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07.05.2013

Summer makes us think about Jack Kerouac’s On The Road, and while we plan to listen to plenty of jazz and poetry this year, we’re also excited about a new tour in Manipur that we just booked. Coming?

Impha(l)-tically Speaking

One of the key yet forgotten battles of the Second World War was the Battle of Imphal, a struggle between Japanese forces and  British India. The fascinating aspect of this battle was it's timing- in 1944, when the rest of the country was trying to shrug colonial domination, Indian soldiers were waging a battle on behalf of England. Like Raghu Karnad writes in his prize-winning essay on Imphal, “there is no monument and no Memorial Day, and there’s no notion at all of the dilemma they faced, fighting for the Empire at the very hour that their countrymen fought to be rid of it."

If you know someone who is linked to the battle (a relative who fought in it, or passed through Manipur during the war) Hemant offers a “retracing of steps”. Using specific details research, he will try and be as precise in locating where the person you know was during the war.

In remembrance, Hemant Katoch, a former aid worker (he’s been with the Red Cross in Congo and in Geneva) has set up the Battle of Imphal tours, to revive the event's fading imprint on public memory and consciousness.

The Rest is History?

The tour, which started last month, offers two daily options. Hemant is conducting these personally until he trains local Manipuri tour-guides, and he winds through a Second World war era airfield, two war cemeteries, a battlefield (Nungshigum) and the colonial era Slim Cottage. Hemant plans to add more sites to the tour by the end of May, paying special attention those which are slightly away from Imphal, on the Tiddim-Imphal road.

Also – and this is the best part – if you know someone who is linked to the battle (a relative who fought in it, or passed through Manipur during the war) Hemant offers a “retracing of steps”. Using specific details research, he will try and be as precise in locating where the person you know was during the war.

The tour is conducted primarily in English, but also offered in French and Japanese. With prices ranging from Rs 3,200 for an A.C Vehicle and Rs 2,700 for a non-A.C vehicle, it is a great way to go back in time. 

Getting there: Visit the website, or their Facebook page, Rs 3,200 for an A.C vehicle half-day tour.

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