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E-Pao! Opinion - The selfless side of Manipuri Diaspora

The selfless side of Manipuri Diaspora

By: Various Contributors *


Like every coin has two faces, like every human has two sides, like every night has its dawn, here we are trying to put forward the brighter side of the Manipuri Diaspora. Yes that ineluctable side which the author of the article " The Selfish Manipuri Diaspora" conveniently chose not to talk about.

Perhaps, the author maybe one of the victims of postmodernism jargon where he did not find any objective truth and clung on to his subjective experiences and constructed certain distorted facts. We find his article one sided and parochial in views on Manipuri Diasporas.

Silence might be golden but there are times when the shepherd must tend the flock and fight the wolves. This article is an attempt made by a handful of individuals to let the other side of Diaspora come out which otherwise would have been overpowered by the biased and yet half baked information provided by the author. Let the truth prevail.

We are glad that the author has kick started this storm and maybe he is right from his perspective about his opinion vis-a-vis his contacts with IT professionals but we choose to strongly disagree with his opinions conveyed in the article "The selfish Manipuri Diaspora", regarding the attitude of Manipuri IT professionals working in various parts of the world. It is not quite right to blame the so called Diasporas for not giving back to their root. It's true indeed that there is no Manipuri like Bill Gates although many have achieved significant laurels in their respective fields staying outside Manipur. But we can assure that most of the capable individuals are making their own efforts to help stem the tide at home.

After all it is not an easy task living in a strange place away from home for years together with a few days break to make a home visit. We know we stay in lucrative rooms with lots of gadgets around to enjoy but there is a difference between house and home and unfortunately we are staying in a house. We do have burning desires to smell that aromatic smell of delightful Manipuri dishes made by Emas and to get the feel of a real home. There's a rush of blood in the head on just seeing a new picture from Manipur on E-pao . Isn't this sense of deprivation a sacrifice in itself?

Perhaps the author should go through the following points to enlighten himself. Ignorance is not bliss anymore.

1)

The author of "The Selfish Manipuri Diaspora" wrote":
"But what about the pay-offs to the larger Manipuri society against individual benefits from this Great March of the Manipuri Diaspora? Almost nil."

One must understand that the currently so called Selfish Manipuri Diasporas are basically the first generation of Manipuri who are struggling to make a place in this enormous global marketplace and it is not easy.

For instance, one might think that once when someone is in America with a job, he is set for life! But that's not the case; they have just started struggling to make it. The reality is that they are beginning a life in a new environment from the beginning - from Zero! This is true everywhere except in Manipur where we have the roots and generation after generation to support us. And imagine how much one have to put in to live a decent life where he is secured. In this life there is more of how much one earns and the conversion rate.

2)

The author of "The Selfish Manipuri Diaspora" wrote":
We don't expect them to be Bill Gates and give millions in charity money. The most we expect from them is some form of concern and activism to help the limping society get up on its feet but we see none.

Bill Gates? We must say 'Timing" is everything. It should not be forgotten that he started much of his charity works to the world in 2000 after Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was formed, much after he overcame his struggling periods, to help reduce inequities in the United States and around the world. We should be proud that at least our first generation of so called Selfish Manipuri Diaspora is doing something and trying to keep the momentum.

3)

The author of "The Selfish Manipuri Diaspora" wrote":
The moment you ask them of any help in getting a job in the company where they are working, they will vanish soon never to be seen again or most likely they will mutter to you some vague explanations of how there is a financial crunch and that the company is hardly getting by and such other non-sense.

Let me tell you the real reason why Manipuris working outside Manipur have become a pretentious lot full of subterfuge to stonewall you away from them. Each of them wants to be the only Manipuri working in that great ABC Company.

In a platform like E-Pao, many people working in different IT companies post their companies' vacancies. This act of our fellow Manipuris is something that comes up of their own. Nobody dictates them to do so. This is an act of helping other Manipuris. Most of these job postings are part of referral recruitment which an aspirant cannot get it in an open job market. And many of you may be quite aware that getting a job in such companies is not similar to getting a Government job where we can use our influence to the recruiting team to select our dear and near ones. All the reputed companies work absolutely on merit basis. One cannot become an IAS officer just because he/she is a post graduate and his/her relative or a friend is an IAS officer. Of course they can give guidance to prepare for the exam. So these IT professionals are lending their helping hands to the extent they can. Off course they also have their own limitations. They cannot call the shots everywhere and every time.

4)

The author of "The Selfish Manipuri Diaspora" wrote":
This attitude is hopelessly absent among the Manipuris who want to bask in being an island, except that there is no glory.

The greater issue is that I think it is payback time for the Manipuri Diaspora. This is a moral responsibility, a question of patriotism.

"How can I be useful, of what service can I be? There is something inside me, what can it be?", the questions which rose in the mind of Vincent van Gogh rose in the minds of many Manipuri IT professionals.

