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Cave Town

By: Bobo Khuraijam

In search of a matchbox we went out to the market. As it was not found so easily we had to expand our route. Trouble began from here. We never had differences of such magnitude in our Leipung. We have been following the thumb rule ‘to agree to differ, to differ to agree’ amongst ourselves. So to say this has been the hallmark. One member protested of halting our quest for a matchbox vehemently. His argument was that it was a heedless display of lavishness; an attempt to show off one’s fool hardiness. Being a devotee of modern means we belong to those species who hardly take walking or running as means of transport. The modern means of transport is our only choice. This choice leads us to travel only by vehicles of any name. Incidentally enough, any kind of vehicle run on a fluid called petrol or diesel. Our quest for a matchbox was also carried out on a vehicle. To make it run we had to fill it with the fluid. A unit of the fluid equals almost a day’s earning of a manual laborer. We fill it with as much amount available. It does not matter about its price, whether it is from black or white or grey. How come so suddenly that one of our members gets alert about travelling far and wide on vehicle?

HIS STORY: Have emotion, drama, tragedy and what not. We were completely taken by surprise when he started to protest. He is not a kind of a member who is belligerent and big mouthed. He would always put his views with civility. He would also listen well to what others say. But that day he was very unbecoming of himself. He would listen a little and talk more. We checked the smell of his breath. We checked his eyes. He seemed to be all right. Was it because we were riding on his vehicle? That is also a far fetch notion. We were convinced of his conduct when he told us of his ‘one night stand’. He had a one night stand on the road, with his vehicle near the petrol pump. He had been relying on his khangna chanaba and road side ‘bottle woman’ for filling up his fuel tank. The news of an oil pump getting re-opened near his locality after the arrival of some fuel tankers excited him. There would be a regular sale of fuel in the station the following day. Just for a day depending on the availability of the stock. Our member decided to join those who have already parked their vehicles in a queue. It was a long line. Some thirty to forty vehicles were parked ahead of him. He could not count the exact number of vehicles. Some smart individuals have parked with things like bricks, stones, bamboo pole, cardboard boxes, rope etc. instead of their vehicles. Their innovativeness challenged the basic counting lessons our member had learned from his kindergarten days. As dusk falls in more and more vehicles joined the line. How many vehicles were behind our member, only a super computer could count. The road to the oil station was swarming up with vehicles and their owners. Being a dry state the smell of alcohol adorned the ambiance. The electric poles cast its shadow beneath the fading moonlight. It stood with the vehicles waiting for the electricity to announce its arrival. Some courageous citizens tried to take advantage of the fading moonlight. They tried breaking the queue. Then a voice thundered, “nathwai maangero queue thugairidubo”. Then more voices joined in unison, “ngantaa na loiningbaro?”The local club volunteers came out to defuse the eeraang. Their arrival added more warmth to the pandemonium; the ambience got brighter with alcoholic delight. Out from nowhere commando vehicles screeched to a halt. Human beings with the size almost equal to their firearm jumped down turn by turn. They fake surprise over the large turnout of people in the night, on the road. Their behavior looked more fake then the smile of airhostesses in an aero plane. They drove into the premise of the oil station. Soon they rolled out empty jerry cans from their vehicles. Almost everyone in the queue protested over their action. The commandoes tried to justify by advertising their firearms. Not mention that they also smelled alcohol. Then Meira Paibees stepped in the scene. Someone from the queue reported that yaanaba was ushered in after much shangatnaba. No one knew what the yaanaba all about was. People were falling back to line slowly. A few scuffles broke out between the vehicle owners at a few places, all along the line. Club volunteers stopped them by swearing leibaak ki damak with staccato of akaampet. After a while a commando who seemed to have the smallest height among his group stepped out to challenge a middle aged gentleman. He proclaimed that he is not concern of his service and ready to face any music from his higher ups. He is even ready to lose his job. All he wanted was haatoknaba with the gentleman. He said the man was over smart and tried to show his position by making phone calls to higher authorities. He did not like the way the man talked. So he wanted an “open challenge”. Meira paibees had to come in, again. The night went on like that, smoothly. Before the day breaks, our member decided to get home for a few moments. He wanted a power nap and come back soon after a fresh up. May be an hour he would take, he thought. On his return home he was told that cooking gas had got exhausted. He had to rush to find another cylinder from anywhere. He came back with a meiphu and some charcoal. The queue was already moving when returned to the queue. It was a shocking realization for our Leipung member to find his vehicle shoveled aside from the queue. It stood with the obsolete street lamp. We stopped our member to stop his story. We just did feel like listening the whole episode. We also did not ask from where he filled his fuel tank. We decided to stop our quest for the match box. Someone suggested of buying a Moreh lighter. If meters of people queuing for fuel in a single night could gather that much upheaval, we cannot imagine what could be the possible outcome if thousand meters of territory is bifurcated from the state. Let us hope for harmony till match boxes arrive in the market.

FOOTNOTE: in recent times we find a new prototype of Kaang and Kaang chingba other then the Govinda Kaang much opposite to the conventional ones somewhere at the southern part of the town. They look totally different with different hymns, designs and ornamentation much opposite to the ethos of a Manipuri Vaisnav. Leipung Ningthou calls it “laining laisol da charak chahingnaba”.



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