Essential ManipurWhat defines Manipur? What makes Manipur? Because Manipur seems to intrigue many. History, geography, crafts, folklores, art forms, music, languages and dialects and the sports that we consider our own and unique all have to do with what the word “Manipur” embodies. Or is it the political entity, a cultural entity, a civilization is all that is Manipur? Do we not often think to delve into what are the physical attributes and what are the non-physical and non-material aspects of the land? Are the intangibles not equally important – emotions difficult to describe because this is also about home, much more than the material aspects?
Do the mountains and hills, the valleys, the lakes, the streams and the rivulets, the flora and fauna define the land - are the Koubru and the Loktak, the Siroy Lily and the Sangai not representative of Manipur? And is Manipur slowly becoming one of the epicentres of the game of football in the North East? And does Iromba (spicy Manipuri dish) represent Manipur - Is Manipuri cuisine slowly daring to find a place under the Sun? Witness the many eating places in downtown Guwahati for instance or the line of Manipuri Rice “hotels” along parts of the Highways in the NE region.
The world today is saddled with issues of geography and history arguably much more than ever. Think “land” for geography and “people” for history. At various times you might think that it is geography over history and vice versa. But do the two exist separately? What would matter if the two are detached from each other? Wars were fought and boundaries drawn. Insurgencies, resurrections take place sometimes for geography to override history. Bloodshed is possibly only a collateral consequence. Individuals cease to matter for a community for supposedly larger causes to take centre stage. Does violence define our times? What if there are say twelve months of no bombs, no shootouts and no dead bodies found thrown around, would not the atmospherics change?
Communities are about sharing and continuity. Ethnicity and whatever it encompasses, languages, beliefs and religions follow. Then there is the shared history – of hardships and glories, of successes and failures as if there is an umbilical cord running through them. In doing this, suddenly you seem to miss that there are the physical landscapes you share - the rivers, mountains and the very air that you breathe. Would anyone state what is more critical than the other? And yet all changes only seem to lead to continuance of all that have been there.
But is Manipur also not about smaller population tribes like Purum, Tarao, Kharam, Koireng, Thangal, Monsang, Moyon and several others to aspire and grow? Strong identification with the geography and history by them is so clearly evident as they negotiate in today’s globalized world. Internet as the harbinger for change and growth has come to democratize challenges and opportunities for all, but more for smaller communities. Consider the circumstances under which a large number of communities, small and the not so small to thrive and to become proud partners. Is this also not about well-being for everybody? In today’s emotionally charged circumstances, seeking answers is about understanding the world community at large and drawing solace to convince ourselves that difficulties can be overcome if only we are alive to the feelings of others and our own.
What do you think is Manipur all about? I queried two youngsters at different times. The “never give up attitude”, came the reply from both. On each occasion I retorted what about achum-aran (right and wrong). Do goals and ends always justify means? Are only achievements glorified regardless of the means? Does this not remind of someone named Adolf Hitler who said “Success is the sole earthly judge of right and wrong”?
It is also about apha-phata (the good and the bad) that would define Manipur. What are the good and bad about this land? Is it a more accepting society? Witness any new form of sports being introduced and the kind of reception it receives. Or is there a more willing acceptance of social and gender deviations. Or are there not darker sides of the picture? Is it a more rational society and do religious cults find difficulty in taking roots and sustaining?
Or do we play victimhood on many occasions even when we can assert ourselves more effectively and overcome the challenges? In doing so, we seem to justify all that is not acceptable and carry on with life as it were. By doing this do we also almost ignore our innate strengths - our resilience of standing proud over centuries and our abilities of evolving ourselves as a civilization.
The “never die attitude” also seem to smoothly transit into yaana yanaba toushilba (do/ accomplish somehow) and of jugaad (ignoble innovation?) and in the process do we overlook morality for whatever it is worth. Morality is of course a tricky affair- difficult to fully comprehend and yet we know it is important and absolutely essential. But then it involves the heart much more and as Earnest Hemingway (Death in the Afternoon) had said that it is about “……..what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after ……”
Would the “never give up attitude” and the jugaad approach also shape things to come for what is essentially Manipur to grow? Morality along the way if compromised would only make you feel bad later. But what is the real world out there all about? So what is essential and what are the ingredients for Manipur to grow and live long?
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