A Short Story 013 : Oja Binodini

Oja Binodini

A short story by Monica Ingudam

After my completion of Masters in Manipuri “Meitei Lon” literature way back in 1974 I joined Thambal Marik Girl’s High School in Imphal, Manipur. I was a teacher for 6 years in this school and I had a great teaching experience after my studies. Today I want to tell you the story of someone who stayed in my heart after all these ages.

Oja Binodini

It is about a teacher, “Oja” (teacher) Binodini.  She was teaching in Science subject in the same school and was younger than me. With time, I developed a good rapport with her and we became closer sharing about our day to day joys and sorrows of life. Even though she was in science stream, her creativity level impressed me when I read her poems. I felt very special as she had gifted her precious books only to me amongst all the other teaching staff. With my high interest in literature, I read through her collections of poems as soon as I got the books. Pages turned and reading through her words of sadness and of broken heart, I wanted to know more about her. She was unmarried then, very simple and reserved in her spoken words . At that time she came to school riding her bicycle with her hair tied as one long plaid with ribbons at the end. Her favorite ribbon seem to be white and green. She wore a few pair of clothes repeatedly making me think that she doesn’t have many.

I had this special bonding with her and her way of life piqued my interest. I got to know more about her from one of my other colleague. She was an unfortunate young woman. Her father got remarried because her mother couldn’t bear a son. Yes, a son had the weightage even in a place like Manipur where women are portrayed to be kept at a high level. Her mother came back to her maternal home and Binodini tagged along with her mother at a young age of only 6 years. Her mother got remarried to another man and left her all alone at the age of 10 years.

Her poor but kind “Ene” (maternal aunt) who was into handloom weaving adopted her and brought her up. Ene didn’t have a husband or children, and she took care of Binodini and raised her as her very own. Binodini was very good in her studies and did what she can to be educated. She couldn’t buy her own books for her studies and she would borrow the text book from friends/library and copy the entire content of each books into a notebook neatly written in her cursive handwriting. She knew the condition of her “Ene” and did her level best to help out with household chores and even with the handloom weaving work. Ene was specialized in “Phi houba” (the initial set up of the threads for handloom weaving). She was shy and grew up by keeping to herself with no friends around.

When she passed first class in B.Sc. all the community of Kwakeithel was so proud and under the elder’s love and recommendation, she was appointed to be the teacher in a private School, Thambal Marik Girl’s High School. Of course she didn’t have the money to bribe and get a government job but she was very happy to get a job. Yes bribing didn’t start just today, it was already there then. During that time, first class in Science, specially by a woman was rare and many highly regarded her for her intelligence.

Her sincerity and reserved nature was taken for granted and the administrators of the School made her work overloaded and one day I saw her almost breaking down and she gave her resignation letter in the heat of emotions. The principal happened to mention it to me that Oja Binodini resigned and we consulted as to how to resolve the issue. I spoke to Binodini and calmed her down. She shared that her work is overloaded and wasn’t fair in comparison with other teachers of the school. After having understood the main reason of her resignation, I convinced her the importance of financial independence and empowerment of woman coming from a career and that we need to face any hurdles with patience and make a well balance decision thinking of the future. The Principal, Oja Binodini and myself had a meeting together and after much discussions, it was agreed that she withdraw the resignation and continue working as a teacher. The matter didn’t go beyond the three of us and the resignation process was nipped off.

Things went peacefully that same year until the final exam except for the usual gossips and politics amongst the teaching staff. The other teachers made faces and ridiculed Binodini’s style of dressing special using the ribbon on her hair. Oja Binodini started confiding in small things and I would try to lighten it by laughing it out and I think she liked that.

During the final exam, Nandini, the daughter of the Vice Principal failed in Science. Oja Binodini had marked Nandini’s paper and she scored only 8 out of 100. The Class teacher Oja Shama asked Oja Binodini of any possibility of increasing the marks and passing Nandini in the fear of facing the Vice Principal’s wrath. Oja Binodini said a straight “No”. After a couple of days she asked Oja Shama the final listing of marks in the report card of Nandini and found that Nandini scored 48 out of 100 in Science. Oja Shama had added a 4 in front of 8 making it 48. Binodini couldn’t take this insult and couldn’t take such muddied atmosphere, and that too in the institution of education where she believes that truth and honesty should be valued and kept high. She saw the report card, packed her few things, placed her books in the front basket of her black Hercules bicycle and rode off. I watched her from my classroom as she rode away with her long plaited hair, with her loose hair flowing and the end of the plaited hair, tied with white ribbon, fell near the seat of her bicycle. I wondered why she left early that day. I thought maybe she had some emergency at home.

