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When was the last time we smiled?

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When was the last time we smiled?

By – Herojit Philem
Manipur, the jewel of India, has been melting since May last year because of the conflict between Kuki and Meetei/Meitei. There is a substantial loss for both communities. And we, in relief camps, have forgotten the last time we smiled. The conflict has caused so much suffering that we cannot recall the last time we smiled.
The conflict not only made us homeless, but also destroyed our dreams. The fire that burned our houses also burned our hearts. How soon its fierce heat leaves each one of us! Recalling the happy moments we spent with our family in our homes, fresh pain sprouts. The pain is never going to end. As we think about our dim future, the pain becomes pluralized. The fire engulfed our lifelong earnings.
We are emotionally and psychologically disturbed. Seeing our children grow up in relief camps makes our hearts crack, and the lava of anger erupts through them. But we can do nothing—only sit and mull over the things that are beyond our control. We don’t have anything—only the body that is carrying our soul—no home, no properties, and a dark future, and to reach it, we have lost the way.
We believe that time heals everything, but with each passing second of the day, we were forced to leave our home. We feel ourselves sinking deeper into the ripple of pain. When we try to forget and start a new beginning, an object or an incident always reminds us of our home. Even the sight of a dog or a bicycle reminds us of our belongings—the ones we purchased and earned through our genuine struggle. We remember the street where we trod, the ground we played on, the field where we grew paddy, and the river bank where we grazed our cattle. Words in a dictionary cannot describe the emotional attachment we have to our birthplace. But we have been in the relief camps for this long, trying to break that attachment, which is impossible. We will always have an emotional, identical, political, and social connection to our birthplace.
The wealth that had turned into ashes will never come back. The pages of history preserve the story of the conflict; it cannot be erased. We may earn much more wealth than what we had possessed or owned, but the wealth cannot subside the story of the conflict and our suffering in the relief camps.
We have only one life but many roles to play. And at this juncture, we are innocent victims who are waiting for sunshine. No matter how long the duration of this havoc is, as there is always a morning after night and spring comes after winter, we are hoping that we will have our own home one day.
(The author can be reached at [email protected]. He is a teacher and an author. He is an inmate of the Relief Camp, Manipur Trade and Expo Centre, Lamboikhongnangkhong)

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