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Friday, August 24, 2007

Freshers and recollections - I

Ten years ago, I was a fresher in Delhi. I reached the ancient city with sweat and the rusted smell of the patient Avadh Assam Express. I remember I was too homesick. Worst there was no medicine for it. I did not stop asking myself why it has to be like this? The monotonous university registration process was endless. My topper marks led me to the hallowed Delhi University’s Kirori Mal College to study Political Science. However, being a topper from Manipur makes little sense as CBSE was raining marks like manna. But, knowledge and the quest for that eventually define one in the long run. What matters ultimately is what one knows without the marks. Everything was a lesson bigger than what I learnt in the university’s syllabus.

Unlike the last freshers’ meet that recently concluded, the freshers’ meet in the year 1997 was a small and cosy affair. I remember it was held in RK Puram in a small room that snake a little longer than the usual rooms that we rent to live in the Capital City. For the dinner one long queue with soldier’s like discipline served everyone without any trouble. Our chef’s strength today would outnumber the fresher’s in 1997.So many things have changed. Many things also did not change. But I remember the warmth as I was new and a fresher then. I like that feeling of newness, which is already missing. It is already monotonous with the usual and routine affair. Also with the faces and the stale issues that we are cornered with. Man, I believe, love a change. We need change too. Whatever, going back, I remember people like Pu Hrangthangvung, Pu Lalchungsiem, Pastor Lalsiesang, Pu Patrick Infimate, Pu Lalhmingthang Joute, Pu Lalringum Inbuon were single and slimmer. I am not sure if they were mingling then. I don’t know, as I was not acquainted to them as much as today. Fortunately the electronic keyboard, then, did not define music. All the songs were pluck or strum with the six strings, which I will always love, than the destructive convenience that we never seem to realize. It was impressive to see every singer play the guitar for themselves. In the recent fresher’s meet, there was not even a sight of the guitar. Its sweet sound was far from the great expectations.

Almost all the freshers during those days came for pursuing further studies. Options were still limited. Our horizons appeared like the pond’s view. We never examine ourselves to understand our capacity and potentialities. So everyone talked about UPSC that could only multiply the number of rusted steel frames. There was nothing like call centre or BPO’s and the other boom that are already consuming immense global human resource today. We used to hear people talked about working part time in Delhi’s hot summer at McDonald. Otherwise, we, in Delhi Unversity north campus, could not imagine anything beyond class, library, studies and going home for long holidays in the summer to forget Delhi. I still remember the immense joy I derived in the privilege of finding my favourite newspaper, The Hindu, on my doorstep, which I used to read religiously. Reading and underlining the big, black and white newspaper and then cutting them were the routine indulges. It would take all the deserved good time. I used to tell myself that if I were an idol worshipper, N Ram, The Hindu editor, would be one of my small gods. I finally got to meet him when I was awarded the 2007 Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Award, which is the country’s biggest award in journalism. Ten years on and I am still faithfully reading The Hindu besides the others, which I do to keep track of everything that matters.

