Sunday, March 17, 2013


Raven silken long hair falling at the hips and exotic almond eyes. Bearing this hallmark of the North Eastern India, Amy is a young woman from Manipur. Though more voluptuous and curvier than her sisters, Amy scores in the fashion department and wins the crown and title of hipness with her shorts and tight tank top. She manages my hair for me in a slightly upmarket salon in Whitefield to where I can afford a trip just once a month. I have never seen Amy with chipped nails or limp tresses or sans a smile. Her cute dimples and chirpy demeanour makes my day. Behind that life size doll’s smiles lay the common thread of truth that runs through almost every denizen in Manipur.

Separatist insurgency since 1964 is a known calamity in Manipur as in many states of the North East India. Clubbed with general apathy from the Central Government, alleged Army brutality and infighting (Manipur has twelve prominent insurgency outfits and none of them are united in their demands), the victims of home grown war and violence are the aged, the women and the children. Depending on their economic condition most of the youth come away to the Metro Cities to make themselves a life away from despair and zilch. Accoutered in trendy clothes they could be anything from waiters to beauticians to students in good varsities. They are branded “Chinks” and the women are seen as debauched. Unlike the rest of the country most of the North East does not stake a patriarchal claim on female genitalia. Like any other body part, the sexual organs are owned by the person it belongs to, not by the father or family who strives to keep it protected and then give it to another man in an arranged marriage for safekeeping and whatever else the husband may want to do. They discover sexuality as nature has ordained humans to. Society make lay down rules but hormones have their own story to tell and that explains why during Daandia and Garbhaa in Mumbai  gynaecologists cash in on sudden spikes in abortions. It is a well kept secret of Mumbai but a close friend also a gynaecologist told me how the late night dancing in backless cholis with young men leads to car park amours when Mummy and Bhaabi are not watching. However the rest of the country does not understand and respect this concept of “sex when I want not when you need”. A lot of these women are subjected to crass sexual overtures and in some serious cases rapes. They earn a good measure of local ire from those who feel that their jobs are taken away by these “chinks”. Unlike the Northern or Southern populace of this country the people from the North Eastern states don’t have an innate nature to hoard away their money. That explains why they don’t have sustained economic growth and dynastic businesses. What they earn they splurge. Someone from the same economic background from Manipur or other North Eastern states generally would have a better turn out and less squalid living conditions than people from other parts of the country. This factor has led some of the lower to middle class residential areas in Bangalore see a spike in North Eastern youths. They don’t haggle too much and are more open to paying higher rents. They are blessed with good aesthetic sense and they can’t help being sensualists and romantics. Investments is bizarrely lost on the people from thence. They rather eat well, dress well and merry make. Most people will call them irresponsible but they could not care less.

Amy is just 24. She wants to get married and have a family someday. She does not earn a lot because the services industry does not pay very well in India. She supports her aging parents and sends them money through other girls who go home or sometimes through a demand draft. Her two brothers like many men in Manipur have taken to the bottle and rock music and have left the toiling to the industrious women. She shrugged it away saying at least they don’t do drugs. She did call them some colourful names when she explained how they ask her for more money, on which they practically and technically have no right. Against her better advice to her siblings to migrate to Bangalore and make themselves more useful, they decided to stay back and hic away. 

Switching context she told me my hair needs some TLC and talks me in to buying two obscenely priced Kerastase products. I must tell her next time those products don’t seem to be weaving any magic in my hair and that my tresses are far from being as luscious as hers. I am quite sure she is using a regular shampoo. She mentioned she that changes her nail paint every night and that she washes her hair every day. So much for hair pundits booing daily hair cleansing and style Nazis extolling high end French products.

End of March she plans to undertake a seventy two hour train journey to Assam and then take a bus from thence to Manipur to be with her parents. She plans to bring them to Bangalore with her. I asked her what are her plans are once she brings her folks to Bangalore. She smiled and said in her cheerful Manipuri accent “Ma’am I weel take dem to fud court for momos. Mummy loves momos. But it is so expensif”.

I can’t help myself tipping this cheerful young woman handsomely who by the way has managed to work for the last ten years in Bangalore and recently bought herself a second hand gear-less scooter. She gives a rat’s butt to people who may tag her “loose” “available” “Chink”. Our Amy is having fun, working hard and sending home money. She holds her own very firmly. Cheers Amy!!!