By Bobo Khuraijam
Recently some old friends insisted us to take a ride to the eastern most frontier of the state. We demanded that we be left alone in our own languor. They were adamant enough to displace us from our comfort coterie. In no time we reach the most popular town. The place needs no introduction. A hotspot for shopping for things made in foreign at a reasonable price. A favorite site for venturing out with a seemingly ideal purpose – they called it study tour. You must have caught a glace of them on their return journey. Their vehicles would be overloaded with their study materials. From multi colored blankets to monochromatic hawai chappals, from glitzy electric appliances to squashy plastic toys, there are endless list to shop for. Located some three hours’ drive from the state capital, the small town is always teeming with life. With an altitude lower than the Imphal valley the place welcomes you with impartial heat. We did not try to find out who guards the street lamps. We find most of the lamps glowing with liveliness like the ones in the Kangla pat area, which are always under the watchful eyes of the security forces. The solar lamps take the bright responsibility whenever there is a power cut. A resident told us that there is regular power supply in the town. But nobody can forecast its arrival once it left for its mapam.
MEETING IN THE GATHERING: As we were told there was an important gathering in the town at the trade Centre. Friends from the other side of the border coming to take part were the main attraction. It was nearly eleven o clock; only four or five people were around the venue. Ten in the morning was the scheduled time written on the card. We heard that our friends had already come but they left as there was none to receive them. Meanwhile we refresh ourselves starring at the fake flowers decorating the wall of the hall. A guy with a room freshener sprays it with joy once in a while. The previous day’s general strike constrained the traders and officials from Imphal to arrive in advance. A point hard to be understood by the foreign dignitaries, but rain was the excuse given by official from our side of the border. The explanation was silly as it could be. It confused us wondering whether there was no rainfall at the other side of the border which is at a stone’s throw. We do not know what better explanation would the official give for the wrong spelling printed loud and clear on the backdrop. Can we suggest one? Say it: the printing machine was not oiled well, following the shortage after the economic blockade. The foreign dignitaries did turn up again. But much to their surprise they were not received well. Our side of the official was busy attending a phone call. He walked out of the room brushing aside the delegates as if they were his subordinate staffs. No one is to be blamed, except for the good network of the cellular phones, we thought. A man who seemed to be tipsy introduced himself as a relative of the minister of the department concern. What a way of loi thaaba at the border town. Halfway into the session we realize half of the people attending the session had come just like that. For the record, there were also traders who were serious to learn more about international trade. The intricacies of Trans border trade, the technicalities involved in financial transaction, the role of the banks, and the logistics of moving the consignments. There was in-debt discussion. In tandem with our tradition there were plenty of mathels for the lunch break. Fish of both atoiba and ataoba, chicken, eromba, vegetables, only a buffet of that kind would allow us of not even sparing the vegetarians’ table without any mercy. Without doubt, the main VIP from Imphal was the last man to arrive. His articulation and his sense of duty was a saving grace. The following day, as usual, the foreign friends arrived earlier than the rest of the crowd. Our wannabe international traders from Imphal have gone shopping at the other side of the international fence. The session did come to an end with the international friends sharing their optimism of a booming international trade at the border town. Should we also mention that our omnipresent social worker/ activist/ trader/, All-in-one, to be precise were also present in the gathering? With aplomb some of them jump into a photo session with the international friends. How thoughtful? The photos would be their priced credential to prove their involvement in the helms of affairs. We are convinced that their far sightedness would put them to the leadership of steering the nation to a place called nowhere. And for the time being, we hope, their leikai habbits would not dampened the spirit of international trade in the border town.
BEYOND THE BORDER: the Indo-Myanmar friendship road was sparkling not like any other road in the state. The road is perhaps much superior in quality than the one we find in the metropolis. We are not wise enough to throw light on India’s sudden sense of friendship with the neighboring country. But we can well sense the duplicity of the mandarins in Delhi. The country gives shelter to pro- democracy refugees. At another instance they would share grand lunch with the top military leadership. Not only that they would also sign MoU and agreements on trade. Come morning, there will be swarm of small traders riding on their Japanese made bikes crossing the international border. They are allowed to sell their product without any restrictions. A kind of infrastructural opium and false comfort of a friendship with designs is bestowed by the great Indian nation. The high growth rate (which has little to do state or the border town) inspires the big traders sitting in the mainland to expand their business beyond the border. And therefore the hype of flourishing border trade is played by the political honchos to please the multi-millionaire traders. At this backdrop, we do not know where the small time traders of both side of the border stand in the future. The small Chak hotels, the small vehicles that ferry people from the valley to the town, the small traders that share a symbiotic relation with small towns like Kakching, Pallel, and more precisely Imphal, would not become a history when the border trade is formalize, with the trans-Asian highway and mega traders passing across the state at the speed of light. When night falls, the vaisnavite ema endols practice Sankirtan for the upcoming Krishna Jarma unlike the localities in Imphal, late into the night they sang. Would the speeding vehicles and trains on the futuristic Highway subdue their devotional hymns in the future? Can we be still left alone in our own languor?
FOOTNOTE: to all those who do so many things while talking on the phone, like driving, crossing the road, and what not? Leipung Ningthou requests them to try another feature of “chaak chana chana khong haambasu yabara yengbiyu”.