So what has been happening this side of the world? Well, quite a bit, all jumbled. I’m from a little section of the world, in the North East corner of India from a state called Manipur. Apparently, the name stands for ‘Land of Jewels’ . And you know what? It is actually a beautiful state.
We were in our car, heading over to a village called Sapermaina (we’ve indigenized the name, it’s actually two English words combined – Sappers and Miners). As you look out from your window, there are paddy fields that stretch out before you on either side of the road and then further on, hills all around. It’s winter right now and the fields are a golden-brown hue, with earthy green hills surrounding the city all around. Imphal is situated in a valley so the view is pretty amazing…to see fields open up before you and yet see hills surrounding you at the same time. There are sights, sounds and smells that just remind me so much of home – the smell of firewood, or smoke, dirt mixed with the damp air of winter, seeing old ladies in woolen caps walking hunched over with traditional sarongs wrapped around them, seeing bamboo fences, lines of houses with their individual stars on poles waiting to be lit up at night (Christmas tradition out here), seeing chulas (coal burners), watching my mum clean rice in a godal (think of a very large dish made out of bamboo or other soft wood that is woven, picture coming up) etc. There are so many things that trigger off memories of home and give you this sense of peace.
I was chatting with a friend and telling him how I don’t seem to be doing anything at home and yet the day feels so full. That was actually a very strange thing to say/type. There are no real hangout places in Imphal like you have in bigger cities. No coffee shops, no malls, no movie theaters, no late night dhabawallahs or ‘blind man shops’ (if you live in the DU campus area, you know what I mean). Yet, whenever I come home, there never seems to be enough time to do everything. Weird.
I seem to get tied up chatting with mum or chatting with dad. Horsing around with my brother and sisters. Playing with the dogs, playing with my two year old uncle (long, complicated kinship ties), watching Gusty the cat sleeping on my lap, washing dishes, carrying water, putting up Christmas decorations, going to Church, participating in sing-along’s etc. etc. etc. So yes, during these short winter holidays, there is A LOT of stuff that goes on.
Despite the warmth of home and the scenic beauty, this state is rattled with news headlines like: ‘so-and-so student body, workers union, welfare group etc. etc. calls indefinite bandh (strike)’ or ‘economic blockade continues‘ or ‘Water dept. Chowkidar (caretaker) and son kidnapped and shot dead‘ or ‘bomb goes off at trade fair‘ or ‘strike in protest of so-and-so political leader’s visit‘ etc. etc. When we head out we are greeted on ‘good’ days with queues upon queues of motorists lining up for petrol which is now around Rs. 70 per litre. Now how is this even considered ‘good’ one may ask? Well, it’s good to see the queues because now you know that petrol is available. Lol. On ‘bad’ days, you are greeted with queues upon queues of people lined up and jam-packed into ALL atm’s trying desperately to withdraw money. This is ‘bad’ because it means either the bank is shut due to some strike called by non-banking related groups and now the only source of money for people will be the atm’s. When the Water Department’s chowkidar was killed because his family were unable to pay the ransom of Rs. 30 lakhs(!), that marked the beginning of our water shortage problems. I did not know what to think. First, a simple unsuspecting rickshaw puller was blown up for a mere Rs. 20 as he delivered a parcel and now, a chowkidar was kidnapped and ransomed for Rs. 30 lakhs and then even before anything could happen, he and his young son were shot dead. When news like this hits you, you wonder just what the hell is going on in this state?! More than that, what the hell is going on in the world?!
Strangely though, life keeps moving on here. Despite all the adversities and obstacles, people continue living and moving about their daily affairs. This morning heard from our local shopkeeper that a bomb had gone off in the bazaar area, an Activa scooter. A few days back, there was an accident on the road where a car had collided with a scooter, the man seemed to be either unconscious or lifeless. Where were we heading when this accident occurred? On our way to pick up my sister from her NET (National Eligibility Test – test to be qualified to become college lecturers) exam in the sprawling grounds of Manipur University. Had also roamed around the bazaar area and bought a charcoal burner for my mum, fruits, Christmas cards, copies of Our Daily Bread AND could not find a single operating or free ATM. Sigh.
Despite all this, had wonderful food from the Church for Christmas. Celebrated my brother’s birthday with a beautiful cake and enjoyed the Church sing-along on Christmas night. We have a TATA Docomo internet connection and a TATA Sky satellite subscription so our creature comforts are taken care of. Yet, we alternate between cooking on the gas stove and the charcoal burner. Why? Because a gas cylinder costs us almost Rs. 2000 and coal is cheaper. Lol. Ah, Manipur.
So in conclusion what am I trying to say? Manipur is a mirror reflection of the world where in every situation or place you find the bad with the good. Nothing is perfect and sometimes some conditions are ridiculous and yet even in the most ‘ridiculous’ situations and circumstances, you find that life does go on and somehow people overcome, trying to band together, making the most out of their situation and at times, being able to turn their situation around. In all these circumstances, you try and find your peace, that peace that you need to see you through. Manipur is a beautiful state and it is a ‘khichdi’ state, a bundle of contradictions but I enjoy the fact that this is a ‘mixed’ state, filled with so many different tribes and peoples. It is a representation of what we want our country and world to be, mixed and diverse. It is never easy, it is forever a ‘bumpy’ ride but I value this diversity. Our problems are so many but it starts and ends with ‘greed’. If anyone knows a solution to ‘curing’ greed then please let me know…
Christmas has come and gone and New Year is coming up. I pray and hand over this year to God, to see us through safely and renew us and better us for the year to come, for life.
The world mourns the loss of someone who had so much to offer but just couldn’t win the battle against her inner demons. It is by far, the saddest waste of talent I’ve come across in such a long time. The thing that unsettles me the most was the fact that she was just a year older to me, 1983 born. So much has happened since yesterday to today. Ironically enough, there was my cousin’s wedding in the UK yesterday and as we celebrate the union of two individuals, we now mourn the loss of this one solitary individual, who might have traded all her fame and her music to find that one person who could have loved her and whom she could love in return. You just have to keep looking at all the past reports, of how much she loved her husband and how she seemed to need him so much.
Why do all our songs, movies, books etc. etc. revolve around this one thing, love? All I can remember about Amy Winehouse was this raw, from the belly, soulful voice and in that voice there was also yearning and a pleading for someone just to lift her up out of her own mess and give her peace. Guess she ended up with the peace she was searching for desperately. I’m not sure why all around the world, people have become more morose, depressed, pessimistic and prone to self-pity and giving up. It’s a dangerous epidemic, far more frightening than AIDS, Ebola or Swine flu. Diseases kill you, but this mental breakdown that seems to be engulfing people all around kills your very soul, your spirit, your being and your potential.
To everyone dangerously ‘sleeping’, it’s time to wake-up. You are not chaff, you are not dirt and dust; you are someone with spirit and soul, not an accident or an act of randomness, neither is your life an accident or an act of randomness. You are loved, greatly loved. Even if no one ever tells you, know that whoever you are, you are dearly and greatly loved and those are the only feelings I want to send out to you today.