I thought Delhi to be a fairyland, where everything was perfect until I left my native place to come here for my studies. But now, after several years the rosy image has gradually faded away.
Sometimes I feel why am I here in the first place, especially when I find myself being ‘stared at’ all the time for looking different from mainland people. This makes me feel that I am some alien and do not belong to my country - India.
I’m fully aware that my mongoloid looks separate me from others in the capital, but I fail to tolerate those suspicious eyes that follow me everywhere. I come from Manipur, which now has got the infamous sobriquet of being ‘the encounter capital of India’ in Delhi. But people’s perception here is influenced by insurgency in Manipur. People from outside the state do not know the hidden beauty of the place, which makes me so proud of it.
I had to leave my place for further studies after completing my 12th standard. When I landed in the national capital, I enjoyed life initially. Everything was new and big in comparison to my small hometown. I spent my days shopping, going for movies, site-seeing and hanging out with friends.
But lo and behold! When the college session started and I shifted base from my aunt’s place to a paying guest (PG) accommodation, my life changed. Soon, I started missing home. The change from being in a well-guarded close knit family to living with complete strangers was altogether new to me.
I had to switch from rice as a staple diet to <i>chappatis</i>. It was something I was not used to and I felt that I was having an incomplete meal without a bowl of rice. It was a relief that ‘tuck’ from back home didn’t get short, nor did the extra pocket money! Long distance phone-calls, complaints after complaints about the hostel, food and weather became a constant habit of mine.
The very thought of travelling by a bus in Delhi was a nightmare for me. But luckily, I managed without having to take buses. However, there was something that was always in my mind, every now and then. The contrast in lifestyle, food habits, and surroundings of Manipur and Delhi is astonishing. It is truly said, India is unity in diversity.
Life in our hometown is so simple! You will never come across a sky scraper or a big shopping mall, but mind you, the small cottages or bungalows surrounded with lush greenery are enough to give you a refreshing hospitable look.
The premises of each house are spacious enough to accommodate a flower garden as well as a kitchen garden with a proper garage. So no cars parked on the streets at night. Neither would you come across garbage dumped on streets nor cows chewing the disposal.
And if the national capital boasts of big malls, glass-framed stores with sleek mannequins, then even my hometown is no less. The shopping complex and show-rooms in Manipur offer a variety of apparels and accessories within reasonable, affordable price range. Heaps of imported stuffs especially from Myanmar and Bangkok are available. The dressing style of youngsters is more like that of Korean youth seen in ‘Arirang’ (Korean) channel.
If Salwar-Kameez is generally worn by women in Delhi, then you would find Phanek/ Mekhala Chadar (wrap-around) as the everyday attire of women in my hometown. Manipur also boasts of ‘Ima Keithel’ (women’s bazaar) exclusively run by women.
Besides, the early schedule in my hometown is in a sharp contrast to the life in a Metro city. As the Sun rises early in the morning, almost everyone in my house would be up by around 5 am. So after a predictably early morning breakfast, we would get down to chores. Mine would include cleaning up the garden, where I would love to collect ripe mangoes and passion fruits lying on the ground after a windy night. Lunch would be ready by around 9 or 10 am, which is really breakfast time in Delhi! After this, everybody would go to their respective jobs – to study or work. After Sunset, it turns dark by 5 pm, and family members would be expected to be home by that time. Dinner would be laid on the table by around 6-7pm and by 10-11 pm, everybody would be in bed.
Life is much easier in my hometown. Everything seems to be cheaper and in abundance. There’s no shortage of fresh vegetables, fruits in the market. Owing to temperate climate in the region, one can stock up vegetables for 2-3 days in open space. A refrigerator is more like an ornamental piece in the kitchen. Appliances like fans, heaters also don’t serve much purpose. The fresh air, wind coming in through open windows keeps the rooms cools. In the winters, the hearth in the kitchen warms the entire house.
The common public mode of transport like buses in Delhi is not common in Manipur, as they are taken only for visiting hill stations or very far off places. Most people use their own cars or opt for rickshaws and autos. You would also not be stranded in a traffic jam and you would hardly come across a single beggar in the street.
Catching a movie with friends would not burn your pocket, as there we pay less than half of what we need to shell out here. Manipuri movies are a hit in the state! Of late, Korean movies are certainly making their mark. For vacations and weekends, there are many close by destinations within the state that one can visit and enjoy.
With all the bounties that our native state has, it’s a pity that it’s been given the tag of an ‘encounter capital’. The state has a lovely facet, which is unknown to the outside world, and needs attention. So, why not come and discover the other side of our state – which is a perfect mix of simple lifestyle and exquisite atmosphere.