How do I define a community ?

Louriyam Bebica *

How do I define  a community ?

"I became afraid because, being different ,I might be sent off to some place where I actually belong"

"I wanted to scrap off my dark skin and rearrange my strange features .I wanted to look like them because I always felt ,thought and spoke like them" - Martha in Temsula Ao's Three Women.

"Community doesn't fit into a nice neat package. We can't see a whole community, we can't touch it and we can't directly experience it" - Phil Bartle in A Sociology Perspective.

In this globalization world the confusion state and shaky feelings of Martha in Three Women is very common . It often drag me to think how do we define where I belong. Does it need to be based on language, features, etymology ,political ,geographical, or the sense that we decide where I belong and where I wanna belong. I am born and brought up where 'm confuse of my own belonging. I was taught and read that I am an Indian but whenever I am out of my state or north east the question they asked me is "are you Japanese or Chinese?" their question often question my own thought and learning. Why can't their question be " are you Manipuri or Arunachali or north east?" It says God has created us differently bcoz he wanted to make this world a wonderful place where different colors of flower will dignified it's beauty. His notion was that more different varieties will wrap the ugly features presenting only it's beauty and virtue. But this notion has changed like this….the more different the more conflict and problem we has to face. When I was in my graduation once one of my classmate said

-"Baby why you got no face? It's hard to find your nose that is too tiny , your eyes that I can hardly see, as if a small needle has made a hole. We were trying to find out how you look .Will you mind if I tell you what is our conclusion about your face shape . Shall I tell you?"

-" Sure tell me". I know they were trying to make fun of me but I wasn't much concerned .So I just wanted to hear them speak.

-" It's like atta has been smashed to make roti and a punch was given on it. The shape that remains on that atta is the way you look" haha.

I don't know how she felt when she said those words. Was she confused bcoz I look too different from them or was she mocking at me? What so ever I replied like this

-"Oh yeah you are true I got no nose, my eyes are too small yet 'm still more beautiful than you .So don't you think it's all bcoz God pitied you and he has taken some of those features from me ? Just imagine how will be your condition if I happen to be blessed with those big eyes and tall nose. No one will ever bother to look at you even by mistake. I think you should thank me and God. What you say?"

No word in reply to what I told her. Through her face reaction I knew that I gave her tit for tat. In our state teasing(here teasing doesn't mean nagging, we term it as 'laknanda') a girl by a boy is very natural. Where ever a beautiful girl goes guys will definitely followed her . If he is smart he will get her name, locality even phone number easily. We considered it as a normal stuff in our society. Once we are out of our state their guys don't follow us nor try to take our number or know our names .

They simply gave us a "look". A look I can never explain in words. It's like they got an eyes with x-ray machine that can see us beyond our cloths. My friends said that its weird our guys followed us in street but I said I will pray million times to God to face my guys who will follow me than their guys who will give me a diagnostic looks. Bcoz sometime non verbal signal speaks much more than verbal.

Here we called those outsiders with dark complexion, tall nose ,big eyes as mayang .For any cynical view we use them as epitome .If we don't dress up well we said among ourselves

-"Hey mayang malladana(like mayang)".

If we find some people bit of stingy and calculative of their account then also we said

-"Mayang gee kok toh sijinnarakkanuko.(don't use their stingy way of calculative mind set)".

It's like French people using British people or India using Pakistan vice versa to show how good they are while how bad the other are.

But I see it as the symptom of a disease called ' majority and powerful rules the world' .It is not about differences decrease the beauty . As it says "even if you lie, lie in such a way with confidence that your lie becomes true". If some lone street seller are on their way then some senseless people (we Manipuri)will definitely won't lost the chance to snatch his stuffs . As a child I 've seen people snatching those ice-cream wala's ice cream .If that poor fellow try to scream or rebel then the sentence they gave will be -"Hey mayang macha nang siningbra hah? Mee usittaba tounu.(do you wanna die ?don't disrespect us?)"

Both the sides knew well who's feet felt in the pit of false .But the so called majority and powerful over shadow the truth. They both knew who is under esteeming who? But the one with high tone, majority and powerful became true.

In another scenario ,out of my state we face different world. Where ever we go out they will pass on this muttering sound


The very word pierce me like an arrow that passed through my heart. At the beginning I don't even know it's meaning. My seniors told me that it's an insulting word so we should be angry. Since that day whenever I heard that word I 've no boundary of my anger. One thing that I could never understand was even if I cover up my whole body with a jean pant and t -shirt they will stare at me from head to toes like I am in a museum for dispose. Once I talked to one of my Srilankan friend about this she said it might be bcoz I was not in a good costume i.e. jean pant and a t- shirt . I was shocked bcoz it's one of the most decent dress where you covered up every part of our body than neck and head .So suddenly I just reacted

- "I don't reveal my flesh in any kind of form in that dress. What about your sari? It reveals almost everything yet you think it's a decent dress?