Delhi University’s north campus was like an island then. Not to others but particularly for the Hmar speaking community. Munirka, for us, was like the capital of Delhi in those days. That does not seem to have withered even today. I made a point to attend the DHCF service on Good Friday and Christmas only. I have a problem traveling in buses. Moreover, I don’t believe in securing heavenly seat by running after all the drums and bells. Everything else starts from the within. I remember getting down from the bus, many a times in the middle of the road, to puke all the irritations away. It was a torture to go to south. Moreover, it was too expensive an affair for my shoestring budget. My principle, then, was to avoid everything but to read everything. The Thralaipawl or choir and all their endless affairs did not affect students from north campus. We were like the untouchables. We were beyond its reach, for God so love us. It still is today, for God’s mercy sake. I remember Alan Thiek, who is today studying in Pune’s UBS seminary, coming to north campus in the year 1998 and was full of surprise to find us, Hmars, studying in this part of Delhi. I realized then that Delhi was the capital village. Atleast for us. We seem to be good in discovering villages. But as it is still, students with good academic records would only get to study in north campus colleges then. Like Naipaul’s many small battles inside a battle, our circle was a small one even in the north campus. There was hardly visiting or visitors. No courting. No song practice. No silly or dirty manipulations by Dr Jekyl or Mr Hyde. But it was rich enough to be widen with books, which was instrumental. I realised that was healthy and productive than the large and unquenchable circle of friends that has become of us today.
One of my batchmate, Lalthanglien Ruolngul told me lately, in the year 2005, about the early days as freshers in Delhi. He said: “Those were conservative days for our friend’s circle in south Delhi. Some of our friends did not even wear jeans.” The yardstick is interesting. South Delhi or Munirka was considered too far for us from north. Bus numbers 621 and 750 served to bridge the north and south distance. Every student in north were well acquainted with the routes. We all would treasure our bus pass in those days. I remember I and a couple of friends took 750 bus to reach our fresher’s meet venue in that year. We all had the colourful Thangsuo Puon scarf with us. Those routes hardly take us to any impressive place of the Capital City that we grew up imagining about Delhi. No sight of skyscrapers. No Mercedes or big wheels. Instead, the road was clogged with snarling traffic that took almost eternity to make a move. Sometimes it is a surprise that ten years have passed when memories of those pregnant buses stagnating on roads is still fresh in the mind. Not only that, cow and pig could be spotted in the middle of the road too. Potholes. Pollution. Population moving to score a billion. What not? My fresher’s days were greeted with all that. CNG was not there yet. The flyovers and the subways too were still absent, except for those in ISBT and Bhikaji Cama Place. Metro, which is today running like the celebrated Christmas toy, must still be a distant plan in papers then.

There was no cyber cafĂ© or internet. No mobile. Unlike today, one has to take all the inconveniences to fix a time with our neighbour’s telephone to talk to our family members. That would be once in a month if it were necessary. Our financial situation mostly determines that necessity. Otherwise it was a costly affair and a very inconvenient one. Letter writing and the postal system was the only means to connect the distance between home and Delhi. The postman was more important and significant to us than the Prime Minister or the President. I used to have a good stock of white and brown envelope and postal stamps. That was when people would be identified by their handwritings. One could make faces out just by reading the scribble on the envelope. Sometimes I would not open the envelope if I don’t have good tea to read alongwith. Many a times, I used to read sweeter letters over several times. Today it is just a matter of click from one’s own mobile. Instant and easy. Like courting a prostitute. But letter writing was full of all the good things. There was art. Creativity. Nothing could be sweeter. Every word was read like the faithful counting the blessing and naming them one by one. Things have changed. They almost seem like antique and ancient today. Not my choice. Never yours either. Technological revolutions did not seem to spare anyone. Everyone is digitalised today. Our identities are chipped inside numbers, which would cripple us anytime if we are cut off from it.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Mizoram: On Tense Clutch

The growing tense complexities underlined by movements and assertions in the wake of new consciousness of rights, deprivation, corruption and political marginalisation have been Mizoram’s reality today. This brought to focus the forces of fuelled antagonism sprayed on unaddressed plights acting as the strength for the multiplying dissidents, be it the Zoram Kuthnathawktute Pawl and the opposition parties. The supposed peaceful State in the hands of the Mizo National Front (MNF) wakes to the puzzle of serious accusations of gun running, siphoning of service arms, converting the State into militant’s haven, corruption, and for its inability to make the State sufficient or peaceful. MNF government is faced with the challenge of identifying and understanding the more powerful interest of its citizens who are raising their voices with varied assertions in the quest for new accommodation and adjustment. This quest is seen by the growing voices as the unfinished agenda of the promises that the MNF party made before they came to power. The more powerful citizens who voted the party to power felt the need for a new negotiation and consultation to redress their plights. The inheritance of that defect by situating in new context, where they are threatened by famine and shortages of all sorts that is further deteriorated by rampant corruption has resulted in the developing chaos. Well, it was followed by the inevitable game of pacification, which seems to have silence the issue rather than solving the crux of it. The real danger, however, lies in merely silencing the problems. It will inevitably result in opening the Pandora box if the silencing act is seen as a success.

