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Personal blog during COVID 19,2020

On 23rd March 2020,Government of Manipur  announced one day lockdown there was  public uneasiness, eerie calmness kind of situation. I had a field that day and was anxious due to frequent hand washing, sanitising  & maintaining social distance  by the end of the day I was completely  mentally stressed out of not knowing what would happen tomorrow. Until then COVID-19 felt distant, at least a false sense of mental security exist that COVID-19 has not reached  Northeast  & with lockdown we hoped it never does. It was a naive thought because early next day all sense of tranquility was shattered, panic struck us, and the very fear came true Manipur  recorded it’s 1st confirmed positive COVID-19 case on 24th March,2020.

Social media journalism( Facebook,instagrammer, watsapp) public  circulated  patients photos( fb profile), family details, shaming entire family and a fake videos showing patient having difficulty in breathing with an  orgasmic sound effect.  

There were debate regarding  patient travel history, routes she had taken to reach Manipur ( to avoid isolation instead of boarding a flight she took  bus from Guwhati to Impha,her irresponsive social behaviour i.e. she attended numerous social ceremonies, meeting & greetings with her friends & relatives. Panic stricken immediately I called up to find out if that person had attended the wedding of someone with whom I worked on Monday. To my relief she had attended and also importantly all these were cooked up incomplete information about the patient. Truth was revealed patient  being educated, aware and socially  responsible and had  self undergone home isolation, after she landed by air to Imphal. Once COVID-19 symptoms started showing she had  sought medical attention by calling up the helpline  number seeking medical support from the  frontline.

For now there is heightened community panic/stress/anxiety and anger toward the patient/family. There is need for transparency & accountability in dealing with the situation along with equipped  resources for the frontline team, otherwise this may led to violence.

This incident highlights  ‘systematic failure in dealing with such emergency/crisis situation’ because initially  there was absence of national urgency, hence national level preparedness against COVID-19 was inadequate with  delayed facilitation of  SOP from central to states. Reluctancy in conducting mass testing/strict screening for foreign travellers without proper isolation facilities without adequate  medical equipments & resources to frontline workers resulted in COVID-19 entry to Northeast or let say in India.

This pandemic illustrates instead of fighting for religion/caste/class we must fight for better healthcare infrastructures and educational institutes.Frontline team is the most important resources for community well being.  Taking care for neighbours is equally important & similar as caring for oneself.  To have food, shelter, water is not only basic requirement but a privilege. This crisis also stresses us to see persisting inequality for people at the bottom of the pyramid. Any socio/political/natural calamity/pandemic occurs they are the first one to bear the hardest brunt.

This is not an individual fight/religious fight/political fight but its a fight for human for its own existence.Instead of panic we need financial/non financial resource mobilisation, adequate medical equipments, professional attitude, empathy, adopt strict social distancing to break the chain.For some its an opportunity  to experience slow life, but for some it’s more difficulty as they are grappling to provide meals for their families.  Some are  re-charging ones thought/soul/ unwinding or getting torn apart, jolted, shaken but we are definitely forced to re think ones choices , purpose  in life, and dream an egalitarian world. Thankfully, for me it has put a much needed brake to my consumerism  lifestyle & social pressures of conducting/attending irrelevant  social ceremonies.

Next day, I din’t follow social media or  news just enjoyed a daily life of Mou ( daughter in law), wore a kajal, read a book, played with my daughter and lived.

 

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An ode to my House

Oh house ! You stand still even in the midst of storm
Scorched by the sun, battered by rainfall, shaken by wind
Yet you stand still

Your nook & corners  many times a child play
Sometimes hide & seek, to read, to cry, to vent anger
A lover nest and sometimes to rest a tired feet & soul
Yet you stand still

You have been beautified in ceremonies
Renovated, extended, carved to accommodate 
Yet you stand still

You have seen the rise & fall 
You have seen birth & death of beloved 
You are store house of dark secrets
You are powerhouse of recreation 
Yet you stand still

I was reading “ How Green Was My Valley” by Richard Llewellyn it transpired  memories of my house in Dong busty situated in  Peshok tea garden.I remember during my childhood tea, oranges and cardamoms were cultivated abundantly. My father an agriculturist by profession used to grow various vegetables, turmeric, ginger in our home. We had two cows, one pig, many hen and a dog named Bulu and occasionally wild boar and monkeys used to visit. My house veranda  faced towards Kalimpong, Teesta valley towards the south and Darjeeling in the north. Many evenings me and my sister used to dance in the  songs played in All India radio, we used to climb the railings and sit there to watch vechile passing  towards Darjeeling, Kalimpong in the nights we could see vechile lights taking turns into the Teesta forest.  It has been more than ten years now I have not visited my house. It breaks my heart to see it in such a dilapidated state I  feel it longs for us as we long to stay in it like yesterday. 

