Shoppers Cannot Get Enough Of Namphalong

Going to Namphalong, I expected the Burmese would talk about the clamp down, illegal migrants and chucking the Junta out. To my utter surprise, they were painfully passive, they didn’t mention anything about the regime and it was clear that they only wanted to talk about the border town business. The military imagery we have of the country is very strong, the vigil of the security guards from both sides of the border, the proliferation of visitors and the eagerness of the people to set foot on Burmese soil. The buzzing market hour, the curfew waiting to be imposed, it all looked like a perfect setting for an eighteenth century wartime movie. Men with bags full of merchandise put their loads down, stretched and eased themselves. The nearby vendor’s fruit was fresh and the fish pulled out of the river were delivered to the table. A lot of local joints offered the Burmese fare. Vehicles carrying the people zoomed happily in and out of Namphalong.

The Meiteilon speaking Burmese amused us. The products that are exchanged from both sides of the border may not be massive in trading terms but the presence of this market cannot be ignored. For going there, the people don’t have to worry about the exchange rate as the Indian rupee is in circulation. The people meet on an everyday basis in the border town. The people to people contact seems to have stopped in Moreh, yet little is heard about the Burmese tourists in Imphal as the interaction is very limited. The country is close and yet so far giving us the picture of inaccessibility.

Aung Sang Suu Kyi still calls it Burma, the country is mystical and enigmatic .Calling the country Burma is catchy than saying Myanmar, the country conjures up images of mystery, terror and intrigues. Stories of Myanmar that thrilled us as kids, I remember, how a local guy disappeared from Imphal only to emerge from Burma later, married a Burmese, picked up the language and how he helped some dissidents.

Another thrilling story that circulated was a tale of a Burmese martial arts form called Tanq in our local parlance, how the practitioners were skillful artists, how they could make themselves invisible. Those things fascinated me and my curiosity of this not so distant land grew in my mind.

Exploring the Namphalong market, I noticed the flamboyance attracted the visitors. Cute polka dotted outfits on display, the convenient collection of electronic products and imported Chinese goods were the common sight and people rushed to get the best deal out of it. Some people were obsessed with bargaining. Bargaining is a talent that came in handy for this group of girls from Imphal and their Burmese friend helped them to get the best price on ponchos, hats, scarves, shoes and bags. Most of the items chosen by them were fashionable and functional. They pointed me out that all the items they bought were of acceptable quality and in trendy designs. The novelty factor was there as people picked up something fresh and unique in plenty.

Shoppers braved the sweltering heat by sipping cold drinks from the vendor next to them. As for me, I was not eyeing on silly designer prices. I knew a lot of items purchased from Namphalong have not lasted as the quality is disappointingly poor. A shop that sells stationeries housed items that can be taken home as a souvenir and something you can give as a gift. Exploring the unfamiliar and the unexpected have thrilled the visitors and they cannot get enough of Namphalong. There is something about this place to suit most budgets. It’s no wonder most people we meet have Namphalong in their wish list and this is the place where the people shop till they drop.

*The article is written by Maisnam Chanu Liklainu

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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