By: Sanjib Meitei
Nowadays, I often came across many articles debating on the pros and cons of ban on Hindi movies in Manipur and entry of Korean movies and its subsequent impact on Manipuri society. Some people openly advocate lifting of the ban on Hindi movies claiming that it will help Manipuris to learn the Hindi language which is of course the national language of India. Some people, declaring their undying love for Hindi movies, expressed their desperate desire to watch Hindi movies and how trips to Delhi or Guwahati become a great opportunity to catch up a movie or two. I respect all the views and sincerely believe that most of the articles carry certain valid points in support of their claims. I am not a compulsive movie buff. But, I too watch Hindi movies whenever there are good ones. I am not very adventurous when it comes to watching movies per se. I won’t dare to watch any Salman Khan or
Akshay Kumar movies unless there are some good critical reviews or good response from some of my fiends whom I consider having similar taste of movies with me. Further, having been living in central India for the last decade, I never felt that desperate to go after Hindi movies also. Unfortunately, I don’t get to watch Manipuri movies very often and a few which I tried out was not that good. Recently, I watched a Manipuri movie called “Nobab” and even though the story line seem repeating a Lagaan or Chak De, I really liked it. As for Korean movies which seem quite popular in NE states of India now a day, I never get to watch one and do not intend to watch in near future since it’s not readily available here besides my inability to understand Korean language. I am also not the type of person who can watch a Tamil movie without understanding the language even though the movie is hit. But, why do I love Manipuris to watch Korean movies instead of Hindi movies?
I don’t have a concrete statistics to prove all my points which I am going to write in this article. However, I frequently come across some attributes of Manipuris living in central and northern India which, I think, may be a precursor to the eventual down slide of Manipuri traditions and culture for our people living in these areas. Manipuris, specially living in Hindi belts of India, are facing a serious identity crisis. Everything seems normal and everybody seems to love Manipur, Manipuri culture, Manipuri cuisines and enthusiastic about Manipur whenever there is a gathering of Manipuris. However, in their day to day life, it is a different story. Most of the Manipuris are living with serious identity and personality crisis which are even oblivious to themselves. Knowingly or unknowingly, they are unable to accept their identity as a Manipuri (of course, everybody will deny) be it in their look, accent and other physical appearances like nose, eyes, and many more things which define the traits of being a Manipuri. People seem to be trying too hard to be Indian. By Indian, Manipuris consider the Hindi speaking people with north Indian look as Indian and try to assimilate their culture, traditions and even cuisines in day to day life. I am afraid to say that the grandchildren of current parents living in Hindi belt of India will forget that we Manipuris have an identity in terms of culture and tradition, much different from the traditions, culture and religions of people living in central India although some of Manipuris are devout Hindus (Gouranga Sampradyay).
I came across many such instances when I interact with Manipuris living in my adopted city for the last decade. Once, during a random conversation, one of my senior Manipuri persons told me that all the people excluding scheduled tribes, scheduled castes and other backward classes are good looking even though some of them have dark complexion. I didn’t react to the topic. But, I think that my fellow Manipuri person has developed a few problems even though he consider his knowledge or experience regarding the people living there is true in general.
(1) Unknowingly, he becomes familiar with the dirty caste system being practiced in central and northern India.
(2) He forgot radical definition of good look of a person. His definition of good look becomes caste driven and over dominance of people with north Indian look and that too, those from high castes in his life in central and northern India forced him to think that the specific pattern of look is good or not good or better than others.
I remember the Bollywood diva Katrina Kaif saying over and over in interviews that her look is not accepted as beautiful by Hollywood people or western people in general. It is the same case here. I consider Serena Williams, the top seeded Tennis player as beautiful and sexy even though many people living in central India or Manipur who don’t know her may ridicule me. But, for me, she is one of the players whom I follow and quite impressed with her playing prowess. So impressed is me that even though she is slightly over muscular as per the conventional definition of feminine look, I like her. It doesn’t mean that Katrina Kaif or Lin Laishram or Jwala Gutta is not beautiful to me. Unfortunately, many of my fellow Manipuris are so influenced by the Indian look to the point their definition of good look become somewhat biased. I don’t have anything against Indian look but my main concern is Manipuris being so hooked up with those Indian looks that they start hating their own look and other physical appearance like nose, eyes, hairs etc. I came across news in Times of India and Hindustan times that many NE girls are going for nose job and eyes job so that they look more like a Indian lady. Here is the point where I start believing that Korean movies can do a good job for Manipuris in restoring their lost confidence at least where look and physical appearance are concerned. Movie is a powerful medium which really influence peoples’ thought process. At least, Korean movie will instill young generation of Manipuris to love and accept their look which is very different from Indian looks but close to those Korean artistes.
