Escape from Boredom


The four new Keithel complexes (traditional vending markets), one at New Lambulane meant as a tribal market, and three more at the Khwairamband which are actually modern reconstructions of existing old Keithels, might as well have been named as Market No.1, 2 , 3 and 4 etc. That however would have been so unromantic and reductionist. They would have happened at the heights of the modernist era which tried to do away romance calling it silly. Recall what Bertrand Russell had to say in his “ABC of Relativity”. The man with a clinical mind who is credited of possessing the ability to explain and make intelligible even the most complex scientific phenomenon, in this book explains Albert Einstein’s mathematics in the layman’s terms. In describing the attributes of gravity, says only the poet can afford to say rivers flow towards the sea because they are attracted by the sea’s mystery, but a scientist can only see it in terms of the physical laws of nature. In the case of Einstein the manifestation of this gravitational law was geodesics, or the path of least resistance any form of energy takes in seeking to come to equilibrium. This approach was exactly the modernist project of the Communist state of the former USSR took. Recall Belsan School Number One, Belsan SNO, as it was also called, which came under siege by Chechen rebels along with 1100 hostages, of whom more than 300 were killed. The logic behind these names was plain and simple utilitarianism. From this perspective a name is just a matter of providing an identification handle, nothing more.

How boring? This rhetorical question is significant from the postmodern outlook. This concern was also explicitly and humorously stated by 1998 Booker Prize winning British author, Ian McEwan, in his novel “Amsterdam” when he made his protagonist proclaim that life and all its driving logics, is an eternal struggle against boredom. If this is agreed upon then the prospect of giving meaning to life would become an altogether different agenda. Above all else, life’s mission would then be very much about embellishing it would poetry. As a matter of fact, life itself would come to be interpreted in terms of poetic values. Its beauty would also be in its eternal mysteries and not in reducing everything about it to the profane and literal. Its essence would hence be in the ability to distinguish love from lust, marriage from cohabitation, in realising the infinite depth of feeling each and every individual is capable of, or in his capacity to absorb the beauty of the bees in the sun, or the mystery of the flower they sit on. Nikos Kazantzakis’ “Zorba the Greek” means very much the same thing when he exclaims and tries to make a distinction between social disciplining, important as it is, and individual flair. He tells his boss: “When I am at work, I am your man, but when I am singing or dancing in the rain, I am my own master.” In a similar vein, at another point, he exclaims that “A man needs some madness in life, or else he will never be able to break the rope and be free.”

It is life’s essential poetry which gives in enduring meaning. Why for instance is there so much empathy reserved in humanity for the weak and handicapped children, although from the utilitarian standpoint, they would be generally much less productive than their healthy peers. Science and pragmatism are necessary conditions of healthy society and individual life, but they are hardly sufficient conditions. Life’s meaning goes much beyond. So if Bertrand Russell and other scientist of his inclination explain that rivers flow to the sea because of gravity alone, following a path of least resistance, he is not wrong. But the poet who sees even gravity as a mystery, without like the scientist presuming it to be a fundamental, axiomatic and irreducible quality, is not wrong either. Hence if he uses metaphoric language to see the sea possessing a mysterious magnetism which attracts the rivers to flow into it, the metaphor has only enriched the experience of life in its totality. It is only limited and straitjacketed vision that would make anybody not see the infinite expanse of possibilities opened up from this vantage. Our point is, in naming the new Keithels, let the myths, legends, archetypal memories of the place be given their dues. This is what would give the new market places the roots that they need, and the uniqueness of identity that would make them stand apart from all else.


  1. The notion that Russell described was a poetic metaphor even for Newton. A more modern concept is even more poetic, it is not so much there is an equal and opposite attraction between two bodies that become close but that the nature of space time itself forms distortions, creates straight paths by crooks and curves, that many of the dimensions that explain the ebb and flow of matter/energy are beyond our understanding. When you ask a modern physicist to describe the nature of reality he starts talking like the Gautama Buddha. At the sub-atomic level if you think you understand the theory then you clearly haven’t.

    And to compensate the euro-centricism of this article I will remain with Buddhist pyschology which as you know hails from Nepal, west of Manipur, and slightly north of India. Boredom is the unskillful means by which apparent space is created for aversion/attraction. One cycle has ended before another can begin boredom creates illusory space. In reality nothing has changed. That constant struggle beloved of your Western Booker Prize winner, I get confused with all those Scotsmen is this the one who does crime fiction, is the curse of Maya. Instead of allowing oneself just to be, discovery of true nature, becoming an awakened one, the Westerner prefers capitalism. Where there is no desire create desire. And the restlessness is never for the thing, it is for restlessness never to find rest, because peace is death to the sleeper. Nobody is born wanting platinum plated taps for their solid gold bath. Boredom is a refined form of the attraction/aversion trap. And yet still only one breath away from Buddha nature.

    Oh and a Taoist saying to end, if we ignore the past we condemn our future, and if we live only for the future we rob our presence. You talk of the fine legends and history of Manipur. I hope you recognize the greatness that is now. Generations to come will scarce believe that one as such as she from a Jewish Nobel Laureate who lived always a stranger in a strange land.

    I notice this editorial changes daily an internet day being equivalent to two dog months, which is over a year for human. I don’t intend to forget Irom Sharmila and her campaign for the repeal of AF(SP)A even if you needs must move on in the endless cycle of attraction/aversion seeking to feed your restless nature and the journalist dream of higher ratings. Yep it does keep the Axe sharp if you only keep only one to grind. But you never know when you might need a very sharp Axe.


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