Manipur burns in hell - This is how it started!

Manipur burns in hell - This is how it started!

Nagas, Kukis and other smaller tribes inhibit the hill areas of Manipur, India. One of the highly neglected North East states by the Central Government. Meiteis inhibit the valley (Imphal, the capital city). There's a small percentage of tribals who live in Imphal and a small percentage of Meiteis live in the hill areas as well. 

To understand what's going on; we would have to go back a little into the history. I'll try to be brief as possible. I know, nobody wants to read a long article anyway.

What really started this incident?

Kukis have been demanding a districthood for a very long time now. They even went on to block the roads for 4 months which is a life line for daily goods to the valley from other states such as Bihar, UP, etc. The economic blockade threw the city into a total chaos then. The Manipur Govt was forced to sign an MOU and agreed to declare Sadar Hills as a districthood much to the dismay of the Nagas. You could read a little about this economic blockade here and how the Meitei people and the tribals living in Imphal valley were hurt: http://iitian.me/blog/imphal-manipur-a-desperate-cry

How are Nagas involved?

Land, the root of all tribal problems. The Nagas claim that parts of the proposed 2 districts; Jiribam and Sadar Hills district belong to the Naga people and a chunk of the Naga ancestral land would be carved out and given away. This proposal is unacceptable to the Nagas and the protest in the form of economic blockade began under the banner of the United Naga Council (UNC) on October 30, 2016. The Manipur Govt arrested the UNC leader but the economic blockade continues.

Imphal, the capital city is not self sustainable

Sadly, that's the truth and daily supplies depend heavily on the goods brought in from other states and passes through the Naga and Kuki areas. With no alternative roads, prices in the valley began to shoot up as the roads are blocked. Economics 101. Petrol began to be sold at Rs 200 and the rest of the essential goods, I leave that to your imagination. The Imphal valley is once again thrown into a chaotic situation with limited stock and high prices.

Amidst all this, the Manipur Government decided to give 7 new districts instead of the proposed 2 districts. A lot of the Nagas are happy with this new decision. The Kukis had nothing to lose and so are the Meiteis except the few Meitei population who lives in the hills and will now come under the different districts. The Nagas decided to intensify the stir!! The tribal insurgency groups went to the extend of attacking army convoys killing a few Indian Army jawans.

Meiteis grew impatient and rightly so

Since a lot of tribal villages depend heavily on the goods and services from Imphal, the Meitei people in the valley decided to start a counter-economic blockade. A strategic move. They blocked all the commercial vehicles from Imphal to the Naga tribal villages as a form of protests against the Nagas' economic blockade. This adds fuel to the fire but with no results. The Kukis are happy. The Nagas are still upset. The Meitei people in the valley grew extremely impatient. The government failed to bring a viable solution. The meitei people instead of understanding the situation of the Nagas and help urge the Manipur Government to find a solution went against the Nagas and took matters into their own hands.

What's happening now?

The Meiteis intensified their counter economic blockade against the Nagas travelling between Imphal and their villages for Christmas holidays. Thousands from the villages come to Imphal for Christmas shopping during December every year and the Meitei protesters did what they did as shown in the national media today: Bombs are thrown at some strategic Naga leader houses, some churches are burned and shut down, tribal vehicles are torched and damaged, new clothes and all items including food items for Christmas are thrown about and burned, tribals are stranded, internet is shut down in most parts of Manipur, etc etc. It is the classic case; "an eye for an eye". Meitei people now targets every Nagas travelling and not just the commercial vehicles.

Where's the solution to the Manipur problem?

With the coming elections; the Chief Minister of Manipur, Ibobi Singh from the Congress party has been in power for the last 15 years. However, several prominent Congress leaders have resigned in the recent months citing one reason or the other (to join BJP stating the obvious). Money talks during elections. He is desperate to win another election.

Talks and compromise would be the only solution however, nobody seems to be interested in it; Nagas, Kukis or the Manipur Government. If the talks between these three parties come to an agreeable solution; the Nagas would withdraw their economic blockade and the rest falls into line.

Update: It has become evident that the UNC would not stop and would continue the protest through the Christmas and New Year which is the most important festival of the Nagas. Looks like a tough time awaits the people of Manipur. UNC has clarified time and again that their protest is against the Government of Manipur and not the Meitei people or the tribals living in the valley. 

PS: Please excuse any typo. I'm blogging this from my phone.

