Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Unimproved New Market

Dimapur is no longer what it was. In so many ways, it encapsulates the very best of the humanism, exuberant cultures and joie de vivre of the people and state of Nagaland. And, in many other ways, it is the microcosm of the basest, the worst and the most contemptible inherent in human beings and human beings are capable of. But this pretty much sums up all archaic human settlements and capitals of ancient Kingdoms, which have defied the times and the brutality of wars and other tragedies to emerge as centres of trade and commerce, as also habitable environs conducive for “modern” living. Nonetheless, Dimapur is different because while it falls within the political jurisdiction of the state of Nagaland, it is so much more hence inadequate to call it a “mini-India” because over the decades Dimapur has become home to people from other countries too. So, while the illegal Bangladeshi immigrant has set up home and business here, so has a perfectly legal Trinidadian, who bakes delicious breads and is our son-in-law. Then, there are the perfectly legal Tibetans, Nepalis and Gorkhas, all of who have changed our food habits ~ and even enriched our much-derided lingua franca – Nagamese – without which we would have been incomprehensible to each other. Dimapur isn’t really a cultural centre in the strictest terms but it has an inimitable culture of its own. To understand and appreciate this inimitableness of Dimapur, just a visit to New Market is enough. Not only is it populated with people from all over but there is also nothing you cannot get there. New Market is always full of life ~ what’s more life flows within it uninterrupted and unabated. Indeed, New Market best represents and reflects the joie de vivre of Dimapur. Obviously then, it has always been my favourite place in Dimapur since the 1970s ~ as a school girl then and now in the late afternoon of my life. New Market actually spells freedom to me ~ or it did till the other day. It is laudable that efforts are being made to improve our New Market but in the process, it is being thoroughly unimproved. The number of shops and shoppers has increased but the entire architectural design seems to represent bureaucratic muddled-thinking and action. Forget the shrinking parking space; there isn’t even place to walk. Under the circumstances, it would be asking too much for benches to rest, especially for elderly people, pregnant women, the disabled and young children, etc., not to mention clean and usable wash-rooms with clean running water. As for the Disabled, it would likely be years before they can enjoy the sights, smells and shopping in New Market. One isn’t sure exactly what architectural wonder the bureaucratic in-charges envisage after the completion of the never-ending construction of New Market, but it appears certain that they are hell-bent of leasing out every available inch to vendors, especially on the pavements and parking spaces. For years and years, women, selling local products, squat on the filthy and muddy walk-way towards the fish market but there seems to be no provisions made for them to conduct their business in and with dignity ~ in clean environs. And we don’t know whether fire safety and precautionary measures are in place ~ or have been planned in the concretized half-constructed extension heading heaven-wards. New Market is also a place of relationship ~ you meet old friends, relatives, neighbours and colleagues with whom you reconnect, share stories, gossip, grumble about soaring prices, etc., as well as catch up with shop-keepers and vendors who have become friends over the decades. The circumstances of meeting them all are satisfying but not the environment. And this robs the joy of human bonding in the market place, which is one of the most fundamental hubs of existential human experience. The Dimapur Municipal Council (DMC) needs to get its act together sooner than later. In the event, God forbid, of fire or flood, nay water-logging, the DMC should be held fully responsible. Talks in town say that the DMC allots any available space on pavements and elsewhere to vendors for a fee. Now, we don’t know where this fee goes ~ and why. In 2020 we must see the DMC’s transparency and accountability much more than we saw for decades. We will always shop in New Market ergo the DMC must make this Market Dimapur’s most pleasant experience. Then we can talk about “Better Dimapur”.