Speechless Death and Cultural Collapse: Manipur`s contemporary path

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By Amar Yumnam
Nelson Mandela said: “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”  The time has come for all the Manipuris to talk to their hearts and debate the emerging cultural dynamics. The event of two labourers dying while attempting to clean the sewage has not evoked any administrative, cultural and social shock natural in any civilised society. The rising frequencies of women found killed are events unimaginable in the context of traditional cultural ethos of Manipur but happening today more often than not. Similar events are charactering the land and society of Manipur today. The non- emergence of appropriate social response for addressing such downward social slides has reached a dangerous level. Now is THE time to indulge in collective as well as individual social introspection for reassessing the cultural health. This evaluation needs to be done in the spirit of Thomas Mowbray who was expelled by King Richard to Venice and died soon after. Shakespeare portrays his lamenting the decision of expelling in Richard II wonderfully thus: “A heavy sentence, my most sovereign liege, …Have I deserved at your Highness’ hands. The language I have learn’d these forty years, My native English, now I must forego; And now my tongue’s use is to me no more …Within my mouth you engaol’d my tongue, Doubly portcullis’d with my teeth and lips; And dull, unfeeling, barren ignorance Is made my gaoler to attend me.’ … I am too old to fawn upon a nurse, Too far in years to be a pupil now. What is thy sentence, then but speechless death, Which robs my tongue from breathing native breath?” Language is a carrier of culture and the healthier the culture is more positive would be the language. Here a positive language would feed on a positive culture and vice versa. 

But in recent years something has gone terribly wrong in the cultural trajectory of Manipur such that the events –unwanted, unwarranted and absolutely negative as they are – have failed to evoke the pains in the heart which were traditionally parts of the cultural ethos of the people here. Here I would like to quote extensively from Decolonizing the Mind (1986) of Ng˜ug˜i wa Thiong’o: “

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