By: Mr. Paojakhup Guite
Geography says that the Earth is round in shape. Manipur is just a tiny dot in the globe, hence its geography obeys the law of Geodesy (scientific study of the shape of the Earth). Therefore, due to its curvature, people in the opposite sides are not able to see each other unless either by a visit to the place or via emotional attachment.
Psychology has, in the wake of COVID-19, intervened into the province of the subject called Geography. Emotional “Hingminnasi Eikhoi” is what Psychology says to the people of Manipur. Ergo, unfazed by its geographical brutalities (roundness, hills, valleys, etc), people of the State stand together on a war footing to fight the bruteness of the respiratory pathogen called SARS-CoV-2 or novel Coronavirus (nCov). Emotionally, we share each other’s difficulties in our hearts. Notwithstanding the roundness and geographical terrain of the state, we stay connected and endure the ordeals of the COVID-19-induced stringent lockdown. We will survive and thrive. We will beat hunger and other morbidities even during the next two weeks i.e., Lockdown 3.0 which lasts till 17th May. We shall overcome some day!
The Unity Chorus
Manipur’s demographic composition is as diverse as a garden having multiple breeds of flowers that give soothing effects to the sight. Broadly, there are 33 recognised tribes in the State. These tribes have lived together over centuries, if not time immemorial. Historically, through thick and thin, they have overcome climate change, inclement weather, invasions and the like. They have many untold miseries, stories and unsung heroes. Even Cheitharol Kumbaba won’t be sufficient to chronicle exhaustive insights into this long-standing bond in the annals of Manipur.
Fortunately, thanks to the Chrous, “Hingminnasi Eikhoi”. The Chorus represents the microcosm of Manipur’s integrity (Polity & Psychology). It was composed in the late 1990s (1997?) by W. Samsom and B. Jayantakumar. We owe them a standing ovation. Ever since its inception, the thirty three voices, amalgamated in to 7 voices (in seven languages/dialects) have been performing the Chorus especially on big occasions like the Sangai Festival and in other important recitals or renditions. Its relevance is highly being felt all the more in everyone’s heart in this backdrop of the COVID-19 Apocalypse. The song will further strengthen our bonding in the generations to come.
The Hilly Arms and Alms
The hill communities are affectionate enough for their valley brethren. They are not wild by heart. They feel even to cuddle and care their fellow valley people. Their voices sing psalms (say, the Chorus), while their stretched arms give alms to the valley communities to help them tide over this critical moment of health crisis.
The hill people are gifted with forests at their disposal. The so-called Minor Forest Products (MFPs) play a major role in supplying food materials. The MFPs include, inter alia, laphu ( banana stem), laphu tharo, yaipan, yenpum, yentang, sing (ginger), mukthrubi and perup ( spellings in Meiteilon, subject to correction). From different hill districts of the State, we can see trucks of these MFP varieties being imported into the valley. These are free of cost and purely out of goodwill gesture. The titular king of Manipur, Leishemba Sanajaoba himself is a beneficiary of this- not that he is short of his expenditure. The front liners in the fight against the Corononavirus are also gifted with these hilly indigenous food varities. This co-operation is a harbinger of victory against the odds like COVID-19. This is resilience which forests can provide us in times of food crises. The geography of Manipur is constituted by over 90 per cent hill areas. Sadly, in India State of Forest Report 2019, Manipur is one of the states having a maximum loss of forest cover. The State Government should take steps for a recovery of such a loss.
The Jewel: Nature and Culture
The first Prime Minister of Independent India described Manipur as the Land of Jewels. Being a jewel means we have exotic natural landscapes, animal-plant species and many untapped potentials in us. We are blessed with scenic and resourceful mountains, hills, ranges, valleys, rivers, forest, plants, trees, among others. Loktak Lake, the largest freshwater lake in NE India is in Manipur. To the south of the lake lies the Keibul Lamjao National Park. The park is home to the rare Sangai (brow-antlered deer). The animal is found only in the State of Manipur, India. It is also the State animal of Manipur.
Taken a garden analogy, we are of diverse cultures. This mosaic of cultures shines together in different colours. We have excelled in different cultural fields like films, sports, science, and literature. Manipuri/Meitei Film Industry (Maniwood) has done tremendously great jobs. The industry has provided an umbilical cord between the hills and the plains. The hill people are great fans of Manipuri films. In the field of sports, we have produced both national and international laureates like Dingku Singh, Mary Kom, to name few. We have enough numbers of doctors, engineers and scientists. Manipur has fared exceptionally well in literature-having a thousand years written record to our credit such as Cheitharol Kumbaba, the Royal Chronicle of Manipur. In modern times, a lot more have been produced.
Polo is an international famed game. The local name of the game is Sagol Kangjei. This international game traces its provenance in Manipur.
We have some art forms such as Thang-ta, Ras Leela, Pung Cholom, etc. Sankirtana, a ritual singing, drumming and dancing art form, was included in the UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2013.
Most importantly, recently, the Manipur-produced Chak-Hao has bagged the Geographical Indication (GI) tag. Chak-Hao is scented glutinous rice popularly known as Black Rice. All these are the jewels of Manipur that have been found and produced naturally and culturally so far. We still have rooms to produce more jewels in the days to come. This needs collective efforts involving all the communities.
Service and remuneration is not what we are looking for. Nevertheless, there are times we need to give back and that is not necessarily remuneration for the services rendered. This giving back is both push and pull factor based. For example, valley communities can work together for the distribution of masks, hand sanitizers, organising awareness campaigns, etc. These things are hard to get in rural areas. So, this constitutes a push factor.
The hill communities residing in rental houses in Capital Imphal and other hubs of business, education and the like should not be charged, at best. Or, a certain percentage of rent fees are waived. This is a pull factor. The other option could be to postpone the payment of rent. Such passionate considerations on both sides give way to emotional attachment. We feel like living on a flattened Earth where we can see each other’s pain and grief, breaking geographical barriers. On this psychological surface, we might fall of the flat. But, we are always ready to take the risk and opportunity. Let’s swim together and sink together.
- Published in Guest Column