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Monday, June 23, 2008

Blue Night In Lungthulien

I listened to the villager’s tales of worries all for free. If I had to pay them I’d go broke. They would be in the same situation if they had to pay me for listening. Like equals do everything was for free. There was plenty to listen. Too much for free. Initially it was difficult to even make out the head and tail of it. It looks like they have not been having anyone to listen to them. One by one they unwrapped them. Many of them were smeared with complain and helplessness. With bursting temper and uncontrolled emotions. The closer one gets to them, the intimacy instill a trust to share the visible as well as the unseen baggage that gnaws them, no matter what it holds. There was almost everything in listening. I said to myself man has not sought enough in listening.

I remember the first time I visited Lungthulien. It is still so clear. Like yesterday’s funeral. That was in February 2006; when the villagers were living in terror, girls and women raped, men folks herded and beaten, and the villagers getting displaced to refugee camp in Mizoram’s Sakawrdai . I met the shattered rape victims, their devastated parents, the helpless displaced persons and their desires to weave a new life. That was my first time in the village where I did the listening game.

Our kind host was Pu Ralkapthruom and his family. The same family hosted us during 2006. I had developed a home like feeling with the family. The shared misery bonded us for one thing. It has become so beautiful today. The relationship is like a beautiful flower on a plant of thorn. That thorn is necessary. It should be inevitable in this walk of life for every man. This time I and Lalthansang Pulamte were sheltered in the new house that glisten on a sunny day and glow on moonlit night. The old house sit above the National Highway 150 and the new one was situated on the opposite side. The new house was lifted high and done with a wooden floor. I love the balcony at the back of the house for every reason. That was one place I always resorted to, to listen when the fiery red sun set behind the distant blue Sinlung hills.

The view from the balcony was breath taking. The proposed Tipaimukh dam site stretches far and wide below. I was shown the areas that would be submerged if the dam is allowed to be built. From the balcony the bleak future of the dam could be seen. It touches part of our host land too. The present National Highway 150 would be submerged. Now there is a talk of diverting the highway. This must be one of the reasons why the road, which was a lifeline for the constituency, was not repaired and maintained for more than twenty years. This must be the reason why the Tipaimukh villagers were being slowly pushed into learning to live with the without. The without has a big shocking presence here. There’s nothing, not even a trace to say this is by the government and for the people. Sipuikawn and Tipaimukh villages would be submerged. Wipe off the map. Tuiruong (Tipaimukh), the river of life for thousands of villagers would flow no more for them. Fishing and the regular boat journey from Tipaimukh to Fulertawl and other areas in Cachar would be a thing of the past. The rice bowl, the jhum fields, of Rovakot , Sartuinek, Lungthulien, Parbung would be swelled with water. The forest and land of these villages are clearly visible from the balcony. On the other side, behind Tuiruong, sits Mizoram Sinlung Hills. The distant villages on the other side in Mizoram were electrified. Black tarred roads snake for them. AAY rice is available for Rs.3 a kilo. In Manipur’s Lungthulien, if it is available, the same rice cost Rs. 15 a kilo. Availability is a big question. The without could be felt. I sit and watched, as time pass by, reminding myself the great game of inequality that we are negotiating with silence and misery. What little was visible from that balcony was enough to knock everyone from the slumber that we are celebrating. We should not allow the bliss to go for long. The bliss should also have its limits.

The future is tense and grim if wrong decisions are taken from outside by the outsiders. We should not allow deliberated policies to uproot and destroy the lives and future of thousands of innocent villagers. We fail as human beings if our voices are silenced and our other strength becomes numb in the face of hungry forces driven by the might and power of money and heartless intruders. This is one of the most important corners where our history flourishes and the seed of our future is hatched. This land is precious. We are not fishes or other water friendly species to be dammed by doomed structures. We cannot surrender our land, rivers, homes, trees, forest, the land of our future generations and our priceless independence and dignity for vain monetary compensations. We won’t be man and human if we hope to eat money and survive. There won’t be any to eat even. The bait of inhumane seductions is pricking our conscience and reason. We all should stand up for this cause. There won’t be any other worthy cause that demands your intervention. There should be an alternative than wiping off a land and its people off the map in the name of development.

The magic of the night reveals as the moon glides from behind the mountain that wall Lungthulien. I listen to the sound of silence. I also hear children studying and reading aloud their homework in the quest of memorising them. There were playful voices too. It was all too different from the year 2006 when fear silenced the cosy village and the remainders were trapped without much choice. Today they are living like free men and women, but burdened with the threat of famine and epidemic deaths. More than five infants have died from the village, levelled by the “strange disease.” The running hills below us shone with surreal lights. It was like witnessing the greatest show of light that would never be repeated again. I blessed myself saying, “Only the blessed see this light.” Night insects and other unseen creatures lend their voices to the night. Some lend their lights too. I wonder if man has ever tried the sound anywhere. I sat glued and speechless. My friend, Lalthansang entered with an exclamation, “An hawi chuoi chuoi de aw!” We have been receiving gifts from the villagers- tea leaves, fruits, sometimes vegetables and meat too. “Tonight” he said, “It is a holy water that could burn with blue flame.” He performed that for me. I saw for the first time holy water up in flame. The holy water that never flows. We let it flow and the night explodes with the holy water up in blue flames.

