KAPIL ARAMBAM • In Pursuit of Freedom •

A Declaration of Death

I’d desist from going to the municipal corporation to get a death certificate
I’d desist from going to a newspaper office to publish my own obituary

Get no sorat for me
Get no firoy for me

I’m dead
I live no more

A bit of this remains
A bit of that

I can see life no more
I cannot even see my own death

My consciousness for you is down the Imphal
My consciousness wouldn’t even flow down the Loktak

The people I love and the people I respect and the people around me and the people that I know and the people I don’t know and the people everywhere are a people no more
The people have died with my own death, and all the love and all the respect and all the folks and all the strangers and all the unseen people have died with my own death

See no love
See no respect

Only ghost
I only see my ghost now.

Manipur Merger Agreement 1949 (Full Text)

Manipur was annexed to the Union of India in 1949. All along the Government of India stays adamant that the decades-old armed movement as a law and order situation, as an internal affair that should be controlled and abolished. It is amazing how a colonised people can become a coloniser just after the departure of the original colonialists. In the brouhaha, a lot of natives, with their indecision about taking a political stand on an individual level, annd the ethnic animosity and ceaseless social unrests on a societal level have been utilised optimally by those who are involved in the glorious project of Indian nation-building processes. But the truth cannot be hidden, as in we cannot fool all the people all the time. If India has the gut to admit its ignorance and arrogance, things would have been quite different; or maybe not, but as of now we are living in one of the darkest periods of history. Anyway, the following is the complete text of the Manipur Merger Agreement 1949 that was, with or without legitimacy, signed by a former king of Manipur, while he was kept under house arrest in Shillong.   

A Nihilist’s Nightmare: The Personal Is Professional

Thoughts on being too professional to be political

The battle cry of The Personal is Political was conceived during the heydays of student movements and feminism in the hippy-istic Sixties in the West. Far away from that epicentre, in the hinterland of Manipur, the inventive Meiteis have not only appropriated the term but also rephrased it: the personal is professional. Belonging to another epicentre of armed conflict, ironically, the people in this region are war-weary from the ceaseless armed movements for the right to self-determination and hence the transformation of the political into the professional. I wish this reason was logical. Everything’s got a reason but not every reason is logical.

I talked to a friend in the morning. We were talking about a recent ‘cultural bomb’ that an acclaimed filmmaker, Aribam Syam, had literally dropped at the Government House in the Imphal valley, after a representative-resident of the union, nationally called the governor, teased a few art and culture experts a few days back. Briefly, like the governor said indirectly he is a monkey with a coconut and the others are just monkeys with nothing. So the filmmaker had written a polite open letter and that was the reason that the governor is going to be replaced by another saviour from the centre. That was the breaking news without any views but again it proved to be false.

An idea about the representatives of a slave society came immediately—like, if we ever have a group of master-slaves (not slave masters): Chief Minister Okram Ibobi will held the post of politics, finance and domestic affairs; Aribam Syam will handle arts and culture; MLAs whoever deceived the people in the best ways and won the latter’s hearts will hold the various national posts; while the leaders of existing armed groups will take up the defence posts. 

Later in the day, official reports show the cultured governor V Shanmuganathan is not the only governor who is going to be removed and replaced. On a single day, the government has announced four new colonial political agents aka governors and Shanmuganathan turned out to be just a part-time sub living like a moron in Imphal. By the way, a former union minister and BJP disciple, Najma Heptulla, will be the new resident of the Government House.

Albeit there are more reasons to doubt—not only of the present but way back in our past as well—because that’s always has been the monkey business of India in Manipur.

Remember when India successfully annexed Manipur on 15 October 1949, with no delay, a military office by the name of Rawal Amar Singh took over as the chief commissioner of the newly ‘merged’ kingdom turned a Part C state. As always like a true Indian, Mr RA Singh the Haughty Man offended the then king, and the latter complained to the newly found master. The chief commissioner was removed promptly because then it was just the birth of a prospective neo-colonial power—while reminding us of the transfer of these aforementioned governors by the present Hindu right-wing organisation, which is the incumbent ruling party at the Centre. 