There are many groups of people from IT professions who struggle formally or informally trying to help our fellow Manipuris, to guide them in the field of IT and their career. Most of the people are aware of the hectic nature of work in IT industry. But still many people from this profession are coming forward to contribute to help others. Recent event by LINUX Manipur was one great example.

"IT Talent Search" was not to show-off that some people are working in IT and earning good money. We had to cut our monthly expenditure to make the contribution. IT essentially is a middle class phenomenon and the parameters for being a middle class family in Manipur are quite different from the rest of the country. Given the circumstances we all go through more or less similar grind and share a common upbringing and background and so on and so forth. Hence, the same story holds good for most people and we are no exception.

For organizing the event "IT Talent Search", some of us didn't sleep many nights preparing question papers, maintaining websites, some got scolding from Managers in offices for we used to make plans and discuss about the event even during office hours. It would probably not be right to mention here how we went to the extent of abusing our official email IDs for managing the event. Which selfish heart in the world would ever take such risks? Which selfish soul in the world would ever do that? It can be remembered that contributors from across the globe transferred money to some account number of unknown faces to make the event a grand success without even doubting for a second.

The event was a culmination of sincere feelings and desire to help our brothers and sisters in Manipur to give them things we didn't get. We are not selfish Diasporas trying to stop our fellow Manipuris from entering into this field.

Our non-Manipuri colleagues and friends who overheard our plan, contributed so handsomely, *not for us*, but for the kids in Manipur. There are cases in which these non Manipuris have even expressed their sincere concern for the cause for which Sharmila is fasting and have even told with utmost sincerity and honesty that they will pray for peace in the land. This is because of the strong sense of presence of Manipuris in these organizations and not just a solitary soul in the ABC Company as the author mentioned.

And yes we do not bask in our glory for this is no glory but an earnest attempt to give back to our root, to our Motherland.

5) There are many people working in IT industries who come from poor family backgrounds. They struggled to get through the Entrance exam to obtain a seat in Government Engineering College for BE or MCA, went to college on scholarships and worked day and night to get a job in a reputed company. With no job after college they had to struggle with empty wallets for days in places so far away from home. Some had to take up part time jobs and attend interviews and walk-ins and compete with the best brains in the country.

* All these require enormous amount of determination, hard work and never-say-die spirits. Parent's riches or wealth cannot buy someone a job in this part of the world. It's an honest effort on his/her part to stand on his/her own. * These people know the true essence of sweat, blood and tears. Nothing in life is free.

Most of the IT workers support their siblings for education outside the state. One day those siblings are going to reiterate the process. Is not that a progressive monetary flow control?

6) IT workers get good salary because the work they do is worth that salary. They work like animals to design and write code for software modules within a very tight time constraint. This calls for hard work, extreme focus and goes through many rounds of frustrations of solving many difficult problems in order to get to the end. This shouldn't be very difficult to verify with any IT professional. They work 9 to 10 hours on normal days and if one can imagine, during customer delivery, these people churn in their chairs for 24 hours except for a few hours of nap in the office when they can find sometime. This life is full of high expectations from seniors and the frustrations and loneliness that it leads to is pretty abominable. The remuneration they get is just a little compensation for all the hardships they go through.

7) Life in IT and ITES can be considered like a life in another world. Not because of huge pay-package they draw but, because of working style and work ethics. Their life starts in office and end in office. 24X7 they think how to get their work done. The defects in the software haunt them in their dreams. They are constantly under enormous pressure of getting things done on time plus working on odd hours on many occasions. In spite of such a hectic lifestyle, devoid of any personal pleasures, they always think of Manipur whenever they get a chance and they keep sneaking for these chances to help.

8) Consider BPO workers. They are working when the rest of the world is sleeping. Don't they deserve good salary for their work and personal sacrifices!! We think they have every right to be proud of the wages earned through honesty, sincerity and sacrifices. There are dozens of Manipuris in major cities who are doing correspondence courses for finishing their master's degree. These people work at call centre at night and finance themselves for their own higher education. Is not that a good… No… a great thing for a land where the law of gun prevails and education is reduced to an affair of politics.

9) Again, these Manipuri IT and NON IT workers are working outside Manipur. Is not that a way to decongest the already piled up unemployed youth in the state. In a way these guys are giving rooms for more employment options. In return they are sending back home a part of their salary. What do we call this?

10)

The author of "The Selfish Manipuri Diaspora" wrote":
In return, we have not seen any diaspora or alumni organisation doing anything significant to give back to the society.

Besides this IT umbrella, we would like to make a point here which will be eye opening and inspiration for many readers of E-Pao. There are many school Alumni that are contributing for their school development activities like conducting seminars, lecturing the students to motivate and encourage them. These alumni are constantly in touch with the school administrations to discuss school development activities. This is definitely an example of helping Manipuris.

