In Praise of Vox Populi

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It is extremely heartbreaking to know that the black badged warriors of our first ladyship could not protect her fortress of propriety. Are we becoming a civilisation of caged minds that we have become so intolerant to the words that emanate out from free minds, who speaks with wit and wisdom? Satire is an art; the art has been enduring throughout the literary history of the human civilisation since antiquity. It is one of the most essential elements of a free society. Literary critic justifies it as a corrective of human vice and folly; Alexander Pope, for instance, remarked that “those who are ashamed of nothing else are so of being ridiculous.” As critics put it, satirist often manifests the character of an urbane, witty, and tolerant man of the world, who is moved more often to wry amusement than to indignation at the spectacle of the human folly, pretentiousness, and hypocrisy. Satirist is a serious moralist sometimes who decries ways of vice and error. Needless to say, true to the best of our knowledge and conscious mind that we love to read the weekly columns of a Manipuri local daily: ‘Awoiba Amashung Oidaba’ written by Vox Populi. We do not know the identity of Vox Populi. Whether the writer is a man or a woman, we do not bother to know; Vox Populi is his or her true name is the least of our concerns. Our resolve is that the writer should keep on writing, free from any kind of inhibitions without being coerced by empty protests or rebukes. The recent column with the title ‘Mark ki Su in-charge Leigadra’ (loosely translated as ‘will there be an in-charge for the marks’) is perhaps the best among many. In its definitive style, the column begins with a knavish question to one Thoudam Ibohal, supposedly a Leikai elder. The writer urges Ibohal to make a hypothetical choice between two alternatives; the choice is of his son scoring 99.9 percentages in matriculation examination or winning 99 Crores from a lottery draw. Indeed a difficult choice to make for Ibohal. Choices of this kind can put anyone into a state of dilemma. The first choice is a value-loaded goal that could be accomplished only through genuine effort. As for the second choice, the amount of money is simply impossible, even for anyone who earns Rupees one lakh a month. Ibohal flatly rejects the choices given to him terming it as a baloney. The writer then narrates a story of a hard working boy hailing from a Chinese province, who became a doctor and went to the United States for further research. He returns to China as a proficient doctor and starts serving his own countryman – by becoming the director of a medical institution. The director, whenever he is away from the institution would hand over the charge to his wife. Finally the director is sent to jail for his misdoing. Vox Populi neatly allegorises the story, saying that there is a similar director in Manipur who could end up in jail. And the irony is even in the jail, as Vox Populi predicts, the same man could become the ‘jail director’. In short, the writer sketches the metamorphosis of a sincere man, who got swallowed by temptations when power is bestowed in his hand. The man not only becomes a symbol of avariciousness but also a man of deceitful pretensions. Here is the bottom line: if you cannot praise such a beautiful piece of satire which reflects contemporary Manipur, we would suggest you to read Swift’s Gulliver’s Travel or Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn – two classics that unrepentantly illuminate the ills of their respective societies, though there are many in English writings. If you are not comfortable in English, you can start with GC Tongbra or Laishram Samarendra. Your snobbish taste could stop you from reading Manipuri, but then you can listen to Epom – the masterpiece of Manipuri courtyard play of satire and humour. Now, cassettes are no longer available, but you can get the CDs easily from the shops just around the corner of Pologround, Imphal West district. If nothing works at all, then let it be. We are still happy to see sycophants fanning a storm over a cup of tea

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