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Imphal War Cemetery Blues

What we wish is not what we see
What we see is not what we hear
What we hear is not what it is
What it is, is not what we wish

We wish to go to the cemetery
And be the part of a foreign land
Yet we see that nothing could be more ridiculous
We can hear here, of all the world, the absurdity so bare
Tho’ it is but a reality, which we wish not.  

Imphal War Cemetery Blues

No more third-grade poetry      We use Facebook, listen to Slayer and Kreator, have America and Korea right on our fingertips and can have the 21st -century lifestyle like any global citizen. We saw, as the world did last month, Felix Baumgartner doing a space jump — the best jump we can do is somersaulting at the rivers, lakes and ponds galore in our neighbourhood or figuratively, from a government to a robber. Suddenly we see we are a part of the whole world, identifying ourselves with the advance that others have made in this world. Yet it is a farce when it comes to reality in this corner of the world. One of the obvious examples is in having nowhere to hang out but at the World War II cemetery, located right in the heart of the Imphal town. Too hard for the kids!

Here, an architect’s comment is notable: ‘In any city, it is the proportion of the total urban area that can be set aside for temples, hospitals, schools, parks and police stations which is crucial. (Amenities matter, not size by Romi Khosla, Source: The Hindu http://goo.gl/YDQ6A)

Our sense of aesthetics is amazing. There are two cemeteries to be precise, the first one near North AOC and the other, a kilometer away at Hatta; and the former is fancier given its overall design and maintenance. So how is a cemetery related to 21st century?

Image from Commonwealth War Graves Commission (http://goo.gl/YjKSr)
Day in and out around the world, we can see people having fun at clubs and pubs and other happening joints. But when we look back in our hometown, the view is literally dark with very few things to see or to go for, for that matter. Life ends at 6PM. This directly takes us to the cemetery. Why it is so, we have thousands of reason that are best explained from the politics, economics, history and geography of this forbidden land.

From the rooster’s crow to the dog’s barking      Recounting what we did during those nostalgic school days, not the school playground but the lush ground of the cemetery, meticulously landscaped, comes to my mind.

We would bunk tuition and head to this haven as early as 5 in the morning. Most of the time, it was the weed that did the talking at the rendezvous, but it was not weed all the time. There was a temptation of this place that so many people found it hard to resist. Certainly the dead soldiers of the Allied Force in the WWII or their death marks are not appealing. But it looked as if there is an unseen power in those varieties of flowers that adorn each gravestone.

Imphal War Cemetery Blues
Image from Commonwealth War Graves Commission (http://goo.gl/YjKSr)
Many times, we had watched the full moon as we lied on the soft grass at this burial site. Time was not issue, contrarily only the daily visit was, as we did not mind if it was morning or evening. So in the morning we would leave all the filth of the town when the roosters crowed, crushing another tedious day to death and kill our time at this unseemly special place till the dogs play with the night in the streets, barking at the moon.

Zero mile syndromes (definition @ http://goo.gl/3lcrV)      No matter how far we have come from those days of troglodytes to these era of low-cost domestic flights, there is always an inertia in us. Laziness is our hallmark and the sociopolitical condition accentuates it. Travelling beyond the valley is out of the question, if not for the occasional group tours; and in the valley, life as mentioned ends at 6, giving us only few options. Then the cemetery arrives as a magic carpet to take us wherever our figment of imagination wishes to.

History class at the Shantiniketan of death      A couple of major encounters between the Allied and the Axis powers were fought in the Northeast region of present India. Imphal (see Battle of Imphal - http://goo.gl/CD1K0) and Kohima (Battle of Kohima - http://goo.gl/HbTD5) hold a special position in the history books of the war. A few main developments during those times elsewhere in the region included the march of INA led by Subash Chandra Bose in collaboration with the Japanese force and the hoisting of the Indian flag for the first time in Moirang, 43 kilometres away from Imphal.

You will, however, hardly find any literature on the war by the Manipuris or any other native people despite the significance, because we have always been morons all along, starting right from the then independence-era, pregnant king, who later gave birth to all nonsense of social revolution. By the way, his belly was protruding even after the childbirth (read Guilty Men of 1949 by Yambem Laba http://goo.gl/ZfPcc).

This does not mean a view of development from the perspective of the west. We know it better how advanced are we. The best description we have got is the nomenclature of Japan Lan, loosely translated as the war of the Japan, a term which defined a major chunk of modern Manipuri history.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (http://goo.gl/YjKSr), which looks after the maintenance of the Imphal War Cemetery, puts the figure at 1,600 burials . Perhaps here is a reason why the place attracts a lot of young people: it is a burial ground, closely related to death and closely related to our living conditions.

We are in love, by choice or compulsion, with death and are used to its whims and nudge. Well, we have nothing to do with history as long as we are happily gathered there; so are all the junkies and dopeheads. Craving and urges and addiction and all sorts of vice are too much in such a literally grave location, but are really not. Put a rest on the future history books that will feature in one paragraph, our entire generation and our despair and frailty and nothingness.

Conservative hypocrites      If we leave the lazy, unscrupulous bums to their own devices, then there are the lovebirds. Usually for us, it is a forbidden thing to go to a graveyard (we don’t have cemeteries but cremation grounds at the riverbanks); we believe taking a bath does cleanse us if we had gone there by mistake. After all we are a Hindu who eats beef and pork.

Imphal War Cemetery Blues
It is more to do with the conservative stuffs of a conventional society but the hypocrisy writs large as mostly school kids and undergraduates have made the war cemetery a lovers’ point.

Possibly their religious parents would have wept provided they know where their kids are going with whom. But we are like that only. The first thing we learn from our elders is that we have to bribe to get a job, to bribe to go our own way, to bribe to live a life, to bribe to earn a living, to bribe to fuck. Visiting the cemetery or not is too trifle to care about. Most of them are jerks who should be buried alive at the cemetery.

And no wonder, smoking grass, fixing heroin, getting drunk, getting high on Nitrosuns and Spasmoproxybons and Nitrazepams and Diazepams and Lobains are a part of life — while the war cemetery provides the ideal setting to indulge in these life-rescuing activities. Quiet a haven.

Footnote      Torn between ancient history and 21st century, there we are, indulging ourselves in ceaseless orgy at the cemetery. This is how we connect to the outside world with our perception of being in an advanced society. Besides there are teachers, administrators, rapists, engineers, doctors, prostitutes, contractors, murderers, police, army just like anywhere in the world but to hell with them. Global village is such a fancy word that we find appealing and have it like we own it. Take out the global craps; we are just village people who live in a strife-ridden town. Our epitaph for the entire generation should read like: All morons once divided, now united in death.



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