The 2014 edition of the great Sangai Festival

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By Tinky Ningombam

In the hope to do a little bit of research for this year`™s fest, I stumbled upon their pretty website http://sangaifestival.gov.in/ . Ignoring my OCD against grammatical errors, I browsed through the pages in a frenzy. And then I found something fascinating. There it was, a tab that said `MAN BEHIND THE WHEELS/FESTIVALS`, just within the section THEME & PURPOSE OF FESTIVAL. Of course I wanted to know who the MAN is, the man who is running this entire show, who came up with this spectacular event. Who wouldn`™t? I clicked on it and what did I find? NOTHING. A blank page. A million questions ran in my mind. Why was this blank? If it was supposed to be blank, why was this page created? Who did they want to name the Father of The Sangai Festival? Who is the neo, the alpha, the omega ? Who is the ONE? A mystery never fails to excite me. Manipur, you always seem to give me such profound moments of joy every single day. One mystery after another. It is like living a Sherlock Holmes story. When will I ever tire of you?
Manipur celebrates Sangai Festival. All that people seem to be talking about is the festival. Which is good. Talk is good. No publicity is bad publicity. 30,000 thronged the 8th day of the event read local dailies. For the state it is one of the rare market-able investment. So far in all these years, the only scaling up I felt were the delegations from other states and countries. And now our PM.

The cultural events seems to have wowed the delegates; that is good news indeed. Sunday`™s grand finale will be the make or break day. It might just be a little early to rejoice. Last time I checked, the best thing about last year turned out to be the Moreh light bulbs outside. Not only for being a good backdrop for people`™s Facebook pictures but especially the day after where people took (stole) it to light their own homes. And who could forget the ample bad memories from years past. The unruly audience catcalling foreign artistes and the obnoxious thefts from the foreign stalls. The drunk people at the venue and the caterwauling at fashion shows. See, some things you have to learn as individuals. The government is not responsible for how the people behave, that we have to admit. This time around, it is quite funny though that by far the most talked about stall is the certain one with fried chicken from Guwahati. Beat that! Manipur tourism fest mega-seller is a fried chicken stall! Colonel Sanders must be seeing dollar signs in heaven.

Though without doubt, a state sponsored festival with no competition so far is definitely a very good product to build and market. Give or take some glitches, such as the lack of security or proper hospitality infrastructure. People like a spectacle, period. We like drama and entertainment. All work and no play definitely makes Jack a dull boy. So every year, people come to see the same venue and stalls over and over again in the hope to find something new, something better for them. But what is the future of the festival now? Can we hosts hundreds of people coming in from other places to visit? Because it is `Safety First` right? Till we can assure safe travels and stays, the Sangai Festival has to be in the beta stage because sadly, despite many promises, it is still a `come at your own risk` affair.

It is an occupational hazard that every time I read a bad headline, the PR person in me twitches her thumbs. A grenade managing to miraculously get past our beloved and efficient police and security forces. Some officials seem to be a little too distracted by the food stalls. But what the heck, business as usual, eh? One asks why it is that anything that our state government does gets bad press. One answer. No trust. It is all a vicious circle. The people don`™t trust the government, they don`™t trust the law enforcers, and the government don`™t trust the people `¦ practically no-one trusts anyone to do the right job. Murphy`™s Law. Anything that can go wrong will go wrong. In our state, there is more wrong than right.In fact there is no `right`, there is the `wrong` and the `not-so-wrong.`

What of the festival though? The gathering of rich and poor alike, meeting of locals and people from beyond. How does it bode for the state? This is where it makes one wonder how you measure the success of the festival. Is it the public`™s satisfied palates, profits from the local stalls, publicity to fill up their year books? What is the benchmark? What deals goes on behind the red tapes?

There is only one way to sustain a property to create interest and that is to scale it up – to make it bigger, better and grander. Tourism is more than just festivals, you will agree. Tourism fests are about creating local affinities, enabling infrastructure, enhancing the image of the state, helping the economy. You don`t need a college degree to understand this. We need some real action, less deceptive magic tricks. No smoke clouds and sparkles. More returns for the people. Because we know better that it is one thing to create a spectacle and another to get benefits. Some national limelight will definitely be a welcome sign for the final day. Due credit to one of Indian media`™s darling, our hon. Prime Minister, Mr Modi. Grand day ahead. Between a curfew and the PM`™s bandobast, it will be a swell Sunday. Notwithstanding some inappropriate man-handling and body cavity searches. Readers, do upload selfies.

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