Damning Quality of Life

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For one or two nights in and around the celebration of Independence Day, Imphal city put on the appearance of a city with some night life and colours. The street lights, in what must have been ages, were on through the nights, the trees lining the main streets of the city were also lit with strings of flowery, multifarious, colourful little light bulbs giving the appearance that the monsoon clouds magically brought a hailstorm of jewels on the night of the eve of the day of the celebration. Everything was just fairytale fine, except for the fact that there were no people on the streets at night if you overlook nocturnal beasts like journalists and policemen. The picture in the end was surreal. It was as if the colourful preparations were meant for some phantom citizenry. A day after the awaited day, the empty streets are still as colourfully lit. The ghosts are still on an extended revelry, and many perhaps are too enfeebled by hangovers of the previous day’s celebratory bingeing to begin the cleaning up exercise. Jokes aside, it is time for the authorities and indeed all concerned, to brainstorm on re-peopling Imphal, and indeed Manipur. As of today, Imphal’s residents have come too used to living in petrifaction, startled even by their own shadows, retreating into their rabbit holes before sunset in the hope this would give them some sense of security. Sad to say this, but all their efforts are in vain, as it naturally would be, for nobody can run away from themselves.

A study of the architectural trends in the state would demonstrate this pitiable insecurity which is just short of mass hysteria. The rich live virtually in jails they construct for themselves, with collapsible steel barriers forming the first fortification to their homes, followed by solid wooden doors with no glass panes. By rich we mean people who can afford a brick and mortar house, and generally belonging to the top echelon government salaried job holders, government contractors, petty and not so petty businessmen, although all of the latter, if their income tax return forms were to be any indicator, would qualify to be declared bankrupt. We are also here not talking about entrance gates to estate homes, but doorways to living quarters. The abject insecurity and naked fear the society is given to is evident everywhere. There is one more thing equally evident in all this. The general instinct everywhere seems to be to run and hide rather confront, or as they say take the bull by the horns.
The truth also is, those responsible for this state of being are not interested in rectifying the situation. Both the government establishment as well as the parallel underground governments run by a multiplying number of militant organisations are not interested in banishing this condition. Both thrive on the insecurity of the ordinary people, for the moment the latter gains the courage to begin questioning them and their ways, their own legitimacy would erode away, threatening even their very existence. Both must hence have an intimidated public which only listen and do not answer back. Both prosper from a public too willing to be coerced into doing all their bidding. Both get perverted kicks out of the fear of death, injury or extreme humiliation they command that they can see reflected on the faces of the ordinary people.

But there is another reason why the rich, or should we say the middle class, retreat into the prison of their own making. In addition they have also become extremely narcissistic, so much so that they see nothing beyond their immediate families. The seemingly universal outlook here seems to be, keep everything and don’t bother giving back anything to society. This kind of avarice is impossible to quench, and therefore to keep everything is invariably predicated by a need to loot public coffer to all extent possible. The poorly build public infrastructures are a testimony of how much of the developmental funds have not been used for the purpose they were meant to be, and have instead ended up lining individual pockets. This coterie builds roads that get washed away every monsoon and are not even bothered to repair these damages to save the general public of all the hardship. The current monsoon has left many roads in the Imphal city in shambles, and once the rains have receded, the roads thus exposed of their bitumen cover will kick up thick cloud of dusts perpetually causing not just traffic dangers, but also health hazards. Their conscience thus soiled, they would naturally prefer the security of their private prisons to live in. To return to the original proposition, this coterie would also obviously dread an articulate and vocal people who would raise banners of protests at their misdeeds that have landed the entire state in the hell we have all come to be so familiar with.

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