The Sangai Festival | Milaap

The Sangai Festival

The Sangai Festival is celebrated every year in the month of November in Manipur. Quite often people from other cities or countries pronounce the festival as “Shanghai”. However, the festival is named after the State animal, Sangai. Apparently, this brow-antlered deer is found only in Manipur.

The moment I entered the venue, the Hapta kangjeipung palace compound, I witnessed the themed huts of the variety of tribes at the heritage park. This represented the way of living of these tribes and flaunted their indigenous products. The artistry and creativity of the tribes of Manipur were well captured in their handloom and handicrafts products, which are otherwise not extensively accessible in the market.

The festival is organized at several venues. The festival attracts a number of tourists from all over the country and the world. The classical dance of Manipur, Ras Leela is quite well-known all over the world for its uniqueness. This year the festival was inaugurated by a performance on Ras Leela. In addition, a number of cultural programs were organized for the entertainment of the visitors. A stall showcased a number of photographs that captured the culture, tradition, food, and the beauty of Manipur.

However, according to me, the most interesting part of the festival was the bathrooms. In India, the use of public toilets is not really a matter of preference; rather it is more like an inbuilt intuition for the majority of people.  Men and women use the restrooms ‘designed’ for them. Often we forget there is a third gender, whom we have termed as the “Others”, because it is convenient to put everyone in one category, right!

Transgender have no admittance to toilets in public spaces in most places. The Indian Supreme Court awarded the status of the third gender to transgender people. Furthermore, it specified that it is an individual’s right to establish the gender they identify with. The judgment incorporated an edict for independent toilets for transgender in public places. The year is 2017. How often do we come across a separate “third-gender” public toilet?
In such a state, these people face the dilemma to choose between the two restrooms- men or women. They have to choose between the identity chosen by them and the identity chosen for them. Irrespective of what they choose, they often deal with stares, sneers, heckling and bullying.
So, when I came across the bathroom with ‘transgender’ labeled on it, I was rather stunned. The society should be empathetic towards those we refer to the minorities.  No individual should be denied the basic right to have access to a sanitary and safe toilet. Some transgender experience anxiety when they have to share a toilet facility with people whose bodies might differ in some way than their own. This was rather a commendable step taken by the authorities of the state. As a collective, it is essential for us to be considerate toward those who feel apprehension about the possibility that their bodies might be visible to others.

There was a celebratory ambiance all around the city on Saturday evening. The streets were festooned with multicolored lights. Tiptoeing through the streets, I could not help, but contemplate how beautiful the city looked tonight.