When I was a kid I heard a story about a pumpkin seller. It may be true, may not be true. As per narrated to me by an elder, the person even after sitting for hours hardly sold any pumpkin. Desperate and tired of sitting too long under the hot and harsh summer sun, he thought of packing up and go home. As he was about to pack, and idea popped up inside his head. He then started shouting loudly, “Moreh pumpkin, Moreh pumkin available here”. Soon the people at the vicinity, after hearing the word “Moreh”, thronged towards him and bought all the pumpkins one by one. Within a few minutes, he had already sold all the pumpkins. If he had not used the word “Moreh”, his pumpkins would have remained unsold for the rest of the day.
The nearest foreign country from Manipur is Myanmar, the erstwhile Burma. Moreh is the town adjoining Myanmar and Manipur. It is a known fact that foreign products of different kinds and hues are available at Moreh. The products are from countries such as China, Taiwan, Thailand, Myanmar etc. The word “Moreh” carries along with it significance, a uniqueness unlike names of other towns in Manipur. In fact, Moreh is an influential word and the products available in Moreh are even more influential. Now-a-days everything a family needs are available at Moreh town as well as in Paona International Market, Imphal. Each family in Manipur has at least one or more products marketed through Moreh. The products range from rice, junk packaged foods, grocery items such as onions, garlic, ginger, chilly, toiletry items, fruits, beverages, liquor, apparels, furniture items and even petrol. Over and above that drugs such as Heroin which is manufactured at Golden Triangle are available aplenty at Moreh. Again, newer drugs called WY which means “World is Yours” usually known as ‘Y’ or Meth (short version of Meth- Amphetamine) comes to the state through Moreh which are manufactured in Myanmar with different varieties – low, standard and high quality.
Almost everything is available at Moreh town. The wood called “Teak” from Kabaw Valley, a resourceful valley which was once a part of Manipur is synonymous with Moreh. Besides, there are other trees such as Mahogany, Rosewood, Ebony etc. Many government employees from mainland India who are posted in Manipur usually buy teak planks or teak furniture when they proceed back to their home place. Electronic items ranging from wrist watches, woofers, rice cookers, LED bulbs etc can be bought at a very cheap price. Previously Japan was tantamount to electronics, but nowadays electronic items used here are mostly manufactured in China. Jio SIM and Jio smartphones of Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance India Limited are products manufactured in India in collaboration with China. China has a huge pool of labour and their aggressive marketing policy attracts buyers since every item costs half the price that is manufactured in India. Even if the products are manufactured in other countries, they are commonly referred to as Moreh products by the denizens of Manipur.
Just the other day I was flabbergasted to see my son holding a packet that exactly resembles the cigarette pack of “Peacock” which is made in Myanmar. Although it was a smaller replica, the colour, the print are astoundingly similar. It looks like a miniature version of the original pack. Wondering what the hell was going on, I snatched the pack to see what’s inside and to my utter surprise, there were some sticks of candy that resemble cigarette sticks. Not only that, miniature packs of cigarette “Camel” which contains candy are also available aplenty which are bought by the growing up kids. Another one is a Malboro with “Candy Smoke” written on the top. Those were the ones I have come across. If a survey is carried out, there might be many more of such products. Words such as “Candy Smoke” will arouse curiosity and inculcate a very message to the kids because of the word “smoke”. Being a candy, no smoke will come out, but kids are the ones with the highest curiosity and one day the curiosity may get the better of them and they might go for the real “smoke”. Then they may try the real cigarette that produces smoke. That stage will be the beginning of the end for innocence of the kids. Besides, many energy drinks are coming from Moreh side which resembles the bottle of a beer. Prior to that also I have also come across sweets which are round in shape and was packed like pills in a strip of plastic, albeit a little bigger. Reminds me of Nitrosun-10 tablet, an anti-depressant cum tranquilizer which is banned in the North Eastern part of India due to misuse by many but is still available in the black market. Although it tasted good as its ingredients consist of milk powder, I really abhor the way the sweet was packed as though it was brought down directly from the self of a medical store. Such kind of products will have a negative repercussion to the young and innocent minds of kids.
As the kids hold the smaller replica of the cigarette packs that contain candy inside, they will get more and more familiar with the items. With time, they will develop an attachment with such items and develop the audacity of holding a real pack of cigarettes. Out of curiosity they might take a puff as a first timer. The irony about using any kind of intoxicants is that the ‘first time’ be it cracking a cigarette stick, gulping a peg of liquor, a puff or a zack (intravenous use) of heroin/morphin or any other narcotropic and psychotropic substances is the key for opening a Pandora’s Box of umpteen problems. Nobody was born addicted to any kind of chemicals or substances. It is the ‘first’ act or incident that begets as a huge gateway towards addiction of substance abuse.
It’s really hard to gauge whether the manufacturers of such items are deliberately making them so that younger generations fall prey to tobacco products and other psychotropic substances with the aim of enhancing their profit exponentially. The state government needs to look into this matter seriously and prohibit such candies and eatables for kids from entering the state. The various student bodies and civil society organisations also need to keep an eagle’s eye and carry out surprise checks at various shops that sell such kinda products coming from Moreh. Such act will act as a good gesture to prevent our kids from developing a negative aftermath in their innocent minds after using such malicious eatable items.
(The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)