A Brief Moment at SALUD

Robert and I drove to filmmaker and editor Ng Ango’s last night. Robert’s Pleasure. Robert had shot a video advertisement of some Korean noodles product. We were taking the footage (about 10 GB) to Ng Ango at Uripok.

At Ango’s Robert decided to take us to SALUD, a restaurant at New Chekkon, Imphal. The rain was pouring. Still we rode. Ango and I on Ango’s pink Vespa, and Robert on his Pleasure. In the rain.

Robert Leishangthem

SALUD was already closed. But a friend of Robert, the owner (or an employee?) of the restaurant, made coffee for us. By the way, is it really in business already? I don’t know. There was a party celebrating the birthday of a friend of the owner or the employee. Singing la capella. The room was all their sound of joy but its intensity and clarity escaped only when the door was occasionally pushed open. When I asked on our way back home, Robert told me that the restaurant is not fully open. The Covid-19 lockdown started just when the restaurant was due to open.

Though it was late (in Manipur) and the restaurant was closed for the day, the hospitality of the place was evident from how Robert’s friend Nishikanta, if I remember his name correctly, and another person (who seemed like his close associate) greeted. They made coffee for us. Nishikanta showed me his yet-not-ready tea terrace at the top of the building. When the terrace is open, it is going to be a great place for evening tea with the cityscape surrounding you.

I took photographs of Robert and Ango. A couple of not-so-bad shots. The photograph above is one of the shots I took there. The two below are two different versions of it.

Robert Leishangthem
Robert Leishangthem

And this is Ng Ango in one of the rooms at SALUD.

Ng Ango

I will add a couple of other photographs when I can find some time to work on them tonight.

The Quest

I made a crane with the help of my mechanic friend Usham Jiban. The three of us–Jiban, Shantakumar (my neighbor) and I–went on a short trial shot trip. At down we went to Kakching Lamkhai in a Innova van and set up the crane and the camera by a vacant lot being prepared for some construction. I took several shots for a composite photograph.

On Photoshop, I broke the Innova and buried it in the lot. The broken car on the ground was taken and added from a different photograph I took at a junk yard a couple of weeks back.

I sent the above version to Ng Ango, my friend filmmaker and editor. He suggested another version too and sent me a sample (the photograph below), after Sin City, which I had suggested a few days before I took this photograph.

I worked and the product is the version below–high contrast, with a lot of black.

Then he added a train to the photograph and animated it on his phone using an app I don’t know.

Dusk on the Outskirts

We haven’t worked at the garage for two days now. It has been raining on and off here in Kakching for a few days now, and Jiban’s garage floors readily shows all the water whenever it rains more than a drizzle. The crane was supposed to be finished one of the last two or three days. Anyway, my friend deserves a good day off or two. We handle a lot of weight.

Last dusk–it was already dark for normal photography without artificial light supply–I took a walk to the outskirts of my town with my camera and tripod. I have always wanted to photograph certain areas of the outskirts. Lucky, my neighbor’s teenage boy, accompanied me, and he turned out to be essential.

We walked past the cremation ground and saw this makeshift house. It was impossibly dark for a good shot, but I pushed up the ISO, squashed the shutter speed, mounted the camera on the small tripod, extended all its legs and wheeled up the neck, and then held up the tripod by its legs. The height must have been about 11 feet. Not high enough. I want a far lower angle.

Lucky pressed the remote shutter. I had told him how to do it. The result is not good, but not very bad. Thank you, Lucky.

We will take a shot again. Most probably this afternoon. While there is abundant light. My photographer friend JK Jotin will also join in.

Making a Crane

Photo: Thoithoi O’Cottage

I have needed a crane for so long at home. The one I have in Delhi is too big and heavy for carrying around. I did not think of making a crane–a heavy-duty one–until I made friends with Jivan, a mechanic at a garage in my neighborhood.

While I am not a machine man myself, machines have always fascinated me, and I have spent a good amount of my life’s time frequenting places and watching people work at workshops, garages and junk yards. I had a mechanic friend, Jayanta (far older than me, about eighteen years ago who had a garage at the same place in the neighborhood. I learnt quite a lot about machines from him. He was a sad unfortunate guy, who many people said was slightly off his rockers. He was different from the people we consider normal, and that was not, I think, just because of the substances he used–alcohol, cannabis and probably many more. A chain smoker too. He was a different man. His garage failed for several reasons and he could not even earn his daily meal. Those years my home had just me–my family far away. Another series of unfortunate events. I cooked for us two, and my girlfriend joined us once in a while–she helped both of us. The course of my life took me to different places and our paths parted. I still remember him.

Jivan was in one of the garages as a young boy, but I did not see him then. I did not know him until Shantakumar Yengkhom (a neighbor with several stories) introduced us to each other. It was after talking with Jivan and seeing how he works that I decided to have the crane made by him. Obviously he has not made a crane, but he knows how machines work. So I designed the crane, drew a simplified model on CorelDraw and showed it to him.