Later I was filled in of the incident. Oja Shama cried and shared with me and few other teachers “Oja, I didn’t know that Oja Binodini would take it so seriously and leave. I was so scared of the Vice Principal with his shouting and yelling and thought it was best to pass his daughter.”

Oja Binodini never came back the next day and I found that she resigned and left. Officially, no one knew what lead to her resignation. The result was out and Nadini was promoted to the next class. After some weeks, on hearing that Oja Binodini was seriously ill and seven of the teachers including me decided to go together and visit her. We contributed INR 10 each and bought a small bottle of Horlicks and one packet of biscuits. We walked to Kwakeithel, entered her bamboo house with thatched roof and saw Ene on the porch working on the threads for the loom. Seeing us Ene said that Binodini is not meeting anyone but she will go inside and ask her. Ene came out and said uncomfortably that Binodini is ready to meet only me but not the rest of the teachers. With an awkward look amongst us, the other teacher signaled for me to proceed and I took the plastic bag with Horlick and biscuit and went to her room. She was sitting on her bed wearing a green “Aloo eromba” phanek and I asked “Ebemma, how are you feeling? when are you coming back to school?”

She shook her head and said “Oja, I am not coming back”

She looked so deep in her thoughts. Such heavy and dark thoughts for a young and bright woman like her. Seeing her condition, I had more feelings but no more words to express. I mumbled “Ebemma, get well soon” and slowly walked out.

Nadini continued with her schooling uninterrupted. Oja Shama continued being a teacher. The Vice Principle continued to be grumpy and unappreciative of anything.  My life went by but I did think of Oja Binodini time and again. I felt her pain in being betrayed by the situation, by the people. Our society and system is not ready for her honesty, dedication, straight forward but sensitive nature. I don’t know what has become of her. Oja Shama cries with guilt for what she has done. But whose fault was it? Only Oja Binodini was affected by the whole situation. Should she have exposed the whole situation? That would have led expulsion of Oja Shama. Or should she have stayed quite and played along? But she chose not to sell her soul and her belief. She gave up her job, a job that meant a lot to her and Ene.

~The End~


LIFE’S THIS & THAT  

Collection of short stories written by Monica Ingudam. These stories are fiction based on Life’s this and that focusing on Manipur and the people of Manipur. Based on a story told by Ema, my mother.


 

The Letter by Jamuna Devi Advani #BookReview #AmReading #FindingTheVoices

The Letter by Jamuna Devi Advani

A book review by Monica Ingudam


Book Title: The Letter

Author: Jamuna Devi Advani

Publication: India, Partridge India, 2014, 197 pages.


This book is a memoir by Jamuna Advani, born in Manipur and presently at San Ramon, California. This book captures her memories of her 1940's childhood days in Jiribam, a remote place in the state of Manipur in North East India and her life in America.

Jamuna Devi Advani, Author of “The Letter”

I had interviewed Mrs. Jamuna Advani during Season 1 of FindingTheVoices way back in 2013 where we spoke about her poetry book “Land of The Dancing Deer”. Her poems depicted a beautiful family history and reflections about her memories, beliefs and stories of her life’s journey. Her writing is an inspiration to me and I remain grateful to her. Her poems heightened my creativity, improved my consciousness to observe and listen to nature more closely.

I started reading this book “The Letter” in a flight back in 2014 during a trip to India. I was very excited to receive a copy from the author herself. Last weekend I was beginning to miss reading so much, I had to read and was browsing through my piles. I picked “The Letter” yet again.

Reading the initial chapters kept me totally engrossed going through the details of a child’s thought when her father brings home a second wife, a grandmother’s belief in rituals to drive away the other woman and a voiceless accepting wife. It dawned to me that I am reading a memoir and it’s a glimpse of the reality of life in Manipur, the reality which many will not talk about. As I read through the pages, I was very intriqued with the stories touching different human relationships.

She has touched upon many aspects of life and articulated her dreams, fears, insecurities, love, courage, adventure and human relationships. And in her narration, she wrote very well about sensitive topics in a delicate manner and yet portraying her heartfelt feelings. I love the narration style of the book giving me a feeling of time travel, way back to the nineteen forties, with a mix of letters, poems, historical events and photographs. I love the details and in depth description in the book (E.g. Elders using Hookah/”Hidakphu”, the art of making tea, walking barefoot, ways of courting, traveling by foot, boat, bus etc.) giving an opportunity to understand a different time and ways of life. And truly, I felt the book as a gift to learn about origin, ancestors and learn a bit about the ways of life within the Meitei community.

I wish the size and resolution of the photographs in the book are higher and the recent photograph are in colors. My fascination on the stories left me wanting for more photographs of the earlier times at Jiribam. I wanted to know more about “mother” and her silent feelings.