Another disturbing trend is that most of the Manipuri children cannot speak Manipuri and their parents never make an effort seriously to teach it to their wards. The root cause is that majority of the Manipuri parents living in Hindi land have a constant fear that their children will not be able to speak Hindi properly if they speak Manipuri at home. Reality is they hate their own Hindi accent. Perhaps they had been or are still a laughing stock of Hindi speaking people for their wrong Hindi sentence construction and mispronunciation of Hindi words. They are also afraid that their children would face the same problem as they do. A big fallacy! The accent of any children born and brought up among Hindi speaking people will never be our Manipuri accent. Hindi will be their primary language irrespective of how much Manipuri you taught to them. But, no, Manipuri parents won’t dare to teach Manipuri to them. South Indians, Sindhis, Marathis and Bengalis living in northern and central India for generations always speak their own language fluently in their home and among their own community members. They face no problem in speaking Hindi. Isn’t it embarrassing to be a Manipuri parent who cannot pass on the Manipuri language and tradition to our wards? How can Manipuris be so irresponsible, under confident and embarrassingly trying too hard to be an Indian (Indian by Manipuri definition) as much as possible at the cost of our own Manipuri identity? So much so that I came across Meitei girls living in north India writing their name in total mayangnized fashion like “Nita Singh”. Well, I just can suggest that that is not the way how Manipuris write their name.
Another not so disturbing trend but still I consider it to be identity crisis is slowly changing eating habits of Manipuris. This happens when a Manipuri family invites some of his Indian friends. Very well organized and again, trying too hard to be Indian again. Dishes will include puris, rotis, palak paneer, daal/daal makhani, alu dum etc. No malicious intention on the part of Manipuri hosts. They think that if you invite a person for a meal and if the person cannot enjoy the meal, then the organized meal are meaningless. I respect the feeling of the Manipuris hosts, but somewhere doesn’t this reflect the inferiority complex of Manipuris (or am I over pessimist) while flaunting our eating habits and vast cuisines? What about Manipuri cuisines like Iromba, Utty, Alu Kangmet, Kangsoi etc for veg people and Nga toithong many more in case of no vegetarians? I was invited to many of my mayang freinds (In fact, I am the mayang for them as per the definition of the word mayang). South Indian families would bring out their cuisines such as idli, dosas, masala dosas, chutaneys made of coconut, pakodas etc. Those are not so spicy but healthy and tasty. North Indian cuisine is spicy and tasty. Of all the cuisines of north India, I like alu ke paratha. In central India, Daal bafale/bati is special. I like it. Bengalis, I love all the fish dishes. Assamese, khaar is very common. As from my side, whoever visits my home for a meal, I make sure that they taste real taste of vegetable Kangsoi. It is healthy and believe me it’s really tasty. I am not sure if any chef of well known restaurants can cook boil vegetable as tasty as Manipuri Kangsoi. I have explored many dishes of boil vegetable dishes but a Kangsoi like Thai boil vegetable dish comes very close to Manipuri Kangsoi taste. However, it was not as good as ours (my friends said that and I too feel the same). Utty with utsoi, chakhaou kheer (it’s the 8th wonder for non Manipuris whoever taste this and always on demand) are some sure hit dishes. Alu kangmet is very appreciated with daal in Manipuri style. Some of my friends become so fond of kangsoi that they include kangsoi as mandatory dish in their home at least twice a week. It’s not that other Indian cuisines are not tasty but it’s just that ours is no less by any standards.
Finally, had the cultural and traditional values of Manipuris who migrated to Bangladesh, Assam, Myanmar, Tripura at least a hundred of years back been so embarrassingly weak like current breeds of Manipuris who had just started living outside Manipur only for the last one or two decades (that too, after getting basic education from Manipur only), then they could have been a long forgotten history. I appreciate the fact that those Manipuris still speak Manipuri language even though there is some mix up with other language. There are even writers and poets who are working for development of Manipuri language and preserving Manipuri culture and traditions. Looking at the current trend of Manipuris who cannot take pride of the fact that they are Manipuri, preserving cultural and traditional identity of Manipur seems a big asks. It is unfortunate and I hope it is not the sore reality we have to live with.
The above article was sent to Kanglaonline by Sanjib Meitei.