TODAY -

Maharaja of Manipur, a moribund institution!

Free thinker *



A few days back I was dumbfounded receiving a phone call from England requesting that "the Maharaja wants to see you (me)". The caller was none other than the President of European Manipuri Association (EMA). I could not say no to him because of our long family association and so I yielded to his demand; but I was bit anxious pondering why Maharaja wants to meet me? The caller asked me to indicate my convenient time;

I simply said, "any time", extending full courtesy to His Majesty.

I told my wife that the Maharaja will be coming to our residence tomorrow morning along with his advisor and secretary. She said, "are you so important that the Maharaja wants to see you?" She further added, "he might have been misguided by some nuts to listen to your crazy ideas". My ego was hurt- but I didn't say anything because without her cooperation the visitors would not get tea, snacks etc.

The calling-bell was ringing; when I opened the door I saw our Maharaja standing with his associates. I didn't Kowtow or Namaste but I simply welcomed them with warm hand-shakes. They were sitting together in an elongated red sofa and I was sitting in a chair opposite to them. Informally I initiated the conversation by highlighting the fluid and fragile situation in Manipur. They all agreed that the people are suffering as a result of our unending agitations, bandhs and blockades. Poor people suffer more than anyone else. Students are not getting proper (continuous) education and at the same time the economy is in shambles. What to do?

I maintained that every generation talks the turmoil in the society; preceding generation might have talked about their pathetic conditions; even the earlier generations would have spoken about their chaotic situation; it is a fact that there are problems in every society at every stage; there is no exception.

However the degree and magnitude of disorder may vary from time to time and from society to society. Maharaja retorted, "every one of us talk about the prevailing problems but hardly utter a single word on solutions and remedies". Taking advantage of his concern and I supported him saying that "His Majesty that is the tragedy".

After sipping tea Maharaja took out his 'pan' and started chewing and enjoying. I wanted to say a few words on my long years of pan-chewing journey from 120 (Baba Zarda) to 160 and ultimately to 300 (now abandoned); but I restrained myself showing respect to his Kingly habit. As lastly do Kings and Emperors have typical habits and addictions? I am told that Emperor Aurangzeb was addicted to jaggery; Chakravartin Chandragupta had the habit of taking small quantity of poison every day; Maharaja Bodhachandra had the pleasure of smoking Capstan (dibawala).

Maharaja wanted to hear something on the demand of Inner Line Permit System (ILPS). I rendered my honest observation uttering that the mainstream people particularly those who belong to national parties are not very enthusiastic about it; they feel that such a dispensation hinders integration and create chasm among the citizens.

National leaders are perhaps critical about the existing ILP system in other states. However I strongly feel that there ought to be a middle path between the national goals and regional/state aspirations. Regarding the ST status also he was eager to know my view. I frankly told His Majesty that "this is a struggle between the idealists and materialists".

When we grow old we tend to become more pragmatic. Today the struggle is not only for food, clothing and shelter but also for education, employment and well-being (healthcare). Maharaja wanted a straight reply from me. Showing my allegiance to vox populi I said, if the majority people agree, I stand by them. In a lighter vein I intentionally informed him that the Tripura Royalty is already in the list.

Grudgingly His Majesty disclosed that some people in power want to snatch away his Palace (home) and even the daily Prasad (food) coming from Govindaji Temple. I sympathize with the emotion of the Maharaja and hence I am pleading to all the authorities concerned to provide their benevolent assistance in protecting and preserving some of our innocuous age-old tradition and practices.

It reminds me of the radical conservative sentiments of British Parliamentarians who opposed the idea of constructing a brand new Parliament costing 5 billion pounds and instead, supporting the idea of spending 9 billion pounds for the renovation and refurbishment of the old existing Westminster Parliament. The Britishers are very proud of their history, culture, tradition and heritage.

I don't understand why some people feel suffocated while extending a little bit of courtesy, respect and pecuniary aid to His Majesty the King of Manipur. What is wrong if we extend an invitation to the Maharaja in all State functions? Is it utterly undemocratic and unconstitutional to insert Maharaja in the state protocol list (warrant of precedence etc.)? Is it highly obnoxious to give subsistence allowance not Privy Purse? It is not about pampering a person or patronizing Royalty but it is all about respecting our 2000 year old (archaic) institution. If we don't respect and feel proud of our tradition and heritage, who will?

If our super annuated King is poor and powerless shall we spurn him or if he practices his belief shall we ostracize him. Let us learn from our erstwhile colonizers, how they treat their Queen even though they practice a robust parliamentary democracy without a written Constitution.

"Monarchy is dead; long live the Monarchy; because we need a tale to tell to our children and make them feel proud of their ancestors who intermittently conquered parts of India, China, Burma and Bangladesh and also stood against the mighty British in whose empire the sun never sets."


* Free thinker wrote this article for The Sangai Express in the column 'Poking Noise without malice'
This article was posted on September 27, 2016.


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