A story of Manipur, damp with yu

#1 Oct 15th, 2017, 09:09
Join Date:
Dec 2008
In the land of awesomeness
  • aarosh is offline

Diana learnt the craft of yu-making from some old women of her community. Photo: Priyojit Akoijam Singh

The humid air of the streets of Sekmai village is abuzz with conversations in harmoniously tonal Meiteilon, the lingua franca of Manipur. Little bars, generally referred to as “hotels” and run out of homes, overflow with bands of men.

They come into the town, 19km south of Imphal, in their faded denims and t-shirts sporting their beloved footballer or rock star. Pulling out Lilliputian wooden benches from a pile against the wall, they flock around candles waxed into the ground and then conversations range from South Korean films to Messi’s goal to changing state politics.

Steel plates filled with greasy chicken, pork and kellichana dressed with chopped cabbage come in first. Glasses of yu, a fermented rice liquor that is consumed in frightening quantities by the Manipuri men, follow soon after.

Tribal communities of the region are not prohibited from brewing their traditional liquors in this otherwise dry state and the best brews taste like Japanese sake. Often, there is also a subliminal whisper of an herby ingredient akin to that of the Korean soju.

I savour the warmth of one of these small makeshift bars, the spicy smells and the casual banter on the streets while sipping the home-made liquor. Some stare as I request a second glass. Patrons at these gatherings are usually too engaged to notice a stray tourist, but a woman quaffing yu is a rare sight.

Manipuri women don’t drink, Diana, the owner of the mom-and-pop shop, tells me. “At least not in public,” she says with a laugh.

Incongruously, all of the liquor is traditionally made by married women, especially in the Lois community. All through the day, while men take care of the fields, women eke out a living by engaging themselves in the preparation of yu in the mornings and selling it to bigger breweries and at their hotels in the evenings.

Diana tends to the ingredients involved in yu-making. Photo: Priyojit Akoijam Singh

#2 Oct 21st, 2017, 23:32
Join Date:
Sep 2005
  • mridula is offline
Sounds like my kind of drink!

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