Apolitical ‘Resistors’

So one moment, we have almost selected Aribam Syam as the head of arts and culture and in the next we were back to square one. But this was not unexpected. In a region where political consciousness is only as high as marijuana and poppy plants, we have been fortunately spared from the shock.

Suppose that Aribam Syam wants to take a political stance and provided he does have the power, never has this old-timer spoken on the countless public issues in the conflict-ridden territory. No wonder some observers came down heavily, after he wrote the ‘love’ letter, that the filmmaker has been too professional to see the politics. Perhaps he is the real artist and his responsibility is to make films so why bother about conflict resolution, armed rebellions, ethnic hostilities, deep-rooted institutionalisation of crime and corruption, ILP issues and what not. Aribam Syam, meanwhile, becomes the epitome of a professional. Hail art for fart’s sake!

It is even more ordinary if we talk about his line of art. Filmmakers—call them cameramen or apolitical resistors—in this hinterland would make films about the draconian Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and then take awards from any president of India, who is also the Supreme Commander of the Indian Armed Forces. Expect this kind of political hollowness only from a ‘people’ who lead a slave society. We will not disappoint you!

Wanted Alive—Nope, Unsure

Then I had a chat with one of my uncles in the evening. He repeated a very promising line, though in a different expression, which my friend had uttered about the story of the Indian political agent in the morning.

One, Aribam Syam is very professional to speak about anything still it is good that he did speak out—that was my friend speaking. Two, my uncle told me that we are going nowhere, our future is bleak, we have no conception of our past or the future—but—but it is worthy that a leader’s name of a civil society organisation has been deleted from the ‘wanted tag’ put up by the state police. His contention is that it is a victory for the people. Victory…people…? I wish I possess the optimism like that of my friends and families!

It is ridiculous to even make a start here. From a single Facebook post, the Manipur Police announced that this leader, Khomdram Ratan had connection with the proscribed United National Liberation Front, declared him an absconder and even announced a cash reward to anyone who can tell about his whereabouts. Farcically, the Facebook post was a morphed photo and posted by a cadre of another armed organisation! With no delay, lawyers and legal experts had called the police department ‘an organisation of uneducated people’ for flouting all the rules in the book to nab an alleged absconder. The High Court, for whatever it is powerful, had also sought clarification from the provincial government on the issue.

Incidentally, it is only under the four corners of a house that people would talk about how the government can always ‘tame’ the JACs, curfew-sponsors, student organisations and CSOs with a little bit of incentives. Alternatively, money talks everywhere but in our hometown it screams.    

Bottom Line

We have deeply rooted students’ movements and women’s fight [rather than feminists’ issues] like elsewhere but we are so far from getting political emancipation. This is regardless of the fact that one of the most active student organisations, the All Manipur Students’ Union was formed in 1965, three years before the popular outbreak in France.

It is, again, no surprise that the political is professional now. To take another example, look at some of the concerns of the activists who claim to be self-styled leaders but who can never get rid of their victimisation syndrome. To put it in another way, in religion, emotion can play a primary role but in politics, it is only asking for free cocks and pussies and remaining loyal to the power that be, as long as one is getting access to these free stuffs. You know, activists are also professional.

In a ‘cultured’ world, ‘cultured’ people say we need to be diplomatic but everyone neither wants to fake orgasm nor everybody is a fan of realpolitik. Anyway, the universe is so relative and we can be anything we want and even truer so, in a land of a thousand career activists and politicians. Seemingly, in a ‘cultured’ world, what count is the ‘cultural’ articulation of a master slave like Aribam Syam but the ‘political’ is too risky to take up as a ‘political’ endeavour.

The personal is political when we are aware of politics that governs our life. But obviously this is too hard to digest and thus our ‘personal’ is our ‘professional’ now—and to hell with the ‘political’. Even if you do not work for the government, people care about it because at the end of the day, life depends on how the masters see us. This is a nightmare of this new millennium when ‘everything is nothing’.

The Bourne Bust

The newly released Jason Bourne has taught me one thing: your favourite team does not win the match all the time. After watching the first three original adaptations a dozen times each, the number has reduced to a half with The Bourne Legacy. In the latest avatar I almost dozed off at the cinema. The latest film is like a repetition of Ultimatum, but without any additional story. In ‘Part 4’, Treadstone was over, only to be reintroduced in here. Besides, the anti-hero, Jason Bourne, still remains an experimentally failed man but who still possesses the métier to bring down all the bad guys.

