A lunch date with Irom Sharmila

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The invitation for the 11th Global Youth Peace Fest, organised by Yuvsatta at the Chandigarh Institute of Hotel Management, mentioned an interaction with Manipur’s Iron lady Irom Sharmila over lunch. Quite a tempting offer! For, until a few months back, the prospects of having lunch with her wouldn’t have been there. That is until she broke her 16-year-long fast in protest against the Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) in Manipur, last month.The Iron Lady looks a little frail and needs to be assisted while walking, but things are falling into place slowly. Threats by militant organisations, which did not want her to break the fast, have been subsiding.The bitterness of the Meira Paibi group of women, who stood by her throughout and felt betrayed when she unilaterally decided to end her fast, is almost over and they are coming to terms with it. Her mother, who had always maintained that she would feed her daughter with her hands as and when AFSPA would be repealed (but did not know what to do with AFSPA still in place) has accepted her daughter’s decision to change the course of her journey. She is ready to lend Irom the same silent strength she had always given.“Yes, I have met my mother, finally,” she said. Irom Sharmila and her mother Irom Sakhi had made this pact of not seeing each other all these years so that her resolve to continue with her struggle did not get weakened. “I am not staying with her as I am not staying at one particular place. I am like a bird flying from one place to another.”So, what triggered the decision to end her fast, which she had started in 2000 after the infamous Malom Massacre? “A lot of pressure,” says Irom without elaborating on what the pressure was, and from where it came. “Also, my stamina was on the wane and I realised that I needed to change my strategy to achieve my goal,” she adds.First thing, she is going around generating moral support for her cause and second, now people are focusing on what’s on her mind rather than the nasal feeding tube which had become an integral part of her persona for the past 16 years.So, the question whether she is planning to join AAP did not exactly come as a surprise. The speculation was rife after she met AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal in New Delhi, recently.But Irom is not in the mood to discuss politics at least on this particular forum. “This conference is about peace, so let’s not talk about my political goal here,” she said, inviting journalists (interested in her political career) to visit her at Manipur Bhawan in Delhi where she will be staying till October 3.Politics being out of conversation, the focus shifts to food again. “I am a vegan. I was a vegetarian even before I started my fast,” says Irom. And her body is accepting food after being deprived for so long. “I am slowly getting my stamina back,” she says. And, it shows. Though frail, she looks radiant in a light-blue Manipuri phanek and a white blouse with those unruly, uncombed curly locks contouring her face. But, her long nails remain intact. They are likely to, till she achieves her goal. The uncombed hair and unclipped nails are now going to be constant reminders that she has just changed her course, not her aim!Not ready to tell her tale  After a biography titled Burning Bright: Irom Sharmila by Deepti Priya Mehrotra, and quite a few chapters dedicated to her by Anubha Bhonsle in her book Mother, Where is My Country, is Irom Sharmila inspired to write about her life?“No, not at all. I used to write poetry but that phase is over now,” she says. And looking at Bollywood’s penchant for biopics, we ask her if we can expect one on her too. Well, she confirms that nobody has approached her for one so far!

News Source: Tribune India

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