Verbalising emotions in writing during pandemic- lockdown

It’s DIFFICULT to make lemonade when life gives you lemon because in pursuit of  inner peace and stability we squeeze  lemon until it hurts. But dear life you are not perfect, perfection is euphoric because life is series of events, its a cycle of becoming, unbecoming and evolving.As living in times of pandemic I have experienced various mood cycles –

Cycle 1 Philosophic & content mood : Relaxed, watching movies, eating, hand washing, relieved  from SOCIAL CEREMONIES  no  need to meet or greet people whom you don’t like

Cycle 2 Panic attacks: unseen future, stuck, financial insecurities

Cycle 3 WHATEVER: Feel empty trying to read novels but word doesn’t penetrate because random screen surfing has damaged brains  ability to digest facts with conscience. Just enjoy reels.

It is difficult to sum up exact feelings BECAUSE LIVING IN PANDEMIC is so many things at once or perhaps nothing at all. Its overwhelming, reflective, stuck, learning, coming face to face with inner insecurities. I want change, speed, action, reaction and sometimes nothing.All these experiences I have vented out is to purely feel humane.

  1. Reading has become very difficult I romanticise whole reading experience but unable to get through the process so at least I try to read one meaningful content in a week. I came across https://kyotojournal.org/about-us/ its so educative and fun to read about Japanese stories, places, culture and philosophy. I traversed across Mount Fuji, Kyoto, pottery, cherry blossom, Shinto temples ,tea, incense, architecture, gardens and got introduced to concept of Ikagai.
  2. I made perfumes using essential oils -Lavendar, Rose and Vanilla.  I loved Rose because because its vibe is vintage love.
  3. I planted ginger, turmeric, money plant, bamboo plant. As learnt in Glass Palace by Amitav Gosh We must be like soil so many things seeps in it but still it reaps plants, flower, fruit and food’.
  4. I am not fond of cooking as much as I love eating but yes I cooked Aloo parantha, fried rice, vegetable chowmein, chicken chilly.
  5. I discovered 10 mins fitness exercises by Emi Wong perfect for me but of course continuing is another struggle
  6. I have become overweight

But until next play like a child

Revisiting Nepal Journey: Kathmandu City

In July,2013 after working a year with Eco Tourism & Conservation Society of Sikkim (ECOSS) I decided to quit work due to mental health issues, some events had triggered paramount fear, an unexplainable terror, always felt creepy  dark souls  hovering around me  & suffered from insomnia.Considering our family history with mental illness I consulted same Psychiatrist in Gangtok, who treated my mom. He recommended medication & personal care.

At that point my professional life had also come to a standstill. I felt undervalued in my organisation & tasks  given were not challenging. The decision to quit felt  right thing to do   but I was clueless about the future with only  gut feelings that I had to figure out   & pursue goals I was passionate about.

I retuned home with two suitcase, bedding and a gas stove.I cut off myself from social network, friends and spent a month in rigorous  praying.I am not a religious person but prayer helped me navigate during those difficult mental phase. I  used to burn sage, switch off the light & sit in my room chanting mantras for an hour. It was not easy for me as  every time I closed my eyes I felt extreme fear &  sometimes at night I heard crawling sounds on the rooftop.  We had already failed in coping with my mother’s mental illness so, I had to fight it for my family, by myself. During those time I read holy scripts from Buddhism, visited monastery, met with some Lamas ” Spiritual teacher’ and continued praying which eventually helped me.

By then August monsoon had already set in with heavy downpour causing frequent landslide & roadblocks. But I decided to travel Nepal which had been on my wish list since school days. I had some savings and my  best friend was there in Kathmandu.  I started on my  solo journey with  red backpack & payers bead, from Kalimpong I took a jeep to Kakarvita, there spent two/three hour had a lunch in  small hotel. I was anxious, excited & felt very independent. In the evening around 5pm I got in the bus for Kathmandu which was a  two seater bus not that comfortable to sleep fully but lucky to have a window side. On my left side there was a guy who might have been in early 30’s but I avoided any communication both for safety reasons & to be able to enjoy my privacy. Around 9.30 pm there was  a stop for dinner in a small roadside  dhaba which served small fresh fish from Koshi river with flattened rice, chicken curry and rice. Then the overnight journey  reassumed with bumpy roads.

