By Mamta Lukram
Little did I know what he was sharing, except for the few funny Meiteilon suffixes he mixed with his pure Rongmei dialect,
“…..kanagi Deben-Nungben…internet-nungternet…media-nungdia…..(everyone laugh… look at each other meaningfully)……stops for a while…..continue again….(with his hands clasping tight together with a clapping sound…shut his eyes tightly with frowning eyebrows…distorting facial expression in serious tone) …MEI GUAINA…(took the names of few leading students organisation)…. Kanagi KSO, AMSU, ZSUM, (….the same expression again… in a commanding voice…stressing the point)..MEI GUAINA”
Later I learnt that ‘Mei Guaina’ means ‘everyone/all of us,’ which was his crux. The young energetic guy, smiling wide and bright conduct the community meet on ‘Protection of land and Environment’ at Nungba jointly organised by the Nungba Area Village Authority Association (NAVAA), NWU and Centre for Research and Advocacy, Manipur (CRAM) on 2-3 May, 2017. A slim, medium built, not so fair complexion, old fashioned in a formal wear, bearing a village elder’s appearance, endorsed with extra qualities of being a leader cheerlead the sharing, in pure Rongmei dialect, a dialect beyond my grasp and understanding. Reading the gestures and the expressions was the sole means I rely upon to develop a symbolic self-interpretation. This is Mr Gunrei Kamei, from Nungba, whom well-wishers teased him as the responsible leader within the jurisdiction from Nungba to Barak river bridge. So, I address him Nungba Gunrei.
The sharing continues, with another descent looking, fair complexion, dressed casually, well -built and tall young man, expressing in a Hindi, Meiteilon, English, Rongmei mixed version.
‘Our 10 commandments….’Thou shall not…Thou shall not’ …(…raised hand up…lower the other…eyes looking sharply at the raised and the lowered hands….expressing some short of imbalance….) we are all doubtful and we are not able to protect all these ‘THOU,’ since we fail to protect our own land and resources, all these ‘Thou’ means ‘You’ which means we, the people, we are responsible …..(in a very dissatisfactory annoyed expression…filled with discontentment…chest thumping……he continues) we the people from Manipur….(stop a while…continues), when we just go outside of the Northeast region, we stay together, eat together and live together…. Address each other as ‘bhais, or marup’….happy being together, but once we landed our foot on this land…we are all divided, …(a very dissatisfying expression…) all divided based on our identity, tribe, and clan…while we are fighting among ourselves we forget to protect our land and resources…. Why renunciation of the oneness feeling? why should we be like this? (maintaining the rhythmic tone of the speech… at times self-smiling wide and at times with seriousness in expression…chest thumping again)…why…why?’
Whomsoever, looks at him talking will be filled with enthusiasm. The more he used his index fingers both left and right, pointing directly to the audience when he speaks as if he is alleging everyone as responsible. This impressive, handsome and dynamic young man is Mr Alingpou Gangmei, from Keiphundai. Teased him as the leader of the whole Highway 37, the Highway man, who call himself the ‘Great Aling,’ Highway Aling.
Things begin with observing expressions, beyond ideas of intrinsic meanings; guessing the possible interpretations as pursuing people to be united. Once the programme concluded, we accompany CRAM seniors, Jiten Yumnam and Sanaton Laishram, proceeding towards Barak River for their documentary film making; where we introduce ourselves, and started interacting in a very casual manner.
So, Madam, he said, (…started in a formal manner…) when I was talking in the meeting, you all laughed…(I smile…lightens himself with a smile…) but it was all not a matter of joke (….I smile back….showing concern) I was convincing the people there in the community hall representing different villages that once we stand together to protect our land and resources….(he continue enthusiastically…)even if we think that we are lone sufferers, if we stand together firm….( stops a while..) I tell them that EVERYONE will be ours. Whether the valley people whom you think are not concerned about us or the different student organisations, media and everything, everyone…will stand by our side if we think we all are one…(I intervene…irresistible with his sense of integrity and love for unity….”So….you believe in integrity??? Do you think we can do it…) (an instant reply…) YES!
When night falls, in the small room which I shared with my old aunty, Aram Pamei, Co-Convenor, Peace Core Team, Manipur, I interacted with her a little and tried to have a good night sleep. Anxiety must have made my heart stiffen that I can’t close my eyes, wake up in the midnight, lit up the candle and recalled back my emotions to pour it out on the blank page.
