The Civilised Manipuri

A reflection on what makes a person a lady or a gentleman in Manipur but which are all objectionable

what man calls civilization
always results in deserts
don barquis
from what the ants are saying

I’m going to take a bold step. Nobody can define a Manipuri as shown by the ongoing crisis of the Inner Line Permit System in Manipur. For me, the crisis has made more convinced that anti-politics is real. A few days back, on the same day, two leading local English dailies, the Sangai Express (Failing to define who is a Manipuri: Not enough homework done) and the Imphal Free Press (Thus Far No More) carried editorials on the identity issues.

Brushing off the parochial politics, and naïvely considering the inhabitants of the existing province as the Manipuris, I have taken the step to identify the ‘absolute’ attributes of a civilised Manipuri.

First of all, hopefully, this exercise will not be biased because I don’t belong to one such group of civilised people. That means I can stay objective. Besides, it is from a personal experience. In fact, if we go by Facebook or Twitter—as abstract living entities for social media users who I cannot see them as human beings but rather as talking machines—I’m the most uncivilised person, much to my delight. Delighted, because I don’t want to belong to their civilised world where there is no clear line between life and death and all sorts of violence from rape to political conflicts are as common as the rainfall of June. I have as well earned the epithet of an uncivilised person because I fucking swear too much and I care very little about discretion.

We can start with a few questions. What do you need when you want a suggestion? Should I tell you honestly what I feel on an action/activity of yours? Or should I offer you an answer in a very ‘civilising’ manner just to make you happy while making an ass out of both of us?

How would you define a civilised person? You may have your own concept and I’d love to hear about it. For now, using a local expression, ‘the microphone is in my hands’. If we take a reference from Jeff Lindsay, the American playwright: ‘Pretending is the basis of [a] civilised society, and it is sometimes necessary for all of us.’  He adds that, ‘Without it we are nothing more than a pack of snarling dogs.’

I’d like to pretend to be anything but a civilised person in Manipur because it is obnoxious to say the least. To identify one as civilised in this part of the world reeks of savagery and negates all kinds of civilised notions as understood in other parts of the civilised world.

Suppose that there has been an incident like a murder—which is already a motif of our collective life in the first place—then what do you expect to do? The correct question should rather be: what do you expect to happen? Anyone can visualise the possibilities: police, FIRs, charge sheets, imprisonment?


The Manipuris are so civilised that it is a god-given responsibility for the people to demolish the house of the alleged culprit(s) but not before excommunicating his/her/their whole family. We do have the laws, a judiciary system and everything but apparently we are too civilised to see the implications. If this is not the time to do away with the Manipuri civilised life, I don’t know when it should be.

We have two expressions: thaksi-khaasi and lamchat-saazat, which are the epitome of a civilised person. These two can be loosely translated as discipline and manners. Many people in our midst are so disciplined and their very body exudes a mist of propriety visibly just like the smell of yongchaak-aided excrement. You can see that these civilised qualities are also considered as essential, even more important than the dignity of living that we lack miserably with much thanks to the present economical and sociopolitical conditions.

In the prevailing circumstances, we can teach the children and youngsters about these coveted elements of discipline and manners effortlessly. We also have another local expression that children are made of mud, implying they can be shaped and moulded with ease. So, it’s not a big deal. But who are going to teach the adults to do away with their nauseous sense of discipline and manners at least when they are killing and robbing and plundering and fucking around?

It is human nature to consider that we are good: there must be hate but we are warm and friendly human beings. There must be violence everywhere but we are peace-loving people. However, there is a sea of difference between the personal and the political. A society, as the saying goes, gets the destruction it deserves. In our context we are not talking about only you and your ‘mannerful’ friends. Perhaps you and your friends might be the only people who are disciplined and good-mannered.

Sometimes I might be wrong in my presumptions. I wonder if these Manipuri idiosyncrasies are just the product of a learning process. Reading, observing and knowledge from other societies might have infuse in us the concept of a civilised person, like ‘hey, you are using a lot of f-words; that shows a lot about your upbringing and don’t do that’, even parroting the same wording of other people used in real civilised parts of the world.

But then there are people who don’t give a fuck about it because if situation demands, we know we can be disciplined, show good manners and show it by both words and deeds. We can show our respect unconditionally and even if the person sitting  next to us turns out to be a paedophile we will let the law takes its course. As another argument, we are never civilised, we just learn how to pretend in front of other people. Or as Brian Aldiss would say: ‘Civilisation is the distance man has placed between himself and his excreta’—we just learn how to make this distance.

Giving respect, as a sign of being civilised, is also a different tale altogether. When living itself is so harsh and extreme, I’d smear any element of civilised-ness on my big fat ass and civilised people from Manipur can kiss it here if they really care about it. By the way we can easily identify them by their depraved and deliberate nature to behave well in front of others, while primitivity, if not savagery, is written all over their bodies.


PS: Here is a poem from July 2014, with special consideration for the Civilised Manipuri:

Should I Be Good...?

And talked,
Shiny, honey-laced lips
The beauty in sweet talking it’s clear
When all I hear is fucking moaning
Vision blurred
Shits scattered across the paths, the walls
I’m more worried about rats and ants

Those sweet lips we believe it’s what
It’s what raises pellucidity
Bloody civilised

And I should be good
And behave, like amiable, playful dolphins
When asses run amok
Be good
For it looks good



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