Responsive Ad Slot


Thursday, January 5, 2012

/ Published by Simon L Infimate
~Lienthanglur Khawzawl, Team Member, VIRTHLI.COM



It was raining and cold in the 25th January afternoon when we reached Lungthulien village. We had taken our time starting late from Parbung village after a nights stay. It was here that something struck me and my distinction of being a city bred was shoved to the obviousness of nothing.

Not that I have never been here before. In fact, I have had a few experiences from the Christmas visits my parents used to take us to when we were kids. Those were then and we were still kids with the least care to make ends meet unless it was for fun. A decade and some had passed and here I was again, thanks for the opportunity of a lifetime tagging along as a member of the HSA team surveying Hmarbiel and Vangai Ranges in Tipaimukh Sub-Division of Churachandpur District, Manipur, from 19-30 Jan, 2008. With a score and a few that I carry with me now, I no longer portrayed the carefree kid whose sole goal was fun permitting me to see and observe things less dreamy and more practical. No matter what, I love the land, the trees, the birds and the bees.

This is where the hornbills fly across the river and roost in the trees and the fish swim and jump out of the water only to make a splash when they drop back.

This is where the forests are dark, thick and dotted with patches of jhum fields.

This is where the fireplace never dies and the soot hanging down from the bamboo shelves induce one to nostalgia and melancholy.

This is where the forests gawk into villages at the hilltops and the crickets sing and lull the babies to dream.

This is where history woven into songs and sung in honour of the brave and the courageous, lovers and the loved took to the world and joined the endurance race of the modern world.

This is where I first cried in my mother’s arms before I was brought to learn the trades of modern living in which I am still greatly inadequate.

This is where my heart lies.     

Life is beautiful and blissfully amazing here. The trees seem greener and the rivers flow more lively with the splashes and rumbles echoing in the valleys. The birds echo their bests from trees standing tall against the clear blue sky imposing a strong presence away from the complicated issues of modern world imbalances. Life here is beautiful and simple and no doubt you always feel, taste and marvel at the wonder of God’s creation. Doubtless, for a city bred like me no amount of partying or reveling can surpass the feeling you get from being so close to nature and the simple yet beautiful life portrayed. Needless to mention, any amount of thoughtfully creative construction of words would still be an understatement of a measure of life amidst these misty rolling hills.



She carried a mansate most probably containing a few ragged clothes; a pick from her best. She must have been five or six years old. There were other kids too of different age groups but of all the kids she was the one who caught my eyes. She was soaking in the drizzle and her tufts ended in crystal clear drops of tropical rain. Her footsteps were small and frail but hearty and light on the sodden asphalt lying unrepaired for God knows how long. None of the other kids were better-off than her but, I believe the depravity of these kids was only skin deep because they portrayed zealous qualities and shone with abundance in the heart. We were told that they were the Sunday school students of a particular congregation in Rawvakawt on their way to Parvachawm to take part in a number of competitions at the Annual Sunday School Conference of the congregation being held there.

I learnt from my father and mother, close friends and relatives that they used to be particularly enthusiastic on such occasions when they themselves were kids of the same age. I also learnt from my parents when I was a curious kid that, they would take over the housekeeping, go to school with babies on their backs when their parents left them for the jhum fields and study by the light of a dimly flickering kerosene lamp in the nights. Today, things have changed and people are more likely to shuffle between the towns, cities and other villages and the dimly flickering kerosene lamp might have been replaced by solar lighting systems and in some villages, hardly regular electricity but the standard of living and economical improvement still seem to lack somewhere behind. Tragically, the happiness index also seem to be much more substantial 20-30 years back roughly concluding from what I have seen now and what I heard about when my parents were kids. The little girl and her friends may share the same characteristics like every other child in the world and they may even be brimming with qualities but looking at the opportunities they will be having in their process of growth, their lives seem insufficient and their future looks bleaker still, considering the world they will be exposed to as adults.

As the world progresses in its quest for excellence in science and technology, education and medicine, our little world consisting of a few hundred square miles is still struggling to wriggle ahead. Education has degraded to such a point where schools have become a place where corruption is openly taught by the teachers rather than build the leaders of tomorrow. How can somebody have a future when the schools only exist in paper and the teachers openly hire unqualified replacements by paying a meager sum and have never been in their place of postings? Tragically, it also happens sometimes that the people don’t even know the teachers who are supposed to be teaching in their schools. It is appalling that the teachers sit in their homes in the cities and towns earning an easy sum while the innocent children in the villages suffer and sacrifice their future for the comfort of their so called teachers. As such, social progress is negligible and the people are ideologically and economically handicapped. The people are largely unaware of their indigenous rights, their civil rights and other provisions that could ensue to their political and civil well-being. The idea of environmental conservation had been lost in a relatively modern but remote existence and the importance of ecological balance are largely absent and so is awareness on sensitive issues like HIV&AIDS.