The Day 2 begins
Early in the morning we leave Nungba for Oinamlong. Confusion begins from the onset, the original name of the village was Oinamlong which was then renamed as Goinanglong. Once I have seen in facebook update about the village as someone calling it Oinamlong and the later reaffirms as ‘Oinamlong for the Meiteis and Goinanglong for the Rongmei.’ The story of divide begins from there.
Once we start moving, the conversation begins. Both the Nungba Gunrei and Highway Aling seems so refresh. On the way, both of them were constantly sharing about their life experiences. All of sudden the Highway Man showed me a hilltop pointing his finger
‘Madam that hill is NUNGKAO, if we stand at the hilltop, we are blessed with a perfect view of our state and neighbouring states like Nagaland. (in an overwhelming expression…speaks faster) Imphal is clearly visible from the roof…and you will feel so close to the valley…(Gunrei intervene instantly, mockingly…) WAHENGLEIKAI TRAFFICPOINT…(raise his voice with a laughter…) is directly, clearly seen from there …(a big laughter filled the vehicle…everyone was making fun of Aling). Everyone in the vehicle unanimously agree with a laughter…Yes! Gunrei hits the point! (laughter again filled the vehicle as it moves faster in the curves of the slopes)
Sliding half-down the window glass was visible the whole lush green hill slopes, where erosions and destructions of the ongoing railway construction works scratches like a wound all along with the destructive traces. Impressed by the story I turn myself towards Aling, symbolically encouraging him to continue, after having an impression management.
‘Madam, at the hilltop, a stadium in the name of Rani Gaidinliu was proposed to be constructed, but the problem is; network is not available there. And for inaccessible network, the plan was put to a halt….(raised his voice..) The whole state and the whole country knows her….entitled her even ‘RANI or RANIMAA,’ and we can’t even successfully install a structure in her memoir. (….expressing discontentment…) She is our state’s pride, she was a great lady. Even after many years of independence the Government has failed to install a memorial in her name’
The conversation was getting down into seriousness. Everybody listen impatiently. Silence slipped into the vehicle while it moves even more faster flamboyantly across the long stretch swayed rhythmically with the curves. The green slope waver, while my mind had already started trekking along the hillslopes of Nungkao. Breaking the ice was the song played ‘CINGDA SATPI EENGELEI,’ Then the topic changed on the interpretation of the song which laments on the unapprised beauty of the flower which blossoms at the hillslopes but forbidden to adore as natural ornament by the ladies on the hair, or other purposes and so it withered away unapprised and unexplored to the external world. The implicit metamorphosis of the flower comparable to the state’s welfare, underpinning in the song imbibed everyone in the fantasy of urgent call for integrity.
At the Oinamlong programme, village elders and representatives shared their views of how they are the proud owners of their land and resources. Both the young guys exclusively convinced the villagers how they inherit their land from their forefathers/ancestors across the generations, how their lives have been closely knit with nature and how the ongoing railway construction works and the proposed oil extraction and oil drilling will spell catastrophe to the village.
Aling convinced the villagers who are ready to sacrifice their lives for the protection of their land as
(in a commanding voice and a determined look…pointing to the villagers..) You, you are responsible for the protection of your land…you say, you can sacrifice…but I belief in the saying…”I don’t need your sacrifice…I need your obedience” Let’s trust each other and let’s be obedient to each other…only then we can stand together…let’s be united!!!
The words keep ringing in my ears and when we are about to finally leave the place, I assured them an evaluation report of their performances, listening to which both prompted me to favor their sides. I assured them to send my articles, to a place where internet is inaccessible, newspapers hardly reached.
On the way back journey, the indominatable high spirits, all exhausted, still retaining the determination intact, we proceed faster for our valley destination; the moonlight beam shower overhead, as the vehicle moves faster through the golden dark green blanket where the silhouette of the twinkling lights afar beckoning us; we bid adieu playing the soft music track, ‘HEY EMA MANIPUR….,’ overflowed emotions run fast and hard, yet unable to unwrap the intricate myths of divided politics. Self-introspection piled up in multiple layers, ‘Why are we so divided? With no answers, the thirst of integrity, loiter around insuppressibly, randomly seeking for the nurturing cradle.
Source: Imphal Free Press