KAPIL ARAMBAM • In Pursuit of Freedom •

On Those Who Will Be Questioned

One daybreak though the sparrows had been long gone
We will soar in faded tangerine and azure skies of freedom
When we will say we deserve it for everything
Memories will become mere remembrance
Too far had been the journey
Too momentary will be the misery

And my friend, you will be asked
Not about your fancy suits
Not about your obsession with your sex partner
But about what you like
About what you think of freedom

We will see our tomorrow
We will hear about our past
We will experience our present
And my friend, you will be asked
What your foreign degrees have done for you

In the twilight you might be blinded
But you will be asked about your blindness
You will be asked about your affectedness
You will be asked about your greed
When the world was dying of hunger

You will be questioned for your neutrality
What use will it be of, anyway, in the liberty’s new days?
Still you will be asked all the time
For seeking your mere opportunities
For building your hopeless boundaries; like why, how

On that day there will be no poor or rich
No black, no brown, no white, no yellow but people
Only people but you will be asked
About conditions you know of your wonderful world
Those that you think made your world wonderful

But these will not be asked:
The name of your country, the name of your race
Your languages, your gods and goddesses
Your bank accounts, your properties
But you will be asked so many other things

October Haiku: Political Animals

I have been studying the traits and dispositions of the lower animals (so called) and contrasting them with the traits and dispositions of man. I find the result humiliating to me.

Mark Twain
, Letters from the Earth


One dark horse rises
News: The leader has arrived
From the puke-filled pit

The pigs grunt and the lions
They squeak like the rats
—Those in my hometown

The dogs eat shits and
The more the shits, the more the
Panic and police

Night, we need a light
Like Ibobi needs to beg
Like baboons need meat

Aspirations lie
Like a fly ‘over’ the wall;
Bomb the State Building

Remember last year
The small fish were caught for fraud,
Big fish built a fort

The buffalo stole
The helmet of the army
The cows shat on it

The Stimuli of Manipuri ‘Lawai’

characteristic of belonging to a village or being rustic; (of people) not behaving in an acceptable manner or not in accordance with social or moral standards
(Text source: The Imphal Urban Concise Dictionary)

A unique bigotry exists in Manipur between the urban and rural people, or specifically, that are employed by the urban dwellers to show their pride. It will be too generalised a statement that all the people indulge or suffer from this absurd categorisation of people albeit it is true that it is deeply ingrained in the psyche of the people belonging to both the sides.

One thing that staying away from my hometown has taught me is the lack of prejudice on the Imphal–lawai issues. Nonethless, I’d presume that only a few adolescents from the rural areas of Manipur might suffer, if any, the inferiority complex but I have been proven wrong. In fact, I’m surprised to find that, nowhere but in a metropolitan city, even university professors, journalists and professionals from the field of art and culture are suffering from this syndrome.

We are so used to the saying that lawai doesn’t depend on the place of belonging but on the mentality of an individual. Yet, we can see it’s just a statement popularised by kind-hearted liberals from the leirak-khullak of Imphal or possibly as a sort of defence mechanism by those shy souls who are a bit low on self-esteem.

Only a psychologist would be able to explain the nitty-gritty of this concept of feeling inferior, or even superior, on the individual level and perhaps a sociologist could explain when the issue emerges at a societal level. Generally, from common sense, we can say that it is a result of a personal idea of inadequacy or worthlessness, which can be either real or imagined.

With memories from growing up in an urban area in the Imphal valley, I would want to prove its futility but not for the sake of patronising with the people from Moirang, Kakching and elsewhere. Futile, because there are more profound issues in the hinterland that we want to glorify as home.

When the entire land is consumed with madness and violence, and more madness and violence, it will be too fanciful to divide groups of people according to the presence of a paddy field or shacks and shops in the vicinity—for many groups of Imphal-dwelling mortals suffer from bigotry to consider those supposedly lesser mortals that live near fields and farms are the ‘lawai’ people.

Once there was an elderly guy in my locality. He would say in ‘villages’, everybody can identify anybody as ‘his/her sister’s son’s son’, ‘his/her father’s brother’s wife’s uncle’, ‘his/her brother’s mother’s-in-law aunt’ and so on and so forth. With a big Imphal ego, he had completely missed a fact. For instance, whenever there is an elopement, and suppose, you are related to the would-be groom then it is almost a customary to ask ‘whose’ daughter is the would-be bride. The case is no different when you are related to the would-be bride’s family.

