By Iboyaima Laithangbam
The disheartening report that several courses of the Manipuri dish are missing from the insipid meals served in the Manipur Houses in New Delhi should not come as a complete surprise to several persons. What should be worrisome is that the Chief Minister who is also in charge of the GAD and some corrupt and dishonest officials are not certainly thinking in terms of making amends even at this late hour. Because such a bold and public spirited step will ruffle the sycophants and bootlickers of the power that be and as such there is no reason for the Chief Minister to stick out his neck. It is in sharp contrast of the fact that the Houses of several states which are clustered there radiate the distinctive culture and atmosphere of the states concerned in various forms, mainly through the mouth watering unique dishes.
Delhi Haat is the socio-cultural centre of several states. The states sell various products and run eateries. However in view of the exorbitant prices it is mostly the foreign tourists who usually buy the exotic items as souvenirs. The stalls of Manipur do not showcase any attractive pieces and those on sale cannot be appealing to the domestic and foreign tourists. A cursory inquiry showed that most of the items on sale there are costlier by 200% or so.
A few metres away from the stalls there is an eatery where “delicious Manipuri dishes” are served. Ranging from the manager to the waiter there was not a single Manipuri. The Hindi speaking waiters brought us “Manipuri dishes” having curried chicken and some other bland courses which we did not touch at all. There cannot be any objection from the broad minded people who are used to the changed situation. But it should be a serious blow to the Vaishnavas in Manipur since people outside the state are made known that the Vaishnava Manipuris take chicken delicacies. The facts are that on religious occasions they refrain from taking even fish. Strangely they take all kinds of fish in their homes and non-religious feasts. But from their point of view a Manipuri dish with curried chicken has gone too far. Of course the ground reality is that delicacies prepared from chicken, beef, pork, etc have become indispensable to almost all families in the state.
When I stayed in one of the Manipur Houses in New Delhi about two years ago there was no catering service. I had to depend on the small eateries in the shopping mall nearby. Some low grade employees were earning extra money by serving breakfast consisting of a piece of omelete, bread and stale and tasteless tea for Rs 50. In sharp contrast the Tamilnadu House located a few metres away from the Manipur House is an imposisng building reflecting the architecture and culture of the state. Leveried and well mannered employees guard the main building and every visitor is verified. Next to it the restaurant where all tasty items are served is located. Almost all the inmates of the Houses in the locality including that of the NEC House have breakfasts, meals there. Besides local denizens including lovers come there regularly. The various items are tasty and moderately priced. The restaurnat is neat and clean and service is that of five star hotels. The GAD Minister should take note of this sorry problem in the Manipur Houses.
For quite some years private men had been allowed to run the catering service in one of the Houses. Though the proprietor happened to be Manipuri on some occasions the waiters, cooks and other employees always were non-locals. There had been several occasions when some Ministers kicked away the rice and curry bowls since these minions are trained to respect and dance attendance to VVIPs only. As a result, most of the self respecting persons preferred to have their meals outside or at the restaurant at the Tamilnadu House.
A visit to any states` House is eye opening.The rooms are well kept and the low grade employees are at the beck and call of the inmates. However in the Manipur Houses the HIndi speaking employees do not care two hoots for the Manipuri inamtes who can hardly speak a coherent sentence in Hindi. They are not seen anywhere and thre is no system of summoning them. The rooms are not swept at all. At the doors of every room left overs and other trashes remain piled up for days together and intolerable stench waft all around. There is no responsible officer to whom the harried inmate could lodge a complaint simply because these scheming officials materialise in the office only when some VVIPs are coming. In their eyes presspersons, ranking officials and others do not deserve any attention. Certainly all these things have not been brought to the notice of the GAD Minister. All the Ministers here do not know the crippling power position and shortage of drinking water in the state.
A considerable number of boys and girls who are degree holders in hotel management are serving in most of the five star hotels. Besides there cannot be any dearth of unemployed youths who are prepared to serve in the Manipur Houses. In other words the GAD Minister could do something meaningful to run the Houses in the lines of the Tamilnadu House. Besides a profit earning restaurant could be run there. From short fairs in New Delhi it was seen that all sections of people scramble for the delicacies of Manipur. There will be no shortage of patrons if a restaurant is run in the Manipur Houses in New Delhi and Kolkata, If the Minister of GAD should continue to be a prisoner of the sheming officials it is another story The Manipur Houses are the only places where all the employees are non-locals. It is causing inconvenience since there is a language barrier with the ordinary persons of Manipur.
It is not too late on the part of the Chief Minister to take up remedial measures to review the faux pas. Interestingly, the Opposition MLAs have never persued it apart from asking some superficial questions whenever there is some undesirable contretemps takes place, sometimes involving their close associates. Will the Chief Minister lift a finger ?