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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Freshers and Recollections - IV

Ten years ago, the concern was for feeding the unquenchable faculties and scoring well in the monotonous exams. It has changed for many today. For me, it has digress out of the mark scoring game to extend beyond and outside the annual affairs. Besides the proletariatquest for bread and butter, the inevitable life's struggle has brought us in confrontation with things that ought to matter. Rights. Plights.Under-reported as well as unreported issues.Reasoning vision.Visioning reason. Unrepresented people. Unaccounted people. Juggled lives. The youthful dream of "settling down" in the old man's manner took a backseat. It would be a dead man's choice from the depth of the pond to repeat the blunder as the ideal one. New time. New generation. Everything new. That's what awaits the fresher's today. CCR would call us fortunate sons and daughters. No time for war. No call for war even. Not ready to become a warrior even. The bloody battle cannot fit into the new consciousness to seduce anymore. The war and battle lines and scenes have changed. We have stepped into the new war. Now we are already part of it too. Bloodless battle. Colourless war. We have arrived. Have we? The question still has to be asked. However, coming to Delhi alone is not a fit case to announce our arrival. It takes more than seeing a congested city, big and wide metalled flyover, metro train or eating ice-cream from McDonalds to have us arrived. Arriving is an endless journey where, at times, it is more difficult to say where we are. From the royal-game of peacock hunting to cyber-romancing and getting the Book translated and making the seat of the white and brown Mughals into our own's nest, the journey is taking us to certain arrival points. From the "dark" "head-hunting" days to the speedy cyber transitions, the shift is already outside the stagnation. Cross- cultured Eves and resilient Adams are the new offspring.From withstanding the angered "Bahadur" or "Chinese" phase to educating the ounce of the billion race about us with our presence, we have come to a point where we could say that we have seen them all. Many a times i told myself that the billion race resembled the Biblical Thomas. They still could not believe us to be from the other parts of India even after seeing and hearing about it. Ignorance is not blissful always.
Our arrival to the Capital city and other metros coincides with the Chinese dumping of commercial goods that still flood Indian markets. Sometimes i wonder if the cheap and easy availability of Chinese goods has anything to do with the others perception of us as a "cheap" or "easy" tribe. The hurdles that freshers today may not get to experience was negotiated with a harsh bargain. It was negotiated the rough and tough way. If we could add colour, it was more than the black and white or grey. It was red too. Too red that it becomes racist. Despite the decades that it has taken, it would be too early to say if it was a win-win situation or a give and take barter that we have carved out of it. Many a times, the exchange negates humanity or any human touch. Sometimes it is a wonder how we could afford to exercise them without reminding ourselves of the human we are. The new generation bear the responsibilties to stress on living a more human life. Imagine life without the need for a barrelled justice. Without hate and threat. Without poking differences to make a bruise and scar out of it. It is the fresher's turn to make a beautiful change.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Fresher’s and Recollections - III

Back in 1997 when we were freshers in Delhi, most of us come to study. The hallowed halls of Delhi University pulled us to this ancient city to study sciences and arts. Today, majority of the freshers are already working in globalised BPO’s and other service and hospitality sectors. A big leap, if we have to consider our background. The uncontrollable pace reminds me of Eagles’ song, Life in the Fast Lane, which I used to listen back home, where time seems slower and peaceful. I used to imagine how fast it would really be in the city. Our maturity, integrity and sophistication are put to test in this new world, while it generates young economically independent generations. The new generations. People from the North East seem to be doing well in catching up with the changing times. An inevitable necessity if we have to play the survival game. Sometimes I do wonder if the good, the bad and the ugly have also become inevitably ours. Inevitable for all of us. We justifiably gulped them down in the name of sacrifice and in the guise of accommodating ourselves to the new soil.