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Why I decided against buying a car for myself

Why I decided against buying a car for myself

I have been driving since 2006. Yes, it’s been 10 years now. I started driving without a Driving License like everyone, no points for guessing. My first drive was my sister’s Maruti Zen in Hyderabad and the passion for driving escalated within no time. I’ve driven cars from the humble Maruti Zen to Mercedes Benz/Audi and oh yeah, Ferarri included on the list for a few minutes if that counts. I have driven up to a maximum speed of over 180km/hr and pretty proud of it; life threatening as it may but one doesn’t think too much in such situations. I’m a responsible driver now.

Coming to the real question as to why I decided against buying a car is for the fact that I don’t travel much. Here’s some refined reasons that would most likely change your mind:

A humble car today cost about Rs 5,00,000 and after about 5 years, you can sell it off for about Rs 2,00,000. So you actually spend Rs 3,00,000 on your brand new car. Estimating that, you spend Rs 164 per day for 5 years. Go read the next paragraph unless you are interested in the details. The yearly insurance for your car is roughly around Rs. 50,000 for 5 years put together which means you are paying Rs 27 each day. For a daily commute of roughly 30 km in a city with a mileage of 15 kmpl, the daily fuel costs (petrol/diesel or CNG) you spend around Rs 100 and of course, Rs 0 on days you don't drive. Looking at the quality of our Indian roads, one is forced to change the tyres and the battery at least once in 5 years. So, that will cost you around Rs 15,000. Hence you spend Rs. 8 per day. Car owners in India know the fact that automobile dealers give a false fact of "Zero Maintenance Cost" for 3 years or 50,000 km first and one ends up paying about Rs 3000-5000 per year. This is roughly Rs 10 per day. Never buy a car by taking a loan, it is a very expensive affair but if you are a salaried person, how else would you be able to afford a car? The interest for car loans at 9.70% on Rs 5,00,000 is Rs 132 per day. You can perhaps get a better deal but I'm taking this as the current market rate for SBI and calculating it based upon it.

So in total, you are spending a minimum of Rs (164 + 27 + 100 + 8 + 10) = Rs 309 when you are driving. If you aren't driving and have your car park outside, you are still paying Rs 209 per day!

If you take a loan, you are adding an extra Rs 132 and hence you are spending Rs (309 + 132) = 441 on week days and on days when you don't drive, you still pay Rs 341 each day.

PS: I’m considering that you don’t get into any type of accident or get into trouble with traffic laws.

Is taking Ola or Uber a viable option then?

I get them within minutes and they are pretty cheap as compared to other private means of transport. Sure, there’s auto/bus and metro but with these guys, I can travel wherever and whenever I want. Yes, there are frustrating times dealing with the drivers but driving your own car and negotiating with the other drivers on the road is a LOT more frustrating experience.

An American friend once said, “You have to be drunk to drive in India” and I laughed but over the years, I realized how serious and truthful he was. It is a nightmare to drive in India when you compare to driving elsewhere.

Also, parking is a lot of problem in metro cities. One could end up negotiating with your neighbour’s car everyday. As frustrating as dealing with cab drivers!

If you book a cab for a 30 km ride on Uber Go or Ola Micro/Mini, you spend about Rs 350. It gets a bit cheaper if you opt for Uber Pool or Ola Share. Yes, it doesn’t make much difference if you take a cab everyday on these apps as compared to having a private car but personally, I don’t commute as much. I spend just about Rs 500 per week or less since my office is at a walking distance and most times, I work from home.

However, if my office is located 15km away and I have to commute 30km everyday, I would prefer changing my job or move closer to the office than drive in a congested traffic filled roads. Driving is a pleasure when one is driving a luxury car but even then, not so much when it becomes a daily chore.

What about quick weekend getaways or long drives?

In such situations which happen rarely, I like to rent a car from places like Zoomcar or Volar. One can easily book a decent car for Rs 2500/day or a luxury car that cost over Rs 30 lakhs for just about Rs 5000/day. It’s simple and straight forward assuming you don’t get into accidents.

Let me end with this:

If you drive more than 30km per day for whatever reasons or have a family, it makes sense to get your own car. I can’t argue with that. Buying a second hand car also makes a lot of sense in my opinion if you really want a car. You could check out Spinny for certified used cars.

However, with Delhi NCR traffic problems, I wish the government could do more with regards to road conditions and public transports. Pollution is another factor we have to keep in mind. Having said that, there’s so much a government can do unless we do our bit.

