Sorrow Of Serou: For the better part of the year, the Chakpi River that flows down from its source at Tengnoupal on Imphal-Moreh road in Manipur, down in serpentine bends and curves to Imphal River near Serou, looks beautiful and adds to the picturesque ambience of its valley. But, to the residents of Serou-Thinglhangphai area and beyond, the wild river was more of a cause of sorrow than pleasure. When floods came with irregular regularity in the months from June to October every year, every walk of life was affected. Crossing the river on a small boat that could ferry 20 to 25 people at a time was an unavoidable risk settlers on the delta-like expanse located between the Chakpi and Imphal rivers were compelled to take. Some were drowned while crossing the swift-flowing stream by the shaky boat that is prone to offload its passengers.
Area Lagged Behind: Lack of a bridge on the river Chakpi, prior to the year Two Thousand Eleven, put development of the area at sixes and sevens. Young students from that part of urbanised Manipur had to walk 5 to 10 Kms every day to attend classes on the other side of the river at Sugnu. The economy of the families of the students was bad with no employment opportunities in sight. Excepting meagre wages earned in Corn/rice-planting, weeding and threshing in the fertile Serou fields, there were no other economic activities to sustain the needs. Parents slogged hard to pay children’s fees through their nose. Connectivity was poor and development even poorer. The roads linking parts of Serou were so muddy. They were a rice-planter’s delight, not a commuters. Yet, reading in lantern light, many brilliant achievers were produced by the pangs of endless hardship.
My Tryst with Chakpi: We were in primary school stage in the 1960s in Y. Thingkangphai ME School. The ring of the closing bell of a school-day was awaited anxiously by all book-weary students. Classes over, we hurriedly dumped our school bags in some corner in the house and ran in top gear on the 1 km dirt-track that led to Chakpi river. There, we kids of the backblock threw off our shirts and half-pants and were in for a somersault dive and a grand splash in the waters for hours in gay abandon. The thrill and kick the riverside swims and dips gave to the naughty brigade was beyond compare. That’s how we residents of Serou valley learnt the rural art of ducking and backstrokes in swimming early naturally. This experience gave us the skill to swim across strong current of water.
A Blessing for River-Bank Residents: The Chakpi, when in spates, may be a nightmare to those who happen to take domicile in the wrong side of the river. But one man’s poison is another’s meat. The floods, while periodically cutting off communication to the civilized world, also bring home to Serou folks the means to earn easy income. Water-current-uprooted logs that float down the course of the stream keep many home-fires burning. Boulders, shingles and good-quality sand that the floods accumulate after receding provides daily means of livelihood to the otherwise unemployed rural strugglers of the vicinity. In the dry seasons, when water becomes a scarce commodity in the larger town of Sugnu, womenfolk bring cycle-loads of dirty clothes to be soaked and rinsed in the crystal-clear waters of the Chakpi. And the up-hill originated hard-water stream also serves its entire hinterland in providing drinking water when other sources dry up.
The Bridge Of joy: Fast forward to 2011: Serou is in the news. The longest bridge in Manipur has been built across Chakpi river between Kotsophai and Serou bazaar. Serou Serou na raha. There is ecstasy everywhere in the small nondescript rural market of Serou which is popular for its delicious mustard leaves and notorious for ceaseless gambling. The youth of the neighbourhood, just for the hack of it, in the evenings, walk in groups on the newly constructed bridge with pride writ large on their foreheads. Risky crossing of the meandering river by canoes is a thing of the past. The bridge is yet to be inaugurated officially but traffic on it is already taking place. Every bike-rider or commuter on the newly constructed 200 Crore-plus NEC-funded bridge feels a sense of accomplishment. There is jubilation in the locality although the bridge had not brought about major changes in the economy and development of the region.
Hats Off To CM and WM: The people who are the immediate beneficiaries of the longest bridge in Manipur are effusive in their singing of paeans of praise for Hon’ble Chief Minister of Manipur, Shri O. Ibobi Singh and Hon’ble Minister, Works, Shri K. Ranjit singh in the same breath for making their long-cherished dream come true. Mr. Ranjit is single-handedly responsible for speeding up the development of Serou delta. Even before he became Works minister, he saw to it that the 500 odd hectare paddy fields of the delta were well-irrigated with Chakpi water and the roads linking every Leikai of Sugnu Assembly constituency were black-topped. His large heart spilled over even in the black-topping of roads of Chandel district too. Hats off to the development-oriented Minister for adding one more feather in the cap of his long tenure. A Residential School replete with national-level facilities have come up in the premises of the erstwhile Serou Practical School.
Blessing Of God: God helps those who help themselves. Post 1993, the communal-clashes-battered Christian villages lying on the fringes of Serou valley have been praying with renewed vigour for a change of scene. Bible camps were held frequently. Top-notch Gospel preachers and crooners were invited to spread the Word of God afresh in the area. Widows and housewives fasted and sent supplication to the Almighty that the lot of the under-privileged inhabitants on the other side of Serou river be lifted. The committed prayer groups collectively had faith in and claimed the promise of God in Jeremiah 33:3, “Call unto Me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know”.
Heaven’s Tel No: Unlike the unpredictable network on earth, the divine network is never busy, engaged switched off. It is always ready to hear and respond calls of faith. The dial on the heavenly telephone no. of Jeremiah 33:3 by the Churches of the backward backblock of Thinglhangphai area was answered so beautifully in the form of a long scenic bridge that is likely to become the future movie-makers’ destination. The blessing must serve the people as a reminder of God’s faithfulness to men who pray earnestly. In gratitude to heavenly largesse, let us all take a vow to use the new infrastructure to bridge the broken relations of the stake-holding communities of the region.
Dream Come TrueWritten by wael jalleb