TODAY -

Do Manipuri Settle for Less ?

By Tarun Kumar Nongthombam *



Do we Manipuri settle for less? Are we happy with a penny when we could be earning in pound?

Let us imagine that I live on a hill top with my family, what do I need? What I need is a hut for my family to stay, grow potatoes and some salt from the nearby town to eat with the potatoes. What happens if my crop fails? What happens if my family falls sick? These questions will raise my expectation; this is when I start acting.

We are all proud of our sportsperson; we have dominated in national games ever since our good performance at national games in Manipur. Ask any Manipuri, we feel we could beat any sportsperson from mainland India with our pace and strength.

Let us now raise the bar, where are we at international level? Except for Mary Kom and Suranjoy, we are nowhere. Why this is happening? We seem to lose our way in the middle, somewhere! Answer to this is best given by a Bengali football coach during a TV interview.

He was asked; Manipur seems to produce good number of footballers but failed to produce a Baichung Bhutia or any of international standards. What he said was really interesting. He said "Manipuri footballers after playing for Indian club are lost in success and fame, they get at that level. They don't want to struggle and aim further!"

What he said might not be entirely true as favoritism do creep inside sports like in any other field as we live in "Me'ra Bharat Mahan", not United States where "you get it, if you are good". But, should we not blame our footballers for failing to raise the bar or are they manifestation of our Manipuri society as a whole?

Have you ever wondered when Manipur seems to be producing MSs and MDs year after year; more patients seem to be running outside Manipur for treatment? Do our doctors blame Manipuri patients for not trusting them? One cannot become a heart surgeon after getting an MS degree, you will require years of grind, one has to work hours with senior surgeon to acquire the skill and develop the confidence to perform.

Manipuri doctors were initially satisfied with the government jobs back home and never developed professionally. They are also handicapped by depleted infrastructure and little exposure to critical cases. When they are asked to perform, they succumb and refer patients outside the state.

You will find doctors with bloated egos, what they should understand is, it is no good comparing with their poor cousin back home; one should be bold enough to take on with the best in the country if they are really good. Same can be said for engineers, lawyers, scientist, you name any profession!

Let me take you to the construction industry which I am associated with. Manipuri mistry(Mason) and Jugali(labourer) are known for their poor work ethics. I have to literally plead, to make them complete work in time and have to look after them so they are properly fed. Any bundh(strike), religious function is a holiday for them. When we do weekly payment, next day they won't turn up for work, reason, last night hangover and are over cloud nine after getting a week payment!

Let us shift our focus to the construction industry in Delhi and NCR. Here masons and labourer work 12 hours a day, sometimes more than that with no Sunday holiday. You have to work above 45 degree Celsius. Once the entire workforce went on strike for not getting holiday on diwali, imagine a Manipuri labourer not getting holiday on nigol chakouba!!

One can do a reality check by counting the number of Manipuri labourers working at capitol project in Imphal. Here, the contractor is from outside the state and they will really test one's perseverance.

During the British days, Manipuri man were notorious for spending the whole day "Kam'por IL'La'ga Khu'nu Tu'na'ba(Pigeon fight) Yeng'ba". We have to come out of the "Khu'nu Tu'na'ba Yeng'ba" syndrome quick and fast. I remember what my father use to tell, as long as we have a "chak pu'kham" waiting when we return home, we will never change. With the rise in population and fewer available government jobs, the luxury of "chak pu'kham" waiting could be fading away fast.

As dark cloud always has a silver lining, really speaking, we are not all bad and ugly. Manipur is the only state in north east where you find large number of indigenous people doing construction work, pulling rickshaw, cleaning gutters, lifting gunny bags. In my stint for road construction project in Mizoram, entire labour force was from outside the Mizoram state, it was not a good feeling as a northeasterner. This story holds good for the rest of the north east.

Whether we are construction worker, doctor or sportsperson, all have worked hard to reach the present level. What we need is to constantly raise the bar, so we are prepared for the future, for ourselves and for our children.




* Tarun Kumar Nongthombam contributes to e-pao.net regularly. The writer can be contacted at nong_tarun(at)rediffmail(dot)com
This article was webcasted on August 31 2011.


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