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E-Pao! Feature - Its a matter of personal choice

Its a matter of personal choice
By:- Geoffrey Ningthoujam *



'DEAR READER,READ THIS!!!'

Dear Reader,the future holds greater prospects for our already great home-state.After all, being a Manipuri, I can't help being concerned at such unearthly prospects.

Ladies and gentleman,I present you,Manipur in all its glory.

Hindi has already been banned. You have to look left and right and think a hundred times before guiltily humming away a tune from some Hindi movie.

Alcohol has been dealt a similar fate in the hands of the same bigots. Though caught offguard, the government, not to be outdone,followed it up with Prohibition. Many have ben shot in the ankle(read ankles,knees,thighs,toes,ears,et cetera for the habitual lot). Many more still sneak off to Kakhulong or Sekmai. The more influencial with just the right connections turn to any of the numerous military canteens.

Betelnuts too have been baned. Wicked as I am ,I had hoped that people caught chewing the nutritious delicacy would have their yellowed teeth pulled out @ 1 tooth for 1 nut, with of course concessional liberty for the unsuspecting culprit to decide which tooth first and in which order. My high hopes were belied as the ban was unceremoniously and silently revoked. But dear Reader,I certainly have no word to describe the inescapable adrenaline rush I experienced when the ban was back in place.

Hundreds of our poor paandukan-owners will now have to exclusively rely upon mantu beedis, bandora beedis and a wide array of assorted imported dietary supplements from Moreh.

Dress codes are in place. One second,it was ' no sarees ';the next second,it was ' no salwaar kameez '; and still at other times,it was no ' no jeans ' or ' no skirts '. These not-to-be-opposed regulations are being doled out seasonally and intermittently in various permutations and combinations(These guys are great mathematicians).

It is apparently a religious obligation for all manipuri women to observe these heavenly decrees - the reason being that such garments degrade the age-old manipuri cultural legacy. No such decree is ordained for the Manipuri male; he is supremely virtuous, incorrigibly right and culturally peerless (God himself stands second to the average manipuri male on all these counts). Therefore, he maintains an entirely different standard for himself. Dear Reader,it's called double standards.

For those of you still unemployed and bleary-eyed chasing a dream,here's a way to cut short that dream:

Step 1:Get a photocopier(or better still-steal one,it's the 'in thing' in Manipur)
Step 2:Get hold of someone close to someone close to the Education ministry and of course someone close to someone close to the right organisation.
and the rest is history ,dear Reader. You'll be laughing your way to Zurich. Believe me, there's gold here for the digging.

Considering the fact that the spineless govt., passively sanctions a 3-year Bachelor Degree course to be drawn into a protracted 5-year romance, the govt.'s priorities appear to have gone haywire here. Maybe unknown to the rest of us fools, an extra two years sound stupendous in one's resume to a prospective employer.

We humans are born to imitate what we sense around us. Psychologists cal it Modelling. Though it does not mean we are copycats throughout our lifespan, this is one trait that enables us to adapt to a multitude of varying environmental stimuli, a trait that has contributed to our emergence as the dominant species on this planet.

The interaction of this psychological framework and the value system provides vital clues to understand the drama of social censorship. Such an interaction is inevitably energised and intensified by the hectic pace of globalisation.

The reach and spread of globalisation in various degrees has been accentuated by the concomitant advancement in scientific technology. Science provides us the technological marvels such as the television,the radio, the internet and the cinema to name a few.

These marvels in turn provide us access to events around the world and valuable information from across the globe-inventions, discoveries,lifestyles of the glitterati, the making of nations...In the specific context of Manipur,they expose us to novel ideas from beyond the confines of the surrounding hills and break the isolation.

These ideas seldom fail to tickle and arouse our senses.Some of them get adopted without a moment's notice. Some as a passing fad. Yet others linger on and become an integral part of the fabric of one's enriched culture.

This is what we know as cultural evolution. Many of these ideas that get permanently adopted have a common characteristic: they are a superior cultural element -superior from the perspective of their instrumentality in the progressive march of civilisation. And superior because they enable man to adjust comfortably to a fast changing world.

However cultural change is not always that smooth.Many an idea however progresive they may be, are in direct opposition to firmly entrenched set of beliefs, ideals and values called the value system.

The dynamics of these opposing forces gets translated into competing groups:in some of us, the urge to imitate dominates,in the rest,the resistance to change. Conflict arises when one group is intolerant of the other ,or when both groups are intolerant of each other.

But yes, it is certainly a thought-provoking question with deep philosophical implications whether low-cut jeans or mini-skirts better serve a similar purpose. If these unmentionable garments provoke your singularly noble mind, dear Reader, please shut down your PC and go join the nobility up the trees. It is a matter of personal taste and best left a personal choice.

Some of us are more chauvinistic than the rest - some religiously more fundamental, some culturally more hardcored , and of course some mentally flawed. Disregarding the fact that they unwittingly spice up our otherwise humdrum mundane lives, these self-appointed watch-dogs of culture and morality and their strange bed-fellows must realise why the truck replaced the bullock-cart, and why the cotton cloth replaced the twigs and banana leaves and so on and so forth.

This is not a case for the thoughtless imitation of the so-called Western culture , but merely that our thinking ought to be more flexible, accommodative and tolerant. Unfounded insecurity over the so-called death of identity and the consequent misdirected intolerance augurs ill for any society.

In a state like Manipur where poverty and lack of economic development has relegated economic identity to an inferior position,the significance of cultural ethos has been magnified preposterously out of proportion and this mentality sadly informs the status and identity of Manipuri society today.

Cultural identity has to acquire a peripheral position to economic identity in due course. Therefore the sooner we come out of our medieval hangover, the better. It is ultimately economic strength that decides our bargaining power and not how many centuries of history we can boast of.

We can inculcate a healthy pride over our own cultural attributes by making the various aspects of cultural study a part of the school curriculum. We can organise more cultural melas. All these in lieu of the cultural-cum-moral policing that we see today.

One cannot refute the fact that liquor,paan,etc. are injurious to health. The ban could be appreciated on that count alone. But the concern here is not the merits of the individual cases,rather it's the ever increasing trend of insalubrious censorship that we Manipuris have come to accept meekly.

No individual or group has the moral right to impose his/its will upon the rest by sheer display of brute might,barrel-derived or otherwise. Such self-opinionated dogmas are antithetic to what we pride over and brag about-a society capable of absorbing the many shocks of history, its defeats and failures and what not.Our fears and our pride are contradictions that must be properly balanced if what we intend to portay is that of a healthy civil society.

However though whether we allow our short lives to be dictated, mutiliated and asphyxiated by semi-literate mobsters and other similar species is again a matter of personal choice, I prefer to speak out.


Geoffrey Ningthoujam, graduate degree from Delhi University, writes regularly to e-pao.net
The writer can be reached at [email protected]
This article was webcasted on August 05, 2005.


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