Shrinking Selves

1155
By Bobo Khuraijam

Time had come for the guests to be dropped home after the dinner. Not that late for an evening but considered to be late for the Manipuri time(s). The home coming dinner given by Mr  & Mrs Yengkhom   to their diaspora friend who have settled in a cosmopolitan for nearly two decades was neat and wholesome. Our usual fish was not in the menu. The guests had explicitly demanded for seasonal Manipuri cuisines which they have not been opportune to relish for a very long time. So varieties of summer splendid were served: Usoi Kangshu, Thaangjing & Tebi ametpa, Laphutharo Paknam accompanied by Sougri kangsoi, Uchina kaanghou and Yendem eronba.Summer heat would fail to hinder us from falling in love – again and again, with cuisines affectionately sodden with chilli. Though the drizzle early in the evening seemed to have set a right mood, yet the mood is never perfect without the sweltering sweat from chilli.

A exquisite display of Manipuri Dishes/Cuisine which are enjoyed normally on the day of Cheiraoba - Manipuri New Year
A exquisite display of Manipuri Dishes/Cuisine which are enjoyed normally on the day of Cheiraoba – Manipuri New Year

TIME TO DROP HOME:

Mr Yengkhom cough started his car. The guests quickly get seated in the rear; Mrs Yengkhom in the front had also accompanied them.It had been such a long time that the diaspora couple could take out time from their cosmopolitan everydayness.Their scripts of personal life have been imbricated into the nine to five job, into the evanescence of the concrete horizon. A weeklong leave after so many years had been euphoric, more so from the delightful dinner they had in the evening. The power cuts, the dust bath on the road, dis-arrayed garbage, traffic blues or anything which have been the morbid landmark of the town does not stopped them from asserting – in between the conversation: ‘there is no place like home’, not once or twice but many times. They shared that they would love to come back home and start a business of their own. Mr Yengkhom, who had been to places across the globe, and have settled down in the town with a small business, lauded their idea. He has learned to live with the place rolling along with its rough edges. The initial withdrawal symptom after running in the cosmopolitan fast lane, and back home – walking in the slippery lane seemed to take life into reverse gear. But one can sure move ahead by shifting different gears, Mr Yengkhom explained. And moreover, staying within your community, speaking the same language of existence – breathing the same air (how polluted it may be) binds oneself to the collective dream of a nationhood. All that while, Mrs Yengkhom wore an approval nod of smile. Hiding the demand of the Manipuri time by giving company to her husband, who would otherwise return alone after dropping the guest home; she would give company to her husband during night rides whenever she could. They reached in no time. Bade goodbye to their guest and wished them good for their ‘return home’ plan. The rain drop grew thicker as they drove back. Visibility on the road had worsened because of the rain. Black street lamps had also served its purpose. Mrs Yengkhom alerted her husband that a huge polybag was lying ahead. Mr Yengkhom steered right from it as they past drove.  Mrs Yengkhom had a feeling that it was not a polybag. It was something else.

They u-turned to ascertain what it was, there was a man lying near the manhole of the French sewer. His head covered with plastic to get rid of rain. But it bled profusely;his two wheeler thrown away a few yards away from him. The man had bumped his vehicle with the French mount hiding beneath the stagnant water. Mr and Mrs  Yengkhom took him to the emergency. They dialed from the man’s cellular phone from alphabetical order. Twenty… thirty names, and nobody answered;no too late to answer a phone, that too from an acquaintance at eleven pm. At last Mr & Mrs Yengkhom decided to call a friend serving in the police. The policeman came. He noted down the address of the injured man from his driving license. That was how his family got informed of their beloved member having met with an accident, which nearly got him off from his life. Most of the numbers that Mr and Mrs Yenkghom dialed in the man’s phone did not care to answer. The injured man is a regular office goer in a government office. That night he had returned home after meeting a friend – a harmless man by all definitions. His phone was not answered by many of his ‘friends’.

THAT DAY:

when a car fell down into the Naga Nulah with the driver and passengers inside, heavy crowed gathered to witness the never to be seen spectacle. A car loaded with passengers fell down into the Naga Nulah – all women. The car fell down into the drain as they tried to avoid a mishap. On the contrary, they met with the deadly accident. It was peak time in the morning with people teeming up the market area that the incident took place. Everybody was enjoying the spectacle, doing nothing. It was when one gentleman called Ghanashyam, who jumped down into the drain without a second thought. He was there helping his father’s grocery at Nagamapal. As soon as he heard of the news that a car had fallen into the drain, he jumped down and saved those who were inside the car. Yes, his photograph was carried out the following day on this paper. When asked why he jumped down, his simple answer was: they would have died in the water. Caring little of the consequences, the drain was filled with water recently after the retaining wall was constructed. Our work culture would not permit us to clear the debris after works got completed. Iron rods, sharp nails, boulders… you imagine anything, everything are underneath.Love for a ‘Homeland’, the fuzzy sense of ‘belongingness’ of ‘our own people’, of ‘home sweet home’ and above all empathy; the search will be on.

FOOTNOTE:

The media house has come under attack, again, from a group or people who swear by the name of Ema Leipak, who supposedly have dedicated their lives for the betterment of the people and its land for not meeting up with their wishes or demands.

Leipung Ningthou calls it, “ganatantra gi paambi da apaambagi til hidaak heena chaishinba”.

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