TODAY -

Summer and Knife

Lucky Sapam *

Road junction in Manipur
Road junction in Manipur :: Pix - Lucky Sapam



This is an ordinary story of how I survived an almost knife attack and also about other uninteresting mundane activities and observations made along the roads of Sagolband. It all began, one afternoon. It was a holiday and the streets looked deserted. The summer sun was at its peak. It was a quiet afternoon with few vehicles moving on the road. At the corner of the street under the shade of a giant banyan tree, the kids gathered around the ice-cream hawker, thinking their heads out to choose the flavour of the ice-cream to buy, holding a crumbled five rupees note in their hands.

The scene is slow and quiet. The market shed looks like a place meant for gathering the wanderers and the passersby. The rickshaw drivers dripping with sweat came to 'Tomba Rice Hotel' at the street side to have their meal, the meal consists of a simple bowl full of rice and a serving of beef curry served on a steel plate. But make no mistake of what they eat; they eat beef not because they want to but because they need to as it gives them more strength than any other forms of protein and moreover it was cheaper.

But now, as we know the price of beef has gone up, I believe the reason for it could be largely to the fact that Meetei had started consuming beef ever since they got hold of the taste. I believe in freedom of an individual, imposing forced beliefs or forced rituals to an individual is not a right way to go about as it directly violates the freedom of an individual. We should be allowed to choose what is best fit for us.

Like for example, people who were born in a vegetarian family will never get to taste a scrumptious non-vegetarian meal even if they want to. They can have but in hiding as if like they are committing a sin or something. My friend who was brought up in a strong and strict conservative Manipuri "Hindu" family once tasted chicken and initially me and my friends all thought he was going to throw up or something but astonishingly he loved it and there was no turning back since then. He said "Why did I waste 17 years of my life being a veggie? Now I have so much to catch up". I believe by choice it's fine but by compulsion it's wrong.

Where was I? Oh Yes, the meal consumption of the rickshaw drivers. In the beginning of the meal their faces were long and gloomy but it kept on changing during the course of the meal and half way through they were smiling and laughing. The conversation between them covers about anything and everything. Beside the 'Tomba Rice Hotel is the 'Ibokanta Cha Corner' where elderly of the locality would gather around and talk about politics, permutation and combination of government formation in the upcoming election and the chance of each candidate in every constituency.

Among them, one Loyachaoba Thoidingjam with thick eyeglasses and with thick Meeteilon accent said: "Political stability is the key to development. Pre 2002 there was no stability in Manipur as there was numerous collapse of government owing largely to the practice of horse-trading and also for the personal gain. No elected member in true sense is a firm believer of a party's ideology. Aspirant candidates lobby for National parties only.

Rajeev Shukla the then Minister of state for parliamentary affairs once said that politics is a serious business, what he meant was in terms of governance and administrative affairs, I guess our politicians mistook the word 'business' for 'commercial business'. Ours is a state where there is no strong sense of affiliation towards the idea of regionalism. General public usually do not support the idea of regional pride of projecting a party which is of purely based on the pride of Manipur. If I am not wrong, I think there is not a single party with a Manipuri name."

After concluding his words, Nongchup Meetei who was sitting beside him said "Mate good one, eh! Good one but Manipur and I will still vote for…you know who right?" Everyone had a subtle laugh. And then Nongchup saw something comical on the road and points in the direction of it. Everyone turned to see it and on seeing, they all had a thunderous old-man styled laugh in unison. I wondered what funny thing they saw. I wonder even today.

The story! The story! Yeah right. I was walking and I looked straight ahead, the electric post beside the road cast a long cylindrical shadow down the dusty road and whenever a vehicle passes by the road, the dust jumps up the road in excited Brownian motion and it looked like as if the dust were searching for that long spot of shade to cool themselves off. Beside the pond, parked two buses, one of it was playing some good music loudly, I think it was the song "Hungry eyes" by Eric Carmen.

The music was loud enough for me to hear it from 50 metres away. On the other bus, the driver sat in the driver's seat and his face was covered with a porous hat to shield away the bright sunlight in order for him to take a nap. I wondered as to how can one sleep with just a loud sound playing at the background and in his defence I guess he would say that the music was pleasant and soothing. Walking through the dusty road, I could see the water gushing out of a broken pipeline and it formed a trail through the cracks of the road and the water was simply getting wasted, everyone looks concern but nobody cares.

The reason I came out of the house was to borrow a movie Video compact Disc (VCD) from a rental nearby. Reaching the shop, the owner was not visible at the first glance. I thought the owner must be sleeping or something but then a husky voice came from a lower level asking "What do you want?" The owner was on the floor sitting on a low wooden platform cutting vegetables with a knife.

I asked him about the new arrivals. Without looking up, he shoots out the names to me "Cast away, 102 Dalmatians, X-men, Urban legend, Space cowboys, Shanghai noon, Romeo must die, Mission impossible 2, How to kill your neighbour's dog, Gladiator and so on". While I was still thinking of which movie to borrow, he looked up to me and said that a new rule was introduced that was mandatory to have an identity card for borrowing a movie.

I was aggravated by that new rule and also by the manner of how he said. The phase of a teenager is where they do not fear even God and are always in a raging mood. I was a teenager and so I asked him in a solemn manner "Do you know who the Prime Minister of India is?" He replied innocently "of course I know, Vajpayee" "Well done sir, very well" I said. "I am his cousin; do you still need an ID"?

We all know what will be the next picture, like in a movie where there is an expectation of a brawl and the audience knows it, they would go crazy and expect a good fight. So, still holding the knife, he stood up slowly with a long exhaled of breath. His face showed a sign of confusion but with a mixture of surprised and concerned. He asked me to repeat what I have said. I did not repeat.

But I was sure he heard it right, loud and clear the first time. With the knife pointing towards me, he asked "Do you want to lose your soul?" Hearing that and a moment of silence later, I ran my personal best to my house from the shop. Reaching home, I nearly narrated the story to my kin but then something struck my head and I did not. The reason for not telling the story is because I knew they would laugh hearing it.


* Lucky Sapam wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer can be contacted at sapamlucky(at)gmail(dot)com
This article was posted on June 14, 2015.


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