In Khaled Hosseini’s “The Kite Runner” a novel which traces the fortune of a Pashtoon family in the backdrop of war ravaged Afghanistan, the protagonist Amir Jan whose talent as a creative writer began showing early in his boyhood, in his first attempt at writing a story as a schoolboy, thinks of a situation in which a man who was blessed that his tears would become pearls, kills his beloved wife so that his sadness would make him weep endlessly and thus reap a harvest of pearls. In the end the man is indeed found sitting on a mound of pearls, obviously richer than he imagined he could ever be, with wealth he cannot hope to use in a lifetime, but profoundly sad and lonely than he ever was. The budding sense of irony, a vital ingredient of any good story teller was unmistakable, and the boy after the war at home made him a refugee in America is to become a successful writer. He would also then return to Afghanistan to atone for a deep sense of guilt at having betrayed his boyhood friend, someone who never ever failed to stand by him through thick and thin, and who eventually turned out to be a half brother, born of a servant’s wife his father had a sexual relations with.
The child imagination, undoubtedly informed by the turmoil at home and fanatical insistence with which the Taliban were self-inflicting endless and meaningless injuries on Afghanistan, in what they called would ultimate be the deliverance of Afghanistan through “the path of God”, was telling in many ways. It spoke of skewed values and aspirations, ones that have slowly but surely been divested from essential humanity by consistent abuse of individual dignity by the fanaticism all around, and the impossible living conditions in the country at the time. What is important for us is the question, is Manipur heading the same direction? From evidences all around us, it does seem to be so. The all pervading violence has gone far beyond sane limits. Even when there is no overt mayhem, the undercurrents still spell nothing but violence. Nobody is free to be himself or herself. The uneasy and uncanny sense of being watched and monitored has come to intimidate practically everybody into not just silence, but also to be zombies with no independent will. They act as they believe they are expected to only. They also are increasingly, though unconsciously, being forced into shrinking into their individual shells. Look at the current state of home architecture for instance. Walk into any middleclass home in Imphal and what would be noticed is a disturbing sense of insecurity the ordinary citizenry are suffering from. With the exception of a few, most live in homes that resemble a jail, with iron gratings on the portico and every other possible places intruders could barge in from; windows are fortified with sturdy iron bars etc. As a thumb rule, the richer the owner of the house, the more would be the unflattering resemblance his house has to a jail. Those who can afford it would for instance gift themselves with 12-feet or more high retaining walls all around their homesteads. Steel fortified gates which are always kept tightly shut would also greet visitors to these homes. Probably most would say this is the need of the hour for the times are bad. But what most far too often fail to question is, what would be the psychology of children growing up in such an oppressive atmosphere. Undoubtedly their minds and aspirations would also have been skewed as Amir Jan’s. Redemption from such a state of mind would also undoubtedly not be easy. Amir Jan found his, but the unasked question is how many other of his peers would not have.
When will Manipur ever become an open society “where the mind is without fear and the head is held high”? A lot of commitment from all sane thinkers of our society is essential for this to come about, and it is time they all began thinking the situation is desperate. Otherwise, the spiral of insanity that the society is plunging into would touch a critical point of no return. The values of our society are already distorted monstrously and nothing absolutely nothing remains as sacrosanct space revered by all. It is not a surprise at all that recent news report in local dailies announced there has been a sharp rise in mental illness in the state in recent years. The situation must not be allowed to sink any further, lest whatever sanity which managed to survive too would be gone, and like in Amir Jan’s story, in the hunt for false notions of achievements and success, people begin to sell even their own souls as well as those of their near and dear ones.