Monday, June 07, 2004

Pabungmacha was in the second time. Biki and I walked past an Army combing operation in Kongba, right outside his gate. His house is pretty well fortified. Pabungmacha, as every one calls him, is Khuraijam Dhiren, the KD of all the improved rice varieties of Manipur.

KD is a handsome retiree: urbane, courtly, a quintessential Meitei gentleman, Obviously of the old feudal ruling class. His brother, who he obviously still worships, was my uncle’s go-to man, So he has figured out who I am and made all the family connections for me, typical Meitei fashion. How long will his kind be around? He had just stepped out of his bath. He kept his towel on and sat down with us.

Pabungmacha has a gruff voice, polite and tentative with an "OK?” or an “Am I right?” ending most of his statements. He thinks his work was based purely on his own passion. He might have done more had he not been transferred so often within his Agricultural department. Obviously he harbors little patience for administrative types and senseless bureaucracy. Biki is all awed. He sits at the edge of the sofa, eagerly hanging onto every word. He thinks we should make a film on KD. His logic is that no one has had as much impact on Manipur as KD has had. Even uneducated farmers know his name, from all the various KD varieties of rice: Sana Phou, Leima Phou... I cannot but agree.

KD tells us of his hybridizing of some of the 170 varieties of indigenous rice with Filipino varieties, IRRI strains, Hungarian rice. It is absorbing... He brings out a panel of plastic pockets, each containing a sample of rice, of paddy. He is still appointed to the University. What a valuable resource he must be! KD says there are over 250 germs of hybrids at the Rice station in Wangbal. Imasi Noyonsana had said much the same: they are still mining the treasure trove he left behind.

He also tells us of Ok hidak, a natural rhizome insecticide that people have used. He promises to find some for us. What a guy!

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