TODAY -

How Manipur helped me survive the pandemic lockdown

Shashwat Prakash *

 COVID-19 ::  Janata (Public) Curfew - Prevention against Corona Virus) at Imphal City :: March 22 2020
Janata (Public) Curfew - Prevention against Corona Virus at Imphal City on March 22 2020 :: Pix - Shankar Khngembam



Out of the 28 years of my life on Earth, I have spent more than 12 years of it in Manipur, my father being a Manipur cadre IPS officer. Curfews, bandhs, road blockades were a regular part of life in Manipur.

From "bandhs" called by the public to force the government into accepting their demands (ranging from granting inner line permit to abolishing AFSPA), to curfews imposed by government to curtail the violence, they've seen it all.

Protests, closed markets, leading to fewer supplies and exorbitant prices of essential goods, were the unfortunate consequences.

Buying day to day things, from cooking gas to petrol, through the black market at an inflated price is something the people were used to on a regular basis.

There were months of blockades of roads leading to no supply of goods from other states and whatever fresh fruits or vegetables were available, they were brought in through flight cargos raising their prices even higher.

As they say, give a man some money and you'll feed him for a day. Teach him a skill and you'll feed him for a lifetime.

In Manipur, people took this to the heart. From starting to cook their food on wood fire to growing their own vegetables and raising their own chicken in their backyard, they persevered.

Manipuri people are a tough lot. Their staple food being Rice, dal and eromba (local chutney), their demand for market goods wasn't really high.

Moreover, relying on their neighbours for supplies to sharing food with the community, brought them closer to one another, increasing the feeling of safety, belonging and unity.

These everyday curfews and bundhs left people with a lot of time on their hands, much like the situation we are finding ourselves in these days. Back in those times, there was no internet, no smart phones.

Only television and board games and months of closed school, offices and suspended normal life. Which served to bring them closer as a family somehow. "Jungle mai mangal" as some people called it, was their motto, enjoying the best of the situation to their advantage.

But us (Mayangs: meaning Non-Manipuri Indians) as they call us, are dependent on a million of things even for our basic staple diet. From food to entertainment to transport to almost every aspect of our lives, we depend on something or someone for everything, be it the government or states or other people.

Self reliance is a long forgotten dream for us. We'd sooner hope for some divine intervention to save us from our problems than do something about it ourselves.

Spending a substantial part of my life in Manipur has given me a lot of experience and patience. From meeting my friends for mere 15 minutes and rushing back because there was a curfew from 5 pm which could last a few weeks, to going out with family along with armed guards, are a few things I haven't, and probably won't, experience anywhere else.

Including family picnics at river shores to long nights of rummy and barbeque.

Today I see my friends troubled and counting down days for this lockdown to be over so that they can FINALLY go out, while my dear friends from Manipur are going about their days as usual, spending time with their family and making the most of the situation as always.

And as I sit at home with my family laughing, bonding, barbecuing and making up for the time lost running around in this busy world, I can't help but thank the years I spent in Manipur for teaching me that you can turn just about anything around if you have the will and the right spirit to do so.


* Shashwat Prakash wrote this article for The Sangai Express
Shashwat Prakash is a Graduate in Law from Faculty of Law, Delhi University and a Graduate in Commerce From Shri Ram College of Commerce, Delhi University.
He can be reached at ShashwatPrakash(AT)hotmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on April 08 2020.



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