By Marjing Mayanglambam
My opinion on this article is solely written from experiences and stories or events that occurred in the society of Manipur. Generalization of how a family is, in Manipur can’t be said by one individual, but a brief explanation can be given in an average and acceptable way. The descriptions may sometimes seem like stereotyping strongly, but it is to be noted that those clichés are true to a far extent per personal experiences and reports throughout history.
In ancient stories, myths or folklores of Manipur, there are several mentioning where setting of rules and regulations on how to live a life as a social being which was compulsory and not abiding by them means dishonor to family and the society. Let’s do a case study in the Meitei community.
In average, most of the families of the Meitei community of Manipur are traditional and orthodox in nature. For instance, belief in myths/taboos and superstitious in many aspects are seen. There is still the tradition of considering menstrual women as impure and not allowed to enter the kitchen or do religious activities in the household. Women are still looked down upon, restrictions imposed against them and considered to end up in the kitchen, and also given more extra rules to behave like a typical Woman which the society requires. But, exceptionally, we have many Meitei Chanuras who stood strong, did the forbidden or manly activities, and sought equality in this patriarchal society.
We Meitei have the lunar calendar system and some days, such as the First day or Ninth day of the lunar month is considered bad for doing any activities outside the house, like spending a night at someone else’s place or doing a work/job and such. “I wonder if a son would be allowed to accept the opportunity to work at the US or Germany and he has to leave home on the First day of the lunar month, which was also his birth day and someone from his family just came back from someplace else, and it was a Thursday too, and he tripped at the door”. Some do say that following these ways of superstitions and taboos feels right and would abide by it. I don’t feel angered by them but pity them. Don’t be offended dear orthodox parents and grandparents, for the year is 2020 and one has the right to do whatever one likes or prefer, but if this freedom is too contradicted, outdated and psychologically harmful for the coming generations, one must try to adapt to the modern era.
The world has developed so fast and many new educational fields or scopes are everywhere, but the tradition of parents wanting children to become ‘Doctor - Engineer’ still exists at large. In a positive sense, being a developing country, we need these two professions for progress too, but, destroying their children’s dream and passion for the sake of what the parents want is sort of a slow killing, and sometimes murder, seen in the form of ‘suicides’. It is not uncommon to see many families seeing ‘arts, music and dances’ as inferior and lowly, which I do agree and is not just a mere assumption but due to the fact that in the past, artistes/artists have bad/gruesome life in many ways. In a close study, there is the case, where western or foreign art forms are considered to be more of high class and neglecting the traditional art forms, for they seem less interesting and downgraded. I also know this case, for once someone told me that marrying to a Pena player will bring disgrace to the bride and family. Frankly, I got an advice from a traditional folk musician that, “When there’s a concert having guitars, pianos, violins and Pena, the camera and audience’s attention is more focused towards the rare and unique instrument, Pena”. Quite a confidence booster for a soft-hearted person like me.
Finding a family which is very open minded, modern, non-orthodox and liberal is very hard, but there are a few which are countable. Children in their puberty period have lots of questions, and if the parents are too outdated to talk about it, there’s high chance of getting the wrong knowledge from the bad source. Teach, talk, and understand what your children are feeling and happening with them for some may have confusions with their sexuality, aims in life, girlfriend/boyfriend relationships and many others. Don’t just scold them with harsh words saying, “That’s not allowed or That’s stupid or Nang mee oiraroi”, please c’mon, it is purely biological to have these feelings and its not like you jumped their phases. Be the parents you didn’t had in your life and try to be more ‘Open’. Please, don’t bring up the comparison between an American Modern family, for their society is too advanced than ours, but we still can learn a few which can go along with our traditions and social norms. Note that stating these various behaviors of families does not mean that one must forget the basic ‘Meitei gi Chatnabi’ (Meitei’s Tradition), but rather discard the unnecessary and unhealthy lifestyles and open up ourselves and be liberalistic in good senses/nature.
And of course, Stay safe and Stay at Home.
The writer is a student of DM University and may be contacted at +91 9862008163