The Imphal Free Press
Aug 8 2011
Life in Manipur ceased to be something to be exulted a long time ago. In its place we have today the protest culture. And hence there is never a week that passes without some form of a protest bandh or rally or strike. Again, except for our religious festivals, not many of the days we observe as holidays or else as simply a day to be remembered, are actually in the real sense of the words, celebrations. Most of these are observed in recollection of dark and tragic events. The state’s calendar year hence is dominated “dark days,” “gloomy days,” and “protest months”.... Then there are of course the predictable general strikes, as for instance on January 26 and August 15, apart from a horde of other absolutely impromptu strikes and bandhs, that are immediate responses to developments that are not upto the liking or taste of any given group big and small. While we do not deny that all these reflect the condition of Manipur today, it is also true that we have inherited an oppressive negativism in our attitude to life. The forward looking outlook that eggs individuals as well as entire people to ever increase their levels of achievement, have been eclipse. This, we have no doubt, is a recipe for ultimate social disaster. Unless we overcome it, doomsday cannot be far away.
It is true we are in bad times. Even if it is again true that all this is not of our own making, we must find ways to make progressive action and thought exist side by side of the protests and struggles. Otherwise, we cannot hope to open up our horizon to a brighter future. We are tempted to refer to the famous existentialist vision of life as a never ending struggle, as so aptly illustrated by the Sysiphus hyperbole, in which Sysiphus the figure from the Greek mythology is seen pushing a rock up a hillside in Hades as a punishment. If Sysiphus slackens the rock slips. If Sysiphus gives up, he would be crushed. The only real option left before him is to keep pushing the rock up, even though he never knows where the summit is, and when he can ever find time to relax. The trouble with this kind of a vision of life is, it is suffocatingly intense. Although there is much truth in it, we still are inclined towards the romantic. Life is multifaceted and offers immense possibilities. The sense of urgency in the picture of Sysiphus struggling up the hillside allows no room for appreciating life’s myriad other offerings. And in the process our vision of life also gets narrower and narrower, until it is reduced to just the rock ahead.... and tragically nothing beyond.
We are today caught in the Sysiphus trap. Apart from what is immediately before us, we have no energy left for any kind of creative pursuits, or even to visualise alternative and more fruitful routes we can take to the future. Everything around us has become so drearily prosaic, and with such predictable narrative depths. This is reflected in our present day literature, poetry, song lyrics, shumang lilas, movies and even a greater part of our theatre. Protests and resistance, are all very well, but when they are carried out without offering a safe and productive outlet, can become so wasteful, destructive, and self consuming. By the awesome circumstance we are exposed to, our collective vision seems to have been dwarfed by our obsessive preoccupation with the present. We would not even call the situation explosive, for there is a picture of expansion and spread of energy in it, even if in a violent way. On the other hand, we would much rather prefer to describe the situation as implosive, where energy absorbs itself and everything collapse inwards and disappears into the depthless void of a black hole.