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I saw a Bishnupriya Manipuri Ragpicker ...and I ..

By Ranita Sinha, Kolkata

One fine winter afternoon in Ballygunge, Kolkata, two years back, at around 2 o’ clock, me and my daughter were returning after seeing a doctor. We were walking along the footpath to go to the bus stop. My daughter was insisting for a packet of potato chips. Since she was not well, I, promised her to provide her one the next day. But she was adamant to had one. At that time I saw a rag picker passing us. I all of a sudden told my daughter in Bishnupriya Manipuri language: “ archa bosta alla go, chips khaeile doriya niya jitoiga”( look a rag picker, if you have chips he will take you along with him). Though my daughter cannot speak our language but she understands it very well. So, those words were enough to stop her.

The rag picker was of medium height of age around 35-40 years. His complexion was whitish yet he looked dark because of dart all over him. He wore a torn out black and white stripped trouser and a brown sweater and torn out canvas shoe put by defense personal. He also put a red holy band on his head. He carried a dirty gunny bag on his right shoulder.

When I uttered those words to my daughter, the rag picker looked at me and smiled, as if he knew what I said. His smile made me wonder if he understood my language. Then I came to the conclusion that he might be mentally imbalanced. But he was looking backward again and again at us. I felt a bit awkward and I hurried and passed him. The moment I passed him he uttered a few words which made me feel as if blood oozing out of my nerves. The rag picker said in Bishnupriya Manipuri language: “ ‘o’ emma aine, baat kheik, bokhane moilu”( ‘oh! Dear, come lets have food, I am hungry). Hearing this I could not walk. It seemed as if I loosed all my strength. Because, I always had a strong belief that though our Bishnupriya Manipuri Community is a poor community still we do not have beggars, rickshaw pullers and rag pickers. But his words shattered my belief.

The rag picker passed us and sat on the footpath a few yards away from us. He was still looking at me again and again and smiling. My eyes could not believe what I saw. I was not able to board any bus. I just starred at him and lots of queries were lingering in my thought. I thought of asking him which village he belonged, how come he reached Kolkata, where he stayed in Kolkata. I was about to ask him but all of a sudden a thought crossed my mind. I thought as he seemed mentally ill, what would happen, if, after talking to me he follows us, as my husband was out of town. So, without giving a second thought I boarded a bus.

In the bus I took a seat by the window. I looked out and saw the rag picker looking at me, as if asking me, not to leave him alone. His smiling face all of a sudden became tensed. The bus moved and I looked back and saw the rag picker still looking at me. After some time he was no more visible. But after going a few kilometers away, I felt as if my sense came back. I wondered what I have done. I asked the bus driver to stop the bus and got down in a hurry and took a taxi and went to the place where the rag picker was sitting. But to my surprise he was not there. I searched him here and there for quite sometime but could not find him. Tears rolled down my eyes and I could not stop myself sobbing.

After some time I took another bus and proceeded towards home. I was still thinking about the rag picker. I regretted of not asking him anything, I regretted of not giving him anything to eat, I regretted of not helping a Bishnupriya Manipuri, I regretted of leaving my Bishnupriya Manipuri brother helpless among strangers in an unknown land.

I, till date, regret of my biggest mistake of my life and wish some day the rag picker comes in front of me a bring me out of the sin I committed by ignoring him in an unknown land.

Rishikesh Sinha added: I don't have words to add anything to this post. I am tongue -tied and feeling heavy with emotions thinking about the ragpicker. It is not that he was a ragpicker that is haunting me, but what were the circumstances led him to plunge into this profession and thats also in an alien land which is clotting me from inside.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Even thought it was heart touching, but there may b many possibilities...One thing i've experienced is that many people know many languages...May b that guy knew Manipuri , but wasn't one...I'm not sure that he isn't, but there's a chance...May b he belonged to some place where he learned Manipuri...Even I met with a person who knew Manipuri , but wasn't one...

  3. well tridiv, u may be correct. but ye sab papi pet ka sawal he. he may be a BM or may not be.soemone told me the last economic status a BM guy work is bus conductor, beside this we are in every profession and if soemthing is left it is to become a rickshawpuller.

  4. whaterver may be. Ms Ranita wrting is fabulous, fantastic again with her style. she writes well, very well. hte way she mentioned evertyhing it seemed i am reading a well established writer's novel. i would say..wowwwwwwwwowwwwwwwwwwwww

  5. First of all, I would like to congratulate all of you, especially Rishikesh and Ronita, who have spent their precious time in creating this so wonderful blog. Whatever you have done is just fabulous! I am delightful to notice that there are Bishnupriya Manipuris who still have time to think about our own community and culture.

    Few years back, when we used to go through the web, it was terrible for us to believe that ultimately it appeared that ‘Manipuri’, while mentioned independently, always came to refer everything related to a certain group of people(you know who). But within 3 / 4 years the whole scenario has changed. Now it simply happens that whenever you look for ‘Manipuri dance’, ‘Manipuri culture’, ‘Manipuri language’ etc in any search engine, bishnupriya manipuri sites are always indexing at the top. I like to express my gratitude to those hardworking people who are responsible behind this great achievement, especially to Uttamda.

    Now more people are coming forward to promote our great forefathers glorious tradition, customs and culture. Even few of our beyapa’s are trying to contribute for the society by publishing journals, writing books, compiling blogs in the internet. This is so incredible and wonderful thing to see! I shed a sentimental drop of tears when I think of it. I hope many people like you would do something similar to let the world know about our existence. No matter how much advanced we are, no matter how much developed modern world is, the effort of every society is to establish their own identity to the fullest extend they can. It is that our godly ancestors built up a civilization for us - its now our turn to preserve it and expose it all through the world. At present I don’t have any advice for you, but I would like to add ‘keep up the great work’. Once again, I bow down to you for the trouble and time you are spending for this unfortunate race.

    Ashim Singha
    Dhaka, Bangladesh

  6. Thanks again for this wonderful and heart touching article. Everything is possible in these days. Now society is changing. I know some of our fellows BPM eat meat including beef, so why not becoming a rag picker for leaving. If I can forget my Bishnupriya Manipuri language for being a modern, I can become a rag picker for my living too. He is a Bishnupriya Manipuri, and he is working hard for his living. He does not expect our sympathy, but he needs our respect. If he gets respect from our society, he might be a rag picker in Silchar. I give my sajarang homa to him.

  7. I was busy with my work in office and somehow managed to read this small incidence and it left me with questions which i cannot answer.



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