Silence of Yaoshang

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Five days of deafening media silence on account of Yaoshang (Holi) has finally come to an end. The overwhelming response from the reading public has been that the break is too long, and this is a logical observation. It is unthinkable that in these modern times of tough competition for livelihoods, any business, not necessarily only the media, would voluntarily shut shop for such a long time. The media fraternity here by the sheer number of patronising, condescending, enquiries has also understandably been put on the defensive. However, their explanation should be given a tolerant ear. No doubt that in the end, the media is also a business, although it must be add, a different kind of business. This being the case, losing five working days also mean business losses and given the option, no media house would want this to happen. Why then do media organisations in Imphal go on a five day leave? The answer is already implied in what has already been said. It has no other option. In fact, some years ago, the newspaper fraternity did try to reduce the holiday to just three days, but ended up selling little or nothing of what they printed on those two days of holiday they tried to cut, for only very few distributors turned up to lift the copies. So the next time somebody feels the media holiday should shorten, let it be addressed to the larger public as such. Let not the media alone be accused of craving for holidays and shirking an important responsibility. Instead, let the Yaoshang festival be shortened. Let the accusative finger be pointed at the love for extended revelry by the public and not the media for not hanging on to their duties even it if means business martyrdom.

Seriously, the Yaoshang festivities need to be shortened. Nowhere in India is Holi celebrated to the extent it is in Manipur. Besides, this is no longer appropriate or commensurate with the pace of life of the modern times. Once upon a time it was a laid back, semi-agrarian life for everybody, including for those in Imphal. The laid back lifestyle somewhat lingered on when there were only government services to call a job. This hangover has still not disappeared altogether, and this is perhaps why a five day Yaoshang holiday is still not seen as abnormal. But the fact is, on an incremental basis, the government job market having hit a ceiling, there have been a rapid mushrooming of micro enterprises run by self-employed men and women as well as small and mid-level businesses which employ considerable number of people. These private enterprises are the worst hit by the laid back and slothful work culture of the past that so suited the government services whose accountability is not linked at all to productivity. Unlike them, private enterprises live as they earn, and when they do not earn, they starve. They do not, hence, relish long breaks in their businesses.

The next time anybody thinks of having a dig at the press for going off the stand for five days, let him or her point the finger at the love for revelry that Manipur has not shed despite the quantum leap in the pace of life in the modern times. Let them in this way point their fingers at themselves too. But on a more serious note, let the Holi celebrations be cut down to two or three days at the most in future years. Let the state learn to keep up with the needs of the time. Celebrations and revelry are necessary to unwind from the daily grinds of urban life, but there are other less wasteful ways of doing this. All the celebrations and unwinding do not have to be necessarily at a stretch as during Holi, but can be paced out through the year. Let a little night life be re-introduced in Imphal. A city cannot afford to sleep at 7pm, for there can be a number of productive hours gained after that. Let there be more amusement parks, let prohibition be lifted, let there be more respectable outlets to release tensions of the days and weeks… Let the Manipur pressure cooker have more safety valves to let off excess steam. Perhaps the love for extended festivals and revelries are a direct result of this lack of means to vent this residual steam of modern life. If there were to be more natural amusements outlets available through the year, perhaps Yaoshang celebration too would on its own come to be restricted to what is normal and appropriate for modern Manipur. In this new paradigm of living, businesses simply cannot be allowed to stop for five complete days.

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