TODAY -

Night birds flock at Manipur's Jhakharabandh

Iboyaima Laithangbam *

A meat stall at Imphal offering meat cuisine
A meat stall at Imphal offering meat cuisine :: Pix - TSE / Porcia Soubam



From late 1970s Manipur had very little night life. People who had to rush an ill person to hospital or calling on a dying relative had to fully light up the interior of the cars or buses to make it crystal to the ambushing police or security personnel that the passengers are innocent persons.

A fear psychosis gripped the people benumbing the mindset and they preferred to stay indoors after locking the gates and doors by nightfall. There were some reports of even harassing or manhandling some presspersons who had to return home around midnight.

Of late, it became a common sight to see groups of people cruising or hanging around here there or gossiping at many nook and crevice of the town. Most of them appear to be liquor wired. But then there is no report of drunken brawls or mugging the lonely motorists. A positive message had been conveyed since there are many licensed and unlicensed guns with the people.

To cater to the needs of the night birds some roadside "Eat street" vendors had sprung up near the fly-over. Despite the dusty and crowded location there was a brisk business.

Within a short time several roadside vendors catering delicious food items, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian, had mushroomed at Khagempalli. These roadside shacks started doing a roaring business vindicating the business acumen of the unemployed youths. Some hotels which were selling chicken delicacies within the Imphal town faced a slump because of traffic and parking restrictions.

Many fried and curried items of chicken, ducks, pork, beef, fish, pig entrails, Manipuri pizza (paknum) and non-vegetarian items are on sale. The delicacies are kept inside chaffing dishes under which there are low grade burners to keep the items piping hot. There are some other items on sale and the day is not far off when some of the shacks will keep live king cobras as is seen in Singapore or Indonesia for quick skinning and frying for the waiting customers.

Till recently residents of this neglected locality used to agitate like blocking the road protesting against the non-repairing of the potholed road. But today customers are seen till midnight or so. And business starts from early morning. Not surprisingly this area was given the namesake Jhakharaband.

The only difference is that there is no suitable sitting arrangement here and the customers have to buy the items in packets and go elsewhere, mostly homes. Each shack employs several men and women and all of them are doing a roaring business. If the success story of this Jhakharbandh of Manipur is anything to go by more such eateries and stalls shall come up at different places in the state.

In fact these shacks should be the envy of the groups which have been organising food fairs in and around Imphal. The home minister Gaikhangam Gangmei had the temerity to say that night life is everywhere as the law and order situation is "improved".

Of course, he is not speaking of the oil pumps which close down even if a nondescript organisation of Moreh, Parbung or Noney calls a general strike. There is no bus for the women vendors who have to rush home by nightfall leaving behind the unsold items.

Can the tax payers get police help during emergencies at night since it is made out that there is a shortage of personnel or fuel in the police stations? The change in Manipuri life style is a welcome sign. There is no night life even in Nagaland where the major outfits had signed ceasefire.

There is a gridlock before nightfall and all members of public stay indoors and even stray dogs are not seen. Long time back the people who have been wallowing in bomb blasts, encounters, gun attacks and other forms of violence had inured to the unpredictable life.


* Iboyaima Laithangbam wrote this article to Hueiyen Lanpao
This article was posted on April 17, 2015.


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