-"No no you misunderstood me".

-"No its not I but you misunderstood us".

That day I was very restless the whole night. How could she said that it was bcoz of my dress. I wasn't revealing any part of my body. Whereas those people who were staring at me, they were either with sari that reveals her whole tummy since her blouse hardly comes down to her waist. And those men, they were walking with that kind of women by their side . So their look confused me .Was it my different features that allow them to look into me in that annoying way? Or was it bcoz they think we are aliens not a part of their family?

One evening I was in one of my friend's shop. The rain was pouring out cat and dog on that day. I went to get my mom's kitchen masala but could not get out from there bcoz of the heavy rain.

-"Hey nao you stay for a while here. It's raining like hell. If you go out now you will get completely wet. I don't want your mom coming and complaining me why did I kick you out in this rain haha. You just take a stool and make yourself comfortable".

-"Haha as if my mom is very mean".

-"Not mean but you are still their pampered kid .Won't you agree with me if I say you are still childish bcoz they didn't allow you to grow up haha". Giving me another annoying laugh. Though he was pulling my legs in some way he was true.

-"Don't worry about me instead keep your eyes on those people who is standing in front of your shop". He was busy pulling my legs that he didn't notice those people .When I reminded him of the present scenario he suddenly became alert. Bcoz of the rain many people (those mayang)stood in the veranda of his shop. They were not standing properly. Their hands were busy with the stuffs my friend kept there.

-"Hey mayang macha noi chei chagera.(hey you wanna get beating )".

Can u imagine who said those words? A bihari who stayed next to our village. Though we weren't from the same milieu we are good friends since my bro and his wife stayed in the same milieu as he is with his family. He was born and brought up in that milieu . He was two class senior to me but we were like good buddies not senior –junior concepts..I had never seen him mingling with his own people(when I say his own people 'm focusing my eyes on those people who has tall nose, big eyes, and dark complexion) like us he often laugh at those people who wore pant at the navel . The words that comes on his lips when he saw a fellow with oil doted hair, colorful shirts will be

-"Yengone tourise mayang macha shingse dress shetlinekaina….(See how these mayang people are dressing up)".

I stare at him and asked

-" What about you? Aren't you mayang?"

Giving me a huge laugh and cynical reaction with a firmness he will reply

-"No way…"

The best thing in their milieu is that unlike the other part of the locality where one group of people dominates and led the life of majority ,they are mix of every possible different people .It is inhabited by Meitei ,kuki, naga, nepali ,and so called mayang. Above that this army camp that is again total mix of different world influenced them. They don't seem to be much concerned on what is their back ground but more concerned on the term being a human .That is the reason why they celebrate each and every festivals together.

I don't know why I decided to jot down this article, might be like my friend 'm also too confuse on the term 'community'. There is this friend of mine who is bihari since his parents are from Bihar but called his mates as mayang and thinks he is a Manipuri. On the other side of the world there lived my cousin sister who is in Bangalore with her parents since she was in 2nd std .Whenever we 've conversation she referred Manipur as

-"'Noi' Manipurgee hounabi ".

Even last week when I called up to wish her birth day she questioned me

-"Nao how is your Manipur? "

-"What do you mean by your Manipur? Is n't yours too?

-"Haha you must be kidding."

On that day I asked my mom how she felt about herself , her belonging and she replied

-"I don't know how you educated people think or define where you belong or what's your identity . For me, I am a Manipuri. I prefer eating ngari than enjoying your metro train. About being an Indian , I might be bcoz you, educated people says so .But I never thought on it, might be bcoz my forefather were only Manipuri unlike you all who has dual identity Manipuri and Indian ".

Wow she is clear of what and who is she unlike us, pushing me into the world of confusion . I 've quoted this word 'noi' (the word my cousin used as if it's her tag to refer Manipur) that stands for' you' in translation. Her word brightly state that she no longer feels she belongs here. Ah! She confused me more than I can handle. So how do I define it? Followed Mc Millan and Chavis's 'shared emotional connection' or Ferdinand Tonies's Gasellschaft 'self interest'? Or what?

* Louriyam Bebica wrote this article for
The writer can be contacted at bebicalouriyam708(at)gmail(dot)com
This article was posted on November 23, 2012.

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