Why did we plan a trip to the Northeast beginning with Imphal? As in the case of any good job, there are many reasons. My friends will, however, be quick to pick up the most important reason of all – my DW [Darling Wife!] decided to visit Northeast.
So we took a flight to Kolkata from there we were to take another flight to Imphal. I love the new Kolkata airport – perhaps because I have seen the old one! As I entered, there were a few frightening masks staring at me. Masks have always been a subject of interest to mankind, some get malicious pleasure in tearing the invisible masks of other men. Not me, Sir. I am not the violent type, I am the type who is frightened by the masks of any variety.
Sometimes I feel that Kolkata-vasi confuse between two phonetically similar words – Mask and Marx – the resultant effect is that they love both! There are various theories regarding the origin of masks in Bengal [read here], none conclusive, understandably so.
We reached Imphal. Imphal, most of it, looks like Dombivli in the seventies. No offence meant for Dombivli-kars. And of course, no offence to Manipuri friends. Just pointing out similarities. Such statements can be hit headlines on news channels. We have no intention to be interviewed by Arnab.
The comparison held well till we visited the beautiful Loktak Lake. To set the record right and to assuage the feelings of Manipuris, Dombivli does not have a lake – they had a creek nearby which is eaten away by sand mafia and builders. But this creepy variety of Homo sapiens has so far not migrated to Manipur from the concrete jungle of Dombivli.
We left our bags in the Hotel and ventured out in the market. Travellers are warned not to venture out after 6 pm. The market is run by ladies exclusively. The only market in Asia run only by women! [It is time for ‘equal opportunity for men’ organisations to wake up!].
One question: If there are so many women around, why be afraid of meandering after 6 pm? The answer: There are certain groups who are called – you know who we are referring to – why invite trouble by naming them – who are disturbed by peace. Be that as it may, such groups are found all over the world!
Market in Imphal was interesting for the vegetables as well as dried [and fermented] fish. The latter is called Ngari. Long ago while travelling in Hetauda in Nepal I had gulped such a tiny fish while sipping my beer. Dried or fried – fish and Beer is a good combination!
Our view of Imphal changed completely when we walked down to Kangla Fort.
More about it soon.
Vivek S Patwardhan