Love and Hate Collide in Imphal

In a small, shanty town like Imphal, it is best to lower the expectations while planning to visit the places of interest. Beautiful, no doubt, but the people are repelling. I have a few other thoughtsother than just visiting and making impressions—of belonging and alienation. 


Hate's rushing in.
Image from the Anonymous Art of Revolution

The first uninterrupted 23 years of my life out there had fed me too many preconceptions as well as bare truths and lies. Now I’m away from home, yet in an annual ceremony of remembering home over the past seven years, a visit once a year has always been remarkable, not to exclude the excite-factor.

Each vacation does change our thought processes surprisingly. For instance, we used to think we can piss anywhere and we did piss on the walls fencing the Raj Bhavan, which houses the honourable, His Highness the governor. Like smaller stories that make a bigger story, the case is no different for this privileged government house. A case so worse happened once a few years ago, during a mass uprising, when a score of students were beaten up at the entrance by armed policemen. We have a form of democracy, where the military and the state forces share the same dais with the public. We have as well a sense of super-awareness.
We have a sense of super-awareness.
Image from the Anonymous Art of Revolution

Late 2013, I saw the entire walled area, running parallel to the Kangla Fort, has been barricaded with iron bars and rods. So no pissing anymore. Perhaps we can try it in some corners of Babupura, another VIP area, which is set a stone’s throw away from the Bhavan.

The Bald and the Beautiful

Life might be so easy for the government mafias and leaders in a town like ours, where living is mostly defined by ennui and nothingness. And they can simplify living because they can pay the price, from all kinds of robbery and thievery they are dealing in. For the commoners it is a lifelong struggle and we are too stupid to make a change. But then, we do have this thing called silver lining. 

A remarkable visual delight in the Imphal valley is of the breathtaking mountain panoramas in every direction. Stand anywhere and you can see the hills and mountains in at least three directions, if not all.

In November, the faded paddy fields have reasons that we know not, but we can see and feel the magic, in hues and shades of golden colours and fresh verdure. I’ve started only from the valley perspective, an area that comprises hardly 10 percent of the total provincial area.

Speaking of valley, it is never complete without a hill or a mountain. Valleys are to hills as in ngari is to the Manipuri food. The concept of mountain and valley is significant when we study the Naga issues, ethnic rivalries and the Indian conflict-resolution approaches in relation to the mess in Manipur. Undeniably, we have a connection between the mountains and the valley, howsoever subtle or fragmented it is. It is the damned politicians and power players—for their vested interests—who are manipulating, jeopardising geography and politico-cultural ties. They are like hitting their fists on bald heads.

A bird's eye view of Imphal
Image from the official Facebook page of Tourism Department, Manipur

Coming back to natural indulgence, the Sagolband road, which cuts through one of the national highways, is more than just impressive. After a long, long time, it has been widened and finished with a divider. It looks promising when the small plants, which line the divider, grow fully.

Though you can never trust the Manipuri mentality, with many folks ever hell bent on destroying public property. It is hard but we have little sense of awareness. Obviously the earlier claim for super-awareness is just a dry joke.

Certain matters are, though, still serious. The tall mountain ranges in Tamenglong offer an inviting background when we drive down the Sagolband road. The excitement is so apparent. We just have to feel it. Our affinity to the surrounding is deeper—just mundane words can hardly express those feelings—even the choicest adjectives are not enough.

Eyesore Defined, the Manipuri Style

Imphal is known for its lethargy. The place is never complete, so to say, with widespread emptiness that marks the collective life. As such, for a change recently, it is nice that the elected representatives have been doing some work besides looting the public property. I heard it through the grapevine that the head minister repaired a road stretch in Uripok, because his son was getting married to a lucky lady from the neighbourhood. Such blatant show off! All we can do is to talk how it would be wonderful if his sons were marrying girls from different places in the state. Otherwise, just fuck around in Thoubal.

All sound and fury
Image from the Official Facebook page of the Sangai Festival 2013

We are having wider roads but then what else; nothing else! It is hard to believe the authority do have the will to carry out some of their responsibilities. Alternatively, they don't really have the guts. The recently concluded Sangai Festival is another fine example that defies their will as much as it does with farce, howsoever the fest meant all sound and fury signifying nothing.

It is really surprising to see that there are some buildings popping up here and there, especially around the valley. People term it as a sign of development. I have suddenly forgotten all those concepts, lectures and notes on development communication that I had learned in my post-graduation.

Somewhere in Sagolband
Image from C Heigrujam
Lucky, though, the elected representatives are not suffering from amnesia; lucky for their partners and for their bastards’ sake—who are obsessed with the loots. I cannot help but wonder if these were a trick to dupe the people or if this was because of cheap political milestones they have to boast around election time? No matter what, we are a gullible lot.

Optimists consider we are growing and more hopefully, we have the potential to compete with the rest of the world in any field. One, change is always inevitable; but two, we are taking too long to grow. This is the problem. The conditions are more complicated than those are expressed here.

The lone BT Flyover in the middle of the Khwairamband Keithel is the epitome of our collective life. It took nearly one hundred years to become functional. When the work was in progress, there were frequent halts because the looters—read the government, contractors and mercenaries—had different opinions on equal distribution. We expect a 60-year-old guy, behaving and growing corollary to his age. Ours is like an old guy with no sense of living, and is only moving because there is no alternative.

Home Sweeeee... Hom...

Despite all the craps, there’s no place like home. Regardless of the killing. Regardless of the bombing. Regardless of the extortion. Regardless of the military occupation. Home is what we can find nowhere but in itself. Just meeting the folks erases the bad memories and impressions with ease, while getting a lot of space and time for catching up.

In the valley, there are hardly significant developmental works, albeit the only considerable stuff is to feel the connection with this place. The milieu provides a space so small to grow. But this is not the excuse for doing nothing. Wherever you go, whenever you leave, you have to come back home one day.

Tragicomedy At Its Best

One thing we are proud of the authority is its ability to fool all the people all the time. It knows the psychology of the people, though it is as clumsy as a clown, when it comes to maintaining a meaningful relationship between them and the subjects. We doubt ever it might come to sense and do what it is expected from them. The solution seemingly lies in revolution.
Image from the Anonymous Art of Revolution

Whenever we talk about social change, people suspect we are sympathising with the gunmen, who are literally up in arms for the right to determination. But you might miss the woods for the trees if you have the same feeling. We believe in peace. We believe in justice. However, we have nothing to do with the guns.

We do accept the armed movement is not a law-and-order issue. It is not about unemployment, no matter how much the authority has been insisting us to believe in this dirty political manipulation for the last six decades and more. They always do it officially. If not, why is it always a herculean task to resolve the issue for good? We cannot help but be suspicious if those in power are milking profits and more gains from the existing condition; maybe this is the reality that we can but pretend and accept it.

Two main agents are blocking the way: the state government and the central government. For their kind information, there is one secondary government as well. The super underground ruler, whose dependence on the common people could be the reason why the power players are simply ignorant. We do know even if they are aware, they would not want to resolve the issue. In the disorder that marks our collective life, they have been looting in broad daylight, satisfying themselves, making a fool out of the people and using the power as in drug users abusing the stuffs. It is tragicomedy at its best.

Conclusion

The vacation is over now. Back in the familiar city located three-and-half hours away from home, there is hardly any impression about here but the nostalgic flashbacks from memories. I could have cared not, the garbage and scum, but there’s always a magic in the place we belong to.


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Postscript

Love and Hate Collide in Imphal
is the 600th post on this blog.


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