Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Pay us or face the music

“Pay 50 lakhs or face action.” A common threat that the people of Manipur get every now and then from the mushrooming militants in the state. Hurling a Chinese-made hand grenade at residences has become an easy way to extort money from the well-known personalities of the state.

Due to this violent act of the militants, many have been killed and hundreds have been injured till date. Ministers, bureaucrats, engineers, doctors, lecturers amongst others are the main targets of grenade attacks carried out by the militants. The grenade hurling incident has become such a day-to-day affair that even the local newspapers carry the news report in a single column. The latest attack is the one on Friday where a Chinese hand grenade was found at the residence of L Jayantakumar Singh, Health Minister of Manipur at Pishumthong, Imphal East. It was later diffused and disposed by the bomb experts of Manipur Police, according to a report.

However, Chongtham Ranabir, Executive Engineer IFCD is not as lucky as Minister Jayantakumar as one security guard was killed and other four were injured on a grenade attack carried out by unidentified militants on February 11 at his residence in Singjamei, Imphal West. An eye-witnessed said, “Two unidentified man on a motor-bike hurled the grenade from the front side of the engineer's residence.” But it was not a first attack on his premises but the grenades have been hurled on four more occasions as well. Ranabir told media that he has been receiving monetary demands from various militant groups. The undergrounds are after him to get contract works on favour of their fellow men, revealed Ranabir.

As a reaction to the rampant attacks, locals have been staging protests on streets and have been demanding to stop this violent way to extort money immediately. The Apunba Lup (Joint Action committee) of Khetrigao Leikei in Imphal staged a protest against the grenade attack at the residence of A R Khan, an IAS officer. The officer's house too faced a grenade attack earlier on January. Meena Begum, a member of the Apunba Lup said, “We are strictly against this kind of attacks where lives of many are at stake. We demand quick action from the militants to stop such acts immediately.”

Buying a perfect groom

Sale, sale, sale! buy one, get 50% off, seasonal discount up to 70% . Yeah, yeah, you got it right. It's a season of discounts and sale. You can avail anything you want at anytime but of course *conditions apply*. Search, select and buy from any nearby market or just surf the net then click the mouse and buy what you want virtually. Wait, wait, you people must have misinterpreted me, I am not talking about the ongoing sale in the mushrooming malls, but the sale of grooms in our developing country since time immemorial.

You don't believe me? You ought to trust me on this. However, you need to shell out those hard earned savings of your parents and yours too to get what you want (here comes that *conditions apply*).

Well, the other day this friend of mine was surfing the net with full concentration. She was too lost on it that she couldn't notice my presence in the room at all. Damn! She was surfing some matrimonial site.

Reena! You getting married? I shouted.

Shocked at my presence and shout, she scolded me and said no to my question.

Why were you surfing that flashy matrimonial site then? I curiously inquired.

Obviously searching for my perfect groom, was her reply.

Totally a gone case she is, I thought. Yes, I was confused as this newly schizophrenic friend first said that she was not getting married and then told me she was searching for a groom that too a perfect one. I mean what she was up to with man, only God knew.

Holding two hot coffee cups in her hands, she told me as she gave away my cup that she needs to find her soul-mate soon.

Look dear, I am 22 turning 23 in few days. As you know that I hail from such a place that finding a perfect groom is a Herculean task. Worst it is when one has so many boundations on the lines of caste, community, creed, profession and so on and so forth. And I being a teacher I want my to-be hubby to be well-educated as well. However, it's too tough a task to find a perfect combination of rich yet qualified, same caste but different gotra (sub-caste), similar community handsome man in today's time.

You know what, 50 lakhs is the rate of a PCS officer nowadays, she told me with a drooping face.

I said, “Excuse me, what do you mean by the rate?”

Ignoring my question, she told me that she has decided to opt for a teacher instead as it would cost her less. “You know, I always wanted to marry a civil servant but guess I have to compromise,” she told me sadly .

