Amerikan Thinking, Manipuri Living

I should have been born in the USA. I love every bloody Amerikan rock n' roll bands; I would lose myself in reading Ginsberg's poems, Thoreau's essays and watching CNN. Most of the time I do the thinking in Manipuri, my mother tongue; but sometimes, I also think like an Amerikan in broken English. My girlfriend is also in Amerika; perhaps, you know her. Sharon Stone. I should have been living in Amerika.

But I cannot help and was born in Manipur. Is it fair nobody has the chance to know where to get born in this big bad world? I don't think so, and unfortunately, I have been also living here. Naturally, it is not hard to admit I have a very critical attitude towards anything, everything here, especially in my hometown, Imphal. The fact that I was born here though I wanted to be born there, is definitely not the reason — for my critical attitude in my own submission, which could be sheer pessimism in other's opinion. I do have other reasons for my sickness with yearning for a better place to live in. Amerika is just a poor excuse.

Amerikan Thinking, Manipuri Living © Kapil Arambam
Inside the Kangla Fort, Imphal
   FIRESTARTERS      How can you expect to find someone light and glowing with optimism when load-shedding is a way of life? Electricity is a luxury here. You heard me right; I didn't mention Armani or Audi, but electricity. We are lucky if we get electricity for five hours a day. Last week, there was a news report about the power department, which was blamed for selling illegal energy to other states. The scam is pegged at four crore rupees by Naharolgi Thoudang, a vernacular daily in their exclusive report.

This is another great way of a Manipuri life. Taking and giving bribe is our hobby. But I would rather be a guard in Amerika like in Baywatch than pay kickback for a job (so what if there is no other way to get the scarcely available government jobs) in this heavenly filthy place.

It is not all dark all black, though. Some months ago, the electricity department had started a pre-paid system to check the widespread illegal connection and rap the defaulters on their knuckles. The department might be having some other plans as well, at least we hope so. But where did I read that this same electricity department is also included in the list of defaulters?

Last month, the Chief Minister met the Union Power Minister in New Delhi. The CM had apprised the power minister that he enjoys regular power along with his herd of ministers at Babupura but that the people are really ballsed up. And I failed miserably in understanding a line on the next day's newspaper: Even though the power minister listened to Ibobi with keen interest, he gave no assurance. (The Sangai Express)

   PLEASE RETURN THE CHANGE      Good-hearted men, happy women, hardheaded folks might whine if I keep knocking the authority. I agree, in fact, I fully endorse that we are responsible to ourselves. We are to blame ourselves for this sorry state of affairs and this should mean there is a lesson for us to learn. But we will never learn to keep and use the coins. Where are all the coins and change hiding in Manipur? Where have they vanished?

Amerikan Thinking, Manipuri LivingAt the shop, how can you bloody give me candies for seven rupees because you don't have the change? Give me a small-size Gold Flake, a match box and a piece of that Eclairs. A few coins should not be the reason for my habitual jumping to conclusion, here regarding my view about the superficial bigheartedness of me and my tribesmen — who are ever ready to care not about the silly trifles and worthless coins. Caring about meagre, useless coins hurts our Amerikan-made egos. Besides, we are already bogged down by so many bigger problems like fighting for fatherlands and motherlands, right to live, right to basic amenities, and the Golden Triangle Proximity Syndrome and so on. But this mentality sucks!

   TARZAN’S DILEMMA       There is also a habit of overcharging, thanks to the frequent blockades and bandhs. Today morning, I went to buy a bottle of coke and the salesgirl was trying to sell it at 35 rupees – she said it is normally 30 rupees, though the MRP is 27 rupees. The five extra rupees was for the chilled bottle! When it comes to business, we are like a Tarzan with his hallmark naivety. Needless to say, the Gujaratis are running the show at the commercial centres in the valley and elsewhere. But there is one thing that is quite unique to this place. If someone starts a chicken centre, the local parlance for small stores selling chicken meats; half of his neighbours will start dealing in the same business. Currently, I saw there is a trend for tutorial centres. When I counted last evening, there are six different tutorial centres in my locality. Possibly any tutorial centre is good, because the prevailing lawless condition is affecting the schools and colleges very badly; but when it comes to Tarzan’s dilemma of following others, nothing can beat it.

What is wrong with the people? What is wrong with us? We are paralysed by the contradictions: Everything is possible and nothing is also possible, like peace is possible because peace exists but we cannot have it because we have no space for peace; we protest against AFSPA but we would pay 15 lakh rupees for a sub-inspector's post; we would continuously bash New Delhi yet in elections, we would readily go and cast our votes after a few shots of free drinks. The list goes on.

Amerikan Thinking, Manipuri Living   POINT OF SEDATION      Anytime I go out of my house, I always meet a friend or the other. Again this morning I met Iboyai on his bike, standing at the junction of our locality. He was thinking over which way to go and he looked worried. He had been there for fifteen minutes. The road would lead him to BOC where he will get a shot of heroin if he went straight and to the left road, to an NGO-run medical centre where he is taking a heroin-substitute medicine as a part of harm-reduction therapy. He would get the substitute drug for free, but it is kick-less, just too easily available and less exciting. So he went straight.

BOC is a neighbourhood synonymous with heroin and prostitutes. It is located so close to so many important places: the commando complex, the interstate bus parking, two major hotels in Imphal, the historic Kangla fort and others; but it will take some sort of a rocket science to understand why the place has been existing eternally and there has been no important crackdown so far.

There is another parameter that indicates the beauty of the town, already accentuated by BOC. Two things are really messing up the place: human rights' violation and drug abuse. These factors have made a huge blot: drug-related NGOs are mushrooming at a rate only the NGOs dealing with human rights abuse in the hills and the valley can challenge. No wonder, ours is a land where morality is measured by the warmness of condoms found in seedy restaurants during raids by the moral police.

We are also a dry state but half of the youth in the Imphal town are available in the evening in the khun, at the drinking vendors. What's more, the best places to buy the imported whisky and beer are from the two police canteens, one of them which is just a stone's throw from BOC.

Amerikan Thinking, Manipuri Living

   ROAD RAGE      If drug is a killer, the roads are its partners in crime. Accidents, rash driving, speeding are another story of road rage we usually find elsewhere. Without elaboration, there have been sarcastic anecdotes of patients dying on the bumpy and hellish roads, just because the streets leading to one of the premiere hospitals in the Northeast, the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences, are not even spared. Right now there is not a single stretch of one-kilometre road which is free of caves, kettles and potholes. Terrible roads, irregular power and water supply, gutless administration. Pathetic infrastructure. As pathetic as me. As pathetic as the people.

Two negatives make a positive only in Mathematics. With all the negatives plaguing the state, it is easy to infer why it took years to complete any developmental work. Even the Amerikan thinking is of little help because most of the time we are only trying to imitate their superficial triviality, without the substance. Oversimplification might aggravate the problems we are facing in this land, still we are in a position in which everything can be negated because nothing is working. Questioning ourselves should be our first step in the collective journey towards peace and prosperity. If not, I’m going to apply for my passport. I’ll be going to Amerika.

Note: The animations are sourced from


Facebook Insight Recently I started sending direct invitation to my Facebook contacts about the page of this blog, which has resulted in more likes, no matter how much the likers are following my writing. I’m delighted to share with my friends that the graph shows a sudden jump in the number of people talking about this (4400%) and the weekly total reach (2386%). One satisfaction that we get from blogging is that people are reading our write-ups. The quality of the writing and how much our writing is affecting the readers are totally different things.

Facebook Insight - June 24 - Kapil Arambam




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