Sunday, January 3, 2010

A Prayer for the Living

Once upon a time (nobody knows how long ago), there landed a scared angel in the Kangla of Imphal. People who saw him still remember the day. That day, yesterday, was an immense wave. That day was all the Earth, Sky and Water. That day the Angel’s body grew, stretched out to Earth’s limits, orbited there, moulded there to one globe of wax, or a meteor’s flame. That day a strange thing happened, Kanglasha cried. Its tear flooded Manipur. Angel consoled Kanglasha and, together, they prayed for the disenchanted people of Manipur.
Yenning heard this story from a traveller who happened to pass through Manipur, who heard it from another traveller who happened to have visited Manipur during the days of Burmese emperor Alaungpaya , and who in turn heard it from a hermit (in fact they say he was the "original" one who witnessed the sight!), who had taken up gambling as the most honoured leisure game in Manipur.
For veracity, we have delved into the archives and other documents, which are in possession of the learned pundits of puya in Manipur, but honestly, without any success. For reasons best known to us, we did not disclose the secret to anyone else, lest they call us superstitious and irrational! Moreover, we have tried our best to decipher the meaning of the phenomenon, for it’s not only incredible but also metaphoric. Answer eluded us for years.
But then, on the midnight of December 31, 2009, a similar vision enacted in front of us. There they were in the Kangla of Imphal, an Angel and Kanglasha deeply engrossed in a prayer, chanting hymns in languages unknown, enveloped by thick-dark fog. Such a vision left our minds blank and we wanted to run away or even dared to jump into the arms of the AK–47 wielding brave Commandos, waiting sentry along the VIP line of Sanjenthong stretch. Better sense prevailed over us; we stopped for a while and listened to the chanting of the ancient hymns.
A Memorable Year: A Wasted Year
Memorable, they say, means something worth remembering. Perhaps, the event might not have a direct bearing on our lives. However, it has something to do with our collective existence as "people" bounded in a politico-legal boundary. For example, absence of tap-water or irregular supply of electricity, sky-high prices of essential commodities did not find meaningful expression or for that matter translation into political language on the floor of the Assembly (until or unless it’s election time!) in the previous year. Cries for motorable roads by the denizens of the hills went to empty ears. Likewise, demand for hike in salaries in lines with the Six Pay Commission was/is not regarded as something worth collective action.
As Yenning has aptly illustrated in our previous edition, the year 2009 was a year unlike any other years in the contemporary history of Manipur. Death shadows danced around us. And the event of death and death alone was considered memorable by us, the people of Manipur. Such an imagining, originating from our primal fear, is the political conditioning of our lives. Echoes of the previous year continue to reverberate in this year. Schools and other institutions of learning remain closed; the SPF Government and the agitating groups have not found an amicable solution. The much talked about by-election which was considered by many as a yardstick of calculating popularity of the SPF Government has in fact disillusioned many. The verdict of the election result has put to shame antagonists of the Chief Minister, Shri(yukta) O. Ibobi Singh. The same has put us to question, if at all we, particularly, the electorate of Yaiskul Kendra, are worth calling themselves conscious political beings. Indeed, we lost an opportunity to align ourselves with the ethos of democracy.
First day of January 2010 greeted us with disclosures from the Imphal East and West Commandos about the numerous killings and arrests of various insurgents belonging to diverse outfits, along with seizure of arms and ammunition. On the part of the Government, such were considered an achievement in itself. There were not any mentions of killings in fake-encounters, except that the SPF Government reported its willingness to go by the verdict of CBI regarding the fake encounter on BT Road. Yes indeed, the year 2009 would remain as a memorable one albeit wasted one as far as human lives were concerned.
Cycle of Festivals
Angels visit us during our days of trouble and misery. But her visit to Manipur in such a time evokes mysticism. The 365 days that have passed before was not without a festive occasion; intermittent breaks is natural. Amidst deaths and protests over killings, we did not stop from celebrating a single day. Cycle of festivities went away unhindered; the Hapta Kangjeibung is such a site. Perhaps, such celebrations could also mean otherwise. In traditional Manipur, where agrarian activity was the major occupation, festivals were meaningful as the events provided a break from the back breaking work. Manipuris living in other parts of the world regarded her as a place of festivals and celebrations. But today, when agro-related occupations are relegated to a lower position and Manipur is in dire needs of arable land, continuation of the festivals could only mean something else. We infer that we are in great need of breaking away from the gloom of death hanging above us. Here, we are consciously differing from cultural and religious watchdogs. Festivals, today in Manipur, are like shots given to a much needed pathologically sick mass of people. Perhaps, the scared Angel with burnt wings that fell in Kangla could read the misery of the people.
A Prayer for the Living
Prayer is an act of communicating with a deity especially as a petition or in adoration or contrition or thanksgiving. Yenning could not help to wonder if the chanting of ancient hymns by the Angel and Kanglasha on the midnight of the last day of December 2009 was a petition or contrition or thanksgiving. Few possibilities stand in front of us:
A formal message requesting the authority of Manipur i.e. the current SPF Government headed by Shri(yukta) O. Ibobi Singh to stop killing innocents in Manipur and immediate removal of AFSPA
Sorrow for sin arising from fear of damnation of his Highness Shri(yukta) O. Ibobi Singh from the killing of Rabina Devi along with her six-months old unborn child and resultant closure of educational institutions in Manipur
Grace for inducting more and more armed-personnel in the form of Village Defence Force, Indian Reserve Battalion and so on at the cost of other tertiary sectors such as education, medicine and others.
Finally, for the common man who has to buy water for drinking (notably, today in Manipur, the "haves" are the ones who can afford a 14-thousand litres of water tanker), inverter and generator for electricity, or sell themselves to the vultures scavenging on the sweat of their toil
Out of the four possibilities, Yenning cannot say which one was the most suitable one, as all the four possibilities are equally important. We know, two of them consciously avoided the issue of development. Ostensibly, as majority of us do, they might have decided on a light-hearted footing that Manipur is happy since the day NREGS and mid-day programme made an inroad to Manipur. And to many of us, numerous contract-works such as making of levees along river banks, construction of crematoriums, sprinkling of sand devoid of tar on streets and roads, and so on are signs of development.
Equally, we do not know, if Angel and Kanglasha prayed for availability of foodgrains in the coming months given that there was failure of crops in Manipur (as well as India) on account of a failed monsoon. Perhaps, as Yenning had posed to the serious readers, "What use is food to a dead man?" both of them must have decided that it is non-issue in Manipur!
Living is the experience of being alive; the course of human events and activities. Or in other words, it is meaningful existence. This is an epistemological issue related to living. Many knowledgeable persons have spoken about the importance of education and the current fiasco over the closure of educational institutions. To us, we strongly hold that education provides the condition for meaningful existence. Just as food is useless to a dead person, education, too, would be meaningless to a dead person. Such an understanding brings us to appreciate the efforts the Angel and the Kanglasha to offer a prayer for the living in Manipur. Not everyone has abandoned Manipur.
Yenning left Kangla with drooped shoulders smiling at the two benevolent beings, truly with a new hope unmindful of the blaring noise at Hapta Kangjeibung or of the drunkards shouting with their hearts out, "A Happy and Prosperous New Year". We sincerely wish our and their wish for a happy and prosperous year is fulfilled in 2010. Are we wishing too much in the land where 400 lives were cut short, mostly by state forces without any sort of trial in the year just concluded ? Our earnest and humble appeal to those occupying the seats of power is "please don’t repeat the fait accompli of 2009".

This article was posted on The Sangai Express on Sunday, January 3, 2010

No comments:

Post a Comment