| Manipur Rifles jawans prepare morahs at Thokchom Lokeshwar Singh’s house in Imphal. Telegraph picture |
Imphal, Jan. 29: A group of resourceful Manipur Rifles jawans posted at the private residence of a senior PHE department engineer earn extra money by making morahs (bamboo stools) during their leisure time.
Though they may not have received gallantry awards for devotion to work yet, they regularly receive the blessings of their family members for the much-needed extra money that they send home.
The six jawans, who guard the Imphal West private residence of Thokchom Lokeshwar Singh, a superintendent engineer in the Manipur public health engineering department, earn the extra money by weaving the morahs.
While some other members of the state force have been caught smuggling drugs or indulging in illegal activities to earn extra money, the six jawans’ endeavour has been much appreciated.
“The jawans deserve appreciation from their commandant and senior officers for spending their time productively. They make quality morahs that last longer at cheaper prices,” Saphabi Devi, who lives in the neighbourhood, said.
Their “Sir”, Lokeshwar Singh, is among the first to buy their products.
“Earlier, we used to gamble to kill time. But this depleted our salaries considerably. We were unhappy and it did not help our families either. So we took up morah-making,” havildar Khaidem Rameshore, the commander of the team, told The Telegraph.
The jawans began their venture from March, 2012.
Since then, they have sold more than 100 morahs of all sizes and designs.
The prices range between Rs 300 and Rs 1,000, depending upon the size, quality and design.
Moreover, the demand always exceeds the supply. “We could not make much as we work on holidays and during Sir’s trips outside Manipur for official meetings,” Rameshore said.
The Okram Ibobi Singh government provided security guards for the engineer after militants attacked his house repeatedly with hand grenades.
The jawans provide security to the engineer while he is attending office in Imphal and during field visits.
However, they never compromise on security of the house. An armed jawan is always on sentry duty while the others make the morahs.
The jawans do not have any formal training for the craft. Fortunately, two of them — Paophungai Golmei and H. Nobin — knew the art to some extent when they arrived at the house four years ago.
The others did not lose any time in learning the craft and together, they improved the quality and patterns of the stools for use in drawing rooms, kitchens and even during weddings.
Meitei tradition demands that the parents give away a brand new morah as a wedding gift at the time of their daughter’s marriage.
News of the jawans’ craftsmanship has travelled far and wide. Orders, particularly for weddings, come from different parts of the valley.
The morahs are made of bamboo and plastic tapes, which give an aesthetic look and reflect the combination of traditional elegance and contemporary convenience. The jawans can even weave the name of the owner on the morah.