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E-Pao! Feature - Molkon valley: A little paradise in disguise

Molkon valley: A little paradise in disguise

By: R Yangsorang *



A mission from Kangpokpi to Molkon in Saikul sub-division of Senapati district is tiresome, cruising down to Imphal and from there again to Saikul, a historic sub-divisional headquarters where Maharaja Chandrakirti Singh tamed and caught a wild elephant in the late 19th century. It is from Saikur to Saikul? The location is a congested fast developing hill town with every facility of modern civilization where multi-ethnic communities concentrate on their march towards economic development. The well managed Model Higher Secondary School with its high rise buildings is elegant, adorning the commercial hub of the area. The shiny institution provides one of the best types of education to the students hailing from different places of the state. Saikul can serve up some of the best Manipuri food as well, and a banquet of that kind can be included in oneís programme. Since Saikul is predominantly of ethnic concentration, it is especially important for travellers or tourists to try at least one ethnic meal which will be served sumptuously. Itís a matter of delicacy or flavour. Turning to the right on Molkon road, the evangelically advanced Makokching village of Manipur Baptist Convention fame, the unvisited is hidden behind Saikul.

As seasoned cooks are constantly being shifted from one hotel to another, it is not easy to recommend the hotels of long-standing repute. Generally speaking, Manipuri meal is best eaten in groups of four to twelve in a hotel, the more the better in hotels located at the roadside. Ideally a knowledgeable local person ought to order but novices can usually trust a waiter to make suggestions. It is to be ensured how much each dish will cost before one makes his choice. Singles and small groups wonít starve even at late hours in the night. Food of Brahmin class is expensive and exciting because of the great variety of tastes... something for everybody, pleasant surprises, crisp vegetables, tender fish slices that melt in oneís mouth, and as many as five or six ingredients in one course. Travellers will find things they may not recognize. Only to eat and enjoy. Varied ingredients of the roadside hotels at that hill town - one fish course, one pork, one poultry, one beef and one vegetable dish. Varied cooking manner - one stir-fry, one steamed, one deep-fried, one roasted, one salty and one peppery hot. Dishes are shared by everyone at the table. Hot breads available in a non-Manipuri hotel for breakfast are too thick to chew. A glossy look to a hotel does not mean the food is good. Everything depends on the lady cooks.

Reservations can be made for popular hotels during busy periods such as election time, school examinations, sports and festival seasons in the town. A top class restaurant with the provision of food and lodging may also come up in the town sooner or later. In most restaurants, however, one will have to serve himself. If the tables are large enough, dishes can be passed around. Prohibition is strong at Saikul but most hotels do not object if one brings his own bottle. Budget eating is recommended. If one is saving his money to eat just to survive, he can look for a clean, outdoor alley hotel serving family style food.

Some of these can be good, but the standards are a little below those of Imphal Bazaar. If one is worried about cleanliness one can as the inhabitants do and sterilize his dishes and mugs. The eating of any new food is an adventure, even more so if the meal is served up in a darkened room. It is a comprehensive Saikul experience. One may, however, decide he would do better with a packaged group travel or tour in due course. In this discovery, of course, the write-up canít be treated as an all-new, up-to-date guide to the bustling hub of the sub-division for the traveller who wants to know everything including: information on local customs, festivals, places of interest, and detailed advice on dining out, a range of options for sightseeing, with timings and routes, eating out in any style and the secrets of ordering village food a special section on the other side of Saikul - the magnificent hillsides and scenery that travellers often miss.

After a nightís halt at the police station, the journey set off for the interior part of Manipur crossing Songthu Colony slowly and steadily on the 7th Feb Ď07. Half a league, half a league, marched the parties as in a staggered formation of troops panting and timidly, and then, non-stop, only to find the happy Molkon valley: A Little Paradise in Disguise under the clear sky at last. On arrival at Molkon descending from the vehicle, oneís heart is at rest to see the beautiful landscape spreading widely, still under the cover of hays in the fields and all the ways leading to three directions between the hills to the extreme north, east and south. Other than warm welcome of the smiling faces, nothing happened there. The valley is not that far from the state capital, being about fifty kms only. If Kyamgei in Imphal district of a few acres is said to be most fertile, Molkon valley is far more fertile than the rest of the Imphal valley. The fact that fertilizer hasnít reached the fields at Molkon is well-known.