To me, this book is about the strength, courage and growth of a woman keeping up with the fast changing time and place experiencing life’s journey from the east to the west. It’s about coming in terms with past events of life, accepting the people the way they are. It’s about healing and letting go of resentments accumulated. It’s about questioning the unspoken accepted norms set for woman in Manipur. It’s about rising through education and openness to adapt and change with the pace of time and place.

I would definitely recommend you to read this book. You will get a glimpse of the life of women in Manipur, the unspoken and accepted polygamy system, caste/hierarchical system which comes out strongly during matchmaking, the choice and length people go for a male heir within the “Meitei” community that might change your perception of woman’s status in Manipur. And you will surely feel the high spirit and strength of a woman following her heart. You can get the book from Amazon.


 

img_7268

Book reviews by Monica Ingudam

Born in Manipur (India), based in Maryland (USA) patent holder for identifying Caller ID, with Computer Science Engineering background, you will find Monica Ingudam crunching numbers and data as an Analyst.  During the weekends you will find her hosting FindingTheVoices talk-show featuring authors, artists and people who inspire, empower, educate and entertain with the vision to connect and spread positivity. You will find her reading, writing and painting in her quiet time.


 

Who says there is no hope for Manipur?

Who says there is no hope for Manipur?

I started the New year with such strong hope, the much needed hope for Manipur after hearing the voices of the people of Manipur as I watched Impact TV’s Mega Manung Hutna show on the idea of Manipur and bridging the gap.

Firstly I want to thank and appreciate the team of Impact TV Manipur in getting such eloquent Panelists. This is one of the best initiative of discussion which included different ethnic groups creating a platform for everyone to express their views in a very civil way with words. Such discussions including all the groups are much needed to understand the views and issues of Manipur. The choice of Panelists to include representations from different segment of Manipur considering ethnicity, backgrounds and Institutions is very much appreciated. The questioning, presentation and moderation was very well executed. This will go a long way to peace and progress for Manipur. Thanks to Impact TV for stepping up and taking ownership to fill in this big gap to bring the people of Manipur together.

Secondly a big thanks to each and everyone amongst the Panelists for sharing historical events, experiences, your thoughts and views. I could feel the voices coming from the heart giving goose bump at times. I could feel the sadness of the idea of disintegration of Manipur in each voice spoken. They spoke with such love for Manipur, for peace and reconciliation leaving me inspired, empowered and enriched with their sharings.

Love the reinforcing story shared of how Muslims got assimiliated into the Manipuri society and the then King’s approach to protect and respect, giving the religious and cultural freedom to the Manipuri Muslim community. It was interesting to learn about the Royal feast and value sharing platform between the valley and hill people of Manipur much earlier keeping the peace and love amongst the people. The personal experiences shared by the Panelist members of the Valley and hill people coming together were touching. These experiences may be small but it goes a long way to connecting us.

Also the lack of good governance, corruption, the feeling of alienation of tribals in Manipur, misunderstanding of the word Manipuri(language or the people) and lots more were covered. You have to watch the discussion and be informed.

Sir Amu Kamei remains my star of the discussion. His response is awesome, love the way he spoke and expressed, straight and direct. I would love to meet him someday.

I invite all of you to listen to the full discussion of Impact TV’s Mega Manung Hutna. For those who can’t understand Manipuri and is asking for subtitle, you should ask the Indian National TV Channels to feature such discussions bringing up the voices of the people of Manipur, and the North East at the National level.

When we have such strong voices with such good intent and thoughts for unity, peace and progress of Manipur, Who says there is no hope for Manipur?

Now everyone of us have a responsibility and ownership to contribute in the idea of Manipur. There are many takeaways from this discussion which needs to be addressed. Ask yourself how are you going to contribute? Let’s focus on your individual contribution.

Happy New Year 2017. To love, peace and progress for Manipur.

 


MI_S03_withlogoMonica Ingudam, founder of FindingTheVoices, a talk show presenting voices from different parts of the globe with the vision to promote and spread Inspiring, Educative, Empowering and Entertaining stories in the violence-torn landscape of Manipur.


 

My Journey by Dr. Ngangbam Shantikumar Meetei #BookReview #AmReading #FindingTheVoices

My Journey by Dr. Ngangbam Shantikumar Meetei

A book review by Monica Ingudam


Book Title: My Journey

Author: Dr. Ngangbam Shantikumar Meetei

Publisher: International Meeteis Forum, Yaiskul, Moirangthem, Imphal West, Manipur 795001


 

My Journey is the autobiography of Dr. Ngangbam Shantikumar Meetei, Mr World 2013 in bodybuilding INBA, born in Manipur and presently teaching as an English Professor at Taiwan. This book captures his journey of his life starting from Manipur to Delhi and his migration to Taiwan.

