Source: Imphal Free Press
By Bobo Khuraijam
Hey! The National Highway 39 along side the Kangla moth looks so empty without the auto rickshaws and the Tata Magic. Where have they all gone? They have become part of the town scape. They were there making a beehive on the road with their engines adding serenity to the peaceful milieu of Imphal sohor. Each engine sings a shrilling melody. Their own melody overpowers the horn of fellow commuters. They would dash on the road oscillating from left to right and right to left. They screeched to halt to pick up passengers at any instant. Where have they really gone? We are being told that their parking area has been shifted to some other place. What? Who dare do that without consulting people who have gone deaf listening to their melodious engine? Have they taken consent of those who had had the golden opportunity to bump with them? They should take into confidence of those commuters who are still reeling in the physiotherapy center following a sweet rendezvous with the Diesel Autos. We are going to miss them terribly. They are a boon in the name of public transport. No other public transport drop passenger into every leirak-khullak like they do. Some cities in other part of the country are phasing out such rickshaws. May be that could be the reason why the Banks in our state are so keen to give loans to anyone who wish to drive a diesel auto. That is what we call a good policy – a policy of transfer, policy of transferring one nuisance to another. When you have an army of unemployed and roads akin to that of Stone Age, and banks as loving and giving as the World Bank, one is sure to enjoy the heavenly bliss of surface transport in the twenty-first century. We must be proud that we are already privileged to live in a place with highest cost of living in the country. We almost forget that fact. An aide-mémoire from a Leipung member who resides in Bombay helps us in reminding ourselves of where we stand. He works in that city with the highest cost of living. But recently the state of Manipur has surpassed its position during and after the Highway Blockade. We requested him to come down to Imphal to have a taste of food cooked with a gas cylinder which cost fifteen hundred Rupees. The best cuisines served in the finest hotel of his city is nothing but rubbish when compared with the food cooked here with the black cylinder. We also promised him to take a good ride on a vehicle filled with the costliest fossil fuel in the world. With little sense of propriety he out rightly rejected our proposal. He intend to stay in his city with meager savings, in his two room flat with his daily dose of twenty five kilometers to and fro travel by just nineteen Rupees. He said he would not like his conscience to be fossilized by coming over here. We demanded an explanation of what actually ‘fossilized conscience’ mean. He explained that fossils are rich deposits of valuable stuffs which can be harnessed for very useful purposes. Besides, it has vital information stored in it which can be interpreted and reinterpreted to link the past and the present. The only hitch is that it will remain as fossil until and unless it is discovered. In plain words it will remain useless. He went on to explain that the whole of our conscience has not been put to use. That no single soul cares to register their displeasure (forget about resentment) of paying undue price, on commodities, than its actual cost. What nonsense? We told him that we know what is right or wrong. What has conscience got to do with price of the essential commodities? What does he know about our pride? We reminded him once for and all that we are a civilization with thousands year of history. We give a damn if he calls us fossil or fossilized. We have a pride, a pride of hai humdana paalamba. So our lives have got nothing to do with the so called COST OF LIVING. The majority of our Leipung resolved to exterminate all kinds of communication with him after hearing his unsolicited lectures. Missing the diesel autos deep down in our hearts, we moved on along the forsaken National Highway to reach another destination of visual spectacle.
THE SPECTACLE: was held in the heart of the town with much fanfare. Film festival: as they called it in regular parlance. Should we remind that this is the second international event of its kind? One was held during the hay days of High Way Blockade. The second one was held post blockade. Each one had a different flavor. But there was one striking commonality between the two. Both of the festivals were organized without toilets, which in fact is not a new thing in the town. The town itself has no proper public lavatory where one can ease off with their emergencies calls. Keithel Emas easing off, phaneks heaved above the knee is a common sight in the Keithel. So what would one do with toilets in an international Film Festival? With its infrastructure in the midway of completion, the organizers have taken a bold decision to host an event of international level. There were noises that the two halls could not accommodate all that who had turned up. One Film maker had claimed that he had not seen the kind of turn out in a Documentary Festival. But we feel there is little point to rejoice about. It is also not about overt media coverage on the event. The organizer has pulled up two big hoardings just outside its office; one for the documentary festival and other for the festival of commercial cinema. We feel the majority of those who had turned up must have come with the intention of watching commercial cinema, which is due for a couple of days. Those esteemed lover of documentary films have cared little to mind their mobile phones ringing many times during the shows. A good numbers of film personalities who are considered well known (very- very well-known according to themselves) sat in the front seats. We learned a lesson from them: if you are a personality of public importance, if you are going to watch a documentary film, you must sit in the front seat with your mobile with not only loud but rash ringtones. Good that the organizer has put a chair in the front row with VIP comforts, cine goers behind them had to elongate their necks to read the sub title of the film. A good number of films were shown. A film showing the war devastated Afghanistan shares a common feature with Manipur (which has since not gone to war after the British left) that there is no running water and electricity in the city. We hope to see more events of such kinds to remind us of ourselves that how bliss we are.
FOOTNOTE: some ministers had left without having dinner in the evening of fifteen August celebration in the residency of the Constitutional Head of the state. The reason was that they were frisked by the security at the entrance as well in the premise. Leipung Ningthou calls it “jagat ki mikithi ga chakhao ga singnaba”.