The imaginary homecoming
- Part 1 -

Kapil Arambam *

June 2011, Imphal: The laid-back attitude is getting right under my nose, since I left New Delhi for good a year ago. Now what I care for is my profession, and a bit of homework to help family and friends in the coming times. I'm subsequently wont to rise early, on the dot when sweating or mugginess used to wake me up in days gone by.

When I remember those days of chapatti, samosa, gulab jamun, milk tea, I'd go to the leikai tea-stall where old men anatomise the morning paper over a cup of tea and nurture the good old memories of those dates-in-the-garden; Dev Anand and company; snatching-and-marrying girls of their choice; and those idyllic time before RK Sanayaima, A Somorendro, N Bisheswar and their ilk took the centre stage in the region's politics.

As the month advances into the middle week, I don't worry about Bunty-moron, my former landlord in Maharani Bagh, troubling me for the rent anymore. This dingbat, who would always show up in the early morning around mid-month, was a real pain in the neck. He always took light years to help me fix a broken tap or a defunct switch-box but he was always on schedule to collect the payment.

I could notice his rapacious eyes, which sparkled if the monthly electricity bill showed a higher remittance, just because he was getting more Mahatma Gandhi notes. And how I hate him when he came delightedly to inform me that he was raising the rent! No more I'm preyed on my mind by his piggishness these days.

Incidentally, he was my second landlord, and the previous one in Malviya Nagar a subjugated, aged man, whose grumbling wife would henpecked him many a time in front of us was no less worse. Yet I feel sorry that I have got these scumbags, in the first place, to rant my vitriol. But they didn't seem to care how much I had made an effort to get suitable accommodations each episode teaching me the value of time and money in a hard way.

I had to take help from friends and brokers to find a pad where: the lessor was not nosy; there was a liberty to cook fish, chicken, pork or delicacies with ngari and soibum; I could call my friends for a night stay; and so on.

Thank goodness, both of these owners gave me ample freedom but it was their Scrooge character that put me off. For this matter, I took pleasure in the sojourn at the Akriti Hostel in New Friends Colony, where I stayed for two years during my master's degree.

I didn't have the luxury to cook or invite my friends, but it was ideal in the course of my study. I also met a lot of great friends who have become so close as much as my leikai-, school- and college-friends. In these days of Facebook and Twitter, the real-time distance is apparently a misnomer.

Just miss a beat on my profession in this rap. As you know, there is no probability of an Anil Ambani or a Narayana Murthy putting money into our state. However, I have managed to get my hands on a coveted post in a fortunate stroke of serendipity. Don't get me wrong here, I have got this job on account of my merit alone and not through some backdoor selling and buying as is customary and revered in our holy land.

For long, I have mulled over pursuing a profitable merchandising activity rather than putting our ancestral paddy on sale for the rarely available, clerical vacancy in a nearly defunct workplace. Government offices are supposedly obsolete, maybe the miseries affecting the state, have also bogged down its employees.

As of now, what I want to flaunt is my set of skills that I have acquired in my 21 years of formal education and a couple of years' experience in the industry, but not my social standing in a dreadfully sick society, where cheap money can buy you anything that a dozen of MasterCard could not even afford elsewhere.

All of us are responsible for the atrocious condition we are in today. When we become informed electorates we can have a meaningful society. This is not oversimplification though it seems so, and we have lost count of the thousands of invocation through the media.

In retrospection, our predecessors are more suited to gossip in a leikai tea-stall than to see the light of contemporary Manipur. Some few of them, who have the privilege to attend college and hold office, are instilling the art of corruption whilst the commoners are complying with the dictates as if this was the providence. Please don't tell me it's a universal problem.

My generation is also picking up; now we are coughing up for the job we want, and it will not be unexpected in the coming decade when we outsmart the old-timers. Despite this, we are not dumb clucks like them. There is a good chance though it will not be possible in, at least, another two hundred years, about people returning back and bucking up the economy.

Alright, let the younger generation abuse us too. Reverse brain drain or brain gain you call it any name is possible, provided we get rid ourselves of the intense animal instincts in us. And the political masters are also inevitably coerced to appreciate that we cannot be taken for granted eternally.

Take me as a simple human being with simple tastes. I don't bear anyone a grudge, what you sow you reap; the social mores only define your judgement of the world at large. And there is no question of selling myself off in this situation, for I would have stayed back in Delhi if I had not gotten this shot. As luck would have it, I'm destined to be here.

Now it's no more a hassle to go to the office. I commute on my own and don't have to wait for a cab, in which I was once loaded with colleagues in the same way as commodities are conveyed on a lorry along the highway. Today when I leave home for work, I'm neither bothered whether I have locked my door or not.

Oh, those sickening feeling in travelling for an hour when the temperature hovers at 45! I took pity on those guys, who had to travel across three states from Noida to Gurgaon via south Delhi for work. I can recall those days of sweltering heat, which no fan or cooler could hinder on occasion. It's perspiring when I look back on.

I have always enjoyed my work. From my previous job, I learnt so many new things in the professional front, grasped the inside knowledge of the market, and have matured into a man. Though I loathed the tasks of pencil pushers that we were occasionally burden with, I long for responsibilities, which are appropriate and are up to my abilities. But then, work is work you are perhaps a nerd if you think it's worship.

William Faulkner, the noted American writer, described the eight-hour regimen in an interview: "One of the saddest things is that the only thing that a man can do for eight hours a day, day after day, is work. You can't eat eight hours a day nor drink for eight hours a day nor make love for eight hours all you can do for eight hours is work. Which is the reason why man makes himself and everybody else so miserable and unhappy."

Imagine Faulkner's ire if I tell him I had worked for ten hours a day. Wait, I buy Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000-hour rule. Investing time on our subject of interest in the office would be itsy-bitsy for the simple reason we are not paid to do what we desire.

Yet there is a silver lining in working anywhere that we are devoting our time, practically, on the profession of our choice. What matters is, in the end, how much we are becoming proficient in our trade and are adrenalised to perform our duties. "See, Eepu Faulkner, it was a corporate canon," I'd convince him.

"That's the norm and presuming I spilled the beans about the wicked schedule, they would simply hand me the pink-slip... Human resources are not as scarce as cow dung, like the folksy saying in our town. I had a shift work from 12 noon to 10 pm but luckily I didn't have a night shift, the murderous graveyard shift. After all they paid me good, and it's quite a formidable time for me to learn the tricks... so I didn't mind."

I'm earning half the salary I brought home previously, yet I can save twice the amount I used to in a month. That's the way of small-town living. I love it and hate it simultaneously regardlessly, the issue will only bring in the merits and demerits between a life in the metro and that of a teeny municipality.

I get better facilities and easy access to services in Delhi still the comfort of living in Imphal, with my own folks in the familiar environs, has its own fascination.


I'd love to travel across the world instead of staying back at home. But I don't think it's a Catch-22 situation or anything like that... The thought of enjoying vacation in my homestead always fascinates me but that's not the only thing/place that I draw my motivation from. The dream of victory always fuels my existence. What is there beyond our existence, anyway?

To be continued.....

* Kapil Arambam (located in New Delhi) contributes to regularly . The writer can be contacted at his blog or kupelderanged(at)gmail(dot)com
This article was webcasted on June 10, 2010.

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