The land is bountiful and generous enough to have been supporting the people for centuries but today, unscrupulous exploitation of resources from within and outside is beginning to endanger both the survival of the land and the people. Economic degradation has led to unscrupulous exploitation of resources to supplement the general livelihood of the people. Moreover, lack of proper education has resulted in deplorable harvesting of forest reserves and resources which is not only unprofitable considering the total input against the final income generated but also harmful to the ecology of the region. It should be noted that the region falls within the Indo-Burma Bio-diversity hot spot.

To sum up the socio-economic position of the people of Tipaimukh, it could be said that economic backwardness has rendered them meagerly contented with more or less lack of farsighted and much more reliable ventures. Moreover it is evident that there is an increasing problem of an induced dependency which had degraded an indigenously developed social structure. In such a position Tipaimukh Dam looks as if it would be a bane rather than a boon. The reality is the people are too meek and humble to tackle corporate gives and takes. However on the other hand, accounting the prospect of better infrastructure, medicine, education and employment that Tipaimukh Dam at present promises, the picture looks brighter but the unreliability of the Manipur government and the current stance of past and on-going hydro power projects around the world renders a man dazed and confused.



(An introduction to social intervention through surplus leisure management with special reference to the Hmar Students’ Association (HSA) in relation to its initiatives in the Tipaimukh Sub-division of Churachandpur Dist., Manipur)

Crude statistics of an academic session gives a rough estimate in thousands with regards to the total student strength amongst the Hmars. A sizeable number of this total consists of students pursuing higher studies; both professional and academic. Moreover, it can be seen that most students tend to pursue their higher studies outside the North East while a sizeable number continue their studies in Universities and educational institutions within the North East. During the Holidays (summer, monsoon and winter) most students go back home taking their time off from studies and involve themselves in various activities. Of the total holidays spent away from studies the most important is the Christmas season (from Christmas Eve to New Year celebration). Fixing this to a constant including the time for preparation, the time for rest and contemplation, a rough surplus could be worked out consisting of a couple of days to a week or more of extra holidays. I would call this Surplus Leisure. Surplus leisure in this theory is calculated keeping in mind the indulgence in workmanship, parenting and idle curiosity which is supposed to be productive in the promotion of collective social welfare or life processes. Deviating from the classical and traditional views of leisure and the traditional study perspective that it is subjected to, this surplus could be spent towards active social intervention in areas directly concerning to social welfare through community mobilization, education, awareness drive in HIV&AIDS, sanitation etc. through constructive and efficient programmes implemented by organizations such as the Hmar Students’ Association as an individual organization or in collaboration with other likeminded organization/s. In the long run such an initiative can create an environment conducive for the actual development and progress of the people.

The Hmar Students’ Association (HSA) though fronting its share of problems both from within and outside is undoubtedly the most recognizable and active organization in the Hmar society today as it encompasses student liberty and power. Each year as more Hmar students migrate to the cities to continue with their studies, most get registered in their respective HSA Units, Branches or Joint Headquarters. The HSA can utilize this manpower input and organize seminars, workshops and trainings amongst the students on subjects specific to indigenous culture studies, sustainable development, socio-political rights, health and family welfare, environmental awareness, conservation, sanitation, HIV&AIDS and other such subjects directly and indirectly concerning to the socio-cultural, socio-political and socio-economical welfare of the people. However it is of immense importance that every initiative is taken only after an in-depth study, understanding and careful analysis of the situation is made in relation to the livelihood of the people and their surrounding environment.

To begin with, a general assessment through survey and research is important to be able to conduct a credible and conclusive study and analysis of a position/situation. As surveys and researches are not something that is unheard of within the HSA fraternity, restructuring the way they are conducted to make them more conclusive should not involve much effort. Survey and research findings should be subjected to careful and intense analysis and study by a group of experts forming a panel before conclusion of any kind is made. This panel can then, after study and analysis, initiate a process of identification of initiatives and injection point/s and structure a framework for the following seminars, workshops and trainings to be organized within the student community. Injection points can be villages, section of a society or any other sphere within the society where penetration and active intervention can be made. The HSA can then, based on the framework so charted mobilize the students and sensitize the issues at hand through seminars, trainings and workshops. Mobilization of students and transparent participation within the fraternity would yield to valuable human resource and time needed for the actual on-field intervention to be made. Extra free time (Surplus leisure) for on-field intervention could be worked out in a calendar year with close consultation with the student members. For the actual implementation of initiatives/on-field intervention, the HSA can call for student volunteers who can afford or are willing to utilize their surplus leisure towards social intervention, who can then be managed into a group or a number of groups. This initiative, on the other hand, will be advantageous to participating individuals by contributing valuable experience and knowledge to their overall educational upbringing. Initial interventions in a society need not be huge and explosive as effectiveness of initiatives (progress) is mainly a collective product of activities. For example, initiatives could be on subjects as simple as sanitation, health and hygiene, conservation etc.