But the road stretching from Sagolmang to Molkon needs immediate widening and black-topping and another advantage of it is that there is no big river that requires expensive bridge to be constructed. Only a rusted bailey bridge that has been laid over the stream at Saikul has to be replaced by a pucca bridge in the foreseeable future. Men and women, boys and girls of Molkon look cosmopolitan and simple-minded with their houses kept in neat and clean, much to the surprise of every party that set its foot there. Villages perched on the fringes of the foothills glitter at night unless power supply is disrupted. A well-meaning woman in her early 40s adds more money to her family coffer by polishing shoes at Molkon Bazaar at a moderate price. It is a challenging job to show that there is no work so difficult that a woman cannot do. Thus, we speak of an economic attache, or of an economic housewife who declines to wear a gold chain around her neck. The writer wants every housewife to imitate that lady so that the burden of every husband will be minimized substantially. The valley is endowed with a brighter prospect for a township than Saikul in terms of area of land. Also, the speciality of Molkon is that irrigation system has been introduced in that part of Manipur with a long canal constructed in the middle of the vast field serving as the meridian divider of the valley.

Here, in defence of teachers of all categories of post all-over Manipur, what is to reveal is that more often than not, they are looked down, accused of inefficiency, and are shabbily treated while on every poll duty as rootless phenomenon in the society. However, having full confidence in their intellects and skills, they are always used in poll duty, revision of electoral rolls, population and live-stock census, apart from teaching in the class rooms. In oneís finding, they are more capable and sincere in everything than employees of other departments. The only problem is that they have to overcome a strange situation every time and wholly new assignment to be accomplished overnight or even shorter than that. In fact, it is all because of their conviction, dedication, efficiency, guilelessness, integrity and sincerity that all the polls have been made successful and accountable for all these years. They will claim the respect due their ranks and would not accept no less in the years to come. And the proverb, that His lordship required them to be up before daylight and on before him, can never be applied to the teachers.

It may be imagined what would have happened to the 9th Assembly election in the State without their active participation in the poll process. On the other hand, they are subjected to humiliation, an instance of which is releasing of the vehicles without their knowledge at a certain collection centre of poll materials in a hill district. They have conducted the polls at different stations, both in the hills and valley without proper food and drink amidst open violence and threats. Due to one usage, they are pulled down. ďOjahĒ is of Bhojpuri origin which spread to this part of the country long time back to mean teachers who were always placed at higher grades. Now, ironically, the salutary word has been wrongly interpreted to belittle the teaching profession. Then, the idea that only those who belong to white collar jobs are officers per excellence in the state is ridiculous. The impression evoked is from a view-point somewhere in the middle of the controversy, looking up and downward.

As one of a number of similar occurrences, citizens of the United Kingdom are British and only those who come from England are happy to be called English. The Scots, Welsh and Irish would rather be known as such or called British. Britisher is American English and disliked by the British themselves, who never use the term. Brit was first used in America. Like Ojah, the term or usage has now spread to Great Britain where it is heard increasingly. Many still find it offensive and it should never be used in formal contexts. Briton is the correct term, although it is not a popular one. This may well account for the increase in use of Brit. So, the outdated term used for the teachers should go. In any case, no matter what it means, it is not standard today.

Coming to the conclusion, the timing of one day trip to Molkon will probably be determined by the availability of transport and a bosom friend, otherwise there is every chance of a traveller being lost in the valley. At that place, the task of appraising the new faces has begun. Problems are apt to occur at the valley surrounded by the green hills; serious shortages are liable to result; and law and order problems may be sporadic. A source of supply, support or aid, being the basic meaning of resource will be of great concern of the inhabitants even if a single field measuring 2.5 acres yields eighty bags of paddy per annum. The visit of the angels was short and far between. But it has taken hold and the experience is thrilling. There is no potential source of trouble in the valley. Every one is cheering there and doing their best. To try to make an exhaustive study of the soil of the valley, one more trip to Molkon accompanied by a team of Manipur press will be surely rewarding.


* R Yangsorang writes regularly for The Sangai Express. This article was webcasted on February 22nd, 2007.


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