We talked about the details of the mechanism–how various parts on the machine would move or turn. The Covid-19 lockdown has had all shops shut, we would have material scarcity, but a man who can make things from scrap, Jivan came up with impressive ideas–he has a lot of scrap here and there in his garage, and there are scrap shops quietly open all around. We rode around on is very old Yamaha bike, which, Shantakumar aptly said, was like its owner, Jivan, himself–it was thin and looking weak but has got the required power. The pumps creaked when I, over eighty-three kilograms, climbed on and the chain made a noise.

Photo: Thoithoi O’Cottage

We selected iron pipes, plates, bars and wheels from among the scrap heaps. Forty rupees a kilogram. And we began to make the thing. We had the model, but as we worked on, there were slight but important divergence from the original model. We talk and discuss. We take iron pipes and bars from the hardware as the thing in the making demands.

Photo: JK Jotin

It is the sixth day and we are still working. The crane would probably be ready for photography, which needs less movement (tilting, panning and revolving). There will be much more to the machine than photography would require–it would be a great manned cinematography machine. We may not get certain materials we want at the moment, such as metal wire, and the crane may not be ready for cinematography before I go back to Delhi. I will look for the required materials in Delhi and we will finish the crane.

অহিংগি মচু খরা অয়ূক্কি মচি মচিদা

মীৎশেন খাঙনা খাঙনা
অহিংগি অমম্বা হোন্দুনা পুখি
মচীৎ মচীৎ
ঊচিনা ফৌ হোনবগুম,
হোনখি খঙদনা
মীৎ পাঙনা পাঙনা তূম্লুবগুম
নত্রগা ঐবু থনম্লগা মাঙলুবগুম কদায়নো অমদা ঐনা
অহিং মীৎশেন খাঙলিঙৈ।
অহিংনা কল্লম্বা মফমদা অয়ূক্না ওইশিল্লরবদা
থায়নগি য়ূমগি অনৌবা য়ূম্বুগুম
উই অহিংগি মচু খরা তৈহৌবা
মচি মচিদা অয়ূক্কি
শোরারেন্দগি পুরকপা অরোনবা পাউ
লৈমায়দা পাবা থোক্তনা হৈদোক্লিবা
নোংগি অশাংবা মরী মরক্তা।

খুলগি মীশিংনা হায়নৈ
তাইবঙ কৌবা খুলসে তম্নৈ–
হৌখ্রবা মতমগি য়ূম্বুশিংনা তাল্লৈ অমুক
অনৌবা য়ূম্বুশিংদগি
মখোয়গি মুনবীখ্রবা তূম্ফম
মখোয়গি মুনবীখ্রবা নুংশিনফম
মখোয়না অঙাং ওইরকফম …

হনুবা লেপ্পী তেবল চৌক্রি মনাক্তা
পূক্নীং চঙদ চিংদুনা চা তপ্না
নোংজুগি মনিল কাবা অঈংবদা,
পূক্নীংনা কদায়দনো চৎখ্রবদা মীৎয়েংনা ইশাম শামহৌনা।

মতমনা পৈ মরোল মরোল
লৌরদ্রবা অশিবা হকচাংশিংনা
লোন্নদুনা শেম্বগুম অকংবা মপৈ
লায়েংশঙগি মনম নুংশিবা কাদা।

26 May 2018

লম্বীশিং, মফমশিং

লম্বীগি লম্বীমক্তা, পুন্সিদগি হেন্না শাংবা লম্বী৷
য়াওব্রনে ঐনা চৎপা য়াদববু?
লৈব্রনে ঐনা থুংলুবা য়ারোইদবা মফম,
লম্বীশিংনা ইমাঙদদি তিংথোক্লগা?

মঙদরা নত্রগা হাদরা ঐনা মফম অমা উখিবগুম তৌই, উখিদ্রসু,
থৌই মদুনা লম্বী খঙদবা দ্রাইবরগুম ঐবু,
ঐনদি খঙলোই খোঙ থাংফম—ওয়না কদায়দা, য়েৎনা কদোমদা?
নঙসুনিদনা অসিগুম্বা মফম অমা, উখিবগুম করিগুম?
ঐখোয়না খঙদবা মীশিংসু৷
লম্বীসু লম্বীগি লম্বীমক্তনিদনা, কদাই কদাইদা তারিবনো খঙদবা৷
পুন্সিদগি হেন্না শাংবা লম্বীমক্তা৷ পুন্সিনা মনিল ওনখ্রগা তিংথোক্তুনা লৈহৌগদবা লম্বীমক্তা৷
চৎনবনিসু খঙদে, মশাগি লৈজবনিসু খঙদে ’সুম৷