In an early morning beautiful  landscape stretched before me with few houses on 10390946_737975832907167_1466976475670225890_n
the hilltop, paddy fields, boys playing football, steep turns and river running along the road.I got an adrenaline rush  that my dream finally materialised.

Coincidentally my Nepal visit was at the same time when our Prime Minister Modiji was scheduled to visit. In 2014 I had an opportunity of meeting him ( handshake ) in Sikkim, though I am not a fan of him but I must say  meeting personalities from esteemed position is quite intimidating. Hence,Nepal government geared up security & tightened traffic movement & many public were upset about it.

It took me few days to settle in after which I did all things touristy.I consider myself lucky/privileged that I was able to visit these heritage sites before the devastating earthquake of 2015.Currenlty, most of the sites has been destroyed & some are still under renovation.I was simply awestruck by the  architectural beauty, intricate designs for me such heritage sites are gateway to understand history & appreciate life.I conclude this blog post with much love for Nepal.

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Boudha

Kathmndu valley from Swayambhu
View of Kathmandu city from Swayambu

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Not a book review: Reading Classic

Book

I had this book in a shelf for more than a year, every time I picked it up I was not able to get through more than a word because I found it too boring.One fine day as destined I started reading it there’s a saying ”you don’t choose the book, its the book that chooses you”. To get into my reading elements I always  start reading back cover, acknowledgement & introduction.

I was enthralled & read voraciously  early in the morning, picked it up as soon as my daughter left for crèche & continued reading during afternoon siesta.

Reading this book  I gained  perspective on social, gender, class during  victorian era from the perspective of  a woman writer.

I was fascinated by author using nature such as landscape, moonlight, wind to reflect various moods it had a dramatic effect.( reference below chp 23, pg 243)

Note 1
Nature: Skies, sun, passenger birds, green & shorn, white & baked,treed in their dark prime, full leaved & deeply tinted, sunny hue, cleared meadows.

I related  with Jayne Eyre strong headed personality.She demonstrated courage &  maturity in navigating crisis from  her  early childhood .  It’s a powerful character he messages are simple, straightforward but without screaming on top.  She is resilient, compassionate and  makes just decisions.Her desire to find  love & connections reflects an intrinsic human needs.( Reference below Chp 33, pg 382)

note 2

It left me with these lingering thoughts ‘In todays world of glamour- it’s not ok to be simple, show sadness or failures.Social influencers/celebrities/ media mostly promote self love, self belief through make up-made up images. Thus, reading characters like Jayne Eyre help us  understand beauty exists in purity of thought, heart & action. It’s beautiful to be simple, plain looking person, perplexed, not knowing all the answers in life  but living ethical life with good intentions. We cannot compare our life journey with another person because each of us  path’s have unique  twist & turn.

I will definitely recommend this book to my daughter so that she understands in the world of male based superman, batman there are female power house which are equally inspiring & cool to look up.

Tales @ Noon

All the small activities like brushing teeth, drinking tea, sleeping, washing utensils, watching tv is a daily ritual in our lives. These activities are not given so much recognition or value. Yet, when someone dies these same activities have a  profound importance because in these activities we feel their presence.

The material thing only becomes of importance when emotions or memories are attached to it, otherwise, it’s just a thing. So it is imperative to understand why a person wants to acquire,  what steps one takes & how one feels after achieving it. 

I have come to an age where I know truth of life is in our daily chores, errands we run,nonsensical talks & being prepared for facing death. It’s also the age to be comfortable in our thoughts & body. The lockdown has given us hassle free life with no work/social stress just enough time to be present sharing meals, watching tv with family & realising family is a universe in itself.

Social distancing is what I have been doing since I finished my colleges, or changed workplace, moved out from my hometown after marriage, or since giving birth.Isolation is a tool through which I came to recognise my support systems, people with whom I feel connected, joy of sharing, growing, healing and those with whom I don’t want to waste my time.  Its a balmy day with sun or rain sometimes, sometimes dry & howling wind but I know I am alive in this slow life.