Dr. Ngangbam Shantikumar Meetei, author of the book “My Journey”

Mr.Ngangbam Shantikumar Meetei had mentioned about his book when I took his interview during Season 1 of FindingTheVoices and I really wanted to read it. I contacted International Meeteis Forum to get a copy of this book during one of my previous trip in Imphal, Manipur. And to my surprise, I received a complimentary copy from Mr. A. Anilkumar, advisor of IMF and I bought another copy.

This book was lying in my ever increasing “To Read” pile and finally last week I picked it up. I started reading it and I just couldn’t stop turning the pages.

Reading the first 3 chapters which covers his childhood and growing up, I felt such love and remembrance for his mother. He wrote in simple English with a good story telling flow and I could feel the little boy’s voice as the book progressed. So much hunger and poverty for a young little boy filled with dreams bringing tears as I read. No one should be as hungry as he had experienced.

He has touched upon many aspects of life and articulated his dreams, love, adventure, poverty, education, family relations and racism very well. And in his narration, I could feel the honesty where he balanced and mentioned both his low and high points of his journey. I love the photographs added in the book that aided the narration very well. It’s interesting to read the chapter covering about meeting his wife and his thoughts on love at first sight versus learning to love. He shared his comparison of infrastructure and system of Manipur and Taiwan. He shared about the intense support system amongst family members, and also shared about the complexities, fall out and family dynamics of relationship amongst family members after marriage.

The book could use some editing in correcting some of the spelling mistakes. I don’t think it’s fair to generalize as a culture that wives in Manipur control the money matters of the family (page 97). Also I differ to agree on his opinion on classifying individuals opting trends of same-sex, no marriage, no children to be individuals who don’t care much about society or the future (page 288).

To me, this book is about love and attachment to your mother and motherland, chasing your dream, being adventurous, having an open mind to face life and never giving up. This book is also about hard work, struggles, pains, frustrations, disappointments before tasting success and winning.

I would definitely recommend you to read this book to both Manipuri and Non Manipuri readers.

Non Manipuri readers will get a glimpse on the background, adjustments and homesickness the students and people coming out of Manipur go through, staying in other parts of India, their fears and insecurity giving you a different perspective on how some of the words and incidents however trivial it may sound gets into the psyche of a person.

 


 

img_7268

Book reviews by Monica Ingudam

Born in Manipur (India), based in Maryland (USA) patent holder for identifying Caller ID, with Computer Science Engineering background, you will find Monica Ingudam crunching numbers and data as an Analyst.  During the weekends you will find her hosting FindingTheVoices talk-show featuring authors, artists and people who inspire, empower, educate and entertain with the vision to connect and spread positivity. You will find her reading, writing and painting in her quiet time.


 

A Short Story 012 : The slap across Nemkina’s face

The slap across Nemkina’s face

A short story by Monica Ingudam

I was never good at speaking up in class while I was in School. It wasn’t like I didn’t know the answer to the questions the teachers posed. I knew the answers to most questions but I was scared to speak up. I don’t know whether it was the education system or the culture I grew up. Children then were encouraged to listen while the elders and teachers spoke. The teachers and elders spoke almost 90% of the time. Listening was encouraged. Agreeing without questioning was even better. So I became a listener, a very good listener. I had my questions, lot of questions but those questions didn’t leave my lips and mostly it stayed in my mind.

I was in 9th grade. Many things happened that year. To start, that was the year my mother coaxed me to cut my long straight black hair to a smart “Boy’s cut” as she called. My mother has her way with words. She took me to a beauty parlour at Paona Bazaar in Imphal, the first I have ever gone. The beauty parlour was on the first floor, on top of a cycle shop. It had pictures of beautiful Korean girls with fancy hairstyles on the walls and big mirrors all over. I sat on the big black rotating chair and I could see myself in the front mirror and also see the back view of my hair in the mirror behind. I have never seen these different angles and views while cutting my hair. My haircuts before were by my neighbors, and mostly they made terrible mistakes like cutting my front bang too short. So I had a good reason and opted to grow my hair then. My hair seemed much longer in the reflection and the skilled guy with a girlish voice started cutting my hair. He chattered, and I pretended to listen, but I wasn’t. My heart started sinking watching him cut my long hair which he picked strand by strand and clipping the remaining hair with the fancy long clip. I felt like crying and I wasn’t sure why I agreed to cut my hair. But I didn’t cry, and said nothing. I went through the haircut, the haircut I picked myself pointing to poster of the beautiful Korean girl on the wall. Mother and the guy with girlish voice were praising on how smart I looked with the new hair cut. I nodded and looked at my reflection with the short “Boy’s cut” hair. My pink and white threaded sweater which I had got for Yaoshang (Holi) that year seemed a little mismatched with my new hairstyle. I followed Mother and walked down the small steep staircases.

