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By Tinky Ningombam

It has been a hectic yet pleasant one week in Imphal and like every home-coming non-resident; I try to squeeze in as many activities into my schedule each day. It seems that night comes a little too fast that it seems impossible for me to keep a check on my evenings. I look at roads, buildings, hoardings, shops, people like a wide-eyed baby, I am sure it is but obvious for people around me that I act like a disoriented tourist.

After all these years, it has just dawned on me that there is very little that I have done here, very little I have seen, very few people  I have spoken to and it is in-fact disappointing because all I can remember of my childhood days were my classes and my tuitions. I haven’t even traveled all its roads and it is such a pity that I constantly run out of enough time to do all that.

*A welcome bandh and power cut*

Two bandhs greeted me when I arrived and I was not surprised, “We do not even know who calls what bandhs these days, there are so many” they say.  And to top my misery, my laptop battery dies without power and my Reliance dongle couldn’t get a connection. Network problems, power problem, yes a good welcome to Imphal, I sighed.  Everyone has set their routine to match the roster schedule. All set to the clock: charge phone, charge laptop, watch TV, make coffee, use the motor. Power schedules have made people so organized and on time, all the time. I am still trying to put a time quota of how much I work on my laptop so that I don’t have a dead one when I need it. And everyone seems to have picked their favorite spots for phone calls, every house has that one spot where there is the best reception… well, I am still hunting for ours.

*Morning at Ima Keithel*

I went to the Ima Keithel early morning after a couple of days I reached here and it was chaos like always. It was drizzling and there was mud everywhere, I was more concerned of stepping on a pothole than looking at the fresh vegetables. Most of them were fighting for a spot in places that cannot be hygienic first of all. Those women sit and grovel in the mud to sell their wares before the police drive them away.  And to think that they take all that trouble for very less money.  I went crazy picking what to buy as usual.  This is called the home-coming syndrome: the greed of wanting to buy all the vegetables, herbs, fruits, roots, plants, stems, roots, fish, snails, prawns… all that you haven’t seen for years. For a food-lover, it is a paradise… albeit a muddy one.

*Taking the roads less traveled*

There used to be a time when it was surprising to see a traffic jam, now you find jams in all major junctions of the city. Every road is bad when it rains and we end up trying to find new roads to drive off from the mad hour rush and the bazaar traffic. I also believe that the amount of incessant and unwarranted honking has also increased double fold. People honk for no good reason and sometimes just to show off their bikes or their fat SUVs. There used to be a pleasure of driving in the city, the short drives that we used to take in the evenings to check out shops and eat out, now people prefer to just get out of the city, do some sightseeing and drive back home. But of course, you have to be a stunt driver to wiggle your way out of the mad kids on bikes, the small roads sprawling with parked cars, the puddles and the potholes.

Everything changes as time goes by, we know that well but somehow we haven’t changed for the better. Community and individual values are something that I find diminishing over the years. Each year, we build bigger walls, higher walls. Now every big house has a dog or an armed guy, whichever comes easier. Neighbours don’t trust neighbours, children don’t trust adults, employees don’t trust the employers, workers don’t trust their agents and who, pray, now trusts the government. Morning papers abound with stories on crimes and death and we adjust to the situation and stay away from all these “dirty business of the state and its authority”, for we are but innocent citizens.

It is a bittersweet feeling being here, I have my days of joy and of grief. Sadly hopelessness can be contagious. In between sexist comments from local men, judgmental looks from strange old ladies and eve-teasing by young police recruits, it seems easier to be oblivious to all the annoying things that happen around you. Rather you look at home, the warm concept of it, of dear ones and sweet memories.That there are people who try to do their part and improve their home and contribute to the community. We try to remember that there is goodness around and pretty things too and that not all is lost just yet.

(All of the author`s published articles are available on her blog tinkyningombam.blogspot.in, feel free to connect with her on Twitter at @tnkiy )

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