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E-Pao! Opinion - The Clogged Space - I

The Clogged Space - I

By:- David Buhril *



On enquiring the "To Let" board for a friend who is looking for a room in Munirka, New Delhi, the landlady who owned the vacant rooms showered us with too many questions.

The questions left me feeling like we stole the last apple from her garden. But we didn't pluck any apples from her garden. Nor Eden. Most of the questions were unnecessary.

Some were smeared with contempt. Some were interesting. Some were surprising. Some were not easy to tolerate. Some were demeaning. Some were quite digestible. We served her answers after answers to questions like, what's your religion?

Do you eat dog's meat?

Beef?

Do you have girlfriends? Boyfriends?

At last she asked where we belong?

With overflowing pride about our beautiful place, we told her that we are from Manipur. But oh! She told us that she did not want any tenants from Manipur.

With a stern look that seem like the coming of a big storm and firm haughty face she closed the door abruptly. In silence we navigate buildings after buildings looking for a sign that says 'To Let'.

The silence was painful. Shameful too. Some rooms were available. But most of the rooms were far from habitable. No windows. No Ventilations. No room for air and light. The rooms were too small. Otherwise the bigger ones are expensive again.

Worst is that they are not taking anyone from Manipur. We speak Hmar and Mizo and could easily slip off by saying we come from Mizoram. But we just did not want to do that. We did not want that to be a trick. Or a lie. Or a password. Our sense of belonging is not to be tested with any of those rotten apples.

Another couple of landlords, again, told us that they are not taking anyone from Manipur. We argued about the fact that everyone is not Adam or Eve. Or Judas.

But it was not making any sense. I asked myself what the hell must have gone wrong with us from Manipur? Is it because of the Armed Forces Special Power Act? Silly. Is it because we are addicted to bandhs, protest and all those past time?

Or is it because they saw our women protesting naked in the street? Some said they are not keeping non-vegetarians. Is PETA winning here? They don't seem to know a thing about PETA. But we don't eat human flesh.

We won't. Besides we won't be sharing any pots or utensils. Not even the kitchen.

Well, we don't look that poor, needy and broke not to be able to pay the monthly rent. Looks are deceptive. But that's not the reason again. They owned TVs to have witnessed the economic boom in China, Japan, Korea and the East.

So what? We look like them. That's what they say. So we must be looking like rich and booming too. That's what I mean.

Otherwise our skins are not that yellow to look like jaundice infested tenants. My friend is healthy. Me too. Besides people from Manipur are sportive and strong. So that's not the reason again.

What then? Oh, my friend is not as ugly as Abraham Lincoln. He could become a model for some Burmese eatables industry anytime. Besides, there are quite a number of girls who likes him.

He's been, rather, facing the problem of choosing the right one. That's not the reason then. Of course we are Christians, but we won't do that conversion mission here. We did not come for that.

That is not what is expected of us too. We don't have time for that. We are not really interested in that mission. At least not now. We don't look dirty too. We do not even smoke.

We are not gays. We are straight. Our inclination is towards the opposite sex, anytime. Despite all that we were compelled to move from door to door. It wasn't fun at all.

Of course Ibomcha drinks and partied. Kimi hangs out everywhere with everyone whose skin is darker than anyone from Manipur. Athuiliu's skirt hangs too low. Chingnu may be overdoing her makeup in the evening.

They actually wonder where she goes. Khuplian seem to find difficulties in opening his eyes. He is getting thinner everyday. I was also told many of the pubs; discos and restaurants are not allowing people from the north east to get inside.

Looks like it is not all about money anymore. So what with all this happenings? True we all are from Manipur. But that is not to say that we all are doing the same thing. I am sorry for what must be taking place, but I am not my brother's sinner. And it is never right to generalize the assumption to a firmer ground.

I have been asking too many questions since then. I cannot answer them all. Is this discrimination? If then, is it racial or regional? Are we the others outside the "mainstream"?

Or are we the outsiders? Is multiculturism dead? Are the hands of diversity paralysed? Is secularism in the grave?

The adhesive, that is, understanding, seem to have waned. Or have we become the untouchables? In the face of differences creating indifferences we were left with few choice. My friend and I find it difficult to maintain that polite gentility. On the other hand we dare not be mean and hot tempered.

Oh Sanaleibak! What is in your name?

In this pallette like multicultural existence we need to negotiate with respect for one another. Cultural pluralism is a quintessentially modern phenomenon As a global pattern, it is a creature of the present century.

Maybe 'we' and 'them' are walking the road trying to learn. But the space is already getting clogged for us.

Read part I | Part II | Part III


David Buhril,a research scholar in JNU, contributes regularly to e-pao.net.
The writer can be contacted at davidbuhril@yahoo.com
This article was webcasted on January 11th, 2006


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