By Chitra Ahanthem
It`™s been about a year and a half since I was diagnosed with having a neck prolapse (two slipped disc). This means it`™s been the same time frame since I have stepped on to drive any two wheeler vehicle. Do I miss the independence that comes from my mobility? I do totally, but I would step in to say that it hasn`™t been such a bad thing altogether. Yes, not being able to drive myself to where I want and need to go is not much fun but I am one who believe in giving in to a situation that I cannot control and then looking at the better part of it. Having my movements curtailed means I get a valid reason to not turn up for certain events or happenings that I would have otherwise been obliged to attend. And when I do attend a few events or go out for personal interactions, it is to do with people whom I want to meet up and things that I want to do. The horrible shared auto service around town comes in handy when I do go out. Horrible because just to go to North AOC area from my locality in Keishamthong area, I have to take two autos and the take a long walk for just one leg of the travel. If I have to go to Bapupara area, I can take an auto till Keishamthong and then walk till the petrol pump and then have the remaining stretch too short to take an auto and too long to walk. And no, I love walking but that is for the evenings and I prefer not to walk to keep an appointment or when going out for work. This bit about shared autos around Imphal is rather strange for there are quite a lot of them: enough to clog the traffic on the streets but the routes are so very badly planned out that it leaves passengers very inconvenienced.
One of the side-effects of not having mobility is the dependency on the poor auto service and a few good people who go out of their way literally to come and pick me up. This Saturday took me a film screening at the Manipur Film Development Corporation where every second Saturday of the month sees a film screening followed by discussions. Organized by the Television and Cine Foundation, these monthly screenings have been happening for quite some time now but it was rather strange to see less than 20 people turning up. The more interesting highlights of the film outing was along the road that took me from my home to MFDC. Heading from Keishamthong towards the way to Thumbuthong, we saw a `road closed`™ sign with some police personnel waving people away. We took a few lanes that would take us to the road that would pass by lane where a private hospital is located right in the middle of a residential area but there again, there were police personnel, a lot of dust and a lot of work happening on the roads. The penny fell: of course! This was all part of the great dressing up exercise for the Sangai Festival (they have dropped the word `tourism`™). The Government and its agencies would not definitely want to postpone the event till the Sanjenthong bridge gets completed, or dress it down and shift it elsewhere for if they did take either of this route, the allocated funding would not be around for the loot and plunder.
In between, this matter of the bridge has dragged on long enough. All it has done is caused traffic horrors on the most congested areas of Imphal. The ones who are suffering the most are residents around the Tumbuthong area and the lane from the bridge till BOAT side as it is this route that people are taking with Sanjenthong out of service. The amount of dust caked on the houses and property of people living in this stretch is unimaginable and one begins to wonder if it gets into their food and their body systems. Thinking about young children living in the area breathing in dust daily is enough to make me worried.
One other sighting along the road were police personnel of all colours and hues doing what they do best: detain young people to check their papers, not with the intent of doing a proper check but to throw their weight around. All of us can see the manner in which they insist on young people to keep their hands raised even as four to five security personnel keep them surrounded. With an intent on harassing people on the street rather than focusing on ground intelligence while they carry out their duties, is it any surprise that blasts keep happening at regular intervals around Imphal?