What worries me most, as a fresher, was the difference in time that we stepped into. When one could not go to sleep at 2 AM in the morning, I enquired myself many a time, if my system has gone wrong? I started relying on alarm clock to wake me up for classes. It shocked dear folks back home too. Few of our girls, who were, then, working late into the night in restaurants, did deliver negative images to people back home. People back home used to think that their girls must have lost everything. However, it was a situation the girls could not help. Infact it was already a culture that is still spreading its wings to toll on us too. Folks back home could never understand why they have to return by 1 or 2 AM in the morning. The single time zone for the big country failed to educate us. Instead it gnaws into us. Sometimes I blamed the one time zone that we seem to be sharing with all unity. If there were different time zones, the radical change would not push many of us to the brink of unanswered questions and explanations. I remember one of my fresher friend resorted to Cypon syrup to sleep on time. However, it acted too effectively on him that he failed to wake up early in the morning again. That spoils everything for him. He could never be fresh since then. Today, the new generations of the working class are enduring and negotiating different time zones in their work place. That deconstructs our practice of sleeping at night and working in the day. If the pace continues, we all might end up working at night and sleeping in the day.

I’ve heard many complaints with the sudden change. A seven year old boy who came to Delhi for his winter vacation complained that he never get to see the moon or the sun. He must also be negotiating the change on his part. King of Sinlung rock and blues, Laltuoklien has a different story to tell, when he was a fresher in Delhi. He said that time is too slow in Delhi. “A day is like two or three days”, Laltuoklien said. Not only that, he also said, “There is no sense of timing here. We only eat when we are supposed to be sleeping. We sleep when we are supposed to be climbing the stairs of many dreams. And we wake up when we are supposed to be eating again. I won’t be able to be creative to write any songs here.”

Since day one, till today, the game is about negotiating the change. We shed everything that we once embrace religiously without much choice. We realised that we cannot be like the firm moulded clay. We created space within ourselves for change, while the boundary could not be fixed. But what if we sacrifice every little bit of us in the process of change? What if the fresher’s stage is the last stage that we get to see about our real self?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Fresher’s and recollections - II

Back in 1997, when we were fresher’s, party, dancing, Coke and Pepsi was a very in-thing in South Delhi. Back then, our Delhi's geography was somehow confined to North and South. Today it has extended to East, West, Gurgaon and Noida.Our reporter, after a weeklong vacation in South, would narrate to us minute details of endless birthdays. Some birthdays were created. I still remember, some birthdays got due attention and extension. Unconsciously it delivers them to another weekend. Then to the years-end.The brief beauty passed away with the wisp of the night without any inheritance for the next day. For the freshers' community in a new place, it created a resort to shed our baggage of longings and build new attachment. On our part, we would listen with rapt attention and retreat with overblown imaginations over a cup of milk tea. For a change, milk was readily and easily available in Delhi that made tea-making a faithful affair. It was the cheapest indulgence we could afford with a king-size spirit on our shoestring budget.

In North, the party affair hardly happens unless Stephen C Hmar’s birthday recycles to add him more years to his age. That happened once when I was in my second year. I remember, the dancing was wild, uncultured and rustic. But we enjoyed them in our own way. For the majority of us, it was our first attempt that exhibited awkwardness. There was no finesse to our moves. There was no magic touch to our dancing. It was as if the fresh murdered street dog has run over us before we bite its flesh. It usually ended with overflowing sweat and all the wrong moves. The beautiful thing was that we discover to laugh at ourselves. To hide them from any mortal's sight, the light would be switch off. Then we make our move like hungry spirits over sick techno music that blare out of borrowed tape and cassettes. Techno music was also the in-thing then in Delhi, which I hated so much. But if Bryan Adams was there in our party, he would say that they happened to him as the best days of his life. If not, it happened to us like that. After all the crazy moves, we would resort to a safe corner to watch Daniel Shakum and Reuben Thangsanglor dancing. They were good. There was a sense of comfort and beauty in their dancing. They saved us. They would say that they could dance better if there were girls around. I did not doubt that. I still do not. On my part, to save myself from unnecessarily multiplying the wrong move that’s already abundant, I would volunteer to do all the cooking and serving. But still then, there was always that pulling, which I staunchly resisted with much uncomfort. I know that was not polite at all. But i dread the dancing so much. North was, then, like a Tarzan’s cave. There was hardly any long hair for the Tarzan’s tribe. That scarcity in North made South look like the land of Eves. Beautiful than Eden.

Since day one, homesickness was like a mole in the skin to everyone of us. It would not leave. It could not be left behind too. Like the sweat. Like the prickly heat and all those endless seasonal irritation. There was nothing more faithful than them to have greeted us.Except for everything, the feeling was not strange. The familiarity rather made one at home than sick. However, I realized that it acted to be very creative.

