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E-Pao! Incidents - Bangalore Diary

Bangalore Diary
By: Takhellambam Anjan*



Two incidents have been bothering me for the past few days. When I get up in the morning hurrying my way through the ablutions so that I do not miss my office shuttle that comes almost always on time, when I am eating lunch in the canteen, when I am in the bus on my commute back from work or even when I am sleeping, these two incidents keep coming to my mind and that is why I am writing this article.

Scene 1:

It was a typical Friday morning in office with lots of anticipation about evening plans. I was standing in the queue at the counter waiting for my breakfast. "Excuse me. Are you from Manipur?" he asked me in flawless English. I turned around and saw a boy probably in his teens with the blue and black uniform of the counter boys.

"Meitei ra?" I asked him and he told me he was from Manipur and a meitei indeed. On the initial reaction I thought it was rather unusual for a meitei to work in a canteen. The canteen was beyond doubt pretty posh and they even make it mandatory for the employees there to wear their uniform and use gloves for serving.

Nevertheless the perennial stamp that meiteis have for working at certain places and the enormous amount of ego that every meitei seems to carry made me really ponder "What is wrong in working there?"

I could not speak to him at length but he seemed to have stuck in my mind. The more I thought about him the more respect for him grew in my mind. When he spoke to me he said he was rather glad to have found a fellow meitei in a big corporate house and he did not duck away when he knew that I was a meitei as was evident from my name on my ID badge.

Instead he himself approached to me and struck a conversation.

Post conversation I just kept thinking "Perhaps he has a big family back home and probably they want him to be some kind of economic support to the family. Perhaps he just wants to be independent. How much money would he be getting? 3 thousand or 4 thousand? Would he be saving some?"

At this point all the Tombas , Chaobas back home flashed in my mind, most of them stuck in that eternal state of inactivity and a whole lot of them would even be on drugs. This kid is doing hundred times better than them and I must confess that I kind of drew some strength of hope from this kid.

Scene 2:

Previous day I was at home after work when I decided to clean up my room a little bit. I started by picking up all the books that lay strewed on my bed. On the table I came across my slam book of my college days. All the sweet memories came rushing in my mind drawing vivid pictures of those funfilled days full of laughter as I flipped through the pages.

Somewhere in the corner of a page I saw her scribble. Oh man I could still hear the tinkling of her laughters. She used to be an amazing girl and I had a major crush on her which I could not get over easily. We graduated together on a good note both promising to keep in touch and she telling me that she had respect for my feelings and all those nice sweet things.

I saw her number and kept thinking whether it would be right to call her up now after such a long time. My heart got over my mind. "Hi babe, it's me" I started the conversation. We talked for quite a while and spoke a lot about work and all the developments around.

Man she was so excited that she was screaming on the phone and she messaged me later that to tell me her throat was hurting. "Hey why not the old gang meet up tomorrow for dinner?" I asked her.

The next day I reached home early and chose a rather casual looking drawstring for the occasion trying to get back to those college days. She was waiting right outside the restaurant clad in a denim jeans and a blue color top looking awfully pretty with her 5'8 frame.

For the first time I saw her with earrings and also noticed that she had done up a bit with her hair making me all the more uncomfortable. She no longer resembled that girl I saw in college who would come to college to play basketball.

Bunking classes meant no offence for her. She swore by basketball. So much so one of my friends even remarked once "Dude give her a basketball. She will come and marry you."

Now she looked more girlish and much prettier. We settled down in a table talking loudly completely oblivious of the sophisticated crowd around, much like old days. In between those group conversations I could not help myself throwing glances at her every now and then.

All good things come to an end. Finally the time came for paying the cheque. We always go Dutch. But I forgot to withdraw from the ATM. So I gave the waiter my card. At the counter as I enter the pincode I could hear a feeble conversation going on behind me.

"Meitei oiramgadaba malle. Maming ebara yengu" one waiter was telling the other. I could have shouted "Yes, I am a meitei". But I was in no mood to start a conversation because I had time constraints and also the beer in me was making me little tipsy.

Eventually our get together came to and end she zoomed away in her zen after saying adieu. More than her thoughts, the conversation between the two waiters at the counter got on my nerves on my way back home.

Working in a posh restaurant where even foreigner crowds come to dine in a cosmopolitan city like Bangalore meant that one has to be pretty good with spoken English. On of the two waiters who took down the order was decent with English.

These two incidents have put the meaning of dignity of labour on a different perspective for me and I swear that next time I come across a Meitei Macha working as a waiter in some restaurant I will tip him double the amount I would otherwise do.

That's probably my way of saying 'Thank you for breaking out of the shell.'

Even now however I just keep thinking - Has the massive ego of meiteis taken over by this kind of enterprising attitude or is it just some kind of exceptions?


* Takhellambam Anjan , a resident of Bangalore, writes regularly to e-pao.net
The writer can be contacted at anjan_takhel@yahoo.co.in
This article was webcasted on March 02nd 2006.



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