This routine exists on a larger scale, again, at the societal level. In any field, any issue or in any ‘news’, it is not hard to find the identity of an individual or his/her family, provided of course you are not a rebel wearing the mask of a contractor or a contactor with the mask of a rebel and their ilk. Imphal is a kind of suburb or a sort of shanty town or an urban village where people have relatively the least civic sense. It is a city merely for namesake. We can take reference from the popular Internet meme—often attributed to Edward Abbey, the American writer: ‘Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.’ Nothing describes Imphal better than this.

Everything is almost equal and a conservative society like ours makes it even more equivalent. Anyway, what are the social or moral standards in a society, which measures its level of morality from the warmness of condoms found in chowmein stalls that are as well a favourite place for young lovers and others to have a date? It sounds seedy as hell but the reality is even more pathetic.

Physically, the difference is palpable or it is the only marker of the urban and the rural in Manipur. Here, it will be blasphemous in Imphal to refer to town planners, who elsewhere in the world are measuring data from population census, competency of the responsible agencies, on-the-field assessment and several other socio-economic factors to determine these two divisions of a city and a village.

However, in our paradise, the master planners and their departments are non-operational (MAHUD defunct, admits Ibobi, The Sangai Express) while the officials are busy tampering records and getting fake documents for submission in the competition for the cleanest ghetto in the national cleanliness campaigns. Add to this farce, the recurring issues of traffic jam and lack of parking space in such a literally small town like Imphal where the town management is supposed to be ‘unproblematic’ if we go by its size or dimension in these days of global village.

Coming back to the point, we can see that even Okram Ibobi, as the ultimate role model from Thoubal, has been serving as a chief minister!

Psychologists could counsel about the pros and cons of inferiority complex—and yes, there are both merits and demerits albeit the latter affects deeper. In other words, if you are quite pretty or beautiful and if you consider yourself ugly, you are either modest or you need to build your confidence. If you are ugly and you know you are ugly, well, the world does not care about your ugliness. So either ways, it does not matter but your principles about life.

So professors and artists, you don’t have to be from Imphal to be a good professor or a renowned artist. To conclude, when it comes to Manipur, the negative feeling arising out from the Imphal–lawai dichotomy is meaningless and only as good as those sunflower seeds—exported from Burma—that are one year beyond their sell-by dates.

Man, Society, and Freedom by Mikhail Bakunin

Mikhail Bakunin, in full Mikhail Aleksandrovich Bakunin (30 May 1814, Russia—1 July 1876, Bern, Switzerland) was a chief propagator of 19th-century anarchism, a prominent Russian revolutionary agitator, and a prolific political writer. His quarrel with Karl Marx split the anarchist and Marxist wings of the revolutionary socialist movement for many years after their deaths. [Text from Encyclopædia Britannica. Read more writings by Bakunin on Marxists Internet Archive]

Manipuri Society and Its Art & Culture: Contemplation of a Victim Artist By Heisnam Kanhailal

This text—from the lecture at the 4th Dr Thingnam Kishan Memorial Lecture held at the Hotel Imphal on 30 June 2013—is translated from Meiteilon for the Dr Thingnam Kishan Foundation by Homen Thangjam and Senate Khuraijam.

Page composed for this blog.

The National Blues

On this Black Day of Manipur, the 15th of October, have we forgotten that it is mandatory to take a political stand to rise above the nothingness of a land that we belong to?

Observed Black Day, boycott Congress Party: Maoist

Imphal, 14 Oct 2016: The Maoist Communist Party Manipur...appeal to the people of Manipur to observe October 15 as [the] Black Day in protest against Indian Expansionism, said a statement of the outfit.

It said the direct colonial and semi-feudal system of the British colonialist was replaced by the Indian colonialism...under the control and exploitation in the name of democracy and Congress is one of the chief instruments for the colonial exploitation and control over Manipur. On this Black Day, [the] Maoist Communist Party Manipur would like to appeal the people of Manipur to boycott [the] Congress [p]arty in Manipur, it said.
Source: The Imphal Free Press

On this day in 1949, the 15th of October, Manipur was hurled into a pit of tragedy in its modern history when it was forcibly merged to the Union of India. What remains today are the rituals of sponsoring general strikes by insurgent organisations and the delight of laid-back people for getting an ‘unofficially’ official holiday.

