Rajendra Kshetri's Letters from the Republic of Dust : A Review
- Part 1 -

Maisnam Susmina *

The North East part of India has its majestic beauty, diverse culture, unique civilization, beautiful and peaceful landscape, artful and skilled people, with rich handicrafts and handloom. Despite its rich flora and fauna, abundant natural resources with its highly skilful people, and a literacy rate of 76.94 percent as per the 2011 census, Manipur is facing the unemployment problem.

Manipur remains a socio-economically backward State compared to the remaining part of India. The Central Government assists the people because of its low capital formation and practically no industrialization.

What worsens the situation is the additional lack of a commercial base and the absence of private ownership of enterprises. And there is a 'price tag' on the Government job despite the limited job opportunity in the public sector.

Corruption, nepotism, bribery, and favoritism are not new phenomena. As a result, people, especially youth who cannot buy jobs, get involved in illegal and immoral activities for easy money leading to drug trafficking and even prostitution.

Robbery, drug addiction, alcoholism, domestic violence, and suicide are the usual outcomes. North East India comprising eight States has fewer representatives in the Parliament and as such; the Central Government generally dodges the entire North East.

The lack and low participation in the decision-making body of the country make the region alienated from mainland India. There have been distress and dissatisfaction among the people to assert their identities.

This distress amongst the people has risen at different points of time. It is not a new issue that young people from North East States searching for better opportunities for education or jobs are being ill-treated and racially discriminated.

Rajendra Kshetri's "Letter from the Republic of Dust" is a barded eye-opener, which prods us out of our dormancy, making the book unique in its ways. It is a book embracing different social-political considerations which the author scrutinizes over the past few years.

With the book's title, one may feel a little skeptical, but as one goes through the chapters, one finds a sense of delight in savoring the under currents between the lines. The book is a compilation of articles that the author has published in The Sangai Express (both English and Manipuri edition), "Frontier," "Manipur Today," and "Imphal Recorder" over a period of time.

Starting with a Prelude to his "Nungshiba Marup," the author in his forerun reflects his ideas, admiration, and deep affection for reading the most treasured books of all times. Like a quilt, the book is woven with different issues of National and local events, highlighting to the readers of its happenings.

The book consists of two sections with a prelude analyzing the various topics from People's Voices, the Antecedents of Governments, Fiftieth Independent India and the People, Irawat and Meitei Nationalism, from PLA to MLA, Peripheral India, and Indo-Manipur Conflict from a civilizational perspective and many more. Without revealing much and keeping the momentum of reading a new and this marvelous work for other readers, here is a little write-up of how I feel about the book.

As I go through the lines and pages, I find the author's remarks wise crack with a sense of humor. Substantially, the author urges his desire to his friends of mainland India (which the author calls the land of 5Cs; Corruption, Commission, Committee, Cricket, and Coalition) to visit and witness the reality and overcome the distorted stereotypes which they carry.

Throughout the chapters, the author has an utmost disquietude on Corruption, Commission, Committee, Cricket, and Coalition. In his lines, the author reveals the attitudes and convictions attached to the people and the land of Manipur by the mainland person, which is expressed metaphorically and sarcastically. The book is more like a letter to break the stereotypes attached to them.

"You see, 'dust' had made them blind, irrational, illogical, insane, but at the same time strengthened their perseverance and resilience- the two elements of development…."(p.3)

What interests me more is that theauthor praises this little land called Manipur that lies in the corner of India, but he also lambasts it, making a wise juxtaposition of the facts he encountered. The author's 'Republic of Dust' is none other than Manipur, the paradise on Earth.

The book also has a solid metaphoric figuration, as mentioned above. It parables "dirtyisation" and "dirtism" as a process and a way of life for the people in the "Republic of Dust." I feel the book is not only to convince the mainland people of the reality of the State but also to remind the people of Manipur (best described as the "Land of Khadaangs" (p. 17) how blind, irrational, illogical, and insane we are.

Again one cannot say much but agree with the author because, for the past 26 years of my stay here on this mother Earth, We "Imphal Macha" have been under the menace of air pollution.

The 'charming lofty height' has witnessed air pollution, crowds, congestion, exposure to dirt and dust, and unregulated traffic jam. Some people think of the degradation just as a shaggy-dog story. So, the question is, "Are we blind by the dust and dirt"?

One of the best parts of the chapters is "Manipur Quiz Two Thousand Two" (parts 1, 2, and 3), (p. 52), where there is a quiz competition among the Upper Class, Middle Class, Lower Class, and the Student Community. The quiz is open to all the people above 18 (citizens who can vote) irrespective of Caste, Creed, Sex, and religion.

The Upper Class is the well-to-do class in our society with money that provides material goods and lots of power. The author gives us light on how the different strata react and respond to different issues in Manipur. Through the quiz, the author gives the readers a light on how the student community is participating and aware of the State's happenings, described as the 'Kingdom of Babupara Babus' (p.4).

The book emphasizes directly as a social commentary, cementing the concept of a link between different sections of people in Manipur. Talking about the "KINGDOM OF BABUPARA" one cannot but love the simple aphorism the book conveys in one of its chapters called the People's Chief Minister (p.79).

The author also opines with a dose of sarcasm that the collated group (whatever party it may be) will sit together on the same bench practicing the same old political games. There will be no opposition worth its name in the House.

The author talks about two types of politicians: Political leaders and Political dealers. Political leaders are true leaders who think for the welfare and the betterment of the people and society.

The latter politicians are the people that work in the interest of themselves. They are ignorant and care less about the welfare of the people. They are more interested in accumulating their wealth. And most of the politicians in Manipur are in the second category, which has worsened the situation in Manipur.

to be continued.....

* Maisnam Susmina wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The reviewer is a Research Scholar in the Department of Sociology, Manipur University, Imphal
This article was webcasted on June 03 2022.

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