The only new ‘twist’ is Bourne realising, after partly discovering himself, that his father was also CIA operative who was killed in the line of duty. A modern touch has been also added on the line of Wikileaks but it hardly adds to the substance of the movie. To cut it short, Jason Bourne will be good if you watch it after forgetting entirely about the three originals. The latest version is directed by Paul Greengrass, who co-wrote the screenplay with Christopher Rouse. Finally, with underdeveloped characters and a messy storyline, Jason Bourne only reminds of another film Hangover (2009) that was so good in the first part but its sequels were watchable only when you are too lazy to do anything. The uninspiring conclusion only makes the film a just-watch-it-once kind.

Trivia of the day: There are 13 Bourne novels in total, out of which three were written by Robert Ludlum and the others by Eric Van Lustbader, who ‘writes under a brand name’. It is too hard to digest the concept of ‘writing under a brand name’ but then we lived in a globalised consumerist society.


My first Robert Ludlum’s novel was The Janson Directive (2002). Those were the days of Mario Puzos, PG Wodehouses and Frederick Forsyths. But nowadays fiction has been off my shelves except once in a while and I prefer non-fiction to other genres. Some of the few fiction paperbacks that I have bought to enhance my tsundoku-moments would stare at me, almost screaming in silence but in this age of extreme distraction I can easily ignore them. My neglect of fiction must be the reason I didn’t know about other Bourne novels, apart from the three ‘originals’ and The Bourne Legacy.

In childhood days, we were used to a term ‘part’ that denotes the sequel of a film: such as Rambo Part Two, Terminator Part One and Naapi Marakki Huithi Part Three. Now we have franchises.


Out of his 27 novels, Ludlum had three Bourne novels:

1.    The Bourne Identity    (1980)
2.    The Bourne Supremacy (1986)
3.    The Bourne Ultimatum (1990)

The remaining were written under the Ludlum™ brand by Eric Van Lustbader. 

4.    The Bourne Legacy (2004)
5.    The Bourne Betrayal (2007)
6.    The Bourne Sanction (2008)
7.    The Bourne Deception (2009)
8.    The Bourne Objective (2010)
9.    The Bourne Dominion (2011)
10.  The Bourne Imperative (2012)
11.  The Bourne Retribution (2013)
12.  The Bourne Ascendancy (2014)
13.  The Bourne Enigma (2016)

The Artist

A translation of Ratan Thiyam’s Kalakar—the original poem in Manipuri is from his anthology Mangkhraba Sahargi Loikhraba Wari (The Concluded Tales of a Ghost Town), which was first published in June 2014

He’s the artist par excellence
He’s as always invited to every function
Admired, respected and what not
Call some people to talk
Let them discuss about his greatness
He’s the artist par excellence
The pride of the land
He belongs to this tiny land
Talk about what has become of him, etc.

With such a ‘burden’ of admiration and recognition
The artist was on his way back home
Just as he reached home he remembered
Rice and cooking oil to buy, and debts
School fees for his children, their school uniform
Their shoes and all that he needed to pay for
In the maze was the mother, in misery
—His name and recognition were getting blurred
For the loss of words it was a shock.

Once at the construction site of a big government house
I thought it was a familiar face and had approached the man
He was wearing an old and torn plastic shoe
A second-hand trousers folded up
An equally worn-out, checked khudei over his head
He was carrying a few bricks over his head
With teary narrow eyes he looked at me
He said:
I have stopped singing.


  • khudei   a loincloth for men worn by Meitei males; it is also used as a towel or a headdress
  • Check the translation of another poem by Ratan Thiyam: On Reading

Of the Governor’s ‘Calendar’ Wishes

The governor has a calendar
The governor has a sleek calendar
The governor has the most beautiful calendar
In front he would sit, lost in thought
Pixel-perfect images of rowing by the Loktak
And fresh and misty mountains and tribal art
The fluorescent highlighter in his hand screams:
‘Hail the fests! Revel in the best of this hinterland!’

