. However, as the majority wins the vote, they cannot exercise their power. It does not matter even if you have received only 31 percent of the one billion votes. It’s quite a pathetic situation here. We desperately need a wind of change in the state.

I won’t ask you to sanction crores of rupees for the development of the region. The reason is obvious. Any sanctioned amount from the centre never reached or will reach the rightful recipients. I would refrain from citing Rajiv Gandhi’s view of one-paisa-to-the-needy example. The fact is that every fund always ends up in the personal accounts or pockets of ministers and their sub-ordinate offices or bureaucrats. A few of them even went to God-knows-how Russia. Please check the website of the Loktak development office that was created in Russian language in the name of a non-existing firm, if by chance you meet your technology officer who did a wonderful job during the last election campaign.

Well, I don’t want to bore you with the unnecessary details through this letter. I just need a few positive answers for a few questions — Can you promise us at least 10-hour power supply a day, if not 15 or 20? Can you promise us to repeal the draconian law like AFSPA? Please you can leave the other black laws; we will put up with them. Can you promise us a corruption-proof system? Can you promise a better education system for the next generation? Can you promise us a brand new Manipur?

Eagerly waiting for your reply.

Aawo Jo!
A Depressed Manipuri
25 May 2014, Imphal East.

This article was published on 25 May 2014. The sworn-in/oath-taking ceremony of the new prime minister is scheduled on 26 May 2014.

“Nokminnasi”: A Humble Attempt to Revive Yesteryear’s Epom

“I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it’s the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills. It’s probably the most important thing in a person.”
Audrey Hepburn

Laughter can be used to overcome challenges and enhance our lives. A playful communication to a great extent strengthens our relationships by triggering positive feelings and fostering emotional connection among us. A positive bond is easily created when we laugh together, regardless of the silliness of a joke! This bond further acts as a strong buffer for us against stress, disappointment, disagreements or other petty tit-bits of life.

Research studies have always shown that shared joke and laughter are one of the most effective tools for keeping relationships fresh and exciting. Sharing laughter adds joy, vitality and resilience. It is better to laugh out loud than to become the classic tight-jawed sourpuss who takes everything seriously and never laughs at anything. However, laughing alone is lesser fun. This has inspired me to come up with the theme of “Nokminnasi”, the first ever stand-up comedy show in Manipur. A first part of the series was recently held successfully at the MDU Hall a week ago.

The inspiration behind Nokminnasi

Back in the old days, Epom used to be one of the few means of entertainment for us. And it was indeed a level above the rest. I still have fond memories about watching Epom right in my leikai, but the cycle of time has drastically changed the landscape of entertainment in the neighbourhood.

I thoroughly enjoyed the satire in many of the Epom series. The inimitable legends like Mayang Imphal Tombi, Takhellembam Chaoba, and Oinam Babu, also popular as the ‘Yotsabi Makhong’ of Manipuri faagi used to rock the crowd in their best hilarious and comic ways. A particular Epom programme meant hours of laughter riot. Manipuri faagi had its hallmark during their days.

At present, the legacy of faagi has been passed on to some very gifted artistes. Faagi, at present, is still considered an important machal for any movie, leela or drama at present. Faagi is indeed an important mathel of our lives. Imagine a life sans faagi. It would be like a platter of nga-thongba sans salt eh?

Over the years, Epom has been seeing a gradual death especially after the demise of oja Tombi, Chaoba and Babu. Well, I cannot help appreciating Oja Ruhinikumar and his artistes for the Nokfade series, which can be considered as a replica of Epom for all these years and has kept back the charms of local humour and entertainment in this age of YouTubes and Vimeos.

In a society like ours where insurgency and social unrest set the norm, faagi should be an important part of our lives, not only to take a break but also to keep the mercury of sanity at a tolerable level.

“Nokminnasi” is a humble attempt to revive the delight of Epom with a contemporary touch. Also created as a platform for all the young comedians across the state to showcase their skill, “Nokminnasi” wants to reach out to each and every budding artistes who loves to culture Manipuri faagi in the truest, hilarious sense. If laughter is the best medicine, “Nokminnasi” is a complete dose.

Well, I was a little unsure to give a try in an unpredictable society like ours. So, I and my team organised the Nokminnasi Season One with a limited number of artistes while targeting a limited audience for the beginning. An overwhelming support and encouragement from the audience and artistes have encouraged us to present “Nokminnasi” to a larger audience.

Nokminnasi Season One showcased the skills of nine artistes namely. The masters of Manipuri humour got down in style—Pabung Manglem, Rajen, Joseph and Rangilal knew exactly what the audience expected from them. Then a crop of talented artistes including Herojit, Naobi, Raja, Ambika and Ajoy set the stage on fire with their ranging lights of humour. So now, we are trying our best to present Nokminnasi Season Two with a different flavour of faagi.

Auditions for Nokminnasi Season 2 are going to start in a few days. So, if you know any comedian in your keirol-leikai, emung-manung or saagei-naatei, please contact me personally. Let us keep up the spirit of ‘Epom’ in whatsoever way we can. Nokminnasi and we can work together to add more energy and happiness while unleashing all the frustrations from our lives.

This article was published on 27 April 2014
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