Sunday, November 18, 2012

Hundred & Still in the Company of the Hoi Polloi

Today, in celebrating our hundredth article, we wish to share with our readers, few queries that have constantly bombarded us. People have often asked us why we have given our column such a weird name and demanded to know who the hell is Yenning and evenmore, what “keeps us writing”. First, our name. “Hoi Polloi” stands for the common people. “Mundanity” has two meanings. It stands for ordinariness or worldliness, or otherwise sophistication. Thus, in the first instance, it can be the quality of being commonplace and ordinary. Secondly, it can also be the quality or character of being intellectually sophisticated and worldly through cultivation or experience or disillusionment. While we firmly attest to the claim that we are very much part of and for the hoi polloi, it is left to the readers to give us the second meaning, the meaning of “Mundanity”. All we can say is that disillusionment largely dictated our concern for the hoi polloi, given the decadence our society has plunged into. And we have attempted not only to paint the decadence in all its varied hues and colours but also give you company as a story teller. We believe every society needs a story teller, more so for a decadent society – either to democratize our fears or to gather the people together for emancipation. Finally, “Yenning” as the columnist. Ah, it’s just a pen name! You don’t want to reveal yourself too much in Manipur, do you?
We started our journey on Tuesday, the 26thMay, 2009 not with the idea of leading or teaching the common mass but to share our stories. On Sunday, the 11thof November, 2012, we completed 100 articles. Right from the beginning we were clear that we’re not the Owl of Minerva – the emblem of penetrating sight and intelligence. A land as ancient as ours has no dearth of intellectuals. It is a fact that humbles us and keeps us rooted. We also held a firm belief close to our hearts that Manipur is a reading society. Devoid of this basic premise our exercise would have been rendered futile and meaningless. We are proud to have inherited the rich heritage of writing and storytelling from our ancestors, powerful mediums for storing and circulation of knowledge, and above all, the art of resistance against injustice. For example, while Puyas serve as storehouse of knowledge as well as sources of history, stories narrated through Khongjom Parba, tells us of a war against the British (Anglo-Manipur War 1891), which our ancestors knew would be lost but fought because it was about justice and patriotism. Without these elements, amongst others, our civilization would have crumbled beyond redemption. Our aim was, thus, to follow the footsteps of our forefathers, share with the people and at the same time to let them know that there are (different) ways of thinking.Over and above, injustice can be resisted as numerous historical incidences such as the Thoubal Resistance, Kuki Rebellion and Anti-Pothang movement, etc.during British colonialism have shown, and only the hoi polloi can salvage our society from decadence.
In our tortuous journey, over a span of hundred articles, we have encountered the usual difficulty a columnist faces. But first of all, why do we call it tortuous? Tortuous because writing or storytelling like poetry and other art forms, which attempt at recovery or emancipation or redemption or salvation of the self or the society,are political acts.It is bound to attract criticisms, which is not at all bad. In fact, every writer wishes to get feedbacks (positive or negative) on their write-ups. It is very much normal to have “friends” or “foes” during a writer’s lifetime. But in a fragmented and conflict ridden society like ours, criticisms tend to cross the limit of the written texts, the pages of the newspaper or the inbox of e-mail.
That Manipur stands divided against itself in several ways is a truism. Fragmentation is manifested in multiple ways. Take for instance, the rich and powerful are divided in their support for the State (sic. Indian State). Similarly, State Assembly is divided concerning its own powers vis-à-vis the Central Government and its military apparatus. Division within the society runs deep – on the line of religion, ethnicity and region. Inequalities in wealth are huge. Finally, the prevailing armed conflict means that Manipur has become militarily divided. All these divisions cut across one another which ultimately have a tolling effect on ordinary human lives and their existence. Manipur reflects the pre-social and pre-political Hobbesian state, wherein life is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and unbelievably short. Bare life has becomes a spectacle in Manipur. In such a situation, people who engage themselves in the pursuit of unraveling the ontological issues of our existence at such a historical stage of our civilizational trajectory or the creative world of recovery are often at the receiving end.To begin with, the chances of branding tend to be very high and a writer or a storyteller, or for that matter an artist, can end up becoming the usual suspect of either siding with a group or another.Life can be easily jeopardized. Such incidences make our journey a tortuous one. We cannot imagine a better world in the immediate future. Take for instance our predicament, once the Unique Identification Number (UID/Aadhar), which gives easy access to the State one’s personal identity for surveillance, becomes fully operational. One’s fundamental rights including freedom of expression as well as the right to privacy will be curtailed. A more sinister political environment can be expected especially in places where there is already imposition of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. Under such circumstances, a pseudonym such as Yenning cannot be of any help to protect oneself. Nevertheless, we take heart from the simple fact (from historical experiences as well) that suppression, repression and domination also unleashes the most creative force in human beings who dream of a better world. And the legends of resistance by the unknown and the forgotten have made us steadfast.
Today, while celebrating our small achievement in completing 100 articles, we take the opportunity to admit our shortcomings. Similar to majority of the columnists, Yenning, too, have had patches of writer’s block. At times, creativity simply dries up and such a state of mind is responsible for our irregularity.We also render our sincere apologies for the hotchpotch writings we resorted to at times for the heck of filling up the space of the column, thereby wasting a precious space which should have otherwise gone to a more deserving article.We thank the Sangai Express (English) team, especially Editor Rajesh, for bearing with us .As much as we endeavoured to be honest, we also appreciate the honest-scathing remarks we received from our readers. Thank you for outrightly pointing out that many of our articles are too rigid, dry and unpalatable, and finally, for suggesting to us what types of articles are to be written to draw the attention of the readers. While we assure to grow with you, improve and respond to your genuine suggestions, we are at the same time sorry to decline your request for uploading our profile shot or rather mugshot (photograph) to spice up our space.That will surely compromise our anonymity.
Indeed we are fortunate to have been in the company of the hoi polloi. Without you, Hoi Polloi & Mundanity would have been a void devoid of meaning. Honestly, the 100 mark would have been an unreachable milestone without you. Further, we salute our co-columnists at the Sangai Express who are on the same journey. Donn Morgan who was with us when we started our journey for his swashbuckling style of writing, Maisnam Chanu Liklainu for sharing her valuable memoirs at JNU and constant connection with the outside world, Ranjan Yumnam for his skillful journalistic writings, (who says bureaucrats cannot write; kudos to both Liklainu and Ranjan), revered Dr. Irengbam Mohendra Singh for his engagement with the existence of God and who constantly teaches us about our roots, Urmila Chanam for her Sunday Sentiments, Sanatombi Angomcha for demanding an intellectual revolution in Manipur and for spicing up the Sangai Express with her Manipuri words, and others who promised to be with us but did not keep up the tryst. We welcome Arambam Kapil, an artist, who has recently joined us. Last but not the least, we want to appreciate the e-pao team for selecting our articles from time to time and webcasting them to a larger number of readers.

This article was published in The Sangai Express on Sunday, November 18, 2012

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