By Luwangcha Manoranjan Nongthombam (Content writer)
Mumbai, 22 August 2010
History of the Past
Expressing one’s thought on the ongoing situation of our home state Manipur, could lead to unending repercussions. The only reason being, the lack of transparency and fair game in almost every aspect of our lives. Having learned from my experiences and occasional discourse on the eternal quest of identity and individuality, I have developed some opinion. But having said that, I see myself as being more of a listener.
I would listen to a lot of issues, which have been discussed, and debated on; but a debate on the present day situation of Manipur is to be seen or heard nowhere, barring some spasmodic appearances in select media. Having been brought up in an urban middle class Manipuri society, my formative phases have been an amalgamation of various ethics; born as a Hindu Meitei, educated from a Catholic Missionary School, Sanamahi faith of my grand mom, all these have influenced me so much into what I am today.
The two decades of my early life have proven to be an era of rapid transformation and counter transformations. This period could be referred to as the period of experimentation’s. A new wave of young generation Manipuri was on the rise with a high rate of adoption to Western pop and rock culture. It was subsequently during this period when Manipuri society got plagued by the odious phenomenon of widespread drug addiction and abuse among the youths. The aftermath of this epidemic resulted in the loss of many dear ones who fell victims of this paralysis. Lots of significant changes were waiting for their turns during this period, to dispense an alternative look to the society.
Amidst the turbulent period in the form of HIV infection and drug addiction, incidents of random killings and extortion deriving from AFSPA and raging extremism, shattered the state into damage irreparable. Today, Manipur struggles to define itself as a full-fledged dominion. Forget about other things, the state is deprived of basic amenities such as proper electricity and water supply. In such a scenario, a new set of educated and informed young Manipuris were at the receiving end. The state failed to provide the pre-requisites for this section of people. All that they have gathered over years of studies and education seemed useless, as the state failed to give them the much-needed platform and henceforth, they started with their quest of more conducive environments. The drain of educated young Manipuris became very prominent considering the rate at which students and qualified graduates were moving out of the state. All of these were just to expedite in the near future which continues till date.
Cutting to the chase, I shall like to focus more on the identity crisis, which I suppose most of the fellow Manipuris must have faced, at least once in their lifetime. Being a citizen of India, the largest democracy in the world, I have always felt proud of my country. “I am an Indian and that marks my identity,” has always been my source of pride. I still am an Indian in every aspect. But then why is this question bothering me so much? Why am I confronted with my nationality, everywhere I go? Nobody asked me which country I am from before? Then, considering the difference in appearances, I would comply with their query. “I am from Manipur.” Then came the shock of my life, “Okay, from Nepal!”
Little offended, “No sir, Manipur is an Indian state.” The inquisition would become never-ending after that. “Where is that? In Assam?”
“Give me a break! I can tell you the whole account on the Mughals and the Marathas. What does it bother you in knowing a bit of your country outside the stretch from Colaba to Kalyan? ”
No messing around with my identity, I thought I taught him a lesson of his lifetime. There includes a section of people with Mongoloid features in India’s, “Unity in diversity”. There should not be any problem with that. But, as I had just breathed a sigh of relief, another one came to ask me, “Are you a Punjabi or Rajput? You have Singh in your name”. Explanation to this one was a toughie!
I replied, “I am a Hindu Rajput (warrior) and that’s how I got the name.”
He pauses for a while and then continued, ” But Rajputs are mainly from North India”.
I would have to sit with him for the entire day to convince him about “Singh” in my name. I said,” Let it be, it’s a long story”.
Truly speaking, we cannot blame them entirely for the confusion. They would want to know. But what matters really are the confusions, which had been created along our historical course. A quick recapitulation on the event of “Puya Meithaba” explains how the Meiteis’ sanskritization occurred. The period before that, we had our own Meitei culture and beliefs. After the sanskritization process, Hindu names, titles and beliefs were conferred upon the king and populace of Manipur. This eventually marked the period, starting which decided what Manipur was to become in years to come. And that’s how I got my “Singh.”
But over these years, I have this feeling that the new Manipuris are falling back to their ancestral way of life. A period of “revivalism” is occurring in the state with the resurgence of “Sanamahism”, which is considered to be one of the oldest religions of South East Asia. The revivalism of “Sanamahism” is recognized by the census records of the government of India due to the praise worthy efforts of late R. K. Birendro Singh, I.A.S. And with this, I am sure that the present day Manipur could regain its lost identity and culture up to a considerable extent; if not the reconversion of the entire population, at least the traditions and culture could be saved from extinction.
I am more than excited to find the current trend of many fellow Manipuris incorporating “Salais” in their names, which were seen very rarely, except for a handful of hard core Meitei mayek followers, until recently. This whole process of resurgence has given me a sense of individuality and a clear understanding about my origin and identity. I also am proudly incorporating “Luwang”, which is my “Salai” before my name.
Manipur has so long been a point of confluence for many Tibeto- Burman ethnic groups. Throughout its history it had enjoyed its own natural course of civilization and evolved into itself, without any threat of major external conquest or annexation until 1891 A.D. Manipur transforms according to period and consequences; but the present day Manipur’s fate lies in the able hands of its youth, who are built on confidence and perseverance. The past is something we have no control over, but knowing the “history of the past” is vital if we are to build a concrete foundation for strong and resilient Manipur.
“I am proud to be a Manipuri as much as I am proud to be an Indian.”