The celebrated peace becomes a mess in the face of boiling dissidents, which has been whetted by politicians for their power bank. Peace and democracy’s sanctity is dwarfed in the sink of the multiplying plights of its citizens, the growing insecurity of the State and various other forces that are breeding at an alarming rate. While the success of all these active forces was hidden in the guise of democracy, the function and existence of the same has been stabbed to bleed profusely. In the process it reveals the confusion and failure of the top tower where the crux of all decision making process is initiated. The problems seem to be persisting at its undisturbed pace with crucial decisions getting nipped from the narrow power corridors of the MNF party, when the fringe corners shivered with disturbing and fluctuating temperatures. That is when the present continuous tense in the state has to be understood not merely through the party lenses, but through the humane aspirations that it represents.

One inevitable question is, is it necessary to blind the challenges and demands of the collective in the pursuit of scoring for the party? That ought to be raised, as the State’s future is sacrificed in the dim of a party’s obsession that would only continue to take an immense toll on the peace, welfare, development, education, culture, human resources and generations, if the practise continues. The history of violence, unrest, insecurity and bloodshed, then, would be closer than a distant dream if that occurs. That is when, instead of putting the party’s interest first, the need to convert the poor and marginalized hope, desire, aspirations and demands and challenges to grow along the larger interest of the State would be the inevitable quest. This becomes more necessary in the context of the plural realities of the state, where the unfortunate divide of the haves and haves-not mars it. If our current history had failed to act as the filter towards understanding the marginalized people, the present misery and realities, which is a result of the political failure, should be the inevitable filter today. That does not mean that the historical defect could be ignored altogether. However still, that would not be an all out solution to the blown out situation, but it would very much act as the panacea than the mere inactivity with unforgiving excuses.

The years of collective ennui in the face of the growing divide and corruption has severely stirred the democratic establishment. Not only that, the supposed face of democracy in the State is faced with the danger of losing its charm over relatively unexamined anti-democratic forces in the hands of the State itself. The installation of elected representatives in the power structure has already become the problem in itself. Moreover, they are not evidence of the existence of a healthy democracy. Their ability to dominate the political process with amazing survival skill has, otherwise, snared the democratic space where they failed to represent the people’s interest nor understand them or deliver governance. We still haven’t seen our politicians extending their dogged struggle beyond their quest to wrest power for themselves. As the wheels of democracy remain rusted in their power basking game, we are confronted with too many questions. Are not the growing dissidents because of a massive failure by the ruling government? In either case it is appalling and it would be the last possible resort to make an excuse and blame the people, which otherwise is the practice. Tomorrow we would blame Myanmar or Bangladesh, if not the ISI or Taliban, though Pakistan is too far not to be ignored too. The growing assertions that are directed against the government in power are encouraged by failure in the political leadership and structure itself. That holds enough water to let us look within. The question today is, what are peace chances in the State?

The Talibans were America’s brainchild to fight the Russians. It aided indulgently but later turned out to be its haunting Frankenstein monsters. Mizoram is left with not much option but to walk the plank to meet the same monster at the other end. The party that grows out of the bamboo flower gained more mileage with its ginger policy, but it could not help much. It has to resort to find salvation in turmeric. However, it is not the turmeric that failed to seduce. Rather, it is the MNF party that failed, with its undelivered promises in the face of the cyclical threat that gnaws into their ginger and turmeric dreams.

Many a time we have been accorded with burnt out strategies, call it policy, to negotiate the big one- time promise. These policies are, however, residues of power hunger politicians. The people with their solo suffrage have sacrificed abundantly for that promise. Today there are compelling reasons to talk about the need for more people centric government than merely hinging on preferential party politics strategy. The party politics have successfully cultivated preferential treatment of the few privileged at the cost of the larger collective. Therefore, the failed elected democratic limbs have no relation to the demands and challenges of the interest and people of the State. There is a need for real representation by shedding the old powerful spectacles of the old Leviathan that is used to scan its own loyal compartments, when the greater collective composed the deprived lots. There is also a need to revive the sick state of education, agriculture, economy, sports, infrastructure and what not, instead of oiling its party loyalist to gnaw the State’s treasury in the name of the people. Otherwise, the images of insecurity, unrest, dissidents, and militants would continue to grow to blur the needful aspirations and visions of the State. If that were allowed, the state would, very soon, come under the “disturbed” tag, which its neighbours are already popular for. The State has to be saved from its decadent dance of democracy. Otherwise, the people would be left with nothing more than deprivation and the remains of democracy, but also to helplessly clutch the sliver.

