by Sanasam Umananda
About two months ago, a sultry July afternoon played host to some oldies of Manipur with ripe delicious mangoes and luscious pine-apples to my house. The purpose was solely for the rejuvenation of the waning friendship of ten of us with receding hairlines and grey patches who had seen seventy winters of triumphs and tragedies of life. It was nice to see my childhood friends, my high school and college classmates along with some social workers and professors sitting together after a long lapse of time. The expert kite-flier in the early 1950’s with bushy hair then has now become a baldie with changed behaviour and few words. He is a retired police officer now. The marvellous rnarble-player of the era, now a retired professor, has also graceful look. He was my most intimate friend then and the others with various professions arrived one after another. My bosom hill- friend who never failed in such meets was conspicuous by his absence. But three minutes later, he also arrived with a broad smile and a sweet look. The last two who were fifteen minutes late were the singer with a golden voice and the other chess player.
I was the happiest one to see them all assembling in my old wooden house – a rare occasion indeed.
“Let us take advantage of this rare opportunity where a congregation of old friends with grey hairs and receding hair-lines takes place by arranging a hot discussion and interaction on human behaviour and the chemistry of good and evil on humanity^ particularly, in the present generation of the world,” the artist with seventy winters to his credit proposed. He continued, “Let’s also put to test our long experience on this earth and prescribe something for a peaceful and rewarding humanity. I think something “great” would emerge from the interactions of mature and balanced elements of the society with tolerance as the guiding principle.”
He asked the retired Professor to set the ball rolling. The Professor agreed to the proposal, stood up as if in a meeting and started.
“We have assembled here and are knit together in a body to represent saner humanity with our long experiences of seventy winters of human drama which depicts the agony and ecstasy of life and to bear the burden of maintaining a war-less world which at the moment is embroiled inside the fumes of inter-racial, inter-ideological or inter-religious conflicts for supremacy. The time has come for all of us to exercise restraint and save this precious planet from destruction not only from wars and terrorism but also from natural disasters that may threaten our existence only because of man’s callousness and irresponsibility to provoke nature. Rampant deforestation and carbon emission caused by unhindered industrial and technological race among nations for affluence and more importantly the abuse of-science would demand a heavy price to humanity even*at the cost of total annihilation of the world. Global warming and erratic climate change may be demonaic and could take a heavy toll on our lives.”
“All these would be the creations of men who actually are not the creators of the world or the universe. Simply put, man not Nature may be the destroyer of the earth. So we have to search our hearts to find out the true behaviour of man. But the irony of our times is that science is at its peak now which means rational thinking and critical enquiry are also ruling the roost. It’s the age of reasoning with literacy percentage at its highest. In spite of it, the beastly nature, seemingly devoid of any rational thinking, surfaces in us in an unprecedented scale in the form of global terrorism, destruction and what not. The rapid strides in science, notwithstanding, man has become beasts, making science a destroyer and not a preserver of mankind. This undoubtedly is a grim reminder of the fact that reason and scientific temper is not enough and ‘emotion’ should be given an honoured place to raise the level of humanity. This is where our today’s assembly would make sense otherwise it would be as useless as the congregation of intellectual devils. Human beingscan metamorphose themselves into angels if they so desire. Equally also they can denigrate themselves to beasts. The association here is, I think, for a choice which is a choice for angelhood. But most people in the present century, I am sorry to tell you, prefer a choice to beasthood. This is surprising. When electronics have bridged the wide gap, both in physical and emotional spheres in the misunderstanding and mistrust among nations – nothing positive in human or international relationship emerges.
“Now it is up to our degree of mutual trust and goodwill which will connote true “humanhood” and serve as the only succour to redeem ourselves from an impending mass-destruction. The “blue planet” as our earth is called should be proud of its being a great gift of God, for, great life forms constitute her denizens. The other planets can be likened to soils ungrateful to the tiller’s care. Science is always on the search for the other life-forms elsewhere in other planets with always negative reports.
“Mine is a positive and optimistic response to a noble truth that the blue earth is a diamond not to be destroyed and taken cheaply of. A very rare chance occurred when this earth mothered congenial infrastructure to evolve and sustain life. Protagonists of evolutionary science depict a growth scale with a marvellous ascent to mankind. Millions of years; natural toil produces humanity with godly attainments. The most beautiful being with the greatest intelligence and kindest heart supported by dexterous hand and feet -man is not simply man, he is more than man. He can sing more sweetly than birds; he can fly more artistically than birds in the air; he can swim and dance better than fish in the water; he is more agile and a better performers in gymnastics than monkeys.
