By Chitra Ahanthem
If we were to draw up a list of things that we in Manipur can well do without, it would be filled up with an interesting mix of power cuts (though thanks to the hoopla over the World Cup in far away Brazil, we are getting some respite during match fixtures at night), poor road connectivity, garbage ridden roads and river banks, corrupt officials taking money for doing their jobs etc. The list would be never ending, for Manipur has no dearth of issues that jar for the common man. Having said that, the above mentioned points are all indicators of bad governance and to do away with these ills would require political will and a sense of wanting to make a difference. Which is why, we will talk of things that we the common people can do away with, if only we would begin to see that there is better sense in bidding good-bye to useless social practices that we have begun to accept as a way of things.
First thing first on my personal list is to make an earnest appeal to the well learned in our society to please keep it simple, short and sweet when they speak on public platforms or at least to keep the duration of their pitch as per the need of the hour and the interest level of those who are to listen in. This appeal has been long called for because every function, every occasion when speakers take to the micro-phone, there are instances when those who are to listen actually groan out aloud and try to work out escape plans. The journalist fraternity have long been the victims of never ending speeches but the truth is that more often than not, the experts and the resource persons, the chief guests and the guests of honors and special invitees and presidents of functions all go into epic speeches at the drop of a hat. Last week, I had to stop myself from walking up on stage to pull off the speakers who were going into half an hour sagas of what is theatre, how is it faring in Europe, what is theatre for children etc. My patience wore thin because the occasion was the culmination of a 20 day long summer camp with the atttendees (all young children) set to perform and the speeches were in the way of their performance. The children had gone for their rehearsals starting at 10 am and the program was at 3 pm. Given a 15 minute delay on account of Meitei Pung and the experts going into ‘I am a better expert than the next/earlier speaker’ mode, by the time the children took to the stage, it was 5.30 pm. Those sitting in the audience were only the parents of the children who were all fidgeting as their children were running about waiting to perform. But those on the stage went about their business of sprouting their wisdom giving little attention to the fact that no one was in the right frame of mind to even care what they were saying. This is a common enough scenario in Manipur where everyone is totally sold on the idea of hogging the microphone for dear life. If only these learned souls would only realize how much of ill will is directed against them when they go into verbal diarrhea mode!
The advent of June brings to mind something we can do without most happily: the microphones blaring around at odd hours, which are set off from Lai Haroupham sites. Even as expert committees and various pressure groups are being formed to look at preserving ‘the real essence of old traditions and practices’ with regard to how Lai Harouba is being observed, why has no one looked into the fact that using microphones (and mostly turned up to the loudest decibel levels) is a ‘modern’ addition and has no connection to indigenous rites and rituals? More than this, the onslaught of mikes blaring with the din of drum beats and hymns even as the mercury levels are wrecking havoc means sleepless nights and unhappy countenances. Surely, Lai Harouba means propitiating the array of Gods, which can be done without infringing on the right of lesser mortals to some well- deserved rest and sleep time?
Reading that bit of news about a government official getting a grenade delivered through the local grease payment system of bringing/giving along a big size fish made one think on various levels. One aspect of it is course that the 4 kg sareng must have surely gone to waste. The other is that the family and others with high ranking officials who earlier took in fish when people brought it along as grease money should surely think twice and thrice and many more times before thinking only of what dish awaits them at the family meal. It is not sure if the incident is going to create a fish dive in the market with sales going down but on a serious note, says a lot of how folks can and do come up with ways and means to beat ‘high security measures’ that are in place. Government officials may well invest in metal detectors to scan fishes and their ilk.