18 August 2006

Sikpui — A Festival with a Difference

As the days and months unconsciously fade away, and we near the year's end again with each passing day, we look forward to our tomorrows, planning our moves with what to do. Each and every 'year', we looked forward to that 'day' of speciality when the young and old, the good and bad, the beautiful and ugly, and the poor and the rich would inter-lock hands—singing and swaying to the tune of the most controversial and mystifying song of our peoples—"Sikpui inthang kan ur laia".

It is strange but it is this very song that gives me the feeling of nostalgia of the past whenever I sing it—whether with a whisper or aloud. It is often then that I would get Goosebumps. It's odd and unexplainable as to why I feel so whenever I sing this 'sacred' song. I assume that even our forefathers felt the same way. And to tell the truth, I like the way I felt then.

And as we are slowly approaching that special day, we question ourselves—jumbling with our thoughts—whether to celebrate Sikpui Ruoi 2006. To array our thoughts, it is important to grasp the tradition of celebrating Sikpui Ruoi and the underlying message it conveys.

It is said that—our forefathers did not celebrate Sikpui on those years whenever bad befell on them. It used to be celebrated only and when the time and conditions were at their best; when the community as a whole had a successful and abundant harvest, and the years in which there were no death and disease in the village or among the communities or there were no wars and invasions.

But then I suppose, it may not be just because of that simple reason of symbolic solidarity. The wise men of those days would have probably meant to pass on a message by their act of "solidarity". Today, as we try to interpret and redefine that unique tradition of celebrating a Sikpui, we need to go beyond the characterizing of it as a mere symbolic celebration for all it's being our and only surviving festival.

It is true and agreeable, as David Buhril in his article "Celebrating Sikpuiruoi or Not?" pointed out that "...culture functioned here as a safety valve, relieving the pressure of events in the society, and at the same time as a genuine messenger of decency and hope for the future. Culture should be assigned a cornerstone of the society". And, "Our attempt may be, in adopting the "No Sikpuiruoi" approach, to show solidarity to our folks who suffer. But that solidarity is hollow and numb if we do nothing beyond merely showing..."

Instead of saying no to Sikpuiruoi, it will mean a lot more if we could strongly condemn the perpetrators who brought us untold miseries in all possible platforms."

But what I feel nevertheless is that the "No to Sikpui Ruoi" approach is not only about showing a mere symbolic solidarity with our people in Ruong-le-vaisuo who were raped, maimed, tortured, killed, and displaced by Meitei militants early this year and to those of our dear departed ones who fell victims to the barbarianism of the unthinkable. I dare not say that the de-celebrating of Sikpui would inflict injury to our culture and tradition, which we all dearly hold to. Neither would I interpret it as some sort of a sacrificial offering; nor a mean to devalue its value. Instead, the "No to Sikpui Ruoi" approach here would nourish more—the very essence and significance for what the festival is really worth.

To me, Sikpui Ruoi is not just a festival which we celebrate every year. More than that Sikpui Ruoi is a valued and sacred event that signifies and advocates our traditional and cultural values and our uniqueness. In my view, the "No to Sikpui Ruoi" approach will not in anyway diminish its worth; rather it would enhance it and us. Neither is it about giving a "triumphant" stamp and space to those who did what they did to us, but should be regarded otherwise. And that is what it is all about—on the whys of why we will not celebrate when we could. Also then this is not about the "them" but more of the "us".

It is more than celebrating a nation's Independence Day. It is different from the merry-making on Christmas day. This is because it has its own enigma attached to it and which our forefathers had adhered to since its inception; and which we should continue to uphold in the face of 'modernization' which, in a way "demands" celebrating each of our own people's festival every year. Let's not just dump its intrinsic value so as to be part of the festivities trend that our other brothers celebrate each year. Let's remind ourselves of our Sikpui's own exclusivity.

Sikpui is a festival with a difference—a festival that asserts the uniqueness of our identity and culture. And for this very reason, I am for a "No" to a Sikpui Ruoi this year. The uniqueness will strengthen our identity. And we are obligated to preserve our distinctiveness in the face of "adversities", without being labelled a traditionalist orthodox. To me, it doesn't matter if we may have to cancel the ever anticipated Sikpui Ruoi yet again next year for some unforeseen events that may unfortunately befall on our people.

The very quintessence on why we did not have will deepen and make stronger the value of our unique culture and tradition that we are so proud of, and which we need to carry along in the face of the all-powerful and inevitable cultures and traditions eradicator—black globalisation.

And that, I believe, will revive, revitalise and reaffirm the indigenousness of our unique identity as a people.