So that they can play their music….

Guns & GuitarsAs we were waiting for our vehicle to arrive to take us to the shooting location for the shoot of our documentary ‘Guns & Guitars’ in Imphal, capital of Manipur, I was surprised to see the almost kilometer long queue across our hotel at around 7 am… Agreed, 7 am in northeast is not exactly as ‘early’ as the rest of India, yet it is early enough to raise my curiosity about the long queue – especially
since the line is formed to enter an ATM! On enquiring, was told that ATM in Manipur generally operates between 9 am to 5 pm… and these people don’t want to take a chance with the frequent break-down of the ATM operation during the ‘operating hour’ and hence are standing in queue to withdraw their own money after couple of hours! So much for the Any Time Money!! The irony of this culturally richest state of the northeast doesn’t end here…

Manipur has the dubious distinction of having the highest no of insurgent groups in the northeast. I was once told that the govt. employees, including the police, often has to pay ‘tax’ to 29 different extremist organizations once they got their salary… Last heard, the no of insurgency organizations have risen to 40 plus…

This tiny state did manage to capture the nation’s attention albeit briefly through boxer Mary Kom. But not many of us have heard about the bodybuilder Pradipkumar who won the bronze in the 4th World Bodybuilding and Physique Sports Championship held in Bangkok last year besides finishing in the top 5 of Mr. India championship for a no of year. Well this at first may not appear quite extraordinary but for the fact that Pradipkumar is a HIV positive sportsman. More than a decade back, when he was bed ridden in the hospital with no strength to get up of his own, doctors had given him a couple of months to live at the most. And he had started bodybuilding after that verdict…

Today, comparatively a bit more is known about the poetess and the social activist Irom Sharmila – the girl who went on to create a record for being in the ‘world’s longest hunger strike’, refusing food or water since 2nd November 2000, demanding the repeal of Armed Force Special Power Act, AFSPA. This act is based on a British 1942 ordinance which was originally introduced to curb the ‘quit India’ movement. United Nations has repeatedly asking India to repeal AFSPA, saying “it had no role to play in a democracy” and is “dated and colonial-era law, that breach international human rights standards”. As of now, Indian govt. is refusing to budge and Irom Sharmila is continues to be behind the bar for ‘trying to commit suicide’. As per Indian Panel Code, for this crime one can’t be held in jail for more than a year – hence Sharmila is ‘released’ for couple of hours after every 364 days before being re-arrested, so that the govt. doesn’t break any ‘law’!!

Amidst these, we met the rock band from Imphal, ‘Cleave’, for our film ‘Guns and Guitars’. We found them jamming with a popular Bollywood number. ‘But isn’t Hindi supposed to be banned in Manipur’? Yes, it is – they replied. So what will happen if an insurgent group finds out that they are playing a Hindi number? ‘Well, we could be shot’ – was their matter of fact reply!

‘Cleave’ is a ‘death metal’ group. In a place where you ‘get’ electricity for an average of three hours on a good day, how they manage to practice with all their plugged in instruments? This is a problem, they agreed. For practice, they have to depend on generators. And in a state where ‘economic blockade’ is a way of life (often they are cut off from the rest of the countries for months due to the blockade of the connecting highways by different groups of the neighboring state on one pretext or the other – and there is no railway connectivity of the state yet!), besides other essential commodities getting a regular supply of fuel also create unusual challenges. Often petrol and diesel is sold on four times the price of the rest of the country on black market. And if you want to buy it from the govt. designated petrol pump, it is not unusual to have to stand in queue overnight for getting ‘rationed’ one or two litters of fuel during the ‘blockade’…

The group members of ‘Cleave’ told me that many a time they wait on the line overnight for getting that one or two litters of diesel…and they used that fuel to start the generator, so that they can play their music….


Share your Thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.