The Poet, the Chief Minister and the Fear: Rajkumar Bhubonsana, Okram Ibobi and Highway

By M C Arun

A common thing is there between Mr Rajkumar Bhubonsana and Mr Okram Ibobi.

Rajkumar Bhubonsana is a famous poet in Manipur. He also wrote children books. He has a number of poems to his credit. He has been honored for his contribution to Manipuri literature with poems of different style and taste by different literary bodies and authorities. He is one of Sahitya Akademi Awardees, received in 2002. On the other hand, we all know that Mr Okram Ibobi is a seasoned politician having no literary touch in his speech and expressions. The Chief Minister is known for his straight forward sentences devoid of metaphor and simile. Unlike Okram Ibobi, Rajkumar Bhubonsana is not a politician, nor is he a political thinker. However, the metaphors in his poems are very powerful to depict the political scenario of the State and people’s political wishes. His famous poem, Mei Mamgera Budhi Mamgera (1999), is all about choice of either of the two evils. The ruler asks the people to choose one: no electricity or no knowledge. It is a little different from Ibobi’s power propaganda: No bill clearance, no electricity.  Okram Ibobi is not known for his rhetoric speeches or metaphoric deliberations. It is crystal clear that Ibobi’s power is reciprocal to the consumers’ clearance of electricity bills. For this, there is no compromise: If you don’t pay, we cut your line. In Bhubonsanasana’s choice, there is a big OR in between no electricity and no knowledge. It is not electricity or knowledge.

No doubt, this poet of Imphal may require electricity in his real life. His power consumption may be more than an ordinary person of Okram Ibobi’s Thoubal constitutency. But he does not choose electricity in his poem. While taking the decision, there are many colorful arguments among different members of age-groups, classes over the selection of either no electricity or no knowledge. The logical sequence of the choice reflects the entire power equation of the State. It is exemplified by one recent advertisement of thanks-giving to local MLA and Chief Minister (both of Thoubal district). It clearly shows that the peoples can be kept in the dark of the power equation in the State with a few more liters of kerosene and a few more kg of rice in PDS; even though there is regular electric supply in this district or at least two constituencies of the district. The question is not over the PDS items or wages earned from Mahatama Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). The question is of the knowledge. The award winning poet does not selection electricity over knowledge. He selects knowledge neither. In his equation, Knowledge is related with electric or light.

Rajkumar Bhubonsana National Sahitya Akademi Award Winner from Manipur
Rajkumar Bhubonsana National Sahitya Akademi Award Winner from Manipur. Photo Courtesy:

Unlike Okram Ibobi, Rajkumar Bhubonsana is just an ordinary person having limited channels to knowledge. He is Supervisory Officer of a bank, posted in Imphal. He thinks of electricity and its ramifications. If you have electricity, you will read more and more books. You will be exposed to more channels of knowledge. More knowledge means more agitating mind because you will understand the dark politics of the State. Do you know what will happen when you express what you understand of the State politics? It is better to be ignorant. “I don’t know” attitude is the best policy for longer life. The poet even likes to strike out one of his incisors so that the facial appearance will be ugly. His irony is very strong to teach the danger associated with knowledge in a State like Manipur.

Then, what is common thing between the poet and the Chief Minister is Fear. The poet has a knowledge phobia, at least ironically. Knowledge is not power (forget what many philosophers, thinkers say for time being; you are in Manipur); but a source of unwanted eventualities in life, at least for the common people. If the light has to give knowledge, we do not like light. In darkness, you will not understand what is right, human rights, or being used. You will not grow beyond the acceptable limit in the eyes of ruling class. Higher height of knowledge means dead. We call recall the fate of Uningthou that rises above the average height of uchams in ancient poem, Hijan Hirao. “Don’t try to be conspicuous; live as a dot in crowd” is what Manipuri political socialization is all about. The voice of the poet who mocks the State system is so clear and loud. His idea is, however, circled in a limited literary circle that concerns more about similes, metaphor and symbols; that talks more about forms, meters and rhythms than the content of the poems. It may be this reason why he is still alive even though he has knowldege.

The fear of Mr Okram Ibobi as VVIP is also so visible without using any special instrument to measure fear. The visible manifestation of his fear is that he is being guarded by special armed forces. Unlike the house of the poet, the well lighted Chief Minister’s bungalow is surrounded by four walls; there are guards inside and outside of the compound. Still the adjacent portion of highway has to be blocked after 5 pm so that Chief Minister can take rest without fear. On the other hand, the house of the poet has no gate. A narrow lane of hardly 20 feet leads you from highway to his courtyard. He sleeps well with his normal troubles of life and burden of living in Imphal, in spite of his fear of knowledge that may lead him to dead. It seems the poet is not afraid of nightmares. Unlike the poet, Okram Ibobi’s gates (western and northern) are closed and well guarded in different layers. All the visitors are verified, screened and even check physically, if necessary. Above all, he blocks the adjacent road in a crowded city. The blockade may cause many disturbances to the public – in different ways and meaning. This blockade is, in poetic sense, a metaphor of fear – fear of being Ibobi. As the people has no knowledge and busy with their routine lives of poverty, they do not have the gut to ask the question why our king is so afraid of opening ways to the public.


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