Nemkina was aghast to see my hair cut at School and she didn’t hide her disappointment. And that is what I loved about her. She would say what she felt and I could express mine easily to her. She was in the boarding school and we shared secrets. And those secrets remained with us. Secrets she had told no one but me, as we play on the luscious green grass right in front of the cave. The cave with the stone statue of Mother Mary with a white robe. This was one of our favorite spot, a spot where the loveliest flowers bloomed. Nemkina’s father was no more, and her mother had gone “mental” as she puts it. Namkina said her mother had witnessed him burn alive. This happened during the ethnic clashes between the Naga and Kuki tribals in Manipur. She said she was lucky to be alive and escaped the massacres. Tears welling up she added that thirteen children abandoned by panic-stricken elders, were burnt alive in her village, the Taloulong village at Tamenglong district. And so I was told that I should never tell the others which tribe she belonged. She had the fear of being identified and fall in the hands of the haters.

Though Nemkina was grateful to the nuns for taking her in and providing the best shelter and education, she hated getting up early do the chores specially on the cold winter days where she had to sweep and mop the school floors. She was bored of the food too, eating boiled mustard leaves on most days then. She would give me Rs 2 from the money her uncle had given her on the rare times she got visitors to get her favorite sweet puff. I would get a pack which had 10 pieces, take 2 pieces for myself and give the 8 pieces packed nicely. Each puff piece was 25 Paise if sold separately, so that would make 8 puff pieces for Rs 2. My math was perfect and I didn’t feel the need to tell her then, that I ate 2 of the delicious puffs sprinkled with crystals of sugar. I felt I deserved it for the errand I was running for her. I would pass it to her and she would smuggle it back in her school bag to her boarding room. Probably she would have shared the puff with me but the puff was so tempting and I couldn’t resist those huge crystal sugars glaring back at me with the “eat me” look. I think Nemkina knew it but she played along by not sharing. Because if she didn’t know, she would have shared at least one puff, but she didn’t share.

It was an afternoon class after the break and I can’t quite recall if it was a Math or Science class. But It was Sir Kumar’s class. He took Math and Science. He was a non Manipuri teacher with pepper grey hair. Most of the non Manipuri teachers were from south India but Sir Kumar wasn’t. I was not sure where he was from, maybe from somewhere in North India. I thought he was very intelligent. He was very good in explaining the concepts. I could follow, visualize and understood what he taught, as he wrote with chalks on the black board. I respected him as a teacher and held him at a high place. That afternoon, he was in a foul mood. One moment he was teaching, standing near the black board and suddenly he rushed to where Nemkina was sitting after he caught her dozing off. He started yelling, asking her to explain what he was teaching. He saw her notebook and threw it on the floor. Nemkina stood abruptly. I could see her movement as she was sitting diagonally from where I was sitting. Sir Kumar slapped across Nemkina’s face once followed by a pin drop silence in the class. Before I could recover from what had happened, I heard another slap and he turned to the class to ask if anyone was listening.

img_6358img_6358He was so angry and I was scared that he was going to hit Nemkina again, so I stood up and walked towards the front where the teacher’s table and chair was placed and put my notebook on the table. He walked away from Nemkina towards the teacher’s table and sat on the chair. He asked me some questions which I answered looking straight into his eyes and he gave back my book and said “Bold, very bold Laishram Tonu Devi”. I continued looking straight in his eyes without blinking as I took my book back and said “It’s Tonu Laishram Sir”

After that day, my friendship with Nemkina and my respect for Sir Kumar changed. I was filled with guilt. I wasn’t sure whether I was guilty because I didn’t speak up for her to alert about the incident to an elder or for not talking with her about the incident, which might have made her feel better. I asked many a questions before I slept and had many sleepless nights “Why didn’t anyone speak up for her? Why didn’t I speak up? The class was full. Sir Kumar must be a coward, he must have picked Nemkina because he knew that she didn’t have anyone to speak for her. But If Sir Kumar had done this to Neeta or Christine who had influential parents, there would be a protest and he would have been expelled not only from the School but maybe even out of Manipur. No one, including myself spoke up for Nemkina. What kind of friendship are we talking about? I had failed her, as her friend, as a human being. I should have spoken up for her. And I carry the pain and humiliation of that slap with a deep guilt even today. I am sorry Nemkina.

