Life in Manipur: A Photo Essay | Milaap

Life in Manipur: A Photo Essay

As soon as I got off the small twenty-seater plane that carried me here, I was awestruck. It may have been an arduous eight-hour journey to get to Imphal, Manipur, but it was well worth it. The open airport is tiny and surrounded by fields of greenery. The air smelled natural and clean. Getting on to the road, no one honked and there was space for the driver to change lanes. It seemed unnatural after the chaos of congested Bangalore - and most metropolises. It felt like a dream on that first day. And it continues to feel that way.

The office at YVU, Milaap’s partner, is set amongst acres of lush, green farmland.  It’s some 30-odd kilometres from the capital, Imphal, and a few kilometres from the town of Thoubal. This gives one the kind of serenity during office hours dreamt of by city-dwellers. Once you enter the compound, gardens filled with flowers of different variety greet you. The pathway to and from the main building is enveloped with trees that hang low, protecting you from the rains. The gardens are immaculate and a small feature of this vast compound. I am still yet to explore parts of it.

Around the office and on my field visits, rolling hills of green trees and inviting trails dot the landscape. I’ve been lucky enough to travel on some to visit remote villages. Hiking these once the monsoon ends will be my main objective. They look too inviting to pass up, especially considering how there are two hills within walking distance of my room.

Culturally, there is still a lot I’m trying to understand. Whether it’s the protests on the street or the way in what is perceived to be “Manipuri” rather than “Indian,” it’s all a learning curve. The region’s citizens have been hospitable and kind. They’ve helped nurture me along this learning path. There is a general sense of contentment amongst most. Even in Imphal, hospitality hangs in the air that, at times, feels lost in the pandemonium of major Indian cities. There’s always genial banter to be had with the locals whether it’s about the lack of rice I eat to discussions about a person’s aversion to beef (my weakness) vs. my aversion to dog - a delicacy here.

Despite all these positives, at times, life is hard. A lack of a fridge makes me think about my meals in advance. I have constant Internet problems and worse network problems - sorry Mom and Dad. The surprise storms can really scare you, especially when you’re on the road. The army checkpoints always make me nervous. But, in all this, there is a positive to be had: I’m gaining a unique, temporary insight into a permanent world lived in by millions. You couldn’t ask for anything more. (Maybe a decent cup of coffee, though?)