“20 lakhs is a huge amount dear, I can get a lecturer husband instead of a PCS one in just 30 lakhs,” she further told me.

Cases of infanticide, female foeticide, burning females to death and the like perhaps have surged due to the above, I pondered.

“So you were asking about the rates?”finally she remembered that she owed me an answer.

“Yes?”I replied enthusiastically.

“As I already told you one needs to arrange 50 lakhs to get a PCS officer but if you want an IAS officer then you ought to shell out another 20-30 lakhs from your parents' saving accounts,” she told me.

“40 lakhs for a doctor groom, 30 lakhs for a lecturer, same for the software engineer, 15 lakhs for a primary teacher, 10 for a shopkeeper....,” and she continued listing the rates.

“Wait, wait, wait, what about a journalist hubby? It's nowhere in your list,” I asked ( I ought to ask this for the obvious reason, hey don't take it otherwise, I am talking about my profession here)

"No Idea,” she failed to tell me.

"Get Idea,” I told. She told me she loves Airtel ( poor joke)

By the way it's so embarrassing that people don't consider our profession, journalists as a serious one. I mean what the hell yaar...Many Reenas are searching for IAS officers, doctors, teachers among others but no journalists...ammm...sad, I am now.

After searching several colourful matrimonial sites, finally Reena decided to zero down a lecturer as her 'perfect groom'.

By the way, forgot to tell you all that she got a 5% discount on her hubby as she is a platinium card-holder of The matrimonial site offered to negotiate the groom's price with the latter's family.

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Dear Tropicana, I can't leave you

A small packet of juice and a plate of maggi fill my stomach every morning in the office. I know mine is not a healthy breakfast. Barring maggi, the remaining menu, yes, only the juice is healthy (I go for Tropicana always, you know brand matters). Na na, neither I am going for a zero figure nor my intention is to bore you people by discussing my diet here. But, this time I am gonna talk about some serious issue, and what can be more serious than the Budget. Yes, I will be talking about the budget, not just the country's but my monthly one as well.

As usual, I ordered a small packet of Tropicana and maggi today. After relishing my share of breakfast, I went to pay the bill.

How much Yadav jee? I asked.

42 rupees only for today and Rs 222 for the previous day, he told.

How come 42 (seems 42 was more than 222 for me)? I inquired.

Arey madam, 20 for maggi and 22 for juice, he explained.

What? 22 rupees? Kaise? How come? I fumed.

Madam, mandee ki meharbaani hai (he means it's due to the inflation, a friend of mine explained), he said.

Gosh, he knows what inflation is, I thought. And it's called mandee in vernacular (thanks Yadav jee for enhancing my knowledge of Hindi).

From 15 to 18 and now 22 rupees per packet, this is truly a height.

For the very first time, inflation hit me and has hit me really hard. I was never that sad when the price of onion sky-rocketed last month. May be I hardly consume onion, but the rise in price of juice will surely affect me a lot. This has made me think over those lot who have been suffering due to this mandee for months now.

Sipping to my favourite Tropicana juice will cost me more now, I wonder. But I promise, I am not going to stop drinking it come what may as it's a healthy practice (my dear papa told me). What will happen at the max? I may have to shell out extra money from my limited salary, right? Oh oh, this is going to be so hard...Rs 4 more I have to pay, bad and sad it is! Well...Okay, I am ready to pay it provided the rate remains constant for at least a year or till I get a hike in my salary. I wish my voice could be heard by our hon'ble Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. But he's busy thinking over onions, tomatoes, economy and the like. Will my Tropicana juice be figured on his list? I hope and wish it does.

Basically, my point is that I want this year Budget to be middle-class friendly so that I, like many others, could at least sip a Tropicana juice without paying much heed to the price and the tax and the other hidden prices amongst others.