“What more is to be eulogised for man than this. But the “Image of God” that is man, is suffering a lot now. All birds and animals enjoy the earth which is made unliveable by man christened “the Image of God” just now. What is it for? It is a multi-million dollar question. Please answer my question.” He stopped.
I requested my hill friend to answer. He stood up and spoke softly, “Man is a complex –
filled being, seeking respect from others without being self-respecting. Pride and prejudice, the twin words, only apply to men. The idea of dominance takes key role in human history. It is different from the idea of dominance inherent in beasts. Animals surrender tamely if it is overpowered and defeated with little hope of revenge. Bigger and stronger animals even in the same species completely dominate weaker ones with no question of destruction of self-respect of the victim. Victory over possession of territory and females is their essence of existence. While human beings also succumb to this natural law, they can live beyond this. And a life, an exuberant life at that, always awaits extraordinary men. They do not fall prey to this order. With many critics against them, the show goes on but with more plaudits and admiration for them because is not man struggling towards perfect manhood?”
“But the reality is otherwise. There are narratives galore on imagined nationality or imagined community or of imagined ethnicity. Plethoras of assertions over the necessity of blood-related or religion – oriented supremacy as the hall mark of human goal suffocate the 21st century leaving no space for a breach of fresh air. This is, with the frankest confession, what may be called the dark march of the 21st century towards ‘beast-hood’, I mean, human march. I blame the 21st century for no fault of it. Excuse me for this. The blame should go to Homo sapiens. The featherless biped animal who can laugh and smile with knowledge of tool-making as the human beings are called (I have deliberately deleted, rational) always confound zoologists and life-scientists. With wonderful, nay, marvellous achievements in science bearing testimony to highest technological advancements which is very unanimal-like, man seems to command everything. It testifies to man’s long gap and awful distance from animal—like existence. But the greatest astonishment to all will be the revelation that the gap between man and animal is horribly narrowed down now. It is inching towards “zero gap.”
“The primitive instinct of possession of command over territory and species-centred existence which is the synonym of modern-day nationality or community or race-based or religion-based supremacy over the other has returned with a bang.”
“ Pseudo self-respect and racial-glorification ideal runs amok now. We are back to square one. So, questions automatically go to the prescribers of modern textbooks and key-players of education how the expansion of human mind, fails inspite of the pious beliefs for a loftier humanity. I am afraid, I may blame science for this for the expansion of the human mind without caring for the heart, I mean the mystery of love.”
My social-worker friend who is a humanist also supports the theory that heart is more important than the brain. Everybody present expressed their own views each respecting life and human existence as the key issue.
Daylight waned. My friends demand strong tea. I was soecstatic and delightful at the rare get-together made possible after years of failed attempts^! served the “tea” with my own hands.
I was the most ignorant one in the assembly. I sometimes failed to catch the import and significance of their mental jugglery because I think theirs were “the above – the – ordinary” reflections of their wits and wisdom. I wondered how such intellectuals had secretly existed in Manipur, my motherland and why they remained silent when she is in such deep trouble seeking for a solution. I was proud that they are my bosom friends whom I misunderstood and under-estimated so long and also intellectuals who could prepare road-maps for a vibrant and glorious Manipur now under severe convulsion at the moment.
Taking advantage of the rare get-together, I hastened to ask the members this question. “Why don’t you suggest remedies for the various ills and turmoils plaguing Manipur now. You have only discussed global problem, far away from your weeping motherland, Manipur. I believe you can give crystal clear light to redeem Manipur and there are plenty of you who can show the path to promised land.”
The professor and the intellectual hill-friend of mine replied in unison, “We are afraid to say anything on Manipur Excuse us. We fear a two-pronged attack of the guns.”
The others also gave simultaneous nods. I was disappointed. But my anxiety to hear their solutions was unceremoniously gagged. A pall of gloom descended on the merry get-together of cowards. But it was a tragedy – a tragedy of the greatest dimension. It seemed fear stalked this once fearless land with great heroes and heroines. The assembly ended up in pin-dropped silence. But it was the “silence” of the grave.