Friday, August 10, 2007

On Sekibusuok

When the Delhi Hmar Students' Association leaders intimated me about their desire to come out with a magazine and the privileged endowed to me to be responsible for it with a supporting team, I took it as a challenge. However, the challenge was confronted with inevitable questions that i still ask till the time of going to the press, just yesterday. The questions are many. But i would like to share a few, which were earlier acting as a discouraging factor, but has slowly become the crux of the challenge. The first question that surfaced was, who will read? I raised this question in the context of Delhi student’s community, particularly the Hmar speaking group, who must seriously catch up with the reading habit. Sometimes i find no meaning writing in the absence of reading. However, i was reminded by one of my favourite English writer, DH Lawrence who said that any writer should derive contentment not from the readers and their responses, but from the work that he does. There is abundant meaning in that, which writers should understand. This, i feel, is more relevant in our context, where most of the time, any writing get a blank toast in the wind than inculcate the faculties. The questions that follows are many, which i raised with equal concern as i do not want the magazine, Sekibusuok, to pile up in dusty corners in the midst of Delhi Thurawn, Lelte or those colourful newspaper supplements that seduce than knock the reason's gate. Whatever, they have been religiously feeding us more than anything else. Sometimes, I feel like asking, what more do we read?

Sekibusuok is a child of visionary resolution and evolution, which the name itself manifests. The name was given by the acclaimed author and former diplomat L Keivom who stands out like the great big mount with his communicable strength, enthusiasm and knowledge. I cannot help, but count on him anytime. A being for his equal in all aspects would remain the last to find in Zoram Khawvel. If anyone could find the beauty in Sekibusuok, which will be released on August 18, the acknowledgement belongs to Pu Keivom who ploughed through every sentence of the articles. I have been wishing, on many occasion, that he could leave behind his tireless strength and his knowledge garner when nature embrace him.

Unlike the Holy Word, Sekibusuok would not be able to see the light of the day by itself if not without the immense contribution made by the Isaac Hmar Memorial Foundation (IHMF), the publisher of Sekibusuok. I indeed reminded the Foundation that the return, if they expect, would come along with the second coming, which might be a long wait if the grace period extends. Even if it comes early, the materialistic would have no place anymore. But they did with no expectations for any return. Man ought to carry on with all his might for which Sekibusuok Editorial board as well as HSA, Delhi would remain grateful to Professor Lal Dena and Pi Linda Haas of IHMF for publishing HSA Delhi Sekibusuok. Isaac L Hmar, who once was a significant member of HSA, Delhi is well remembered through the Foundation's ceaseless and beautiful efforts. Through their contributions, the words could breathe with life today, which i believe would put Isaac to smile wherever he is.

The articles in Sekibusok with its rich and diverse content are indeed an amazing collection. The articles are not picked or chosen. Instead they are all that we received after the long and endless call and invitation. Very few of the contributors wrote in direct response to the call and invitation. It resembled VS Naipaul's early understanding of India that has with it million mutinies and battles within a mutiny and battle. Sekibusuok could also take its form only after numerous calls, invitations, reminders and not to forget the begging and soft threats that I deliberately made to people close to me. The threat and begging was not fruitful. Do I need a gun? Whatever, I am sure it would be an interesting journey for all readers. The articles contained volumes of lessons, struggle, experiences, wit, wisdom, knowledge, humour, questions, concern, and issues that were weaved by different lives in various parts of the globe. From the amazing young girl writer, Immanuel Lalsanhim Keivom to New York Post Photo Journalist, James Keivom and to the enlightening wisdom of Professor Lal Dena and several remarkable contributors, Sekibusok is an intimate garner. Sekibusuok gained its completeness with four women contributors, who unlike the men contributors, promptly respond to the invite for articles. Their articles overflow with the beauty of a woman and the concern of a mother. If Sekibusuok could flaunt its pride, it would be so because of the women contributors. However, as a student's organisation magazine, it remains a big disappointment to receive too little from the student's community. But still, the bigger contribution could be made by reading the articles, which is the last expectation related to all the beautiful efforts. The bi-lingual content is deliberately adopted to serve the quest of diverse readers as well as to acknowledge the beauty and importance of ex-pressions, which is already popular in Hmar as well as English. Our greater desire remains unfulfilled with our inability to avail the articles in other dialects and languages of Zohnathlak.

