Manipur or Kangleipak, as it was formerly called, is a land of multi-ethnic groups. The Government of Manipur has recognised 32 different tribes along with the Meitei community. People have this misconception that the Meitei community is also a tribal community. But it is not. They are under the general category. Also the term Manipuri is only for the Meitei people. People of the other tribes are ‘not’ called Manipuris but by their tribe’s name.
So now, even I am from Manipur and I belong to the Meitei community. The people of Manipur are all over. Here in this country, one can find people from the state in every city and wait, not just one or two, hundreds and thousands of us. Sometimes I wonder that the small size of the state and the large population is just not proportionate.
My family shifted to Guwahati, Assam when I was in 6th standard. Initially it was a hard experience as I was completely thrown into a city of new people, culture and language. But, it did make me realise a lot of things and also miss out on a bunch of others. I did not spend my school life or teen life with Manipuri people unlike my friends in Imphal. I had friends from all parts of the country especially form Bihar which I think, helped me become a broad minded person, unlike most of my other Manipuri friends. And slowly, I realised that I was not a Manipuri guy even though it is my identity. My way of thinking, my attitude, behaviour, in short let us say everything, was not like my friends’ back in Manipur. I realised this when I went home for vacation in my 10th standard. I was not comfortable with my own childhood friends and my neighbours. The way they talked and thought was completely different. Instead, I was missing my friends back in Guwahati, all my Bihari, Assamese, Punjabi and Bengali friends. I honestly felt like an outsider in my own state. The only Manipuri thing about me was my looks, and the fact that I can speak the language. A Manipuri guy, only on the outside.
But in 2011, everything took a complete turn when I made it to the P.G Government College for Men in Chandigarh. To my surprise and utter discomfort, there were around 150 Meitei students in the first year, and there were also a whole more bunch of other North-eastern students. It felt like I was still in Manipur, not Chandigarh. I was not happy but had no options. Much to my dislike, I had to make friends with the Manipuris. But slowly, I started having the ‘Yes! I am a Meitei, screw the rest’ attitude. Not all Meiteis have this attitude. Only some, including those with whom I was friends with in Chandigarh. Before I could know it, I was kicked out from the college for having attendance shortage. Not only me, but the entire gang I must say. Studies were not in the priority list that time. Heck, I have been even slapped by a police over there. Imagine getting whacked by a big Sardar police, with their huge, gigantic hands. Well, it was because of fighting and creating nuisance after getting drunk at a peaceful residential locality of Sector-15. So, all together that city was a bad experience. My mother has this big stand that Chandigarh is one city which is a total bad luck for me.
Someone said, “Whatever happens, happens for the best” and “God always has a plan for you”. That is exactly how I felt when I came to Bangalore in 2013 and joined St. Joseph’s College. Here also, it was the same scenario as in Chandigarh. I saw too many of my own people but I would say that I was a little matured by then. I realised that we, as in the non-locals, have come over here to get exposed to a broader horizon, to get different experiences and also to develop ourselves. This could happen when we mix with various peoples from different states and culture. So, what is the point of coming all the way here leaving our comfort zones/homes and our own people and still be stuck here with our own people or tribe. That way our mind, our thinking would still remain the same.
I tried to erase all those attitudes and the racist ideas against the non-Manipuris which I had unknowingly gathered in Chandigarh. It happened easily due to the good crowd and the good vibe they create here in this college. I started to feel more comfortable with the locals rather than the students from the North-east. Started having more of local friend and less of Manipuris or Mizos or Nagas etc. Eventually I found peace with myself and my life was happy as ever.
The only thing that was in my mind when I was on my way to Bangalore was those scenes I remember from watching south Indian movies Those big guys with big moustaches wearing white shirts and dhotis with gold chains dangling from their neck. Well, those are the only vivid memory I had from watching those 2 or 3 South Indian movies during my childhood and this is what I heard from my friends during my entire school life, “Oh! What if I land up in South India? How will I adjust to their food? Those sambar, rasam, idli.” Hearing all this made me completely phobic to South Indian food. And that was precisely why I chose Chandigarh in the first place for my degree. Things didn’t work out there so Bangalore it is now and I am loving it. I don’t understand why my people don’t like South Indian food. The food around here is really good. I could survive by eating just masala dosas and coconut chutney.
