By Bobo Khuraijam
People and vehicles, more people – more vehicles: and more noise. Khwairamband was noisier than usual that day. Yes, it was the day before the Yaoshang festival. A festival considered to be one of the biggest festivals in the valley. The traffic was crawling with fumes and horns. It seemed the entire valley had gathered at the Khwairamband. One had to move at a snail’s pace. People were shopping as if it was the last day of shopping on the planet. And shopkeepers were making hay while the shopper’s brow was shining with sweat.
SPORTS FESTIVAL: We would say the noise during the festival is of a different noise. And many would not agree with the tag of ‘noise’ on it. “Akhoigi … Loina-loinana … Asigumlaba … Yaragadi … Hanna-hanna Ningsingjari … imagine all these flowery words flowing over the PA system from every direction all at a time. These words become ultra-stereophonic, reverberating cyclically into the ear drums punctuated by songs from the Manipuri Desk-Top Video Dramas. A Yaoshang sports is not complete without the loud speakers playing at its loudest level. No matter how colorfully you decorate the leikai club with flag and festoons, with lime powder and logos, without the loud speakers; the festival would look like a Meitei bride without make-up and jewellery. If not with the mike how are we going to let the world know the names of the individuals and the money contributed by them for the sports? Besides, one has to update the program in and around the Leikai cheerfully, complemented by a series of Tombola draws. The old and the sick near the Leikai club would have to bear with the decibels. After all, it is the Leikai Yaoshang Sports. This year saw an unprecedented turn out of local clubs along with the children who had come to get their torches kindled from the sacred fire of Kangla. The authorities permitted only four/five representatives inside the premise. And lo, we have the finest commentaries about good health, youth and sports, sports and Manipur, Kangla and Manipur etc. over the loud speakers. Not to mention that the commentaries hurt our ears when the men with the microphone started pumping rhetorical doses of Olympic vitamins. The saving grace was the children. All lined up in colorful shirts and shorts waiting for the torch, they charged the morning with vitality. It was a sight to behold. As we have pointed earlier as well. We cannot abide to the romantic claim that Yaoshang sports are bedrock for the Olympic Games. Just look around. How many of the clubs have got proper playgrounds? Don’t you let the children to run on the hard Tar surface? In its place, why not we admit it as an entertainment? An entertainment of five days; a time when Ta-da, Ma-ma, Ema-Eben and Echil-Enao mingle together with fun and frolic. The Leikai working woman Mou (s), the home maker Mou (s), Mou (s) who had just moved in, they find little time to unwind themselves. Where and when do they socialize to know each other? And the children, to find time from the rat race of school and tuitions. We believe Yaoshang sports is also a school where they could enjoy and also learn many things. We do not have words for those families who live within the high concrete walls in a Leikai, who take pride in cocooning themselves in their familial island; who discourage their children from mingling with the leikai. Prosperity be with them.
THE HUNT: for a good Thabal Chongba could be perhaps one of the important parts of Yaoshang. So many of our Leipung members have claimed that Thabal has lost its charm. There is no wholesome participation among the young. One sad member attributed it to the coming of the mobile phone. He claimed that Thabal is primarily a socially endorsed avenue where boys and girls could intermingle. In fact, a fertile ground where love and romance are born. Our songs and literature are evident to it. Now, mobile phones have snatched away that space. Gone are the days of love letters. You have instant Short Messages, any moment – anywhere. It hardly matters whether they know each other or not. Another member shared her disenchantment over the format of the Thabal itself. The music has got a sea change. We agree that it is inevitable with the changing time. Although the beat and the rhythm remains the same, the electronic instruments that have come to the fore yield loud music. But the melody of a Thabal is undeniably missing. Moreover, our ‘Gentlemen’ and ‘Ladies’ have changed drastically in fashion and outlook. Boys with their pants hanging loosely to the bottoms; visible underclothing, with metal chains attached to their pocket, s like hairstyles – perfect gentleman they are without any definition. Girls with the mandatory Phaneks, scrolled up to the knee with stockings and canvas boots. They dance without holding hands in their own style. One of our members claimed that sooner or later, it will be dicey to identify a Thabal from a discotheque. There was a Thabal when one has to dance in tandem with the Makok Chingba. Today, everyone is a Makok and they dance in their own styles – caring or knowing little of the beauty of harmony. We would say, today’s Thabal is very much a reflection of Manipur’s social milieu. Should we demand a seminar on Thabal from the Akhang-Aheis! Yes, without noise.
FOOTNOTE: We are not surprised to see a restrained security force this time in Yaoshang. We have seen them in detestable avatars in the pasts Yaoshang. The recent Yaoshang saw them taking out duties, keeping a vigil over any untoward incident in an appropriate fashion. Leipung Ningthou calls it, “Inquiry Commission gi Lichei gi Lipoon”.