Whistleblower's musings... Then some trivia. Write to me at ranjanyumnam@gmail.com

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Cannibalistic dreams
I often see dreams in which I am a cannibal. Just yesterday, I had one such dream. Though I am a quiet and peace-loving person, in my dreadful dreams, I am a monster who kills people, rips thier bodies apart, gulps down blood, and cooks the flesh. Sometimes, I also skin the the victims. These cannibalistic dreams keep recurring, but I don't know why I see them, and what they mean. If anyone has any clue, please let me know.

Bad dreams apart, a few days ago, I read an article about the real cannibals of the Democratic Replublic of Congo. Two tribes are at war in that African country. Nothing unsusual about it; tribal and inter-racial conflicts flare up everywhere in the world. But, the conflct in Congo is terryfying for one element: cannibalism. The warriors capture and kill each other, the victims ending in a cooking pan.

Eliza Griswold went to the cannibalism-hit war zone to find out the truth. One of the survivors told her, "They cut off my arm and took it outside where they had made a fire. They cooked it, while they were drinking our mandro, and ate it with the rest of the beans and rice." The fighters kill only the men, which they make a meal of, and rape their women, for which they set up special camps. (I wonder why women always have to pay for their men's depredations).

This is not the first time cannibalism has been reported in Congo. Historically, the white colonialists were believed to be fond of African flesh. They killed the African natives for consumption in such large hordes, that sometimes they "never managed to eat all the flesh so they saved the rest in tins, like corned beef."

Fortunately, I am a cannibal only in dream.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Will Manipur become another Bihar?

New Delhi: A question that my senior colleague posed to me the other day shocked me in a rude manner. He asked, “What would happen to your home state if all her talent migrates to big cities in the mainland India? Who will man the administration; manage the education, supervise the development of the state?”

I have never thought about these, but when I started pondering on them, the implications are indeed worrying -- at least to me. Would Manipur become just another Bihar, a state which has produced many achievers in India but never been even remotely as developed as the star states like Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat, etc?

On the face of it, a similar fate is awaiting Manipur. Like most of the Biharis, people in Manipur today look for greener pastures beyond the seven hills that border their state. In the case of Manipur, two grim realities have forced the people out of their homes. One, landing a decent job in Manipur is as difficult as looking for a needle in the haystack, and if you are extremely lucky to get it at all, you must forget regular paychecks. Second, the political and law-and-order situation in Manipur is crippling education (for which majority of Manipuris go outside), nor is it favourable for trade and commerce that can boost her economy.

But more than anything else, it is the quest for freedom, which one enjoys living in a city like, say, Delhi, that is driving Manipuris to railway stations and airports. Living in a cosmopolitan city gives you that quaint feeling of having escaped from a suffocating cage all of a sudden; you breathe free. No more midnight knocks. You almost miss them for a while.

Besides this freedom, a city also offers many other irresistible attractions: uninterrupted, if not better education, promise of jobs, exposure to a cosmopolitan culture, opportunity to prove your merit - overall a qualitatively better life.

Two recent phenomenons have strengthened this magnetic pull further: the BPO boom in India and the expanding community of Manipuri expatriates. Call centers have sprung up in most of the Indian cities, led by Bangalore, and city suburbs like Gurgaon and Noida, which are transforming into world class cities. Recruitment ads for call centre executives fill up almost 90 per cent of any newspaper’ classifieds. Lapping these offers are youngish 20 somethings, who are barely out of their college -- not a bad thing to do considering they are earning quick dough -- usually beginning from Rs. 8000 to upwards of 20, 000, a big sum for anyone hailing from a small state like Manipur. All of these youngsters would take up these jobs, thinking it would be just a time-pass, but once they have tasted luxuries that money can buy and other perks, there is no looking back.

They are not afraid to settle down here either, and the last thing they worry about is loneliness. Manipuri population in any major Indian city has accumulated to a critical mass. Social circles have swelled, and you feel, a mini Manipur, is well possible right here in the city. You have Ningol Chackouba, Cheiraoba, Thabal Chongba, etc. -- though all in mutated forms -- being celebrated here. The emotional isolation that these Manipuris felt so acutely when they were away from home is being obliterated, slowly but surely. Then there are virtual platforms (e-pao for example) that act as psychological palliatives. A unique social identity and cohesion is becoming a reality, within an alien city, and that has given the Manipuri expatriates a sense of security and confidence.

Despite this euphoria, there is also a cause for concern. If all the productive people in their prime age range have come here, never to return home, or forced by their jobs to stay put here, the future is indeed gloomy for Manipur. The more pessimistic among us will see a future Manipur run by goons, because all her talented and bright sons-of-the-soil will have left her.

Whether that foreboding will materialize is uncertain. What is quite possible is this: traditional family ties will crumble, with siblings living away from their parents in different cities. Telephone line will replace emotional tie -- relationship conducted the call centre way. How apt. This trend is already showing up.

Fragmented family ties can be mended, but career crisis is a hard nut to crack, and my primary fear is on that count. Can anyone imagine what a devastation it will wreak if the BPO industry suddenly goes bust, either owing to anti-outsourcing legislation in the west or simply under the vicissitudes of a global economy? Isn’t a call center job just another stop-gap arrangement? Is life all about blah-blah-ing into a microphone, tongue twisted, when you should be sleeping like a dog? Do the skills gained from a call centre count for anything elsewhere, should you want a change? I dread to think about these questions.

However, the purpose of this outburst is not to belittle those who have chosen to work in call canters, but to warn the young generation to exercise more caution while choosing their career and future. This generation is in the cusp of a major social change, in which it will play a significant role. Much will depend on them whether Manipur will become another Bihar or, for that matter, Kerala. I would rather hope that Manipur would morph into another Kerala, a state whose economy survives entirely on remittance from Malayali workers living in Gulf. It is not for nothing that the southern state is known for its money-order economy. We have a model there.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Everybody seems to be having a blog of his own. Especially in the western countries, blogging has become a part of one's life, so much so that one is not considered to exist if he doesn't have a blog address. But, the reason why I have decided to blog is entirely different. When I need to get across my views, I have to write 900 words to fit into the format of an article for publication in a website or a newspaper. I find this rule quite inconvenient, sometimes due to lack of time, or because all ideas are not worth turning into a major essay. At best, they are just a little seed of a bigger idea, and I want to present them as they are -- not as a half-baked gibberish. With the constraint of word limit gone, I would be also able to publish anytime whatever that strikes my mind, from anything significant to highly trivialistic. I am the king in my blog; I don't have to worry about the big brother breathing down my shoulders. A condition which just suits me, a freespirit as I am. Welcome to my world.