Internet chat is a communications’ tool, a convenient way of discussion and of exchanging intellectual properties across the globe and surely the most exploited resource; web blogs being the other. It is a very good hub to interact live with people across the country or the globe. When rightly employed, this is an unbeatable tool and when misused the effects are enormous. Thanks to this technology, I have met some interesting people while chatting and which eventually became my good friends. In places where a computer with an internet connection is a commonplace in every household, parents’ can and do control the access of materials online by the children. But what about those who are not bound by such? The responsibility lies with individual or those in control of the chat rooms.
Specifically talking about Manipur, and the youths in particular, internet access mostly, is done in cyber cafes and a small segment of the internet users in homes for those who can afford it. Most of the users are from places other than Manipur where internet access comes with less effort than eating food. And it seems that E-pao chat is a very popular place to hang out. Although the number of user depletes at around 0300 hrs to 0500 hrs IST, the public room is never without a user in any moment of the day. And a very disturbing fact is that the chats going on in the public lobby shows an irresponsible, crassly, abrasive and a demeaning image of today’s internet goofy youths in the state.
I have a very good friend of mine (non-Manipuri) who is interested in knowing more about Manipur. As we are stationed outside Manipur, the most I can do is to show him pictures I have taken back at home or to direct him to websites like www.e-pao.net, or www.thesangaiexpress.com or www.manipuronline.com or www.kanglaonline.com. This is the most I can do to satisfy his yearning to know about our state. And of these sites, I recommended E-pao to him. In the starting, he really did enjoy himself with all the information he got. Gradually he discovered the chat room which at first was quite confusing to him due to the difference in language. He could only make out those words written in English. He used to go there with me so that I could explain him what is being communicated among the users. As I have said, he is a very good friend of mine so I could explain everything to him (even the explicit terms). We use to laugh at it in the beginning. Then it seems that he formed an opinion towards the chat room (a very demeaning one) and he stopped visiting the chat room though he visits the main page sometimes. I wonder how many people like me have to face such dishonour.
Stories apart, the time now is critical. Thanks to those people of Manipur who are in various other countries and places, more and more people who were not even aware of the existence of such a beautiful and mystic place in a remote corner of Asia, are beginning to know more about our state. Day by day their number is increasing and they, more or less wants to know more about them. And I wouldn’t like any of them to form an attitude like my friend.
Even if not for those outside our culture; for those from our culture also, the count of younger generation from our states that checks on E-pao and use its chat room is proliferating. I would like to ask each and every reader of this post, “Would you like your sons, daughters, younger sisters or younger brothers to get exposed in such an environment?” The answer would be a whooping “NO”. Just for banter, it is ok. But unfortunately it is executing more bad than good. The weight seems to be piling on the negative side.
There can be boundaries for animals to prevent them from crossing boundaries but humans are far cleverer to be held back by boundaries. I am sure that the administrator(s) and the moderators (I hope E-pao people have moderators to look after the site) may be doing a lot of work to prevent such a happening but seemingly to no avail. More strict rules and pragmatic approaches need to be introduced so as to keep a check.