Research based study, understanding, analysis and the methods of brainstorming for practicable solutions and the whole process of seminars, workshops and trainings to the final implementation would demand an active and dedicated participation from all institutions directly or indirectly within the framework of the whole programme. Study should be based on the actual position of the people socio-culturally, socio-politically and socio-economically and also with reference to information and data available in order to procure an in-depth understanding with respect to the people and the culture they portray inclusive of their natural environment. Moreover for an implemented initiative to be effective in a society, identification and absorption of influential and responsible individuals/institutions is crucial to undertake conjunctive post-implementation monitoring and follow-ups. In the long run, yield and product arising from the initiatives implemented in the society can be absorbed and utilized in resource feeding for furthering social intervention. Last but not least, measurement of programme productiveness should not be limited to quantitative valuation but it should include qualitative and the philosophical aspects of social life such as the quality of life, knowledge, education etc. which are the actual grounds on which a society’s progress can be validated.


Key points:

  1. General assessment through survey and research

  2. Study and analysis of data and findings

  3. Identification and framing of initiative and injection point/s

  4. Structuring and organizing of seminars, workshops and trainings

  5. Mobilization of student volunteers

  6. Implementation of programmes through structured initiatives

  7. Post-implementation monitoring & follow-ups



It is important to recognize that indigenous peoples are sentimental to their culture, tradition, custom, beliefs and particularly to the land they occupy (the land which is rightly theirs by nature and upon which their existence is deeply rooted historically, physically, emotionally and ideologically) as such, it is vital to have an in-depth understanding of the people and the sentimental values they adhere to so as to effectively implement any initiative directly affecting them. It is also important to implement such initiatives and ideas in a transparent and involving nature which is accessible to all irrespective of position or status where the people can absorb the initiatives within their paradigm permeating institutions from the grass-roots up. Blind implementation of any initiative no matter how good can make an initiative too alien to the people thus rendering it ineffective and lame.

It is also important that institutions within a society regard themselves responsible and accountable towards the society and its existence and also have an in-depth understanding of the meaning of the words ‘social’, ‘society’ and ‘social being’ and their respective implications. This needs to be stressed particularly in our society since there is a tendency to address and mistake oneself and one’s activities as something outside the framework of the society. Every activity performed individually or through an institution, group or organization which directly or indirectly affects the society through individual influences is social in nature. The affects of such activities could be material, ideological, philosophical or emotional; it can either be influential and productive or degrading and confusing.

Collaboration and participation of faith-based organizations, religious leaders, local leaders and other organizations and institutions is critical and instrumental in the process of development of a society particularly like ours by following a shared common perspective. In the end, a certain degree of self acknowledgement as an agent for positive change within the society we belong to is vital for triggering progress since lone expectation of external intervention aggravates the induced dependency index already within the society.


NB: The theory of leisure has generally been studied as a state of being arising from social class distinction and as a ‘way of life’ demanding certain obligations to be fulfilled. Leisure is a social state of being which has been subjected to a comprehensive study by economists and other social scientists present and past. This article is an attempt to apply the outcome of a personal study of leisure away from the classical and traditional views with intent to arrive to a point of practical implementability. This article is not to be mistaken as a working paper on the ‘Theory of Surplus Leisure’ but rather an introductory incorporation of the theory arising from a study of social welfare and welfare economics in an article written from personal account and experience. This article had been written with the hope that it would bring about the ideology of brainstorming for practicable solutions and options in progressive transformation of the Hmars in sustainable development and social welfare through active direct or indirect self involvement. I acknowledge this work is likely incomplete in many aspects and that it may fail to take into account many institutions and agents within the Hmar society who’s involvement may have been crucial to bring about progress and development.



*mansate- a traditional sling bag or satchel of smaller make.

Veblen’s Theory of Leisure as Interpreted by Veblen Scholars - Marty Thomas, Concordia University

The Theory of the Leisure Class: An Economic Study of Institutions – Thorstein Veblen (1899)

United Nations Guide for Indigenous Peoples, Prepared by World Conference Secretariat; ©Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Geneva, Switzerland, 1996-2001

The World Bank Operational Manual: Operational Policies. OP 4.10, July 2005

Basic Principles of Sustainable Development – Jonathan M. Harris, June 2000; Global Development and Environment Institute, Working Paper 00-04

Culture Matters—Lessons from a Legacy of Engaging Faith-based Organizations; ©UNFPA, 2008

Don't Miss
© all rights reserved
made with by Simon L Infimate