মরূপ ওইবদি পাম্বা ঙাক্তা৷ খোঙলোই৷
নঙনা নুংশিবীদ্রসু নঙগি পূক্নীংবু ফারগা ঐগি পূক্নীংদা পুনশিন্নীংবা৷
শাউনীংগনিদো নঙনদি, অমুক্তং ফংজবা মপোক্কি নচিং পূম্বা ফূদোক্তুনা৷
শাউগনিদো ঐসু য়াদ্রগা নঙনা৷
নাইতোম তাবসে অসুক্কিমতীক কিজবা৷
নঙনা চৎমিন্নসি য়াদ্রসু ফারগা পুনীংবা৷
মপান্নাইদবসিদা, কদাইদগি থাপতোক্লগা কদাইদা নকশিল্লিবনো খঙদবসিদা৷
চত্তবদি য়াদব্রসু খঙদবা লমহাংঙসিদা৷
ইশাগি খোঙ য়েৎ ওয়মক মায়কৈ তিন্নদ্রবসিদা
ঐখোয়না নুংশিবসু কিবসু নম্বো অমুক পোশিল্লিবা৷

খঙগদ্রনে ঐবু য়ৌরে হায়বা ঐনা চৎলিবা মফমদু য়ৌবদা?
অমুক্ত চৎলুবসু নৎত্রি৷ মসিনি করম্না খঙদৌরিনো?
উনখিদ্রবা নুংশিবগুম উরগা খঙগদ্রনে, অতোপ্পদা থমোই লানশিল্লুবা নত্তনা?

লৈব্রনে ঐনা চৎপা য়াদবা লম্বী,
ঐনা থুংলুবা য়াদবা মফম, ঐনা খোয়দাগনিদি খঙজদ্রিবা?
শকখ্রবা ঈশৈ ঙংবদি নত্তেদনা হিংবসে।

How Idol Worship is the Same As Racism?

Or Racism and Coronavirus: What Ails Indians, Americans, Blacks, Manipuris, and All Other Races?

Mongoloid faces becoming what many of the non-mongoloid stocks spit their anger and fear on is far more problematic than plain racism, which itself deserve one clean death punch into its face. Racism is SHALLOW, and what it takes root in supports other ailments, religion being one of them.

The “face” just happens to be easily seen and you can give vent to your boiling fear and anger and pour all that emotion into that face (the mongoloid face, in this case, while many other faces have already been subjected to this treatment in other cases) because you want to kill what you fear so much. When the Indians (who suffer racism in the UK and the USA) call people of the mongoloid stock (majorly people from the north-eastern region of the country) coronavirus with disgust and fear, it is not the face they hate or fear—it is the virus, but misinformation has “forcibly” associated the virus with the face, which works and consequently produces the effect of the face representing the virus. This is how symbolism is born.

Symbolism is a primitive, the most ancient mode of managing the unmanageable or construing the unconstruable, by capturing this extraordinary force by means of something concrete, something palpable. If it is concrete, it is definite, and by giving it a name, you think you have figured it out and it is in your control. This is the method of giving birth to gods (which were initially the representation of different extraordinary forces of nature) and hence of religions. Even traffic lights, the buttons for play, pause and stop, and so on. This is how icon/image worshipping was born—it works by the same principle as what we call racism works. The idea of national flags works by this same principle. Symbolism, in many ways, is stupid—it is for stupid people, because most people take the symbol for what it represents, which is problematic. That is why Lord Krishna in the Bhagabat Gita says representations are required because not everybody is wise, meaning that most people are stupid. Idol worshipping is the same is racism.

Humans are symbolic thinkers. In the right of our mind, symbolism serves as useful shorthand and helps us, saves us a lot of time and confusion. However, being symbolic thinkers throws us into havoc in two kinds situations: (i) when humans are incapable of distinguishing between the thing and the symbol of the thing (for example, if somebody pisses on the symbol of your idol or nation, you feel outraged and your blood boil to the extent of killing the pisser right there—think of idol worshipping, flag worshipping in India) and (ii) when some symbol is forcibly imposed on something when the two are not related at all, thereby arbitrary creating a link between the two unrelated categories, which is a nascent phase of symbol creation, and hence should not be ignored.

This is how the human psyche works. Symbolism and one or other form or forms its negative byproducts are rampant wherever humans are. It’s a universal human cultural product. It is not to say that racism is natural and hence we should feel OK about this. On the contrary, it is to say that there are natural things such as viruses and bacteria (for example, the coronavirus) that kill us. Racism is not less lethal in a different realm, and you know it is lethal only when you are at the receiving end. We know what racism has done to the black people, but we recently saw how some blacks (who are at the receiving end of White racism) becomes the wielder of this lethal weapon. Similarly, we are witnessing how people from the north-eastern region of the country are at the receiving end of racism at the hands of Indians (who, or rather whose relatives, are having a rough time at the hands of Whites in the UK and the USA, not to say any other white countries. If we look closely into the home countries or states or towns of the mongoloid faces, we will still see micro-racism of sorts, which is not less lethal.

If it is unsavory to you, probably it will be to others too. So don’t be cruel, even if you cannot be kind. You are under no obligation to be kind, but being cruel is expensive, not to you at the moment of your being cruel, but to all the rest, and to yourself also at a different point of time, because what you sow never goes in vain. It has results. You may not live long enough to suffer that consequence, but your children or grandchildren will suffer. So even if we may not be so good naturally, just think of the consequences and let’s cooperate to make a better world for ourselves and for our children.