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A Matter of Pride

The victory of our sports players at a global arena certainly provokes us to think about the potential of our community regardless of its smallness in size.

ByArambam Luther

Updated 1 Aug 2022, 6:14 pm

Mirabai Chanu (R) and Bindyarani Sorokhaibam (PHOTO: Twitter)
Mirabai Chanu (R) and Bindyarani Sorokhaibam (PHOTO: Twitter)

 

As Mirabai Chanu and Bindyarani Sorokhaibam won gold and silver medals in the Commonwealth Games 2022, Birmingham, the whole country erupted in celebrations and our national pride or Manipuri pride surged once again in the hearts of the people of the state.

The fact is, a certain degree of healthy pride is necessary for building self-respect, dignity and acceptance of the existing realities surrounding an individual or a community.

Psychologist, Leon F Seltzer says, “A Healthy pride represents a positive notion of self-worth, and it is based on a history where personal efforts and expenditure of energy led to success.”

Such healthy pride further contributes to self-confidence and it motivates an individual or a group for putting efforts towards a goal or pursuing an ideal lifestyle. 

The victory of our sports players at a global arena certainly provokes us to think about the potential of our community regardless of its smallness in size.

One may be even overwhelmed with a deep sense of patriotism and love for our people who can climb great heights with a little bit of grit and determination despite all shortcomings and challenges.

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However, as the Commonwealth Games gets over and the pride fades out, many of the people would return to usual business of observing how “not good enough” we are in other aspects of life.

The doomsayers would continue prophesying on the hopelessness of our society and turn on their spotlights towards the direction of things that are absent from our lives.

The narrative would be on how backward we are; how much we need to catch up with the rest of the “modern world” or rather focus on the impossibility of achieving all that considering the general state of affairs.  

Our history, it appears, is narrated or interpreted in a way that it sounds more like a tale of loss rather than of victories and achievements. Some of the examples would be the burning of the Puyas under the influence of an outsider; sanskritisation over ethnic paganism or adoption of other religions; the Seven Years Devastation under the Burmese rule; our defeat at the Khongjom war and the public hanging of Bir Tikendrajit and Thangal General. The merger agreement in which Manipur ended its sovereignty is also interpreted as a loss and of course, the public knows these events at the tips of their fingers with an underlying feeling of shame and humiliation.

These feelings can cause a general chronic inferiority complex among the people and could very well be a reason behind our chronic habit of self-loathing. Could there be a counter-narrative to these tales of losses and sob stories so that we can embrace a ‘strategic essentialism’ that would essentially restore pride to our race and ethnicity? In post-colonial literature studies, ‘strategic essentialism’ is defined by Gayatri Spivak as “the employment of essentialist ideas may be a necessary part of the process by which the colonised achieve a renewed sense of the value and dignity of their pre-colonial cultures.” 

As the BJP Government celebrates Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav which is a sequence of events organised to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of India's Independence, there is also an underlying movement to popularise and strengthen the Hindutva ideology. History is being rewritten and even controversial historical figures such as Savarkar have been re-examined and studied.

The purpose is clear – India as a 75-year-old, developing nation wants to revisit the past and establish its dignity and pride albeit with a political agenda, and definitely utilising a form of ‘strategic essentialism’ in the process to achieve that. 

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Coming back to Manipur, we also need to delve deeper into our roots and heal our dignity and ignite ethnic nationalism by firmly establishing that core ingredient i.e. pride. By setting aside all talks of much touted optimism of the BJP-led government thrown to the face of the public, Manipuris in general need to consider how far we have come and pat ourselves on the back once in a while.

Rather than being treated as mere footnotes on the pages of our history books, there is a necessity to add bigger chapters in school textbooks, glorifying historical figures such as Loiyamba Shinyen (1074–1122 AD) and his military and administrative reforms. Instead of elaborating on how we faced defeat and were driven away by the Burmese invaders, can our historians please shift the focus on the number of times we had successfully invaded and raided the Burmese nation before they finally got the chance for a payback during the Seven Years’ Devastation?  

We need to add and expand chapters on Meidingu Ningthou Khomba (1432–1467) the ‘Conqueror of Tamu’ and tales of his wise queen Linthoingambi.  There are historical facts on the conquering of Kyang, a Shan kingdom in the Kabow Valley of present Myanmar by King Kyamba etc. There should be interesting episodes on Meidingu Khagemba (1597–1652) also known as the Conqueror of the Chinese (Khagi - Chinese and Ngamba- conqueror) who is said to have expanded our then kingdom and later successfully defended it from foreign invaders. Besides these, there are many oral as well documented stories from among the tribal communities, which have been overshadowed or forgotten and need a certain revival.   

There is no dearth of victories, achievements and establishments in our history and it would not be an overstatement to say Manipuris belonged to truly a great nation. However, our historical figures and many freedom fighters, including Haipou Jadonang and Rani Gaidinliu have to be revisited, and historians need to rewrite their tales from a perspective that instils pride and a sense of patriotism upon the indigenous people. In this regard, Chinua Achebe, the founding father of African Fiction had rightly stated, “Until the lions have their historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.”

Meanwhile, the trend of chronic self loathing and belittling ourselves and the resultant inferiority complexes has affected our psyche to such an extent that our leaders had allegedly attempted to saffronise our rich history, in the recent past. Not only that, some of us are fully prepared to denounce our entire rich heritage and actually promote that we are not of an advanced culture or race, in order to be included in a category or gain a political status.

If we can give the people something to believe in and inject some hope into our future by stopping the negativity, positivity comes naturally to our lives. A healthy pride that motivates us to strife for better goals of our community based on the history of success and achievements can actually benefit us more than what we have bargained for, and it should be a priority as Abraham Lincoln once said, “I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives. I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him.”

(Views expressed are the writer’s own)

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Tags:

gold medalMirabai Chanusilver medalCWG2022Bindyarani Sorokhaibambirminham 2022Commonwealth GamesManipuri pride

Arambam Luther

Arambam Luther

Senior Sub-Editor, Imphal Free Press

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