Life became topsy-turvy after my dad went for his eternal repose. It was the 1st November, 2016. Mum had passed away much earlier. Both of them were Government teachers therefore we lived a life of ease. The onus of running the family affairs was forced upon my shoulders since I was the primogeniture. Frankly put, I was not chiselled for this kind of task but it was presented to me as a fait accompli. There was nothing I could do.
Five years down the line, I still can’t exorcise the circumstances in which my father had to pass away.
The Manipur University admission imbroglio had reached the last straw and ATSUM had decided to pull out all the tribal students from the campus. I was asked to lead the exodus as I was the embodiment of defiance against this oppressive authority.
On the 10th of October, 2016 under the stewardship of this bold and brash gentleman the whole tribal students walked out of the University. At the behest of the then CM, Ibobi we were stopped by the police at Singjamei Bridge requesting us to return but we refused. As our way was blocked we squatted on the bridge.
As it was getting dark the police started applying psychological tactics unnerving few. Rumblings and murmurs could be heard from some quarters. They needed motivation. So I stood up and imbued them. “Dear friends, we will walk to our destiny come what may ! I am going to walk first and in the front. If I am shot just step on my body and walk ahead.” It was just enough to goad them into action.
Then I pushed forward with the crowd behind. A police officer prodded me to speak to a Minister via phone. He pleaded us to return to the university as the State Government was straining every nerve to bring forth a solution. We snubbed the overture for we have crossed the Rubicon and there was no going back. They allowed us to proceed. Later, I was told that the whole SPF Ministers were monitoring our footsteps, with bated breath. It was their decision to let us proceed. Meanwhile, the deadline for the submission of my thesis was on the brink. I left the youth hostel at Khuman Lampak and went to the hinterland to scour for data and materials. I returned home on the 24th October.
Just as I landed at Kangpokpi I received a call from the president of KSO GHQ asking me to start a lightning bandh since the talk held with the Government had failed to break the ice. At the drop of the hat, I collected some friends chased away all the vehicles, closed down shops and business establishments there. Then I proceeded southwards doing the same at Kalapahar, Keithelmanbi, Saparmeina and made the last stand at Motbung.
Still the deadlock persisted and ATSUM called a blockade. I was asked to lead the team to be stationed at Mao. On the 29th we left for Mao, met the local leaders and requested for their support. In the evening I was informed of dad’s health condition. It seems he was cash strapped and relying on me.
On the 30th our team was instructed to pull back to Senapati. Much to our chagrin, not a soul was seen when we reached there. We did what we could. Later, we were called down to Keithelmanbi to assist the team there. Soon after, the president of KSO-SH came to the spot throwing tantrums at the protesters. Dog tired from the harrowing journey and shocked by such insolence I gave him a piece of my mind.
I was not aware of the twist that had developed the other night. The Cabinet had approved the inauguration of Kangpokpi district. The Chief Minister was to make a formal announcement on the 1st November at Kangpokpi KUT festival. The Government had requested the CSOs to make the ambience conducive with no bandh or blockade.
With the atmosphere getting hostile it was decided to relocate the team to Motbung, my home town. There all goods laden vehicles were interdicted. Then came the relentless threats to stop the protest or face the music. Unfazed, I taunted them to come to the spot if they got the balls.
Later on, I had a heated exchange with a DSP who was sent to stifle the protest. He accused me of acting as the cat’s paw of the Nagas which made me even angrier. We haven’t talked till date.
Fearing for my safety my colleagues requested for a stand-down but I was obstinate as ever. Though I knew the whole axe was to fall on me later I didn’t flinch. After much persuasion it was decided to call it a day. We had dinner at my benevolent elder sister’s home who had also requisitioned a bus to ferry the team down to Imphal. I decided to stay back in view of my father’s health but was dissuaded. After much haggling I relented.
I was to return the next morning with the president of MUTSU. But he kept on procrastinating on one or the other pretext until it was getting dark. At around 6.30 pm I was informed that dad had passed away on his way to the hospital.
It felt like a hammer had just hit me on the head and I was reeling in disbelief. I was filled with remorse because I was found wanting when he needed me the most. I was 10 hours too late. All the sacrifices made now became worthless for the price paid was too big- my dad, my sheet anchor.
The next day people from all hues came for the condolence showering me bouquets after bouquets. But deep down I could discern that our future was ominous and grim. All the encomiums fell flat on the face of hunger.
My dad was buried along with his pension benefits and that of my mum thus leaving us high and dry. It was imperative that I should do something to augment the family income. It was under this circumstances that I decided to throw my hat into the ring.
The dramatic shift in our lives now became pervasive. Advertisement section newspaper that was otherwise overlooked now gained primacy over all else. One morning as I was flipping the pages an advertisement caught my eye. A mission higher secondary school wanted a history teacher with salary tag of Rs. 12,000/ per month. As the school was located at an earshot distance, I decided to give it a try.
Teaching is one facet of life that had invariably failed to capture my imagination especially private schools with their lousy pay but where you have to overwork like a buffalo only to be ridiculed by the proprietor’s wife.
An insider told me that there were seven applicants for the job. It was challenging as this will give me a chance to fathom both my academic and teaching prowess. Plus there is nothing to lose as teaching is a symbiotic exercise for the giver is also commensurately rewarded in terms of knowledge. This was testified by many of my friends who have taken the plunge.
I reached the campus at around 11. Four applicants turned up and we were made to wait at the vestibule. As we exchanged pleasantries my name was called.
As I nudged the door open I jumped back startled. Of the two interviewers I had intimidated the other one sometimes back but to my good fortune that issue was never brought up. The interview started with the ritualistic introduction and about my academic antecedents. Questions relevant to the subject were asked-some which I answered with ease and some I couldn’t. Then I was asked whether I was involved in activism. I said yes.
The crux of the interview then centred round my activism. That, how will I serve the school with total dedication while I was also occupied elsewhere. I was very candid about the passion I have for activism and that I was dabbling with this job just to overcome a short-term financial crunch. After all, I am not hankering after this job, I continued. But I assured them that I will not overlook the academic needs of the students nor will I totally distance myself from the call of social obligations. This was the deal breaker, I assume.
And a commitment of two years for a pittance of 12k was something I couldn’t digest. I am smug till today that I had stood to my ground.
This is the malady with most private schools. The proprietors want their teachers to be amenable to all their dictates however nonsensical it might be. Teachers are seldom given the respect that is due to them but treated like lackeys. Being in the payroll of the school doesn’t mean that teachers are their bonded servants. They should be given certain amount of latitude in the way they teach and proffer their knowledge not to dance to the tune of the proprietor. One frequent grouse I hear is the mistress of the proprietor tends to overstep her line in the domain of administration.
Years back the local MLA offered me a Government job, gratis but I decline it outright for I refuse to be beholden to anybody how high mighty he might be. So, why should I commit myself to a private job that guarantees little future prospect ?