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Monday, February 14, 2011

I am Aarushi's soul

One fine day, I got up just to see my throat-slit. I saw my dead body lying in my bed. Since then I (Aarushi's soul) am not able to rest in peace. I am in deep pain. Why are media, CBI and others not letting me rest in peace? Dear all, I am as confused as you are. I have no clue how I was killed. But it doesn't mean that the CBI, media or police can harass my parents.

It's been three years now and my killer is still at large. I wonder why the law enforcement agencies have not been able to nab him even after so many days. Ammm...well, I can recall my days in the school. It was General Knowledge class and the teacher was telling us that the CBI is the top investigating agency of our country. That they have solved several impossible crime cases.

But in my case, the CBI has failed to arrest the murderer(s), instead they have filed a closure report. Their failure has forced me to doubt my GK teacher's words, though unwillingly (but then, teachers are always right). Well, it's too confusing. Seriously, I am in a dilemma whether to trust my teacher or my perception of the agency.

I was taught that it's all about loving our parents - a sub-title of one of my favourite movies. And I love my parents as any other child would do no matter how their parents are. It's too hard to see my parents suffer because of me. I am hurt to see my dad taking rounds of court, police station, CBI headquarters, clarifying things to media and so on and so forth. Now, that I am no more in the world and my parents are suffering my loss, I sincerely request you to stop harassing them (I wish you could hear me. Deep pain that I am in. Please help rest my soul in peace).

Catch 22: Waiting for my V-Day rose

Roses, roses everywhere not a single one for me. I have been craving for a dedicated red rose but none has given one to me. Well, before anyone starts showering sympathy on me for not having received a single rose till date, let me first clarify that I am talking about a Valentine’s Day rose here. Two decades and two years have passed, precisely 22 Valentine’s Days have gone by since I first stepped on this mighty world (how silly I am, revealed my age for it!), but I am yet to receive a red rose on this celebrated day of love.

“So you mean you never had a boyfriend in your life?” asked a colleague of mine. "Oh! you never have got a Valentine’s rose as well," he taunted.

“Of course not”, was my reply.

"Oh lady, don’t make me confused," he said.

"I am not making you confused," I murmured.

“What? What did you say right now?” asked he.

"What do you mean? You never had a boyfriend or never got a rose," he shot.

With a half-hearted smile, I told him that I have no intention to make him confused rather I wanted him to know that I have got end number of bouquets, countless dark chocolates, fancy dresses, golden rings, silver chains, watches, cakes and what not; got all of these either on my birthday or New Year or Eid or Diwali or Holi and so on and so forth but unfortunately not on Valentine’s Day.

“Hmmm…so sad”, he consoled me which sounded more of a taunt to me.

"Listen dude, don’t pity me," I told him.

Not getting a red rose or for that matter any other gifts on Valentine’s Day doesn’t necessarily mean that I have had or have no boyfriend(s). On the contrary, I have had enough of them, I told him with my chin up.

Scratching his head, he asked if you had so many BFs than how come you never received any gifts on Valentine’s Day for 22 long years.

"Dude, I am not discussing gifts here, only roses that too red one I am talking about," I told him.

I remember when I was in VIII standard, one of my close buddies came near my house and blushingly gifted me a packet of Chinese chewing gum that day.

I asked him, “Yaar, what’s the occasion, why this gift?”

Too shy to say anything, he just wished me Happy Valentine’s Day and sped away on his TVS Scooty.

Yes, it was my first Valentine’s Day gift ever but sans that red rose. Many came and went(talking about BFs here), however, I never got a red rose till today.

Perhaps it’s because every V-Day was always an off-season of love for me, either I had just broke up with a guy or had a major fight in and around the day. And I am denied that red rose every single time.

“Oh…poor you,” my colleague solaced me. His solace forced me to think that I am really poor and I couldn’t receive any red rose till now. If I am that unlucky that in this 22 years of my existence I couldn’t deserve a 10-rupee rose, yes the red one. Ammm …he’s right, I am poor then.