Bewildered by the holler of the highlighter he colours
August 10 brightly
He wishes:
‘August 10 is the Independence Day
This sovereign, socialist, secular
And democratic republic
It has made strides
It has made progress
My wishes go to all the people
Old, young, brainwashable and unbrainwashable
Men, women, children, pimps, robbers and morons
On this auspicious day
Let the nation be free forever.’

A suited and booted attendant politely turns down
It’s five days to the World General Strike Day, aka
The Indian Independence Day.

Innocently the governor admits his forgetfulness and stares
Into the lines and boxes separating the days and weeks
And two days later it is the Varalakshmi Vratam
So one day earlier it was published
On this sacred day of VV the governor wishes
On newspapers’ brief news columns:
Happiness for the people
Prosperity of the land
Peace out, everybody!

The suited and booted attendant runs in
Swearing by the books on general knowledge he read
In this land the people celebrate no such fest
It’s only held in southern part of the kingdom
That’s like step-father Gandhi preaching about jihad;
Twice bitten and twice shy
The governor calls up the king of the land
He has convinced the latter a new calendar is urgently needed.


What a coincidence! Two days after posting this poem, noted filmmaker Aribam Syam had written an open letter to V Shanmuganathan, the governor of Manipur on 14 August. According to The Wire, it was written ‘in the aftermath of a public event in Imphal, described by the author, where Shanmuganathan asked an audience that consisted of Manipur’s top cultural personalities to write about the “meaning of culture” in 100 words in exchange for the promise of tea at the governor’s residence.’ (Source: One Hundred Words: How Manipur’s Governor Insulted the Culture of the Manipuris)

Mr V Shanmuganathan had made the foolish challenge at the inauguration ceremony of the University of Culture and Manipur State Film and Television Institute on 12 August. It is one of the ceaseless cases of India’s ignorance fueled with arrogance—just this time it happens to be one including a moronic governor who held a paradoxically respectable post. If we go by the views of journalists and professors in Manipur, besides being an RSS ideologue, he is also notorious for his moronic behaviour. He has as well reminded that he is living in the Government House, a heritage site from where he needs to be vacated elsewhere. Twelve years ago, the Assam Rifles had been kicked out from the Kangla Fort, which is situated just opposite to this residence. Meanwhile, the air of neocolonialism is blowing breezily.

in brief: excretory irony in the imphal valley

a man was shot point blank
however he lives
as if Death was fed up of
all the excretion

a woman presents us
her artful design
but too verdant for deserts
all just excretion

The Asians of Lesser Gods

On an illegitimate comparison of the Asian entire races by a racist

Anytime you see someone more successful than you are, they are doing something you aren’t.
Malcolm X

After the Chinese invented gunpowder in the 9th century, it took another six hundred years to reach the then Asiatic kingdom of Manipur, formerly known by several other non-Sanskritised names. If we talk about nomenclature, China was known by different names throughout its long and rich history: Chixian Shenzhou is considered to be the oldest; then it was also called Hua and Xia in different times. On the other hand, for Manipur, we also have, amongst others, Kangleipak, Tillikoktong and Poireilam. At first glance, this might look like a comparison of greatness of this province, now in the Union of India, with China, but the intention is just the opposite.

The purpose is to see some of the basic differences between the various Asians: some of them like the Chinese, Southern Koreans and Japanese are living, competing and excelling in the global level while others like the Burmese, Laotians and Cambodians are just tagging along in this supposedly globalised world. Here, we cannot insert India even if it boasts of a chiefly Mongoloid territory called the Northeast. As a matter of fact, we cannot refer to India because of several reasons: it is under the supremacy of people with pointed noses and big eyes; it is South Asia while the NE is pretty much a part of Southeast Asia if we consider the geographical, cultural, historical and other factors. Who did the cartographical crime, it’s never clear, as obvious from the armed struggle between the Union of India and resistance led by the elites of groups residing in the NE—but what’s clear is that we have been putting up with these geographical felony.

This is quite a tragedy for the people in the Northeast. It is too ‘west’ to be Southeast Asia while it is too ‘east’ and different for India to represent it. What’s more, the people does not matter in mainstream politics and socioeconomic issues—what matters is just the territory, as a frontier with people who it can wage a secret war and still go to world forums to declare itself as the largest democracy, while never admitting it is just sheer population that makes it the number one democracy. No surprise, democracy is just about numbers while other elements, such as one people’s fight for a life of dignity are just a sideshow.