Sekibusuok, which is a magical and productive instrument, occupy an immortal place in Hmar folk tales. In the story, a woman called Phungnu owned Sekibusuok. Sekibusuok fulfilled the wishing well as it could produce rice and meat when it is strike on each end. It was a source of wealth and treasure. A desire. Beautiful and enlightening articles on the subject were written by Lal Dena, L Keivom and RH Hminglien. Whatever it may be, the wonderful thing is the interpretation and situation of the relevance of Sekibusuok in the 21st century, which L Keivom focused and handed over the significant role to the new generations, who are the new Sekibusuok. Finding this relevance would go a long way to enlighten us not only about our cultural memories, but also with the need to realise one’s potentialities to enrich the progressive generations. This is our time. And the role is to be instrumental as Sekibusuok was. As the world race progressively towards attaining greater heights in knowledge, reason and wisdom, Sekibusuok, as it was conceived, is dedicated to the new generations to inculcate and realised the greater quest for our land and people. The underline is, be the Sekibusuok.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

August: My Cradle

August, seed of my breathe
Suitor of my tears and dust
Though grave gate in hunger awaits
You are beautiful than all
Rest my flesh when the breathe leaves

- (To August, DB)

August. Blessed month. Dry dust set to rest. In wet baptism. Leaves and birch too.The dry wets. Like the time in Bible's Ecclesiates. The time and season has the rain to lord. While tempest wind could stir no more. Like the firm faith after forty days fast.Swift monsoon winds chased rain pregnated clouds. The canvas-like sky turned muddy and heavy.Like the work of nervous brush. Sometimes with a sinner's haste. But a seasonal sign expected with clock-like certainity. While few mortals with scientific temper read with alarm. They say global warming. As the hole in the ozone layers depletes.The deterioration crossed the boundaries of season. As drought and flood threatened reason and conscience. Negating the cycle of expectations and reason. Sciene could no longer help the uncontrollable depletion. Faith prays but what if the time has come? But August, my gate to the brief mortality. The month that endowed me with the knowledge of the dew's brevity. And of the wisdom of vanity. The month that clothed me with flesh and blood. And with joy and fear. The month that breathe me with a life to thrive through age and wrinkles. The month that led me to sneak and seek meaning in the void of unquenchable life.

While mortal's expects a Hercules feat, life progressed to incline like ancient scimitar. And the kiss is a chance and not a choice. Lamentation and mourning awaits his glory. Though thousand wreaths may wait like white virgins. I and we are the victims of life. But the glory of creation. What more has man to uphold than the veil of vanity that breeds pride? Never knowing that we are mere sacrifice to vanity. The sons and daughters of unforgiven sin. As we enter with tears and leave no tears dry either. Like the inevitable cycle. August was chosen. Like the inescapable Jonah in the Bible. Or Judas. Chosen. A decision prior to the "concert of democracy." Prior to the mad Bush rush. But fortunate that it was not a mortal's chosen time. You, holier than them. Unscathed with the scars of politics and unforgivable rivalries. Untouched by the quest for power and dark glories. I choose your darkness hidden in rain packed floating clouds than in the sour of man's pride and falsity. I choose you than the pandering woman that submits to the temptation of the forbidden fruit. When will she fight temptation? The womb was a mistake, but I am blessed. For it was you, August. The only place for life to conceived. Men has no place for pride. For the mightiest is her son. And the meekest is hers too. And you housed them all. Like the life in the rain that you seasoned. It is not only in the womb. But in the cloud and dust too. August, month of life. Like the horn of plenty, your garner bulged bigger than December. The canon must be wrong. For the saviour must be your son too. How could the canon ignore your fertility? Where is his reason? Where is his conscience? Has the stolen rib gulped them all? But man, as surrogate sons and daughters of clogged propaganda and dim vision could not even blink to see that you were chosen before any being was created. Silver locks and golden age could wake him not. It wouldn't. The mystery and magic is in you. The beauty too. But before the grave, life's unbeaten suitor, attained its hungry glory, let her know that you, August, are my cradle.