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   On my  Recent Visit  to Imphal - My Native
     -- Ibotombi s. Longjam


     After a gap of one complete year, I had been to my home state. So there was a kind of new emotion building
     up to reach my home and home-state as soon as possible. I, therefore, hastened my journey -from Mumbai
     to Imphal- by taking an early morning flight from Calcutta despite my meager stipend provided by the Institute
     -I'm studying at.
     However, due to the prolong presence of fog near the Imphal Airport, we had to stop for a few hours at
     Silchar. When I reached Imphal, I came to know that the temperature was actually quite low compared to
     Mumbai, with the city embroiled in a chilled thin layers of fog. It's to be noted that Imphal was the coldest
     among all the north-eastern state capitals, always having a min of 3 or 4 celsius degree (coutesy: North-East
     News, Doordarshan). I found the Airport being reconstructed with separate departure and arrival lounges. It
     has become bigger with other new facilities like in other cities and I felt really proud to see this development.

     My house is not very far from the airport and hence I asked one of my close friend to pick me up by just
     coming with a scooter, though I didn't have to ask as he knows my arrival. One reason for asking my friend is
     that the taxi drivers charge unbelievable rates -which is something hard to digest- assuming that all the
     passengers are all rich people, they can ask any amount they wish to get. Once I had an argument with one
     Taxi driver as he asked me to take 250 Rs for a mere 8 km -from airport to Singjamei. He argued that he
     was an unemployed BA and that the trip was the only one per day and had to take 'reasonable' amount from
     the 'rich' people. I blasted that fellow nicely. For, I saw many reasons: (a) he doesn't do his business
     professionally, just sits around playing cards or ludo and waiting for the lone flight to come, (b) has the
     'extortionism' in his mind -taking a big amount in 5 min, contrary to hours of sitting by the Ima Keithel
     Phambees -women vendors and earning a meager income, (c) always contents by using the excuse of
     unemployment (govt. unemployment -startle speaking). This made me quite upset of the kind of work culture
     going on the state. Compare to the state's low per capita, some of the markets do exist albeit nonsense price.
     For example, the price of a photocopy (Xerox) is 2 Rs and I think this could be the reason why the students
     of Manipur take photocopies of only certificates/documents and not important text books. Still now there is
     an ongoing debate/resentment of the nonavailability of the text books. If the charge of a photocopy had been
     50 paise, say, then at least some of the students could have been better off. Anyway these are different issues
     not to discuss now.

     Often, whenever I made a trip to home, I used to dream of a better Manipur in terms of infrastructure,
     education system, political situation and the dream never came true. But this time, I would say, the state was
     slightly in a little peaceful and amicable situation than before, a few bandh calls notwithstanding. During the
     first few days I found the whole economy of the state totally down. For there was a join strike of no work by
     the state employees as long as the govt. did not make an agreement of giving central level pay. The economy
     was in total doldrums. Some of the things I could observe were that people did not eat fish as price of rohu
     reached an all time low of Rs 20/25 a Kilo, did not give bills/credits, postpone ceremonies. Statistically
     speaking, all the demands of food, goods and services went down very low and hence no income was also
     generated for other non-governmental workers. Everybody seemed to have a dull life as there was very less
     activity in all respects, say even in entertainment, appointments, going out and like. But as the govt. could
     come out with an agreement with JAC of the state employees, life seemed to come back to normal.

     Then came full preparations for the much hyped 5th National Games to be held in Imphal. Almost all the
     people from a 5 yr. old child to a centurion is very much involved in the mind setting of the Game. The
     newspapers, AIR and DDK Imphal give all the information related to the game round the clock. The
     government make a routine check up of the constructions. The UG personals make sure that work is serious
     and not Thika type. Students, club and Meira Paibee (women torch bearers) organisation came out to
     volunteer for holding the Game successfully. They also appeal to other groups/organisation not to give any
     disturbance like strike or bandh during the Game. I, myself, have gone to the Khuman Lampak Sports
     Complex and it's a great achievement for the state to be able to possess such a huge, compact and complete
     sports complex. The state is going to show off its rich culture in the opening and closing ceremonies of the
     Game, with the President and Prime Minister, Govt of India already given confirmation to be present for both
     the ceremonies respectively. As far as I heard some 800 school students, 1000 artists, good at martial and
     cultural items are going to perform some cultural show. The main attraction will be the choreography in the
     form Lairen Mathek of Lai Haraoba, the Pung Cholom. It will be pity for those people specially Manipuris to
     miss this mega event.

     There are many good reasons -apart from the above reason- that the year 1999 can be announced as the
     Sport Year of Manipur. To start with, Dingko Singh brought the year as a gift for the Manipuris, by winning
     an 'Asian Gold'. In terms of celebration and recognition, it's not exaggerating to say that Dingko Singh has
     reached zenith. Everybody talks of him every other day. During my whole 25 days stay at home, everyday
     there was at least one column on Dingko about felicitation by some other club or organsation. Ultimately it
     was like -I'm fed up to hear about him. There are many fans of his and teenaged girls are the front runners to
     get autograph from him. Then as Dingko Singh left Manipur for Mumbai, the 34th National Junior Footbal
     arrived at Imphal. Manipur played brilliantly under the coaching of Shantikumar. Manipur took the
     championship by drubbing Sikkim 4-1 in the final match, played at the Main Stadium which was also
     inaugurated on that day in the full format of holdin! g National Games. Wouldn't it be nice to end the millenium
     with unprecedented exposure of the state to the outside world?

     I also could notice a lot of Dev-Karma being held as the season was Phairen-Panchami in which everything
     seems to be auspicious for anything to be done. There were Lukun Thangba, Na Hutpa, Yum Shangaba and
     mother of all ceremonies -the Lu Hongba (and obviously the Heijingpots). I could notice too many weddings
     this season and most of the brides and grooms seem to be very young, say all around 21/22 yr. old. At the
     present situation of Manipur, I do not encourage these weddings, as I feel that often they will lend up to be
     below the poverty line and hence coming out all kinds of problems. Here I'm not the mentioning the frequent
     case of AIDS victims -a story a Manipuri is fed to hear. On other hand if one looks at the communal way of
     helping each other in any crisis or ceremonies, there seems to have some unique culture. I, myself, offered to
     help in renovating one of my friend's house as his brother got married. Like this, the expenditure of the
     arrangements for any ceremony ! in Manipur is very much reduced compared to other state. The amount of
     services offered by the girls and boys are simply enormous to evaluate. This kind of culture of helping each
     other out in any ceremony is quite rare to find in other parts of the country. Again, in terms of monetary help,
     all the invitees give a 'standard' sum of money -called the Poiyeng to the host. One can distribute equally to
     the artists of Not Sanskritan in appreciation of their singing. But often during this season most of the family
     lend up in financial crisis because of too many obligatory invitations. Thus there is a debate whether the culture
     of Poiyeng is good or bad. For me, I would argue for the good sake.



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