“Go to Manipur” – Remembering the Days Before the Lockdown (Part 1 of 3)
(Minghui.org) Since India’s coronavirus lockdown started on March 22, 2020, all schools have remained closed with no definite reopening date. Travel has also been restricted as the number of infection cases continues to increase and “hot spots” pop up around the country, often without notice. As a result, the days when Falun Dafa practitioners traveled to faraway places in India to hold instructional sessions in schools and other public activities seem like bygone dreams.
A practitioner who undertook many of these journeys wishes to share another unforgettable experience dating from July 2018. She writes this article with feelings of not only nostalgia, homesickness, gratitude and blessedness but also some pain from being stuck in one place for months.
Where to Go?
Since childhood, the practitioner has been fascinated by different countries and especially nature, simple lifestyles, and tribal culture. She thus feels a deep affinity with the northeastern states of India, as well as Sikkim and Ladakh.
Her home in India is extremely hot and humid during summer and the rainy season. All schools are closed due to long summer holidays, and hardly any tourists are around. Every year, she gets a precious few months of “freedom” away from the family, guesthouse, and other duties, so she wants to spend this time wisely. Given India’s vastness and a huge variety of cultures, people, religions, languages, and climates, she often has a hard time deciding where to go. She finished her visits to Tibetan schools in India unexpectedly quickly in April and May 2018.
The practitioner made an impromptu decision to attend the Falun Dafa experience-sharing conference in June 2018 in Washington, D.C. She hoped that during her stay in the United States, she would meet practitioners from around the world who would help her to decide where to go, or maybe some kind of insight would suddenly arise during the conference. No insights came to her, however.
On her flight back to India, out of the blue, an inner voice unmistakably told her, “Go to Manipur.” With this hint, she suddenly felt light, as if a stone-like burden had been lifted from her heart.
After arriving in New Delhi, she canceled her train ticket home and booked a flight to Imphal, Manipur. This would be her first time flying to the northeast. On her previous visits, she always took surface transportation like trains, buses, and shared jeeps so she could bring large amounts of Falun Dafa materials to distribute.
Manipur is a state in Northeast India, bounded by the states of Nagaland to the north, Mizoram to the south, Assam to the west, and Myanmar to the east and partly south. Northeast India consists of seven states, often called the “seven sisters,” whose cultures and languages are very different from those in mainstream India. Permits and safety worries deter most travelers, yet the local people are among the friendliest of the whole subcontinent.
Manipur’s ethnic groups practice a variety of religions. Hinduism is the major religion, then Christianity, and also Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, Jainism, Sikhism and folk religions. Manipur, like other northeastern states, is mostly isolated from the rest of India.
The name Manipur means “land of gems” or literally “a jeweled land.” Nestled deep within a lush green corner of northeast India, the state has an oval valley in the center surrounded by blue hills. It is rich in art and tradition and filled with nature’s pristine glory. However, it also has a long history of insurgencies, inter-ethnic violence, and human rights violations.
In 2016, the practitioner visited three other states in the northeast and also wanted to go to Manipur, but the people she met in those states who were originally from Manipur all told her not to go there because of safety concerns from internal conflicts. They advised her to wait for a safer opportunity in the future. It seemed that July 2018 was finally the right time and opportunity to visit Manipur.
Arrival in Manipur
The practitioner didn’t know anyone in Manipur and couldn’t find accommodations online, but she was confident she could ask locals at the airport or on the plane for information about where to go and where to stay, as she had done previously when visiting unknown places. To her surprise, she couldn’t find any locals, as most of her fellow travelers were visitors from other parts of India.
This was the very first time that she had not a single local contact or place to stay. Even when she went to Arunachal Pradesh for the first time in 2016, she had only the name of a reasonably priced little hotel, where she indeed ended up staying.
In most of the northeastern states, visitors need a permit and have to register upon arrival. Unexpectedly the registration had to be done at the airport itself, and when she couldn’t fill in the address where she would stay, she asked the officer for recommendations. He kindly gave her the name of a place and even walked her out of the airport to an auto-rickshaw driver, to whom he explained the address and also fixed the price for her ride.
En route, she saw many children coming out of a school. She noted down the name of the school and discovered to her delight that it was only a short walking distance from the place she was to stay—a hotel where she also unexpectedly obtained the cheapest room available.
The next day she walked over to the school with her usual presentation folder containing appreciation letters from other schools, photos, and fliers. The principal, a catholic nun, was sitting in her office on a seemingly endless phone call. She appeared grumpy and hardly acknowledged the presence of the practitioner sitting in front of her for a long time. Several times the practitioner considered getting up and walking away.
Although she found this kind of unusual “reception” difficult to handle, she sat patiently until the conversation and presentation finally started. The principal agreed to have a Falun Dafa session for the residential children—the very same evening.
When the practitioner asked about the names of some other schools whose sister schools she had visited in other northeastern states earlier on, the principal said that she knew well two of their principals and immediately suggested accompanying the practitioner to visit them, as she considered it unsafe for the practitioner to go there on her own.
The practitioner then suggested calling the two principals to make sure they would be present when they visited. When the principal called them, to her surprise, each of the two principals were either already on their way or agreed to come to her school. Both arrived in less than an hour, and they agreed on dates for all three schools to have Falun Dafa sessions in the coming days.
Category: Clarifying the Truth