As time passed by, we found our dear reporter from Muolzapui Run getting hooked to the sub-culture or Marxs' "superstructure" rooted in New Delhi's Hmar youth society. After the fresher's meet was the chain of birthdays. That was then followed by the unquestioned song practices under the Thralai Pawl banner. Song competitions. Traditional dance practice for Sikpui Ruoi. All those time-buyers we never question in the guise of "nationalism", "blood", "history" and "culture". If not we dare not. Suddenly that would consume precious time to transport us to December at the gate of the year's exit. If the "thralai" did not explain it was then in the name of "tlawmngaina." The opium were too holy to be questioned. Too imposing. We cultivated them in vain imagination and assumption without much return. Those hallucination years. And we embrace them like free manna to feed the blind quest. The manna turned stale as time passed by. Many returned like wounded, beaten soldiers. Many returned without deriving salvation from the expensive quest. Did we learn? If not, do we have enough to give selflessly? Do we have enough to give endlessly? Should we give endlessly?

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Fourth Estate and the Kuki people

(A brief of the paper presented on KSO seminar at SSS, JNU, on September1, 2007 )

“There were Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters' Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important far than they all.”
- Edmund Burke

Today, I am compelled to stress on the necessity of the fourth estate, which is the other name for the press or journalism, than merely dishing out the list of multiplying institutions that are offering the courses. Not that I will not be touching them. But, after much analysis of our social mindset, social expectations, our education and the prospects that we attached to it, I strongly felt that I must stress on the subject with a bold underline to every word, which will be more a critical analysis of our society with the fourth estate.

When I was asked by the President of the Kuki Students’ Organisation to speak on Journalism and its prospects for the students, I was flooded with too many questions, with many unanswered. I would like to raise few questions here so that we seriously inquire for the answers. I reminded myself that the Kuki people stands out to own the biggest number of bureaucrats, politicians, and pastors in Manipur. But why is that there are no journalist? That led me further to investigate the state of our society. I cannot help, but say that our progress as a people is yet very incomplete for we missed out that fourth pillar, the Fourth Estate, which should otherwise act as the voice, ears, eyes, nose, strength and image of us as a progressive people. I am reminded of Thomas Jefferson’s saying on the necessity of a free press. He said: “The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

The significance of a newspaper or the fourth estate and the people who runs them was greatly acknowledged by Thomas Jefferson who prefers a newspaper to a government. A retreat to our current history as well as the present scenario reveals that we have been severely exerting all our efforts to grind out bureaucrats, politicians and pastors, but not for newspaper or journalist. Why, is the big question here. Is it because of our ignorance? Is it because our society did not glorify the job and its service as worthy? Is it because our education systems are not oriented to it? Or is it because our knowledge and understanding of the might and power of the Fourth Estate is limited? Or is it because we don’t have the need for the fourth estate?

I believe that if we could delve into these questions and seek for its answers, we would exhume the importance of the fourth estate, which will further enthuse and enhance us to be a part of the significant four.

Comparing traditional European society and modern Kuki society
In traditional European society, there were usually three estates that enjoyed a specified share in government – the nobility, the clergy, and the commons. The functions of the nobility were to defend society from foreign aggression and internal disorder. The clergy attends to its spiritual needs while the common people work to produce the base with which to support the other two orders. When parliaments and representative assemblies developed from the 13th century, their organization reflected this theory, with separate houses for the nobility, the commons and the clergy. The fourth estate is the press, which the British politician Edmund Burke coined the term in the 18th century.

By calling the press a "fourth estate," Burke meant to stress on the press abilities to influence public opinion that made it an important source in the governance of a nation. In modern times, we see the role of a free press differently, but still in quasi-institutional terms. It has gone beyond what Justice Potter Stewart saw, the role of a free press, as essential in exposing corruption and keeping the political process honest. Today we need the press to talk about everything imaginable.

The fourth estate was and still is seen as the voice and eyes of the people vis-à-vis the government and the society at large. However, the absence of that in our society necessitated question again. The question is, are we living with the absence of the fourth estate because we did not have the government, the clergy or the common people?

