By Nameirakpam Bobo Meitei
“Don’t come to university campus in shorts again!” the bamboo can- wielding security guard standing next to a bunch of stern IRB personnel shouted. I couldn’t help laughing, but at the same time I also wanted to know the reason and to my inquisition, swinging his bamboo cane, while his peers whistling without any reason, he shot back, ” If I say ‘ don’t come again” means ” don’t come.” There was no way that I could reason with that man and his peers whistling at every vehicle. This was at the main gate of Manipur University. Years ago, we ,as children ,could enter to get some fresh air, and for many the indoor stadium and the field were important. The following day I was again in shorts, but I entered the campus in a friend’s car; the IRB personnel stood up and stopped us, they saw me wearing shorts, there was no word, then they asked for pass and who we were. My friend happened to be a police sub-inspector, when they realized who he was; they stood to attention and saluted.At ten in the morning the SBI bank was still shut but the policemen were already there. The lady in the kiosk beside the bank said, “Son, they come late, but you can have a Kwa( betel nut ) or a cigarette” exposing her kwa-stained teeth.
Both the ATM machines hadn’t been repaired; people from places as far as Samoorou and Mayang Imphal had come to withdraw money. Finally the staff arrived, those who had been sitting on the steps and sitting on their haunches now stood up, but the staff took their time. I took the liberty to inquire about the ATM machines, a jumpy, young man said they were working. The screens still didn’t work. At last, a young man, not the jumpy, young man, came out and fixed the machines, and the satisfied people queued up. Two people before me could withdraw money. I tried, but there was no cash. I thought the problem with the machine had re-started, but after a few attempts I realized there was indeed no cash. I had come to this place by foot thinking after the withdrawal I would plan something. Of course I was angry, and those men at the back, standing on the tips of their toes, kept on staring at the screen while I was making the hopeless attempts. I could have shouted, instead I told them to stand outside to allow the person inside some privacy; they wouldn’t have any of it.
Outside the queue was longer since the other ATM machine had stopped working. When I told them there was no money in the machine no one believed; they all thought there was problem with my ATM card. I said I was serious, but despite my first hand information the people lingered to try their luck. It was already lunch time, no one responded to my suggestion to put cash. Each staff was a monarch in his or her capacity. If I tried to remind them of their duties they would be miffed and the police personnel could possibly manhandle me, and if I appeared too subservient then they would treat as someone whom they could ignore; the only way through which I could get things done would be to have some tamo or some eeneh working there. It had been pouring down in recent days, every place was soggy or muddy and the asphalted areas roads glistened. While walking on the pot-holed village road of ours my feet in Teva sandals had got some mud and after a little while in dry area they appeared whitish but not quite distinct. There was no place where I could give my feet a wash, perhaps the water from the runnels. Had I withdrawn the money, I could have sat in an auto rickshaw to go as far as Singjamei to check my e-mails. Cashless I wandered for a while inside, and when I got close to the university library I realized that I could use the university Internet; perhaps I could take permission from the staff.
The foyer where they had the computers against the walls looked deserted; one bespectacled man in his fifties was at the counter with his eyes cast at some dog-eared file. Without looking at me he said the computers could be used. I was half done with my works, and now more people had flocked in: some attempting to create their social networking accounts and some chatting. I suddenly heard a contemptuous voice, “This is no place for labourer!” It was aimed at me. I said I had to walk some pot-holed village road but hadn’t done anything to the floor. The man remained silent for a while, and then a dreadful and thundering voice came, “didn’t you hear what the old man said? You!!” It was loud, too loud. I said what was wrong in my wearing shorts. They said it was a university place and people should come in formal attires. I asked if that was considered sacrosanct then they all should be wearing polished formal shoes instead of those Bata sandals and perhaps some perfume as well. This time the voices became one and the eyes were on me.
I was forced out from the place humiliated, and when I got to the gate those bamboo-canes- security guards gave me a hard look. These little things which recur inside the campus and at the gate of a university campus are an indication that the pervasive decay is also imminent in this establishment. If a person wearing shorts cannot be tolerated in its campus, then, one may wonder what new ideas or constructive criticisms it would tolerate.