If you think owning a car is a social status, you better own a Ferarri.

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A trip to Liangchi village, Manipur

A trip to Liangchi village, Manipur

It all began when our beloved Liangmai elder passed away in his sleep after a prolonged illness in the early morning hours. Mr Achong, the only special contractor and highly respected elder in my Liangmai community. He was one of the founding fathers of the Liangchi village and also one of the early members and initiators of the Liangmai Baptist Church, Imphal.

I was on my terrace practicing martial arts as usual around 8am when I heard the news from Vicky. I took a quick warm bath and left for his place with my Dad in Dewlahland which is about 2km away. There, I met my church youth and we all decided to travel to his village, Liangchi to pay our last respects along with his grandson. After taking due permissions from our respective parents, we started our journey driven by Vicky to Liangchi village which is about 110km from Imphal at about 1:30pm and reach late into the night at around 6pm to be greeted by the mourning village elders at the village community hall, the roads being pretty dusty and bumpy, we couldn’t drive faster than 30kmph! Sitting in the front with Vicky was Bambam, the grandson. Six of us sat at the back of the Gypsy. Christina, Khollung, Pipi, Livingstone, Belakbou and me. We also stopped at Benna village for a short prayer service which lasted about 15 minutes. 

After the prayer service in the community hall of the Liangchi village and his friends & families saying a few words, he was finally buried in the village cemetery located about 300m from the village. The night ended with a grand feasts from the family beside the bonfire. Spoke to his grand daughter, Kokko to give us a tour of the village in the morning and she agreed. 5 of us, boys, were accommodated in the church office. Bambam slept elsewhere. The two girls, Christina and Khollung went to their friends’ place. The village authority arranged us beds with clean blankets enough to keep us warm and cosy. The arrangement was way better than we had expected. It was a very dusty road and we needed to get freshen up before going to bed and so went to the water tank which comes directly from the hill top spring, it was just too cold. Pipi who went in first to have a head-bath exclaimed, “I can’t feel my head and hands anymore” and we all had a hearty laughed at his reaction. Oh boy, he wasn’t kidding!! We all came back together and after a good discussion about various topics with Belakbou and Vicky, we all went to sleep around 3am in our comfortable beds. Pipi and Livingstone who slept early woke us up in response to our LOUD discussion the night before. Revenge. Too little too late :D

After we got freshen up using that freezing cold spring water, we went down to the community hall. Lunch was already ready!!! 9am!! Yes 9am!! I was looking forward to check out the village. As we ate, I saw Kokko again. She’s beautiful. After the light lunch, we toured the village. It is not plain but not hilly either, sloppy at best. The church is located at the top and the pastor’s quarter is more than impressive. Most of the houses are built with wood and tin roofs. The timber business much to my dismay and horror seems to be doing well. At the far end of the village bottom lies the spectacular River Ahangki. I wanted to swim in it but oh dear, the water was freezing. Walking bare feet in the river for a few seconds was cold enough, swimming was beyond options.  

We then visited the grave again, took a few pictures and eight of us finally decided to head out. A long journey awaited us. We took off the Gypsy cover, stood up and sang some “fake” songs heartily along the road cautioning a bit at Kuki villages, took a few pictures along the road and finally reached Imphal around 6pm. It was 30 hours well spent. Oh Memories :)

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Winter holidays in Imphal, Manipur

Winter holidays in Imphal, Manipur

Wow! does not describe the awesome holiday this winter has been. It breaks my heart as I depart from this place again. Wonderful people, made a few new friends, late night bonfires singing tribal songs!!, fancied a beautiful girl who already has a boyfriend and another who is single but unavailable for me, courtesy my great looks perhaps, shot dad’s gun for the first time, ate many available delicious local delicacies, went driving to all the 4 corners of the state, tease some girls on the road as is the trend of the most local boys, read news about NSCN (IM) being chased away by the Sumi people which is a joy to the already joyous Christmas and a New Year and the list goes on.

Right now, I’m at the newly approved Imphal International Airport and my Air India flight has been delayed. The staff didn’t bother to inform me of their delay prior to my arrival else I would be happier at home although the girls in the airport today seems like a real feast to the eyes LOL! Last night, I watched the movie “United 93”, thanks to my good friend, Yaruiso who gave me a copy. It was a BAD idea LOL. For those who hasn’t seen the movie, it’s about the Sept 2011 attacked by the Al-Qaeda in the US soil and this particular flight crashed landed, thanks to the passengers who acted in time to save the terrorists from reaching its target which is probably the US Capitol Building. Nobody survived the incident. Hope the flight is pleasant haha.. If you are reading this, it means I made it back to Delhi haha

I would like to thank Pipi, Belakbou, Vicky, Nehemiah, Wilam, Christina, Andrew, Abang, my sis Asuang, Yaruiso, the girl in pink who must not be named, and the great church youth for the awesome December.

