Sachin, a new inning

F i r s t   i n n i n g

This is a story of the days a long time ago. Inspired by one of the journals that my dear late father maintained, I had a habit of noting down the scorecard of every cricket match that India played. For more popular series, I scribbled all the scores and details on my self-binded diaries. (In school days, there were plenty of papers left unused from the school notebooks after the final examinations at the end of each year. I used to rip them off and made diaries out of these leftovers. I found another great use of these papers in making songbooks and other journals.)

    Beside the match scores, I used to save the details of every inning that Sachin Tendulkar played—runs he scored, number of balls he faced, his strike rate in a particular match, his overall stats and so forth.

    But it’s been around three years I have stopped watching cricket completely. I think it was when the 20-20 matches got going but 20-20 was not the reason why I turned myself away from the TV. I don’t know where that person in me who grew up playing and worshipping cricket has gone. It’s hard to believe the passion I had once for cricket had just vanished into thin air. I watched several test matches that last for five full days!  We participated in plenty of ‘tournaments’ in and around Imphal. I was in Class 9 when I organized a cricket tournament for children single handedly at our local playground. But the thrill is gone now. The 2011 World Cup is just around the corner but it seems I have already written its obituary. And I feel no sad.

S e c o n d   i n n i n g

This is now. Sachin Tendulkar got his name from Sachin Dev Burman, the legendary Bolywood music director. But a news on SD Burman quite disturbed me the other day. Just read that he was born to a Manipuri princess (who was married to a Bengali king from Tripura.) He was a musician par excellence—Ok, fine but what agitates me is the question on our roots that arises from a perceived, shared belief and a royal lineage.

    I have been firmly holding to my prejudice that we are different from the Hindus. Too arrogant and ignorant but I was born in a Hindu family with a Hindu name. (Please don’t tag me with a religion). I have also been brooking that our proselytization to this faith is one of the reasons why there is a big question on our identity today. And the resulting identity crisis wreaking havoc is common knowledge. But the news on SD Burman has evoked a new understanding of our society.

    Earlier the concept that the Shantidas Goswami-led missionary had hoodwinked the king of those days and had disarrayed the people’s thoughts made Hinduism so repulsive. Now it follows that the reality is as is: We are Hindus with thousands of ridiculous rites and rituals. Personal belief is another thing. I might go to a wedding wearing trousers, but it will create a rift if I wear it to my wedding. The harder I try to disconnect ourselves, the stronger the tie it is becoming. 

Seemingly there are also many people who are real Manipuris and real Hindus simultaneously. That’s what SD Burman covertly meant to me, though he was—in no way—a Manipuri.

    Yet we don’t live in monarchy anymore. Conversion is so easy but the change of ideology is not. That’s why this issue matters a lot. The rites and rituals mark our birth, continue till our death; and only a devoted priest, who chants Sanskrit in a Burmese accent, can count how many more we will have to take part in a lifetime. This womb-to-tomb brainwash helps connect us to an imagined Aryan narrative, while we do away with our roots, while we dig deeper down the religious and societal pits. There is also a rising tension between the valley dwellers and hills people in Manipur. It was not dirty politics, but religion that first sowed the seed for this social misadventure. 

Only a logical, positive leap of faith and holistic socioeconomic development, in fact, can get us rid of the problem now.

    There would be many Manipuris who I might put them off by my profane attack on their Hindu beliefs but I’m sure they will agree we were not in the Mahabharat. There was a Manipur in it, but it was the real Manipur located inside the mainland that was mentioned in the epic. Ours is a fake. Shakespeare’s wrong—there are so many things in a name. Time’s high, though, to go beyond the name and start a new inning for Manipur. Tabula rasa!

    The good news, which follows is that the choice is ours. The bad news is we are still caught in some primitive
—er, medieval-age— problems when people on other side of the world are mooting to send more animals to other planets. It is embarrassing that we are spending our time on this issue, but hopefully it is worth it. At the end of the day, we have to take the responsibility for ourselves: we have the freedom to create. And we have the freedom to destroy too.




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