~The End~


LIFE’S THIS & THAT  MonicaIngudam

Collection of short stories written by Monica Ingudam. These stories are fiction based on Life’s this and that focusing on Manipur and the people of Manipur.


 

A Short Story 011 : Bungo’s Body

Bungo’s Body

A short story by Monica Ingudam

It was the summer of 2012. It’s been more than 4 years now but the grief hasn’t reduced a bit. People say that time is a healer but I am yet to experience that. How can one get over the loss of someone so young, specially if there was no good bye. But death doesn’t come with notice. Does it? You think I am indifferent and have no sympathy or empathy for the policeman who have died, because I will not comply to your kind of protest? You want me to march, intimidate the people, join you in breaking and smashing the vehicles of the people who are breaking the protest you have called? The very kind of protest which got my son into trouble, making us send him to New Delhi for his studies.

unknownLet me tell you a little bit of my son. He just turned 17 that year. He was an early riser and will wake up definitely before 4:00 AM before the sunrise without any alarm clock. He would diligently water the rows and rows of “kobi” (cabbage) and “nakuppi” (Chives) plants before he resumed to his morning study. I loved to listen to his reading, though I didn’t understand English much. He said he needed to work on his pronunciation. I didn’t know what was the right way but Bungo said he was having trouble with words with “z” and “s”. To me he sounded like an Englishman who spoke flawlessly, the ones who came to Manipur long ago, the ones my grandmother described to me as a child.

Bungo was to become a Computer Science Engineer. He said he could get a job without paying any bribes outside of Manipur just like Da (big brother) James. Bungo said Da James travelled to beautiful places as part of his job, gets to stay and eat in all these fancy expensive places we see in the movies. Bungo wanted to see the beautiful sights of the world and explore the different cultures of the world. He is also paid extra in addition to his salary for the foreign trips he is assigned as part of his work. Bungo said in 5 years he will start earning and I didn’t have to go to the market selling vegetables anymore.

Despite the financial situation, “Mapa” (his father) and me decided to send Bungo to New Delhi where he can have uninterrupted education and can be focused in his studies. He was very troubled and distracted after the group attack he had on his way back from School on one of the protest days. He wouldn’t tell me exactly what happened but I heard that he was surrounded by many angry locals including young and old, male and female and was roughed up with words and his bicycle was smashed so badly that the rim had to be changed.

Bungo went to New Delhi with dreams and hope. That is a world I don’t know about. What would I know? I have never stepped out of Manipur. I didn’t grew up talking on the phone so it’s hard to have a conversation with Bungo. Our conversations would limit to studies, hostel food and monthly money requirement. Maybe I should have tried and be up to date with the modern ways of life and communication, maybe I should have known more of his life and thoughts. Maybe I should have understood the challenges of fitting in a new city. There are lot of combination of “maybe” and “could have” but that wouldn’t change the day I got the news that Bungo passed away, the newspaper, the one and only coverage, said an “alleged” suicide, hanging from the fan. What does “alleged” even mean? We don’t even have a ceiling fan at home, how can Bungo think of the fan at New Delhi?

I was angry with “Mapa” (his father) for not noticing any signal when he spoke 2 days before to Bungo. I was even angrier with his friends in his school and hostel. I was angry with everyone. I was mostly angry with myself. What could have made my little boy take that action? Wy didn’t I make him feel close enough for him to share his thoughts? Was it even him who did it? “Mapa” got Bungo’s body in the flight, a flight ride Bungo never got when he was alive. He travelled by bus and then by train.

And you are asking me that I am not supportive of your protest. You want me to show my anger and react violently? My little boy could have been alive. He wanted to travel and see the world beyond the place he was born. This unrest which you are adding to, is causing many pangs of separation in one form or another, as a ripple effect. Yes you, you are a part of it. He had dreams and hope. But he couldn’t have a life in Manipur or out of Manipur. So Who should I fight? Fight the protestors who intimidated Bungo? Fight the mainland Indian (as you call) for the “alleged” racism, bullying, isolation driving Bungo to hang from a ceiling fan? Fight the people around Bungo, including me for not understanding him and cutting his life short? Or should I fight the government?

The ex gratia of 5,00,000 Indian Rupees which the politician readily announced nor the justice promised nor the violent protest will ease the grief or erase the picture of the policeman curled up at the back of a dirty van in his own pool of blood. That will stay just as the sight of Bungo’s body. A body I couldn’t connect to, with a bluish green distorted face and an open mouth. I have never seen that expression in Bungo. My bungo I know looked through with a shy smile, spiky hair wearing his old red school sweater as he watered while I weed the plants. That is what I want to remember but we can’t really un see what we saw or changed what had happened. The dead is gone and the grief stays. I don’t know how to mend it but I know that this violence is not the way.