Now the natives are also sharply divided into two groups: those who want to retain the status quo and those who believe the amendments of blunders in the years and decades gone by can bring a positive change. On hindsight, such a statement of taking a political stand might appear sensational but it’s not what it looks like.

We can start with the latest propaganda by the Maoist Communist Party Manipur that declares ‘October 15 as [the] Black Day in protest against Indian Expansionism’. The story began in the early 1990s. Nevertheless, the position is still amazing but we need not go far to see the bigger picture. In the same press release, the MCP appeals that ‘the people of Manipur [should] boycott the [Indian National] Congress [P]arty in Manipur’.

Regardless of the best of reasons why a single party has been singled out, this kind of myopia is more dangerous than the onslaught of neo-colonialism. Alternatively, it seems the MCP would support the more extreme Indian political party, the BJP, intentionally or not.

Every revolution evaporates and leaves behind only the slime of a new bureaucracy.
Franz Kafka

We cannot help but ask if the BJP has the power to make a successful revolution, because in the 2012 Assembly Election too, an umbrella organisation of the militants—called the Coordination Committee (CorCom), which comprises six groups: the Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP), Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL), People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK), the Progressive faction of PREPAK (PREPAK-Pro), the Revolutionary People’s Front (RPF) and the United National Liberation Front (UNLF)—had boycotted this party, though it won by a majority and presently it is the incumbent government.

In other words, if the ruling party in the state corresponds to that of the Union, then does it imply more contract works? Or is it altogether different and the groups of militants who run a parallel government have a conflict of interest with the legal government? We have also seen the present chief minister had contributed crores of rupees for ‘revolution’.

First of all, if an organisation like the Maoist Communist Party Manipur is trying to make intervention into the present political milieu by either accepting or refusing, then it is no different from the political parties existing in the system. Such an action also implies that it accepts the legitimacy of the government that it is supposedly fighting against. Acceptance means acceptance, period.

No wonder, we will protest against the AFSPA but we join the police service in droves; and not even a single soul would endorse murder and corruption though these issues have become our collective motif; and the list goes on.

In this regard, it is pertinent to note that the draconian Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act is imposed in Kashmir but the resistance groups in this land do not give a hoot about a law imposed by its antagonist, read India. All they care for is freedom though the mainland jingoism would reduce it to a pro-Pakistani stand.

Again, besides the unintentional acceptance, another glaring result of this incoherency is the political dumbness of the natives in Manipur. We will give a thousand reasons why we would take part in elections and an equal number of reasons when we vilify India, mostly on the issues of racial discrimination that we face in the mainland and the indifference of the Indian authority.

But we never understand the significance of taking a position. There is nothing to be proud of, when we are told that we belong neither here nor there—and unfortunately that’s where we are. In fact the kind of deliberation in this write-up can be equated to building castles in the air as it has nothing to do with the ground realities, which allegedly dictate the realpolitik, but in any case it tells a lot about us as a people.

When those in the frontline of resistance starts accepting the existing authority, by banning a certain political party or by jumping into the bandwagon of supporters of ILP and ST issues, there is nothing left of the over-glorified ‘yawol-eehou’. As popular sentiments go, it has become just another source of livelihood and a sort of trade and business for the revolutionary contractors and businesspeople.

It is no wonder then that snobbish university professors would declare in front of the whole world about their friendship with the army personnel; leave alone speak about the military base inside a university campus, in a land where there has been a process of Indian heavy militarisation. Why, because we are a frontier and we are simply so essential to be the face of geopolitics in the region. We are a fancy geostrategic land; and we are not humans. At least, that’s how the six-odd decades of being in a nation has shown us year in and year out.

As long as we are a society, our destiny depends on us. No Modi or Gandhi would ever come to cure our collective sickness. For the sake of preaching, taking an informed stand will solve half of the problems, whether we are okay to retain the existing political establishment or we need a fresh foundation; but it is extremely crucial that we do take a stand.

Otherwise, we are on our own; and as we can see, even those individuals and groups who are fighting on our behalf have lost their ways and started banning political parties. It’s time to re-read our collective narratives that unfolded in the late 1940s; and the sooner we do, the better it will be for all of us.

10 Books That Can Be Badly Explained In One Sentence

Inspired by a hashtag #ExplainAFilmPlotBadly on Twitter and elsewhere, this graphic series is a one step away from the films and comprises 10 popular novels that can be explained in one bad-ass sentence. Here you go, the uninvited one-liners:

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