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The trip to Delhi that wasn’t

The trip to Delhi that wasn’t

Bid farewell to my friends and family with a heartbreak and finally headed out by auto to the airport since there’s nobody to drive the car at home, the brand new Imphal International Airport. Mum and Dad left for village to meet the long lost family clan the day before and there’s no network or phone connectivity there. In fact, there’s no proper road connecting those villages. I was suppose to go with them too as per the plan but the change in their schedule cancelled all of it. I was suppose to go hunting and had bought bullets worth Rs 1000, see the abandoned village my grandparents often talked about and see how and where my parents grew up. It was an excited plan. Oh boy!

I reach the Airport and the lady at the Air India counter politely told us that it would be delayed by about 2 hours reasoning the flight got late due to fog in Delhi. I got the checking done, got the boarding pass with 27.7kg as my luggage was filled with home food materials that aren’t available in the metro cities for friends, family, near and dear ones. Nothing for me! Bamboo shoot was over 7kg and Manipuri delicacy Ngari was 5kg in total to be distributed. I have a membership that allows me extra luggage room. We waited patiently and finally boarded the flight, took our seats and as luck would have it, I was surrounded by border security forces. Mostly Meena boys from Rajasthan and my my.. I don’t mean to sound rude but their body odour is something that isn’t to be desired. After a few minutes, my sensory nerves got used to it and began conversing as the flight awaited orders from the Aviation Ministry to allow the flight to take off. Apparently Imphal “International” Airport do not have clearance to take off at night, some security reasons!! 5pm is considered night!! The boys from the border security forces grew impatient and so was everyone. We were served 2 pieces of biscuit neatly packed in an aluminum foil and a drink, fruity. I had gotten friendly with the guys and began to feel at home again, forgetting the body odours! They were all flying for the first time and were pretty excited and asked several questions about flight security and what ifs. At 7:30pm, the flight crew finally announced that they couldn’t get the clearance and have to cancel the flight. We all headed for the exit without much delay. We just wanted to get out as it got really stuffy.

As I step out, the fresh air was a welcome change. A little disappointed, a little excited to be home again. My phone battery died as usual and my laptop battery had drained out from using in the flight. I found a good Samaritan by the name, Clinton and took his phone to call up my sis in Delhi for that’s the only number I remember. She called up my sis in Imphal to go pick me up. I was looking for an auto or a taxi but this is Manipur. After dark, such necessity isn’t available due to fear of police, security armed forces and insurgents. Not many people venture out after dark. My sis finally came to pick me up at around 8:15pm with my aunt driven by a friend and neighbor, Andrew. There was a lot of commotion in the Air India office. The Manager was obviously not available and his phone switched off. The only ground staff available is a lady who wasn’t able to help. I had earlier asked for a phone charger point and she simply said, “I don’t have it. You should have it. How can you not have it?”. Not wanting to argue as there were lots more to trouble her, I simply left. 

I finally reach home around 9pm and my.. it was great to have home cooked food again! It was tastier than usual. Pumpkin mixed with dried meat and a beef skin chutney along with boiled cabbage. Sweet. 

I reported back to the airport around 8:30am as requested and finally got the check-in done. This time, my luggage was 29kg! I had an extra packet. I requested the lady in the counter to allow the extras and she smiled. I had another request, “Could you also change my seat? The body odour of the border security force guys aren’t as pleasant”. She looked up at me, a little shocked and smiled again, “I’ll see what I can do”. Such a kid I am but I was all smiles to see that my seat is now 7C!  

Anyways, here I am waiting to board the flight surrounded by two beautiful girls, Gracy, a nursing student and Rinky Sharma, a B.Tech student who are traveling to Hyderabad and Guwahati respectively. Rinky is one among the most beautiful girls I’ve ever met! I’ll give her that.

If there’s nothing written below it simply means, I have reach safely and there’s no incident that happened further. Or I simply felt the blog had gotten too long!

PS: There are quiet a few good looking girls. Feasts my eyes haha ;)

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