And oh, how can one forget all those Khuskas, veel kababs, sheikh kababs and I could just go on. And plus they are cheap too. Those boneheads who keep yelling about and criticising South Indian food should come here and experience this cuisine. As a child, my father used to take me to a lot of places for vacations and made me eat the authentic local food and used to tell me that I should develop a taste and love for the food of the place you are in. That is probably one reason which kind of made me like South Indian or any food from any culture or state.
So, here in Bangalore, I never had any problem regarding the food unlike my North-eastern friends. If you do a survey, you will find out that more than 80 percent of the North-eastern students call home to tell their parents to send their local food every once in a while. And I have never done that. My mother’s logic is that I should not be overly attached to my home or our ethnic dishes if I want to move on in my life. One of my friends once told his mother to send pork and beef pickles along with his sweat-shirts (it was December). Apparently, what he received was fusion of both – the sweat shirt soaked in the oil from the pickle. Of course, his mother packed the bottle of pickle properly, but who knew it would turn out that way. His grey sweat shirt turned all reddish with all that oil. My roommates and I were all laughing at it while he was away sulking. At that point, I said “this is exactly why I don’t ask for food from home”.
Most of the North-eastern students here keep searching for restaurants which serve our cuisines. I have never done that. Only twice have I been to this restaurant called ‘Zingron’ in Koramangala where they serve Manipuri and Naga cuisines. And such a waste of money. Those things which we get back in home for 30-40 rupees are sold in such restaurants for 100 rupees and more. Why would people go there and spend such amounts of money, just because they are craving for home food.
I have been to a lot of places in India, but honestly, Bangalore is the place I love the most. I love it so much that I am even thinking of settling here. One thing which really attracted me to this city is the kindness and respect of the people, in general. Of course there are people who bully people from the North-east, but one can find such people everywhere and anywhere in the country. Here in Bangalore, people have a welcoming heart and acceptance. One time, I was in an ICICI ATM booth near the college and there were a lot people waiting in the queue. This man came up to me and said, “If you are late for class, you can take my spot.” I was so surprised. That was something which I have never experienced. In Chandigarh, the local people never gave us any importance. My friends were told to back off from their spots in ATM booth queues. It was because they thought they could bully and have their way around people from our region.
But still, Bangalore is not our place. We are still outsiders and should not take advantage of the kindness the people show us. I learnt this lesson when I nearly got beaten up by the Anglo-Indians at Austin Town. And again, it was a drunken state incident like the one in Chandigarh .One late night, my friend and I got drunk and we threw the empty bottles and urinated at the neighbour’s terrace. What happened next was the scariest moment in my life. Some 10-15 people shouted at us and came to the front of P.G yelling at us. We didn’t go out and just kept quiet. Otherwise we would have been dead. Next morning, the locals were throwing stones at the P.G. I didn’t go around that neighbour’s house for a month. That fear made me reduce my drinking to a great extent. So, one can imagine how the scene was that night.
But there is a particular category of people here in Bangalore who makes me angry almost all the time. I am sure others will also agree with me on this. These people are the bus conductors. They are just too rude and annoying and have no respect. They just keep shouting at the passengers with that ‘I-hate-my-job-what-am-I-doing-here’ face. One time I was on my way to Whitefield where I witnessed the most splendid reaction to a bus conductor’s rude behaviour. This man was sitting peacefully listening to songs in his headphones. The bus conductor comes up and starts yelling at him for the ticket. From my little understanding of Kannada, I could figure that out. He was probably telling the guy that he should come up and buy the ticket. That ticked the guy off. He gets up and he is not just a regular size guy. He was at least 6 feet tall with huge body. And what we saw made everyone go ‘Wow! That is some tight slap’. Yes, he literally slapped the conductor (which I thought he should not have done). He then yells at the conductor with a voice double the power of the conductor’s. He told the conductor to speak with respect and kindness and not by shouting. He lectured the poor conductor for a while. In my mind I was like, he is the man.
My short journey around few cites in India has been amazing but nothing can be compared to Bangalore even though my friends keep telling me that Pune is better than Bangalore. These two years in Bangalore has been the best time in my life and I still look forward to continue living here in future. And Chandigarh is something which I am just trying to shove it down memory-waste-bin.
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