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E-Pao! EI - When a Manipuri filmmaker met Delhi

When a Manipuri filmmaker met Delhi
Episode 01- Baptism with Bahadur

By: Oinam Doren*



Prologue: You must have noticed me everywhere. In colleges, deemed universities, on the road, in sprawling organizations. Quote the place. I am there. You see, biologically I inherited wee dreamy eyes and the quintessential flat nose. Ergo, people candidly assume I represent some pirated Chinese from Palika bazaar, a super IQ Japanese into robotics or a touring Korean with slang name Kwang- Si- Huau. Even they sporadically confer me the ubiquitous infuriating label ‘Bahadur’. Do I hum like the provocative Gulshan Grover who alters character in every movie? You can deem so. The only salient variation is I seldom molest conspicuous young things like he does in movies. But in fact as they called me, I am a ‘northeast ka ladka’, a version of several races.

The common vegetable vendors endorse excitement in my sight. For him, northeast ka ladka as customer means profit enough to launch his Levi’s sabji showroom in Connaught place. For an obese shopkeeper, my presence connote Lakshmi- the goddess of wealth descending from a Swiss bank to give a blowjob of the prasad placed in front of her portrait. This also comes with a guarantee for mata Lakshmi; a permanent vacation in a toilet in drought every 15 secs. The Pervez Musharaf character-the Autowala hum the jingle ‘northeast ka ladka patalo. World cup jao’ whenever I raise a signal. If I happen to pass through Chandni Chowk on a hot summer afternoon, eloquent salesman whet my business skills with heavy discounts of their prehistoric leather jackets. For them, I am a brand ambassador of stupidity from the northeast with the splendid mission ’kaun banega hazarpati?’

Twenty-six erratic months has passed in Delhi following my graduation in cosmopolitan Shillong. I have worked in assorted television production houses. And my ascend of the corporate skyscraper has been hasty like your friendly neighbor Spiderman. But personal and professional collisions have also led to coffee breaks flanked by depression, frustration and the typical self-confidence hunt. Childhood incoherent fantasies sustained with hectic creative activities channeled by St. Anthony’s College, my alma mater’s divine intervention has set that miraculous spider bite. But the consequent access into this corporate houses and the progression wasn’t a spider tale either. A chunk of my prospective seasoned employers and colleagues in Delhi were of the belief that northeast natives are damn fools; hardly acquainted with etiquette and are easy prey for manipulation. Whenever I take my resume to a store dealing in Xerox, a good number of this slimy shopkeepers would remark ‘who will give you work?’ A trip to some shady cyber café would hail me a sarcastic comment ‘they have learnt how to use the Internet.’

A director of a huge filmmaking company called me with guile motive. The resume I faxed him couldn’t convinced him I am not the northeast ka ladka of his prejudice. He confronted me directly with the illustrious lines, ‘nobody would give you work in Delhi since you are from the northeast’. Keenly he watched my student films. Furtively apologizing for calling me, he confessed he wont’ be able to pay me. He had perceived I am easy prey. Conspiring with me not to speak about this to anyone, I was bade farewell. I haven’t up to now. I am scripting this conscientiously swearing heaven and earth to defend my word. A further employer alleged I must be a fake; my glorified portfolio-a legitimate revelation of my sweat was forged. I defended I have just completed my graduation; and my first digital film is participating in an international film festival. He got insecure. A charming lady employer told me his husband didn’t trust my resume. He guessed we northeast folks dwell in the jungles. A few weeks later functioning under him, he was flabbergasted. Somewhere in someplace else, my juniors, colleagues snub my leadership. They perceived the northeast natives are damn fools; hardly acquainted with etiquette and are easy prey for manipulation. Promptly I proved myself professionally. Then of course those incorrigible comments rained my world ‘I didn’t know this guys are so creative. I didn’t know they are so clever’. I wasn’t flattered. I just managed to kick some butt. Burn baby burn.