~The End~


LIFE’S THIS & THAT  MonicaIngudam

Collection of short stories written by Monica Ingudam. These stories are fiction based on Life’s this and that focusing on Manipur and the people of Manipur.


 

Low ebb of humanity in Manipur? #IromSharmila

Portrayed Low ebb of humanity in Manipur?

It was supposed to be a day of celebration, a day of freedom for Irom Sharmila Chanu when she broke her 16 years of fast. I watched the news coverage with her smiling coyly as she expressed that she would prefer to break her fast with honey rather than the water people suggested. Media from all over the world flew to Manipur to cover this important moment, a date which will be marked in the history.

With her newfound freedom, she must have expected a very different experience moving around freely after 16 years. I cannot imagine her level of excitement at that moment. Growing up in Manipur my freedom was very limited within the walls of my parents house, my school and books. My parents accompanied me everywhere in the name of the conflicts and the situations. I experienced a simple rickshaw ride alone very recently and I felt free and was very excited. So I can only imagine how excited she must have felt to move freely after being confined for such a long time.

But the reaction and harsh unwelcoming words from some small section of people that evening broke her heart leaving a very very bad taste. It’s hard to watch her break down. This video (Courtesy:newslaundry) stuck with me and it’s in my head. She doesn’t deserve to cry like this specially on her day, a day which should have been filled with celebrations. And yes, I stand in shame for such treatment and humiliation she had to go through on the day she set herself free, a day she could walk around freely after 16 very long years.

Yes, there may be a difference of opinion. Yes some of her comments and the way she said or did, might have hurt many because you truly supported her from your perspective. But your immediate action of rejection and outrage makes everyone question your kind of support. She must have her reasons for what she said or did. Can’t we all put everything aside, be the bigger one for a bit and see her as a human? Did it need to be resolved or dissolve at her moment leaving such a bitter taste, hurting even more? Where has our empathy gone? Where has our patience gone?

And the words that followed. Such mockery belittling her honest and genuine effort making many question the existence of humanity in Manipur. And the discussions comparing her with Martyr with an open disapproving note of her decision clearing inferring the preference to die? What kind of example and precedence are we setting for the youth where we glorify and elevate the dead over the living? Does one have to die for the glory and elevation?

Such intolerance drives me to seek out my quest to feature kind, strong voices and gestures to get her strength and smile. Words can make or break a person. Kind encouraging words and gestures can be very powerful elevating the strength of a human soul. I hold to many words I received giving me the strength to go through trying times.

Also the wide-spread coverage of a blanket statement that Manipur has shunned Irom Sharmila have challenged me to seek out for her well wishers and change that narrative and prove them wrong. I don’t agree with the Media reporting that the whole of #Manipur is shunning Irom Sharmila .

We come from a society where we aren’t comfortable or encouraged to speaking out our feelings but now is the time to speak out. Eche Sharmila needs us and we need to change the narrative for Manipur.

Calling out to one and all to join me in Waakhal, The people speaks up!

“You are not alone” a series of FindingTheVoices dedicated to Irom Sharmila Chanu of Manipur. #ISupportIromSharmila

I want to believe in the strong presence of humanity in the people of Manipur, let’s change the portrayed low ebb of humanity in Manipur!


MI_S03_withlogoMonica Ingudam, founder of FindingTheVoices, a talk show presenting voices from different parts of the globe with the vision to promote and spread Inspiring, Educative, Empowering and Entertaining stories in the violence-torn landscape of Manipur.


 

Accepting the real Irom Sharmila Chanu of Manipur

Accepting the real Irom Sharmila Chanu of Manipur

It’s heartbreaking to see Irom Sharmila Chanu in tears fighting for her basic right. She pleads for her right of choice, right to make her own decision. She wants to break free from the iconic image created by the people. She is more than the icon, she wants people to know her, the real her as a simple woman who loves peace. And now she is emotionally battered by the mental attack she received from the angry crowd and the reaction after she broke her 16 years of fasting. Does she deserve such kind of treatment at this juncture?

Many are showing disappointment that Sharmila hasn’t consulted them before she announced her decision and retorting back that they can fight for the cause with or without her. This will only alienate her even more widening the gap. Many are coming up quoting examples of instances of when and how they have supported her and it’s true that the people have supported her in their own way. However it’s a very long 16 years of struggle for her where she must have spent hours and hours in solitude and loneliness where her interaction with people are limited, very limited. It must be such a moment of loneliness where she saw no one around and said what she said sharing her thoughts. Don’t we all go through such moments? And don’t we expect that our love ones will stand by us during such times? By abandoning her aren’t we proving that her insecurity and fear of being alone is true? Isn’t it time to show our moral support for her?

