Random reminiscences of the bygone years of the 80s and 90s and others

Khelsoril Wanbe *

Many things have happened in between; many friends and dear ones have passed away owing to one or the other reasons. As I turn back and look at those bygone years as they recede into the dark realms of oblivion, the hazy memories glare every now and then.

Imphal city was still young and developing : The roads were not so wide and bikes and four wheelers were far less in number; the cinema halls were still bustling and buzzing vibrantly.

Especially on Fridays, there would be heavy rush of cinegoers; the queues were long and serpentine; the kala bazaaris would have hectic and euphoric time trying to sell the tickets at high price; young couples wouldn’t mind much to give away their money just to get the tickets with comfort and ease. But the gangs of youngsters would rather choose to get caught up in the tussle to get the prized tickets.

There would be a lot of shoving, pushing, pulling, climbing on top of others and dropping the ones who have climbed on top of others. The gangs of youngsters would sometimes even engage in physical fisticuffs and try to dominate the scene just before the show begins. It was a lot of excitement to be caught up in the melee and soon the police would arrive and begin unleashing their lathis. The brave and the defiant would get to taste the sweet lathi charge.

Going to the cinema hall used to be a hard to resist temptation when my parents would be away for work. Earlier when I was smaller and younger, I would request or make the proposal to my seniors in the locality to take me to the show. It had to be the first or the second show; the third show would be too late.

I had to be at home before my parents returned home so that they wouldn’t be suspicious of me having gone to forbidden places, not only the cinema theatres, because I was still young. I sometimes did venture out with my friends to forbidden distant place.

One day, we walked across Lamphelpat to reach the zoo at Iroishemba. On our return journey, we started plucking the pineapples that were growing on some roadside garden without the knowledge of the owner. The owners somehow noticed our illegal activity and we were chased quite a distance. Luckily, we escaped uncaught. Beginning from my later teen years, I started going to movies with one or two friends and sometimes all by myself to see the new movie in town.

On one occasion, the rush was too much, I and my friend just got inside the hall without a ticket. Somehow, we escaped being caught by the ticket master. The price of the front section of the hall used to be only Rs 2 to 2.50.

Although it would cause stiff neck, we often watched in the front section as we couldn’t afford to pay for the costlier tickets. Sometimes, we did sit in the balcony too, but that was very rare. In the latter years when the halls were about to be shut down and I was already a grown young man, I would more often sit in the rear or balcony.

Here again, I just want to go back to the memories of those early years of my life when I used to take the help of my seniors, particularly my older cousins, to take me to the movie, not very often, but whenever the opportunity came up. I had a cousin whom I and my friend would quite often ask to take us to the movie. For that we had to give him a good massage for about half an hour.

My cousin was a brave guy; he would always manage to get a ticket with ease, no matter how heavy the rush at the counter would be. Three of us would ride on his bicycle. He was about a decade older than us, so he was our big brother in whom we had good confidence. He was already earning his own pocket money quite conveniently; he would never remain idle.

One day, I and my cousin were going around in Imphal bazaar on his bicycle when he told me, “Look, one pretty girl is walking over there.” Suddenly, his shoulder seemed to be sinking low. I asked him, “What happened bro?” He said, “Look at the front wheel of my bicycle.”

Something had gone wrong with the front wheel; it was bending. We had to get down and carry the cycle to the workshop nearby. Those days, bicycles were very popular. Far fewer motorbikes were moving on the streets of Imphal.

Roads were not very wide or good or crowded. It used to be very comfortable moving around in the busy market area. These days, the market streets are so crowded that it is increasingly becoming quite a formidable venture to go to the market; for everybody seems to be having a bike or a car, and parking lots are at a premium.

In between late 1990s and now, many friends and dear ones have passed away because of one or other causes. Sudden arrivals of dreaded diseases have taken the lives of so many of the youth in our land that we, the surviving members of the society, are left with much trauma and heartache. We have lost so many of our old friends that, sometimes, the world seems to be a different place.

The passing away of someone belonging to the older generation on attaining the ripe age may be accepted as inescapable even if sad, but the sudden and untimely death of many friends is very sad and traumatic.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, there was a surreptitious onslaught of a strange new plague that gradually intensified and wiped out millions of youth around the globe. After a good many years of intense research, the virus has been brought under control.

Millions of lives have been able to continue living even after having been infected by the virus. Very soon, complete cure of the dreaded Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome is very likely to be discovered. In the ongoing viral outbreak too, we have lost many of our loved ones.

The virtual annihilation of many precious friends by the invisible killer has left us mentally and psychologically different; the world really seems to be different from what it used to be. People who went through the world wars and survived might have had the same traumatic psychological impact.

It’s sad although we always pretend everything will be okay : that we will gradually forget the tragic experience we go through and that only memories will remain which will, of course, keep coming back and haunt our dreams, especially in the winter season when the blood struggles to keep warm.

And occasionally, we remember those moments when our loved one was lying there cold, lifeless and emaciated like a skeleton covered with skin. I have taken pictures of some loved ones before the last rite was to be performed: moments when life seems to be a dream and unreal.

Occasionally, the memories of those bygone years keep coming back when life would seem so lively and exciting; when we didn’t even imagine that we would be leaving the world of the living, one by one. Is it sad or fortunate to be surviving and experiencing this recurring nostalgia and the wishing for the coming back of those old good days so that we can enjoy those same moments of singing together, cracking jokes together, laughing together of the transient moments that would seem to be lasting forever. Years roll by. So long as we live, we witness how things are changing right before our eyes.

The roads, the buildings, the vehicles, the people are all changing and are being replaced by new and strange ones. Yes, people and things do change; the evolution does go on: not talking about Darwin’s evolution though.

The old, the young, the middle-aged are always there in different generations and ages; humans still engage in a lot of things though not the same but characteristically the same. People still indulge in similar practices that are both good and bad and evil. People still go through the same experiences of prosperity, poverty, love, hate, jealousy, good will, competition and, even killing and harming.

Scientific and technological advancements still seem to have not been able to ameliorate much of the human suffering despite the fact that a lot of comfort and ease have been brought about. The threat and fear of violence, wars and mutual destruction continue to thrive. A lot have changed but the mind and the spirit still seem to be the same.

* Khelsoril Wanbe wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on November 05 2021.

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