By the way, let me admit that the imported chewing gum, yes the Chinese one, gifted by that buddy of mine is the only V-Day gift I received so far; though I have got many gifts on various occasions, getting gifts on a special day like V-Day helps love bloom like anything, I heard someone saying it.

Although I believe that Valentine’s Day is not the only day to express love to one another, yet I feel celebrating love on a designated day adds spice to lovers’ life, one feels very special (yes, I felt excited and special to have got that packet of Chinese gum).

Jinx seems vowed not to end this time too, on this Valentine’s Day I am working in the office with no rose, I mean red rose on my way. It seems I am not waiting for my V-Day rose from a true lover but waiting for *Godot. I wish my Godot soon arrives.

(*Godot is a character in Samuel Beckett’s novel ‘Waiting for Godot’ in which two protagonists wait endlessly in vain for Godot to arrive.)

Sunday, February 6, 2011

I'm a Hindu-Muslim-Punjabi-Manipuri

So you are a Manipuri? Yes, I am. But then, why don't you have 'chinky' eyes? How can you speak Hindi so fluently? These are the common questions which I have been shot at wherever I go. Then the whole process of explaining my identity takes place. It goes like...well, I am a Manipuri, born and brought up in Manipur, but my origin is of Punjab. As soon as they hear this word Punjab, their level of curiosity rises and before I could complete my explanation, they would shoot another one - Punjabi, you?

Yes, I am a Punjabi as well as Manipuri, I would reply every single time. My ancestors came to Manipur eight decades ago from a village called Majitha located in Amritsar, Punjab. Surprised to know my origin, they would react, 'Great! now, we know the secret of your Non-Chinky eyes'.

The curiosity of this inquisitive lot doesn't end here. They would question me more as if they are some CBI agents and I am an accused of some murder case or so! For instance, they would ask, Why your ancestors left Punjab? Why they came to Manipur? If you are a Manipuri then do you eat pork and dog? Well, I failed to understand how they so beautifully connect Manipuri or any other Chinkies with dogs and porks. Perhaps, they might have come across people who enjoy eating those non-vegs or is it that Chinkies do not have any other unique features apart from their chinky eyes and being dog-eater ? I can only wonder. May be, these lot aren't aware of the progress that these chinky eyes people have made. May be, World Boxing Champ Mary Kom, CWG Gold Medalist Suranjoy Singh are just another dog-eaters for them.

While wondering which one to answer first, one would again question me, Have you ever tasted dog meat or pork? Annoyed with their stupid questions, I would reply promptly that I am a Muslim and pork is haraam (forbidden) in Islam. Silence would prevail for some time, and I know what made them speechless. Yes, I being a Muslim is another shocker for them.

Even if they are confused with my identity so far, they would never stop inquiring. Now, their target is to find out what I speak- Urdu is what you speak, right?, they would ask. Big no is always my reply. I know it's a common confusion that Urdu is the language of Muslim. Here, I would like to clarify that Urdu is not every Muslim speaks (though majority knows the language). I speak Manipuri as it's my mother tongue and a Muslim in Kerala would converse in Malayalam, same goes with Kashmiri Muslims, they would obviously talk in Kashmiri not in Urdu.

To satiate their curiosity of my origin, I would start explaining my family tree. Basically, my ancestors were Hindu of high caste from Undivided Punjab. Yes, they were Brahmin and converted to Islam way back in 19th century. During the partition, my great grandfather preferred Manipur to any other place in India or rather Pakistan as Manipur then was a tranquilled land ('was' because the adjective is no more valid with the advent of militancy) and is really close to nature. Shocker again for them, this time it's the Hindu connection that was surprising to them.

Confused with the bombardment of information, they would ask me to stop. And they would conclude by themselves that you are a Punjabi Manipuri Muslim now residing in Delhi. Ammm...No, I said and corrected- I am a Hindu-turned-Muslim-Punjabi-Manipuri now planning to settle in Delhi. And that's my identity or is it an Identity in crisis? I wonder.