(New Delhi, June 22, 2008)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Catching Up

The beginning was long time gone. We have the words today in plenty. Holed-up man in tattered clothes stained with old stink of unpalatable doctrinal houses cornered the little spaces that were cultivated with toil and struggle. How long does it take for a birth and death if man could do? When was the last time that one believe religion to be a house of truth and love? Too many shades. It is time they set.

Very recently Delhi Thurawn was cornered to a clogged space, dictated by will who have tasted a smear of power and might. They, who did not spare even the last vocal chord that embody speech and expression and the inevitable flavour of freedom that exist to give breathe and life. Nothing is small when the quest and hunger for power is big. The little avenue that we collectively nurtured with the prize freedom was suddenly gasping for life. I saw, once again, the beauty and the beast battling to find a place as the truth burst open from uncontrollable corners. Nothing could be hidden. Man only love the vain attempt. It put them in the race for that eluding power and glory where the quest for empty victory rang louder than the rusted church bell.

I confessed I learn a lot from the entire discourse. It is one inevitable revelation. Big lessons from unwritten chapters emerged from one neglected path of history. When the new generations do not have questions to inquire about the current history I am glad we have people in their evening year who also have seen the morning and the afternoon past, ready to shed a light to the layered darkness. The heart of darkness multiplied after the Gospel. Man is still the victim. The proud victim. When the generations that did not believe in Columbus and his tribe has grown, the quest for the retreat into history has to be made by shedding those extra flabs that we have gathered from dim pulpit lights that has the house divided. When there is twenty three ways of putting a nail inside a wall, the march of a people into the future should not be limited by narrow door. The attempt itself is irrelevant and invalid when man is the new king with open choices in every field aided by precise tools and technologies. The attempt is a shame to the little people who are practising the march of the leviathan. If at the gate of the centenary, such forces could wrest the empowered generations and their medium of freedom, liberty and dignity, the ghost of the "head hunters" are, no doubt, still largely alive.

The opportunity compelled me for a comparative study of societies that dwell with similar threat to the same freedom. Manipur's Imphal is one close example where the fourth estate were frequently dictated to necessitate black out in protest against the multiplying Brutus. Pakistan,
with a military ruler, is another appalling context. The Taliban occupied territories were severely blotted. The same forces are not far and outside. I realised everything is within us. The good. The bad. The ugly. I could not help, but equate the forces that gagged Delhi Thurawn, our small voice, to have loosened their reason, dignity and integrity. When they thought they have mastered the art of silencing voices, we ought to remind ourselves that we are playing the losing game. A winner is not defined by one particular time and period. When there is a retreat, which is inevitable, the mad race in the vanity fair would only be ridiculous. He, who stands for truth and justice, would eventually resort to fight for that freedom where life lies.

The other lesson is we are still one vulnerable troupe with weak reactionary capabilities. We are ready to burst and explode, losing our reason and integrity. We don't seem to mind sacrificing our dignity when we could do without it. We don't seem to mind withdrawing from the truth that defines our valuable existence as man and human being. Abdicating spaces that plotted us as a being superior than all other animals. The thin line that segregates us from the beast is erased to situate ourselves just as another lesser mortals. We seem to be content if we are not robbed of our life. But being alive alone is not life at all. We need to open- up every forum and faculties to inculcate healthy discourse and discussion.

We are pregnant with pretension when it comes to things that matters us. We are too occupied by religious and other supernatural activities that we missed many things that could helped us relate to the reality of life. We strive to be ordained by the pulpit or any other related symbols in our vain quest to be accepted. Tha race for acceptance has already made this world too bloodly and messy. It has made man corrupt and undignified. That makes us too superficial. Too defensive. Taking extra caution not to burn the houses of doctrines that has visibly divided us. That has closed down all spaces that has lately intervene to make situations for changes. I am afraid it might gnaw into more generations as if the whole attempt of existence is to churn out white, holy, religious tribe that history has not seen anywhere. We are bad actors as we try to hide in the burning bush that we have been beating about. Our inclination to the supernatural world has made us too blind to see the real. Our relation with reality is blurred as we sought too much out of this world. We have ruined generations. We have messed with generations. But the blind did not see. The mute did not speak. We are victims of a sin that we are not part of.

The tendency to explain and interpret everything from the door and window of religion has made us weak everywhere. I remember taking my friend, Stephen C Hmar, who had several physical complains, to see a doctor in one of the most prestigious hospital in the Capital city. After thorough examination the doctor told us that Science alone would not be able to treat his diseases. We were at loss as we try to find a way to inject little hope into him. Similarly, the entire attempt to explain everything with a religious approach has closed the door for reason to take seat. The challenges of change before us demands that we exhibit balance in our deliverance of reason. We cannot belong to any clogged house and doctrines that were imported without questioning their temper. If the need be it should be constructively deconstructed to enable every faculty to imagine and reimagine the walk of life. If we don't we would be remembered as cowards. Loosers. Failures. As morally sold out. Unstable. We are not what we are meant to be if we give up the fight much before we negotiate the matter that involved us. Its not about sin. It is neither sinful. It is just that it is humane to know the truth. The prized spaces of freedom and liberty that has been hard won should not be placed in the hands of battered man who resort to religion for their livelihood. It is a greater loss than placing a necklace of diamond in pig's neck. The haste bursting and wrong decisions have blurred our eyes. The mistake is that the green tree is seen as a burning forest. Things that could be save has to be saved so that our existence as man deliver its meaning. Otherwise we are just catching up with everything that we have missed.

(June 15, 2008, New Delhi)