IMFP - Indian Made Foreign People

Dr Ksh Imokanta Singh *

Analogizing Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) to Indian Made Foreign (Phoren) People (IMFP). This piece of thought had been kept neglected, cloistered in the corner of the extreme left thought-shelf located on the ground floor of my thought library. I have to drag it out before it becomes cobwebbed, dust it out and keep it in the main reading room for public consumption. As such, infinite number of stories has been lost untold without any trace for millions of years of human existence, for many varied reasons.

The key to ignite this piece of thought was pressed by the constant media report of confiscation of huge number of IMFL bottles by Manipur Police personnel, lined up in front of sheepish looking culprits with blurred eyes hiding the identities, may be due to media ethics. But today the work of graphic man in the media house has been made easy with masks and hoods donned by the prized catches. Police must be having their own ways of disposing the confiscated goods, which are appropriate for a dry State.

The name itself is really interesting and intriguing at the same time-Indian Made Foreign Liquor. Giving respect to mostly red coloured spirited drinks (Yu-ngang) as compared to mostly colourless (or is it white?) local/ domestic ones (Yu-ngou) ! Other important catch words are 'Indian Made' (Make in India campaign ?).

This foreign-local binary brings me to the cultural and racial issues involving Mongoloid featured North-East Indians in the North, South, West India and even in Kolkata. For majority of the uninitiated residents of these regions, Mongoloid North Easterners are not like 'them' but from 'phoren' land. The word foreign is reserved for those coming from America or Europe, especially.

When talking of 'phoren' they are primarily Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, China etc. For them North-Easterners are 'phoren' imports in India and for North Easterners, they, themselves, are just Indian Made Foreign (Phoren) People (IMFP), especially in big cities like Delhi. Strangers in their own country !

Mongoloid North-Easterners are actually out rightly outstanding people. They outstand wherever they are in the afore-mentioned regions, easily identifiable. Is it something like a black James Bond 007 unable to hide in a white Europe ? Or is it something like a sole peacock in the midst of uninterested peahens ? (Today many of our girls/women have started looking not like 'us' with those Nupi Shabi Make-ups.)

Looks are not problematic as long as it is racialism (biological). Problem starts when it takes the course of racism (prejudice). Incidents of name calling, be it in sportive way or otherwise, are something most of North-Easterners have experienced in these regions. However, the same seems to be valid universally. North, South, West, East Indians are also easily identifiable in Manipur also. We have a generic name for them also here but they are not IMFP.

Personally, for me, it had been overall a pleasant stint living in the capital city for years, except for those small incidents here and there. Making friends, especially when the room mates in the hostels were from Bihar and UP, was a game changer. Surprisingly, all my room-mates in the College and University hostels (Mazher and Jitendra) were aficionados of Sher-o-Shayari, which I immensely enjoyed and learnt (many times I was just a tube-light, Urdu being Greek to me).

Nevertheless, I carried my face, with head held high, everywhere I went (long hair which I sported once didn't change my biology). Once I went to one of my dearest friends, Pravin's village, Janjokhar, a non-descript village near Meerut in UP. Pravin and Jitendra were from the same stock, but I invited some curious glances from the locals, since I was something like a 'jadoo' to them as I was in a place where they did not get to see faces like mine quite often.

But getting acquainted with them, speaking their own tongue, enjoying rotis and sabji (prepared by my friend's lovely Bhabhi in chulha) and visiting sugarcane fields in the morning (ganneki khet, as they call it), made my day.

Coming back to Delhi from Meerut, those were my innocent days when most of the NE students crowded Nehru Vihar, Gandhi Vihar and coming out to Mukherjee Nagar in the evening, eye feasting, sitting near Batra Cinema (in fact I saw the film Duplicate thrice, not because I loved it so much but because they didn't change the film Fridays after Fridays).

Today, I realise, recollecting those days, why many, most of them Rickshaw pullers, lined up near a window strategically placed in a shoddy location instead of the posh looking one located in the main market place.

That was the difference between IMFL and Desi maal. One day a friend of mine from Manipur, who was already in the habit, visited my rented room. Being new he did not know the difference, both being red in colour, and brought one bottle of Desi. He was shy though when I expressed my innocence. But he did not throw away the bottle. But Delhi taught me to taste those energising 'vices' later.

Race between Foreign and Local is conspicuously visible in Manipur too. Anything Red is a tad higher than the readily available Local, no matter whether they are manufactured here in Local factories (real IMFL) or Khatkhati, in Assam or imported from Tamu (Myanmar). High and low brow ! But many whom I know have turned to local, opining that they are original, despite the rumour/fact that our clever local entrepreneurs use Good Knight mosquito coils, Urea etc. to rack in good and quick bucks.

In Manipur locals are manufactured in any locality. Loi villages like Sekmai, Andro, Leimaram, Pheiyeng etc. are specialised in such profession. Yu-ngou (white liquor) has been an inevitable part of Meitei's cultural and religious life. Birth ritual of a child is referred to as Yu-pan thaba. To cite a very common example, one's character is judged by his/her Chakcha Yu-thak (the way of how to eat and drink).

Yu and meat seem to be Siamese twins. People often laugh at when someone drinks with Veg. items. So, we say, 'yuthak-aga sha chaba' (wine drinking and animal eating). English seems to be a favourite language when people are high in this part of the world. Some drops/ pegs of local and they become Hercules - Open challenge. It is another matter that there are uncountable number of Herculeses who are just 'living corpses' (they call it Zinda Laash in Urdu).

These are some of the stories of people here in Manipur. Such may be shared stories in other parts of India too. But then why NE people should be made to feel like IMFPs ? Is it because of geographical location of the region which is joined to the bigger part by a narrow corridor called Chicken's neck (Siliguri corridor)? Then, which part is the head of the Chicken ? This part or that part ?

I hardly come across any creature with small body and much bigger head. Then why is not the head, the central nervous system, central to the whole body of India but only treated as periphery ? May be biological and geographical outlays do not, all the time, go in tandem with the conceptual, ideological, nation-building priorities.

That is why Delhi (New Delhi) is in the centre (despite being not central geographically) and NE in the peripheries, both geographically and otherwise. If we look in a conceptually practical way, peripheries should have beengiven central priority, for whose defence India had fought many wars and battles and still is fighting.

Time is changing it seems, with the 'Look East Policy' and now 'Act East'. To an optimist, both look like opening of floodgates of opportunities. But to a cynic, both sound just like wistful dreams. For them 'Look' means just plain looking and 'Act' means just acting to act.

To wind up, let me put some words of wisdom. You might retort, 'Words of wisdom from you ? Those must, invariably, come from someone like Shakespeare, Mahatma Gandhi, APJ Abdul Kalam.' Such question arises because it has been fashionable to quote somebody, especially with a Western name. The more obscure the name the more well-read you are. We don't quote by Tomba, Chaoba and Hongba of our locality said.

Such quotes are relegated to something like 'Anonymous'. So here it goes, 'If you want to maintain distance from somebody, keep the prejudice intact and enmity simmering eternally, then simply don't talk to him/her.'

Communication reduces bitterness, negativity and misunderstanding up to a certain extent. So, feeling like IMFP in the above-mentioned regions may be reduced substantially when we understand each other and 'talk' to each other.

* Dr Ksh Imokanta Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on January 09 2022 .

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