It is a big question as to where she will be staying. It’s reported that Red Cross Society announced that they are ready to give her shelter with the condition that she cannot be involved in any political activities during her stay with them. That’s a BIG condition, considering her vision of joining politics. Can anyone accept the real Irom Sharmila Chanu without any conditions imposed?

Many are questioning on how Sharmila can succeed in politics but isn’t it an opportunity for the people to change the scenery of politics of Manipur? Why brush off with such negative criticism? Why not support and let her try? She has touched many people’s heart. She brought so much attention of the media and people at the national and international level getting AFSPA and Manipur the attention it needed. Maybe her presence in the political scene of Manipur will bring the much-needed attention of Manipur in India and internationally. In fact the Indian government should take this opportunity and offer her a platform to nurture and help her vision, the vision of a peace loving woman who have only strived for changes adopting peaceful non violent means.

As always most of the media digs and frame questions providing coverage to the sensational and controversial reaction portraying the rejection of the people. Just as Sharmila stated she knows that there are people, especially amongst the youth who are looking for change, change to a positive society, I believe that we have a lot of people who supports her and accepts her for what she is. I am seeking your voice for her. FindingTheVoices is inviting you to participate in a special episode we are making to consolidate your voice showing your stand for Irom Sharmila Chanu. Ready to change the narrative portraying the acceptance of the real Irom Sharmila Chanu? Because I know that those isolated cases reported by media doesn’t represent the overall reaction of the people.

I met Eche Sharmila just once and felt connected instantly, read and followed many of her coverage. I believe that she can bring a change, the much-needed change in Manipur. I believe that she can speak bravely and honestly on many of the topics people including myself are silenced to speak or write about.

Don’t let anyone say you can’t do it, Go for it, I am with you Eche!


MI_S03_withlogoMonica Ingudam, founder of FindingTheVoices, a talk show presenting voices from different parts of the globe with the vision to promote and spread Inspiring, Educative, Empowering and Entertaining stories in the violence-torn landscape of Manipur.


 

A new strategy to repeal AFSPA in Manipur, with food, marriage and politics from Irom Sharmila

A new strategy to repeal AFSPA in Manipur, with food, marriage and politics from Irom Sharmila

Today my news-feed is filled with the multiple coverage of Irom Sharmila’s decision to end her 16 years of fasting on 9th August 2016. Indian Express, BBC, Reuters, The Hindu, Times Of India, NDTV, Economic Times and many others have featured her story, one of the few times I cannot complain about the media not picking up news of Manipur.

Most people seem surprised with her announcement including her own family members. I am equally surprised but surprised that it took her this long. And more than being surprised, some people seem to be disappointed, very disappointed by her decision passing judgemental remarks, questioning and criticizing her decision, her capability of joining politics and her choice of personal life.

Why do you question her decision to end the fast? What is the guarantee that the outcome will be any different than what we see now, even if she continues fasting? Would you rather she continue with the fast till the very end and then type “RIP” or join the long queue for the floral tribute donning the white mourning dress?

Why do you think politics is not for her? Which political figure of Manipur would you prefer? You supported and accepted her as she was fasting sitting in a corner, building up the image of the Iron lady, but the idea of her becoming a leader is repelling? Or Is it that the political scene in Manipur has become so muddied that you have given up hope on any change in that front?

You seeked out to her for giving statements and comments for the issues/causes time brought on, which are many in a state like Manipur but you forgot to ask about her? Maybe you did ask her, maybe she did share on her own, in her frail voice but her thoughts which are not in line with the cause was hushed or edited out. Why is the idea of her getting married questionable? Or is it her choice that is not acceptable?

16 years is a long time, must be even longer for someone who is fasting and living in solitude for the most part. When I met Eche Sharmila back in 2015, I saw a woman who wants to live her life beyond the movement she is standing for, a woman very much in love, and a very lonely woman who didn’t anticipate such a long journey. We cried together talking about her situations, even giggled over simple things in the short visit I had.

It must have taken a lot of courage to make this decision, and not fulfil a promise she had made publicly. As per the reports, she indicated that she will continue with the movement and is only changing the strategy as it’s clearly not working even after 16 years. Why alienate her with all these judgmental and criticizing comments after all the sacrifices she has made so far? Why not get together and support her?

I am very happy for her, for this potential alternative of living.  A new chapter with a new strategy to repeal AFSPA with food, marriage and politics for Irom Sharmila. Go for it, Eche!


MI_S03_withlogoMonica Ingudam, founder of FindingTheVoices, a talk show presenting voices from different parts of the globe with the vision to promote and spread Inspiring, Educative, Empowering and Entertaining stories in the violence-torn landscape of Manipur.