By Chitra Ahanthem
Well!FOOTNOTES has missed its Sunday date with the IFP page for two consecutive Sundays now. The first Sunday space was made up by the translation of Irom Sharmila’s message which she had handed over to me as I was waiting to talk with her on behalf of a journalist who came down in Imphal. The second Sunday date miss out happened thanks to electric load shedding, which happens to be a pet peeve. Everyone without a VIP electric line connection lives through a close to 18 hour or more electric cut in a 24 hr cycle. This means that people like myself who work from home have to resort to near cases of hair pulling (my own self) while trying to meet submission deadlines. I have resorted to walking into people’s offices and their homes (on a rotation basis so I don’t over extend their hospitality!) after checking on the “on” and “off” of electric supply. One time, I sat down at the lobby of the government-run Hotel Imphal, pretending I was invited for some seminar and/or waiting for someone, just so I could charge my laptop!
But to come to the year end period, it is time to look at how the year rounded off without going into what happened on a day to day or episodic happening. Rather, we will look at some specific happenings that took place this year from the nature of my association with them. The year 2011 began by taking away two major cultural and historical icons of Manipur- Imashi MK Binodini and N. Khelchandra. I only had only one personal interaction with the later while accompanying a camera crew that had come down from Mumbai in 2004. The project was to look at linkages between dance and symbolism and I remember a certain goose bump moment when the film director was asking whether there are any linkages between dance and martial arts. Pandit Khelchandra started answering with a “yes” and started to explain a bit and then he simply stopped himself and started to show the connection between the two.
With Imashi, I had a close and longer interaction lasting for 8 years. I came back home one day to find that Imashi had called me up. When I called back, she asked me if I could translate a radio play that she had adapted from a short story that another person had written. There would be no money in the translation, I was told. I went ahead anyway because I was aware that Imashi Binodine was very particular about her works being translated into English. I wanted to know whether she would be satisfied with my efforts. I would like to think that I was able to satisfy Imashi’s artistic sensibilities for in 2006 (or was it 2007?) I and another former IFP colleague were approached to work on translating “Maharaj Churachandgi Imung” a book that is a collection of her memoirs of her royal family. Again, there was hardly any money to the venture: my former colleague and myself were paid a thousand rupees each and we set out to translate half the book between ourselves. We were also made to understand that our names would be acknowledged as first draft translators but we went ahead because we wanted a connection with Imashi. Thanks to the fact that my house is not that far from Imashi’s house, I was able to spend quite some time after Imashi Binodini became bed-ridden and I will treasure all my moments of talking with her. The memory of her soft, “Ibemma, you are so tiny. I have seen you on TV and you look a bit large there”, stays with me as the year comes to an end shortly.
The blockade in 2011 made it to the record books because of its length. The length of queues for petrol remained the same though the petrol cost went a bit further than when the 2010 blockade happened. Another marginal difference was the presence of national and international media following up with the blockade spectacle in the state. While it was encouraging that what happens in the state is being spotlighted (though not to the desired level) in the national media platforms, I have my own doubts of whether journalists who come in for a few days at the most and end up speaking to only a few people they are recommended to speak to (and often, they speak to the same set of people too) can do a real study of the situation.
The year ends on the buzz over the assembly elections happening in January. Many thought that the elections would be sometime in February but now with the election dates having been announced for a single polling, what happens in the few days to the year wrapping off and the new year coming in will be worth a watch.