Saturday, July 21, 2012


“What is really Precious lies beyond the Five Senses.”

Who said that? Why should anyone say that? WE just wrote that. That’s the craze for branded goods for you, particularly with foreign labels! Eh..?

By the end of the year 2011, we had over-run most of the North East, Nagaland being a sad omission. Then MD descended over Nagaland and dutifully we had to proceed to Dimapur, obeying the command of the falling fruit, he,he,he! What-What is there to see, we asked Bhanjo, and wistfully he replied-eat Sir- the peculiar cuisine-they don’t use any frying medium and use loads of vegetables-the fat comes from the pieces of pork- then you have to see places like Zuneboto, the bad-lands of Chumukedima-and, and “wo apko wo kobor dikayenge, haaaaannn...Kohima meyyy...” The haaaaannn which is a Tripura invention is a deddd giveaway about the speaker’s place of origin. The tone is one of samjhaayish, that’s the only word for the phenomenon.

The last quoted, i.e. the cemetery, interested us the least. A cemetery is the last place we’ll ever go to, hah,hah,hah! But, as we came to learn later, that was the spot where the Battle of Kohima was fought in 1945 as a sort of post-script to the WW II. That is said to be ‘arguably’ the fiercest battle of the Second War. One’s  ignorance is literally monumental sometimes.

Cemetery is really a misnomer. It’s a war memorial. The beauty of the place is haunting- ‘Awesome' in Senior’s words. Here is a snap:

 Tetseo Sisters: Beauty Brains and Melody
 There are 1420 memorial tablets nestled in the greens spread over six terraces.  The epitaph with the  immortal words 

"When you go home
Tell them of us and say,
For your tomorrow,
we gave our today."

is here.

We saw a white young couple, who had flown from Australia, as we later learnt, place a fresh flower wreath on the grave of a beloved ancestor who laid down his life for a cause unbeknown to him. Major Kohito, Security Officer at Chabiwala spoke about the crowds that gather on All Souls Day, that is the birthday of YF, shared with Shah Rukh Khan.

But what struck us of a heap that sunny day was not the sentiment pervading the place, but a startling discovery of the Yin and Yang of an Indian’s psyche, in the context of the Raj and the freedom struggle.

yin YANG 
The lonely tablets, as one surveys them and notes the names- British, Moslem, Sikh, Hindu etc. etc .-naturally touch hearts. They were all so young and tender-many under 20. “When we go out to fight”, Major Kohito says,” we don’t think about death or survival. It’s like a listless boring round of Russian Roulette, if you please”. Human sympathy wells up in those hauntingly beautiful precincts. Those rich green lawns adorned by a Sepulchre topped by the Cross. Tennis Court. It’s maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, not by NDMC haaaannn!

But then as you proceed, as sympathy for the Allied kids builds up in your heart, you awkwardly come face to face with the fact that one of the antagonists was none else than the Indian National Army! amaar INA! THE INA so revered on the mainland. Ekhan ki bolon dada...! Then it’s not in the nature of the intellectually honest person to perform an emotional flip-flop quickly-no? He or she has to be given at least a few minutes in the loo to invent a justification for the flip-flop. The experience leaves the believer in a perplexed state of mind and the gradually building crescendo of feelings, anticipating a delicious chocolate-core climax is suddenly thrown out of gear. Major Kohito confirms that he also always had sommme inarticulable odd feeling about the place, and today he knows the why-and-what of it! Fortunately YF is not a believer. Well, believer in Netaji I sayyyy! He was (i) fond of wearing a uniform and hobnobbed with other mufti-wallahs like Hitler. (ii) according to an enlightened friend, he had this dictatorial streak, and had he been at the helm in India and not Nehru, India would be resting in pieces like...(sorry, we don't promote patriotism on this blog)..sounds sacrilegious ehh..?

So for YF and Major Kohito, and a host of traitors, its Advantage British Raj. You travel along any ancient highway and you’ll realise why. We always remember the dotty, priggish Colonel of Bridge on the River Kwai. Imagine constructing a lovely strategic bridge for your enemy and taking pride in the handiworks! Here is the link to that charming conception of a British Officer. Alec Guiness.

A new sort of lesson today: A historical monument can be admired not only for beauty, or horror, antique value, or curiosity value, but also for the sheer play of irony it evokes in your heart.

That is the sense in which we hold the Kohima Cemetery as Unique.


Why Tripurites say no one can beat Manikda at the hustings:

Scene is the first Banker-Govt Meeting we attend in Tripura, at Agartala after we assume charge. Standing in an accidentally created group of 6 or 7, we introduce ourselves “ ....I am the Zonal Head of Chabiwala Bank”. A frail fair bhadralok in white kurta-pyjamas extends his hand to us, and says “I am Manik Sarkar, Chief Minister of Tripura”. Touche! He doesn’t have any security or a beacon lighted car or the usual works. Nobody in Tripura has it. And we swear, nobody indulges in bribery in Tripura. And no vulgar tandav to proclaim your alleged honesty like bloody “ khato nathi khawa deto nathi...”. Feels like heaven. Till you aaks people to work!

1 comment:

sanjiv bokil said...

I don't know who I am addressing, but thanks for reading. Let me explain the blog's theme- if you see the masthead, it says "what is the blog about if not mindless digression". I was suffering from a life-threatening medical condition when my 2 sons and one friend pushed me to write a blog for diversion. (I survived to write this.)So initially you'll find allusions which only these 3 are familiar with. Then a sort of readership developed and I had to universalize the contents. Therefore the initial posts may appear obscure, but the recent ones should be comprehensible.

Regarding this particular post, if you are conversant with history of the Indian independence movement, it is about the irony which emerges in the Indian visitor's mind. Initially he/she starts with all sympathy for the buried soldiers, but by the end realizes that the soldiers were really fighting none other than the forces of Indian hero Subhas Chandra Bose!