In spite of my professional mini-triumph, I sometimes had to bear the brunt of Delhi. In quotation: ‘Oh this northeast people have learned how to dress’ in a crowd. ‘They know how to use the flush’ in a public toilet. ‘This northeast guy knows how to use a fork and knife’ in a restaurant. (I grew up with Tarzan in a jungle). Then of course the common vegetable vendor……………

I sometimes speculate its no big deal. All minority groups are relegated to this dilemma. Even as Indians, in UK or USA. The majority must be at threat or psychologically provoked to establish their superiority. Every race nourishes an ego larger than our planet. But Bengalis are stereotyped as creative, intelligent. Why northeast should be categorized with derogatory or lowly images? My Manipuri ego larger than the solar system is intimidated. As a creative artist, I barely believe in any race or religion although.

A few of my friends here have in fact resorted to violence, on a minimal scale although.Their problem was they got bullied, called sarcastic names like ‘Chinki’ or ‘Bahadur’. (They gladly prefer being called Japanese or Korean.). And they unleashed their anger with brutal fist (in Jackie Chan mode). One even got lock up in a police station. I am also aware of my college seniors and friends who trod back to the northeast quashing their adolescent ambitions failing to muddle through the pressures/prejudice/politics or ignorance of Delhi. It can crudely indicate countless facets you see. But I do caution my northeast brethren to stay away from the comfort trap of blaming on prejudice & politics for lack of effort, talent and business skills. And of course there are general rules one must imbibe to endure in a fast pace Delhi. In steep contrast, life in northeast is so laid back; slower, mushy. And natives- more drowsy.

Here are a few general techniques for my juniors maroon in Delhi.

#1- Pick up the language or get slammed. Languages are of double kinds. First, it is the Hindi dialect. Second the lingua franca of metro people that includes body language, attitude etc. Recognize your habitat. And this invites time, rigorous observations and perseverance.

#2- Toss back home your ‘laid back’ attitude in the next Rajdhani express or courier it right now if you miss a reservation. Be very assertive in your words and deeds 24 hours a day (Don’t forget to sleep. The city never sleeps although).

#3- If you are in a profession, be smart enough to market yourself aggressively; your qualification, talent, experience. Stand elevated on top of India gate or Qutub Minar and shout (like Tarzan) stridently to be heard. Create some noise. These imply learning effective communication.

#4-
If a terminator refute you a right branded as a dull species from the northeast, an outer planet next to Jupiter, stand up for your rights as an Indian. Occasionally if you do get harassed, be cool. Real life Jackie Chan ends in Tihar jail.

#5- And if any situation augments to violence, dial 100. Delhi police are extra responsive and affable than your current sweethearts.

Epilogue: In 2002 AD, two juvenile meitei guys from Imphal (not from lawai like me-as Imphal citizens say) arrived in Delhi for a medical entrance exam coaching. They put up in my two-room apartment. One day while traveling in a DTC bus, the English illiterate conductor started passing the sarcastic label ‘Bahadur’. Irritated, they in accented English enlightened the guy sitting beside the conductor to tell him they are Hindi illiterate tourist from Singapore. The pretentious conductor replied ‘Singapore ka Bahadur hoga’.(they must be Bahadur from Singapore.).

Next episode: absolute struggle for identity. (Join a young lad in his struggle to find his true identity in a post modern world. Find out how Manipuris treat each other. The Delhi narrative continues on an optimistic note. )

Read other episode(s)
When a Manipuri filmmaker met Delhi - Episode 02 :: Absolute struggle for identity
When a Manipuri filmmaker met Delhi - Episode 03 :: The Manipuri identity
The writer is a DV filmmaker based in Delhi. Besides currently engaging in a political project and making a music video for a band-Snowhite, in spare time he is writing a script for a Manipuri feature film-KOKEN dedicated to meitei woman for local & international audience. You can contact him at [email protected]

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