Alumni residing in the Indian metros, abroad and Manipur, co-ordinate very well with the school administration to discuss about development activities for schools. This is definitely an example of helping Manipuris and one such example of Alumni is the Alumni of Don Bosco, Imphal.

There are also cases of second generation Manipuris whose fathers/forefathers settled in Manipur from another state (from other Indian states like TamilNadu, Bihar, etc). They are born and brought up in Manipur and most of them had completed their schooling from an Imphal school. They play major roles in the alumni group to lend their might to develop the school and give back to the land where they were born.

11)

The author of "The Selfish Manipuri Diaspora" also wrote in reply to reader's feedback as:
...the readers seem to have concluded that the article was a tirade against the IT guys--which it wasn't. It was a general caricature of the Manipuris living in different parts of the world in as varied professions as medicine, academics, law, media and others.
  • Any Manipuri Union meeting anywhere for sure involves the topic of giving back to the roots. They may succeed or not but, we can tell for sure that the desire to help people back in Manipur is always burning in every Manipuri spread across the globe. Maybe right now there are not many instances of such sacrifices but, we can convincingly say this that it's just the tip of an iceberg.

  • Manipur Research Forum, Delhi (MRFD), tries to fill the intellectual vacuum of Manipur. The newly formed United Manipur Research's Organisation, Delhi (UMRO) is also trying to contribute in their own small ways to fellow people from Manipur.

  • Mention can be made of the help of North America Manipur Association [NAMA], separated from Manipur by more than three oceans, in re-building the Central Library, Imphal after allegedly burnt down to ashes by MEELAL activists. NAMA donated books under their project called 'Book Donation Project', a project which they wish to keep continuing.

  • E-Pao, the pioneer and most popular e-platform for the Manipuris, also donated number of books for the Central Library. In spite of knowing that they may not even get the chance to get a vacation per year for visiting Manipur, forget the library, they make a point to help in re-building the library to what they could.

  • Also, mention should be made of European Manipuri Association [EMA] and also all the various Union's of Manipuri spread across India for taking the cause of Sharmila, AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Power Act) to London and their respective states to let the world know what people back in Manipur are going through. These are sacrifices made for the cause of Manipur.

  • Diasporas during their short visit spent time with teachers and students of Manipur Universities/Colleges, sharing their corporate learning, best practices just to motivate and give hopes to the deprived students. Diasporas provide shelters and guidance to many of our friends/relatives on a personal level when they come for medical help, admission or job. Even the act of helping our families and relatives by way of providing monetary help are all selfless acts of Manipuri Diaspora.

  • Some dedicated Diasporas built school in some of most rural part of Manipur to provide quality education to underprivileged and downtrodden children in Manipur. Save Children Save Society [SACSAS ] is one of them. We know for sure how much they must have sacrificed their personal lives and important savings to reach out for the lesser privileged people in Manipur. This is an act of self and voluntary sacrifice which needs to be written down and remembered for their selfless act.

After reading the article "The selfish Manipuri Diaspora", we somehow felt that the author is depicting a wrong and a much distorted picture due mainly to his lesser exposure to this side of the world. Stories passed from mouth to mouth are generally exaggerated. So the author should have spent more time with these people for a better picture. It would have been good if both sides of the story were put across.

It would have been nice if Mr Ranjan had given a glimpse of constructive and good efforts put earnestly as contributions by these groups of people. At least readers will feel that there are people with conscience and the capacity to contribute in positive ways for Manipur. Who knows that will induce a strong message and start a chain process. They say, "The flutter of a butterfly's wings in Peru can cause a hurricane to thump the coast of Texas". This by far is a bigger event than just a butterfly's wings fluttering. We hope our message is delivered and also we are expecting another motivating article on E-pao and Sangai Express.

*** This write-up is purely the expressions of the authors below, and does not represent any group or community as such.


* Various writers contributed for this article. They are
Anjan Takhellambam (Bangalore : anjan_takhel(at)yahoo(dot)co(dot)in)
Biswajit Tayenjam (Mysore : tayenjam(at)gmail(dot)com )
Kheda Sanjenbam (Bangalore : kheda_s(at)yahoo(dot)com )
Khuman Ngakpa Oinam (Mumbai : khuman_nb(at)yahoo(dot)com)
Nilakantha Ngangbam (Ireland : ng(dot)nila(at)gmail(dot)com)
Rajen Chingakham (USA : raj(at)keyintegration(dot)com)
Ringo Pebam (Bangalore : ringo_pebam(at)yahoo(dot)com)
Sanjeev Thingnam (Delhi : sanjeevthingnam(at)gmail(dot)com)
Vimol Kshetrimayum (Pune : kvimol(at)yahoo(dot)com)
This article was webcasted on July 07th, 2007.


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