 

Soliloquy of love

I am putting out in the universe, I have tucked you close to my heart since the time I have known you. I continue to love you without expectation & condition. Toast to the memories of what I have now and those I have lost. I can’t reach out or  call you, nor go back to the time you gave me your muffler to keep myself warm during those winter days. Nor can I forget looking at you with a  grey t-shirt & not knowing it was the last time I would  ever see you.

Back then I din’t know how to express, respond to our teenage love but yes every time Linkin Park song plays I still get a flashback. Once I tried holding your hand & asked what time is it?You looked at your black watch & replied forever. I shuddered as my heart was racing so fast, and legs were trembling I just managed to  smoothen your hair.

In the passage of canteen  I gave you my number before diwali breaks after that I thought of hundred ways of answering your call. Those time of standing beside you are the moments  I was yours and you mine.

Time pulled us in different directions but I know my heart will respond this way until my last breath.I have the card you gave me with a picture of empty uphill road it signifies we will be travelling together.

Until then reliving these memories, see you on the other side.

Mental Health Conversation Part I

Life has fooled us, taught us made us realise the extent of human sufferings layered. Even the person with everything worries for nothing, and some for something but at last everybody wants the same thing LOVE,PEACE & HAPPINESS. One pertinent question still arises how do we complete the circle of life?

A series of experiences/triggers/traumatic outburst, people hesitate to speak about it. Mental health people find difficult to acknowledge it, get treated due to fear of being labelled, and prejudices that people rather prefer to stay silent then to express. It’s frustrating to find  patient  doctor fit, medication & professional counsellor/support infrastructure within  the concerned person immediate  ecosystem.

Still walking through it till then……….I continue to love you because

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My beloved is soft yet strong even while sailing in the turbulent waves

Somedays don’t want to come out of bed & utter a single word

Somedays its difficult to navigate between  energy that is too  highs or too  low

The questions is simple yet the answer needs much contemplating

The emotions are raw but the conversation is deep

When thoughts are  cloudy ,fluffy we have to become the  wiper

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Being MOM

Motherhood has completely changed my life there are so many curves.It is so exciting to see your child leaping from one milestone to another.  Pregnancy made me feel vulnerable and strong at the same time. It was challenging to cope up with emotional well being away from maternal family but at the end it made me more resilient.  I experienced absurd myths and gender stereotyping even before I introduced my child to the physical world. Few were laughable but most made me angry –

  1. Big bumps means either it’s twin or a boy
  2. Lack of interest to put on a makeup indicates one is having a  boy
  3. Sweet craving – indicates girl
  4. Feeling heavy bumps meant having a  girl
  5. This is an epic- if your husband right eye is bigger than left it is a boy and vice versa.
  6. Pregnancy is linked with purity and holy but no body talk about sex, it’s the pleasure which enables human to create life and nurture how it can be dirty?

I experienced people perception of beauty lies inherently in the color of the child. A baby girl is supposed to be beautiful only if she is fair with long eye lashes. To  me every-baby is her /his own person and instead of physical beauty  it is important to teach values of kindness, honesty,  minimalism and encourage them to explore their passion in life.

I stress bringing my child in this world where structural gender discrimination is deeply rooted subconsciously/consciously. Shutting out all the crap every day I  reminded myself to encourage  my child to imagine a world of possibilities,discovery and teach life skills . I know it is not going to be easy to be a mother. I will make mistakes, I am lazy, random hate cooking,I need space but I am her best friend and will guide her to live a meaningful life.

Stage wise my personal journey

First Trimester (1 week to 12 weeks) I was in hell with nausea, vomiting, fatigue, HUNGER ATTACKS, it was so frequent and my stomach hurt, olfactory sense was so strong that I deserted most of the food items. I could only eat self-cooked non-oily, non-spicy, fresh vegetables and rice in a small quantity. I used to have  food cravings which was an emergency situation for my husband because non-availability or delay made me an angry hungry woman.

Second Trimester ( 13 to 26 weeks ) as months progressed my body gradually adapted to a routine- I ate in small quantity after every 1 – 2 hrs ( both day & night), continued to eat self-cooked food, slept 3 to 5 hrs a  day and slept well during nights. To reduce vomiting tendency I completely avoided sweets, fruits, meats, greasy food items and ditched fragrant cosmetics/home decors.  I became conscious about my eating habit and lifestyle.My appetite increased as my taste bud exploded and enjoyed eating, and gained weight. I felt healthy and excited to become a mom and had no physical discomforts.