Coming back to the topics, the Chinese are known for their innovations and inventions regardless of the scorn for its low-quality shits. They can also exert their identity and power merely from its cuisines (烹饪). To cite another example, its alternative medicines are quite a hit across the world. What do we have?—we don’t even have the sovereignty that defines us a particular people while—leave alone the political positions. In this context, kangsoi and iromba are too bland to make a mark.   

Next on the list are the Japanese, who are famous equally for their electronics and high technology as well as for their traditional values. Let’s not start with their Maglev trains and mangas (漫画). We can safely assume that they know where they came from and where they are heading to. Juxtapose this with the condition of one of the Manipuris’ neighbours: the ethnic groups of Burmese that are occupied with nothing but fighting against unjust and high-handed authority and social decadence arising out of multiple issues ranging from unabated conflicts to drug smuggling. By the way, it is still too early to talk about its democratic transformation.

Likewise, to put it directly, the Southern Koreans are famous for their pop culture as much as they are in technological advancement. If you want a plastic surgery; wait no further but just fly to Seoul. If you can afford such a surgery, it is hoped that you can as well book a flight ticket. For everything that they have not done or illogical to do, others are making it up for them—and more significantly, so perfectly. To understand this phenomenon, consider the youth in the Imphal valley. Inspired by Arirang (아리랑) and obsessed with global consumerism trends, these young fellows look more like Korean paupers who need to register for financial support from the Welfare Ministry.

Referring to other more developed Southeast Asian people will only made these statements lengthy. Overall, these matters remind us of Winston Churchill’s quip that attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.

Unfortunately, our attitude is fashioned by our dependency on others, as evident from that of the government of Manipur, which survives on grants and alms from the Union. The comparison is not fair but we cannot ignore the fact the Asians are markedly differentiated into two groups: one of the victors and the other of the vanquished, but not necessarily being the antagonists; plus one of the success and the other of the utter failure. The inequality is louder than gunshots, apparently which the Chinese had invented an eternity ago. Knowing the difference can be of some help to amend the qualities of the Asians of lesser gods in this part of the world.



Breaking news:
Irom Sharmila breaks fast with honey

9 Aug 2016, Imphal: Irom Sharmila has ended her hunger strike against the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act today after sixteen long years of nose-feeding and controversies and bricks and bouquets and the personal-is-political narratives. There will always be support for her—her adherents are spread all over the world but the issue is more important than the personality. The ideas will live on even if she disappears into the maze of electoral politics and gets carried away by the deceit of the establishment. Incidentally, India has shown us that there is no space for peaceful protest. Let a hundred military democracies bloom; let a hundred schools of gunmen and armymen and rebels contend!

On Reading

A translation of noted theatre personality, Ratan Thiyam’s Lairik Ouraibathe original poem in Manipuri is from his anthology Mangkhraba Sahargi Loikhraba Wari that was first published in June 2014

The lazy boy he was alone
He was asked to read his books, unassisted, alone
With a boatload of books
And there he was reading his books
Waiting for time.
He flunked his exam
And he was blamed for his failure
And he became a brat
Indocile he was—
He became a low life in the locality
And he was blamed again for the blunder
The police were called to catch him
The police locked him up in the prison
And the police were bribed to get the boy out
Such a lazy boy, he was alone
He was asked to read his books, unassisted, alone
But he was never, never taught;
The boy made a run for it
And on the road a vehicle ran over him,
A whole society was admitted to a hospital.

Manipur State Constitution Act, 1947

Truth be told, the Manipur State Constitution Act, 1947 is a piece of shit. Less than two years after it was formulated, the Indian supremacists, just after the British left, overtook the region called South Asia and parts of western Southeast Asia. There had been dissent, as we know from the formation of the then new nation-states of Pakistan and Bangladesh but fortunately India had successfully merged the kingdoms of Manipur and Tripura and others into the union. Before we glorify the Indian nation, which is still a WIP business, here is a the text of a Constitution of an Asiatic kingdom, one of its first kinds, which lost its legitimacy even before a fat, foolish king and his subjects knew about it.

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