TODAY -

Missing an Opportunity to Meet Bidyalakshmi Sougaijam

Natalidita Ningthoukhongjam*


Sougaijam Bidyalaxmi Leima's NE cycle tour to spread 'Crime against women and Children', flagoff at Manipur Royal Palace complex :: 21 August 2013
Sougaijam Bidyalaxmi Leima's NE cycle tour to spread 'Crime against women and Children' on 21 August 2013 :: Pic - Deepak Oinam



Make hay while the sun shines

That is how the saying goes. I don't know which wise old soul came up with this proverb, but I've always found it to be one of the immediately decipherable examples. It is not as needlessly subtle as "Never look a gift-horse in the mouth", or dependent on rhythm, like "A stitch in time saves nine". It is what it says on the tin: make hay on a sunny day, because you cannot carry out that task when it is raining. The rain, while beneficial, can cause ruin to many a party. I have had the dubious honour of learning such a lesson first-hand this past Monday.

The weekend had been humid beyond the point of endurance, and it was a relief to see a darkening sky on Monday morning. A cool breeze greeted me and my friend, Bidyapati, as we went out to enjoy a cup of tea. You know what they say about good weather and human emotions – the two are intimately connected. If it's a bright and clear morning, one cannot help but think that the rest of the day is going to be wonderful. In works of fiction and cliché horror movies, thunderstorms are used to denote a sense of warning and doom, a presence of danger or inevitable harm. Because the two of us were a little sick of the suffocating warmth of the previous day, the presence of clouds ended up giving our collective mood a facelift. We were ready to tear through the coming hours with much energy.

Indeed, it appeared as though nothing could go wrong. The tea was excellent, the breakfast (tan, hawai and saag) was delicious, and the wind teased our hair as we made our way back to the study centre, chattering away. We opened our books and promptly started a discussion on things that had nothing to do with Indian geography. (It may have been a movie, or her aching ankle, or the merits and demerits of online shopping – I forget which. The point is we were in good spirits.) Sometime later, it began to drizzle.

No, I think it was less threatening than a drizzle, more like a sparse sprinkling of water droplets. That's how it begins, isn't it? Evil that lasts long hardly makes a crass entry. It often escapes notice, shuffling a foot here and a foot there, and before long, its pincers are already around our necks. Anyway, it was at that stage of the epic tragedy when we were informed that Bidyalakshmi Sougaijam would be stopping by at a local club, the one just across the street.

I don't exactly remember what my reaction was. I do have a vague memory of yelling happily, though. Bidyapati was excited, yes, but she was a bit shocked by my intense reception of the news. I told her why I had suddenly decided to assume the behaviour of a sports fan going mad in the stadium. I have written about Bidyalakshmi before, and I have been following her progress. I was now given an opportunity, and an excellent one at that, to meet her in person, to converse with her, and then share the story with the readers of Hueiyen Lanpao.

Journalism may not have been on my radar in almost three decades of existence, but this is a journey that needs to be in the limelight. Bidyalakshmi's cycle tour is not a personal quest, nor is it just another testament to the strength of women and the necessary idealism and daring of youth. Every movement of her muscles is a plea for understanding, a request for rational thought. As the number of women falling victims to sexual crimes and other forms of violence multiply day by day, as even daytime loses its age-old connotation of "safety", her protest is one none of us can afford to ignore.

I wanted to know so many things from her. How did she come up with this idea? What difficulties has she faced so far? Has she met any criticism, or worse still, cynicism? My interest in the formation of monsoons had completely dissipated by then. Instead, I was preparing a list of questions to ask her.

There is such a thing called karma. I shouldn't have treated the subject of rainfall, both inside and outside the text, so lightly. If I had given it the attention it deserved, I might have deducted that the "sparse sprinkling of water droplets" could mutate into a persistent drizzle, and finally, to one of the loudest, heaviest, steadiest showers to grace Imphal valley in recent history. The lawn in front of us was flooded within an hour.

We were cold, hungry, helpless. We couldn't go out to check if Bidyalakshmi had arrived. We waited and waited. At last, when the rain had subsided, a friend told us Bidyalakshmi was apparently leaving. All thoughts of hunger and cold (and friend with hurt ankle) forgotten, I sloshed through the flood, hilariously tripped through a mound of pebbles, and reached the community hall to find out she had already left.

That is the end of the tale itself. I did not, however, mean to narrate it simply to lament the destructive forces of nature, the reliability of karma, or to fulfil an urge to laugh the whole thing off. To some extent, I wrote this piece to achieve a therapeutic effect. I was crushed to miss her.

I wrote this also because there is a great need to talk about Bidyalakshmi, of not just the person but what she currently represents. Most importantly, I wrote this since I couldn't do what I had wanted to: to wish her the best of luck, and to let her know that many of us – mothers, sisters – support her cause.


* Natalidita Ningthoukhongjam wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao as part of " The Methodical magpie"
This article was posted on September 01, 2013.


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