On reaching  21/23 weeks baby bump became prominent and none of my clothes fitted.  I suffered from Urinary Tract Infection ( normal for preggers) it caused frequent urination and sleep deprivation. Increased weight caused swelling in the feet and I had frequent leg cramps (it’s a bitch) because these cramps occur mostly during early morning. My husband helped me by massaging it with an ointment prescribed by the doctor. I slept on the sides mostly left with a pillow  supporting my belly as it was extremely difficult to sleep on the back. I felt ‘gravitational pull  ‘  with increased bump I  felt heavy on my hips, legs and could not  sit or stand for long hours in one position.

I became aware about baby movement and started developing relationship with her by stimulating her senses by listening to music,  giving pats on my bump. I had trouble sleeping so I used to read and  have late nights.

Fourth trimester (27 to end of pregnancy) I prepared maternity check list, prepared budget,took advice from friends and went for a grand lunch. Doctor insisted to go for C-section as Aarunya had erratic heartbeat, and weighed more than 3 kg.

Moments with Arunya


Cultural Assimilation in a Meitei Family

lotak-lake.jpg
This is Manipur’s largest freshwater floating Loktak Lake. Once a princely state Manipur is situated in the Northeast region of India. It shares a border with Burma on the east, Nagaland on the north, Assam on the west, Mizoram in the south and an international border with Myanmar.

My personal experience of the cultural assimilation into the Meitei Family

It’s been eight months since I have shifted to Manipur everything still feels new weird at times.  I guess it’s the stress of being distant from one’s own familiar cultural, social ecosystem requiring me to develop cultural adaptability skill. Currently, my Meitei language proficiency is rudimentary once I become pro I will be multilingual in five languages.

Let me begin with my Lhongba/ wedding rituals which took centred around the tulsi (basil) plant.I have to admit this is the heaviest makeup I had to wear which took me three days of vigorous face wash to get rid off.

saat-pheeras
We took seven circles (saat pheras) around the basil plant with the sound of the kirtan and shehnai.

Garlanding ceremony
We exchanged our garland.

chakouba
Managani Chakouba held after five days from the wedding, bride family hosts a grand feast for her in-laws. My husband enjoying his platter.

with-my-aunty-dearest


rkcs-art-gallery
RKCS (Raj Kumar  Chandrajitsana Singh) Art Gallery is the place with beautiful paintings illustrating the rich history of Manipur.

 

the-chorus-theatre
Entrance Chorus Repertory Theater is a place to learn about the history, socio-political and cultural ecosystem of Manipur. Founded by Ratan Thiyam a recipient of Sangeet Natak Akademi Award considered one of the pioneers of the theatre of roots movement.The theatre is stretched across two acres with beautiful gardens maintained by the staff .

audototrium
An Auditorium

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Historical treasure in Manipur the Kangla Fort spread across 236,84 acres.  Ancient capital showcasing an amalgamation of culture, religious and archaeological site. The Kings ruled for about  2000 years, from this Fort.

temple
temple dedicated to Lord Ibudhou Pakhangba, the ruling deity of Manipur at Kangla.

During the month of June Lai Haroba festival is celebrated which means “merry-making of the God”.This festival is celebrated to please the local area deity collectively by the community in honour of the deity Umang Lai. There are six types of  Lai Haroba, a dramatic dance signifying creation of the universe by the Lord Asiba. It is performed by the maiba and maibis (priest and priestesses) using an indigenous musical instrument called a penakhongba.

Lai Haroba
Lai Haroba : Pic source  internet

My learning is in progress I am yet to articulate all the facets of life in Manipur.I have learnt to make following meitei dishes-Eromba(chutney types with loads of chilly, dried fermented fish and vegetables), Kangshoi( soupy vegetable with dried ferment fish), Chamfut ( boiled vegetables/salad like) and morok metpa( chutney).

My dearest friends and extended families I have to definitely say that  Manipur is gearing for a change.There is a positive aspiration among the people to improve the overall quality of life by creating opportunities for access to equitable and just society. The Act East Policy could be instrumental in leveraging sustainable development in the state if stable political environment persists along with communal harmony. I am also excited to introduce my baby to experience best of both the Meitei and Buddhist culture.

Loads of love.