Business of the men in white an anathema

Samarjit Kambam *

It was during the peak of a wedding ceremony. The bride and groom were about to tie the nuptial knot by hooking garlands to one another. Suddenly, an elderly man came swaying towards the ornate centrestage, a place which was the centre of attention of the hundreds of crowd.

He was walking as if he was on a rocking boat. Then he slumped and felt prostrate with his face on the floor, the leaves of money from his hand strewn everywhere. The groom stared hard at him with stony eyes.

The bride got fidgety. The one attending to the groom helped him up on his feet. The chap tried a balancing act. But he was too inebriated he could hardly stand. With great struggle he walked out shoving every men and rubbing shoulder with every women along his path. It was a sight for sore eyes to many, an invitation to being beaten up by the crowd. He was lucky he got away unscatched.

Another time, another place. 'Mangaani Chakkouba' was the occasion. The groom and his peers were on one side. The bride and her bevvy of friends were at another. The invitees, the party of the host and relatives further enveloping them. Very orderly, I thought.

As everybody sat down the 'Meetei' way to have the jumbo meal, calmness followed. But the calmness turned out to be deceptive. What seemed placid for some moments was suddenly replaced with commotion particularly from the groom's side. It began with a loud and incessant chattering followed by cacaphonic burst of laughter in between which culminated into heated arguments and pelting of verbal abuses and expletives of the highest degree amongst the groom's party oblivious of the ambience, caring a damn for the elders. High decibel shouts ordering 'this' and 'that' to the runners for the groom deafened the hall.

It was more like a gala party in a restaurant. There was no regard for the arrangers, no respect for the many congregated there. In fact, no basic courtesy prevailed. Most of them were heavily drunk. The groom himself could hardly open his eyes and his head was rocking to and fro, his head hung so low that his face almost touched the food on the plate. And the brouhaha continued.

Abruptly, many elders, women and children stirred up ready to flee. There was chaos. It wasn't difficult to find out the scenario. The one seating to the left of the groom had thrown up on the very plate in front of him. A macabre incident, a harrowing scene. It was quite an unpalatable sight, a sight which left me devoid of appetite for days on end. Shouts of "Thrash him", "Teach him a lesson" filled the hall.

The gentleman was dragged away from the scene in a 'fast and furious' way. Later on it was found out that he was given a thorough head-to-toe 'massage' by the active members of the irate host party. Well, he came, he threw up, he got beaten. End of episode.

In our contemporary society, whenever there is a social occasion such as a marriage ceremony, a swasthi pujah or any sort of congregation such as chakcha-heijanaba (grand feast), there's always a hush-a-hush among the male of the species of us Meeteis by venturing beyond the realm of the occasion in pursuit of a bottle of liquor.

Just like finding ants in groups whenever there are sweet objects, it's a common sight when groups of white dhoti or pyjama-kurta clad youngsters and elders who came to take part in a wedding ceremony end up together at the house of local liquor sellers and bootleggers. Previously, such activity was considered a common sight but now it has become a static part of our culture, an anathema to elders and people who take solicitude in our culture and tradition.

Ironically this business has become so deeply integrated in our culture just like a fusion culture. Many first timer teenagers on such social occasions have been inculcated with the wrong impression that drinking is a part and parcel of such occasions.

As such, this sub-standard part of our culture paves the path to socially acceptable first step to drink-hood among teenagers and social drinkers to become hardcore drunkards. The result is moral degradation, lack of polishness, disrespect to culture and tradition over and above tarnishing the beauty of white uniform as well as making a caricature of our very culture.

Now has become the time and day where liquor must flow abundantly during cremation. The family of the expired has to make liquor available on the crematorium otherwise there won't be a soul to cremate the dead body. This shows the retardation in tolerance and patience among the youths of our society.

In the name of braving the ordeals of cremation liquor has become part of the deal, a practice which wasn't relevant earlier. For cremation, the family of the expired has to purchase liquor first and firewoods later. A practice becoming a custom, a reflection of degrading social norms. Even the Shradha ceremonies are not spared.

Like a 'must have' perfume, those coming to pay condolence to mitigate the pain and suffering of the bereaved family come loaded with the smell of alcohol. Why is that we the Meeteis always crave for a few pegs whenever we are dressed up in white? Seems like the cravings for a drink only get higher when we get dressed up in our traditional white.

The very purpose of paying our condolences to the bereaved family is not served when we mingle with the family members with shaky legs and smell of alcohol in our breath. It acts more as a mockery to the very family whom we are supposed to pacify and soothe from their plight. A sure-shot sign of the envelope of our compassion wearing thin.

If this status quo prevails, we would be held accountable for harbouring a ruffian society for our future generations by leaving behind a shotgun progeny of a culture of loose ends.

Time to draw the line and weed out this 'business' of the men in white.

* Ningombam Bupenda Meitei wrote this article for
Ningombam Bupenda Meitei is a poet, author and orator.
This article was posted on April 19, 2016.

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