In the traditional European society, critical utterances about the government, either written or spoken, were subject to punishment. The English law also does that. It did not matter whether what had been printed was true. However, the government saw the very fact of the criticism as an evil, since it cast doubt on the integrity and reliability of public officers. Progress toward a truly free press, that is, one in which people could publish their views without fear of government reprisal, was halting.

The same seems to be our reality today with the Kuki society, with fear and apprehension dominating the prospect of freedom of ex-pression. Has that become a threat to situate itself permanently in our society to further murder the significance of the fourth estate, making itself a no appealing avenue for the new generation?

Today, our society’s burden of small arms race, internal displacement, under-development, neglect and marginalisation, corruption, lack of awareness and ignorance, and degeneration in all areas are partly a result of the absence of the fourth estate. The absence of it fails to access us with that necessary platform where opinion could be initiated, expressed or mobilise. Many a times, we counted on our elected representatives to raise our issues and plights, which they failed to respond. Many a times we looked to the government to provide us with all sorts of security for our welfare and development. In our progress with time, we ended up as poor reactionists and weak negotiators despite the power based on us. The reason again is, we don’t have the fourth estate to plant all these necessities in the consciousness of the people, authorities and all who matters. As a result, we, as a people, today, are suffering from any sense of collectivity to talk about our issues, politics, and visions for our future.

Fourth Estate and its importance
The fourth estate has been a recourse against abuses of power within the democratic structures of our societies. It is not unusual for the three traditional areas of power - legislative, executive and judicial - to make mistakes and operate less perfectly than they might. In a democratic framework the press have often seen it as a duty to denounce such violations of human rights. Sometimes journalists have paid the price - they have been physically attacked, murdered or have disappeared, which is still happening everywhere. This is why, in the phrase attributed to Edmund Burke, journalism is the “fourth estate”. With the civic responsibility of the media and the courage of individual journalists, this fourth estate has provided a fundamental and democratic means for people to criticise, reject and reverse decisions that are unfair, unjust, illegal and sometimes even criminal against innocent, helpless and voiceless people. The fourth estate represents the voice of those who have no voice.

Over the past years, while the acceleration of globalisation confronts the global village with the fourth estate negotiating with new actors that grows out of capitalism - the industrial and the financial, the market and the state, the public services and the private sector, the individual and society, the personal and the collective, egoism and solidarity. However still, within this geo-economic framework there has been a decisive transformation in the mass media, striking at the heart of their structure as industries. This is never missing with the progressing time, despite the big miss on our part. The mass communications media (radio, newspapers, television, internet) are today being realigned to create media groups with a world vocation. The growth of media groups have realised that the revolution in new technology has greatly increased the possibilities for expansion. The digital revolution shattered the divisions that previously separated the three traditional forms of communication (sound, text and images) and allowed the creation and growth of the internet. This has now become a new form of communication, a means of self-ex-pression, information-access and entertainment.

On the other hand, on our part, while we are confronting the issues and problems of food shortages, insecurities, militancy and armaments, ethnicity and its politics, environmental problems, deplorable health conditions, poor traditional education and agriculture system, etc., we do so without the necessary fourth estate. In the process, we failed to rise to become a significant actor, as we have no strength of the fourth estate to accelerate our efforts.

If we critically analyse our problems as well as the prospect for it, they are all intimately linked with the fourth estate. However, in our case and context, we failed to establish any relation with the necessary fourth estate.The conversion of plights and issues into representative policies is accessed and enabled by the fourth estate. Creating a space for the fourth estate would require the force of ideas for which the new generations should be prepared. Changes in media coverage can effectively exercise an effective influence on political transition, welfare, development, education, economy, etc. Besides, the existence and development of the fourth estate is associated with the whole process of democracy and shaping of public opinion. If not, it still helps to reinforce mobilization that was already underway.

The state of the fourth estate is one of the elements that reflects and determines all aspects of society. In many countries it is the fourth estate that stand to represent the country’s modern and democratic hue. While societies outside us are celebrating the benefits of the fourth estate, we are severely suffering the absence of it. It is time we bring about a change.

How do we react to all of these challenges? How can we defend ourselves? How can we resist, negotiate, bargain and present ourselves? The answer is simple. We need to invest our resources towards establishing and securing a healthy fourth estate to which I call upon the new generations to make the necessary difference by being a part of it.