As I entered Ima Keithel, I was flabbergasted on seeing the complete market filled with spirited and committed women, where some were selling their goods and others were quarreling with those bargainers. In some corner I saw women with basket shouting out loud, promulgating their goods in the busy roads of Hathi chowk, Imphal.
Its a totally different thing what we see in our daily day to day life in India that women here in Manipur in such a large mass have been given an opportunity and freedom to work as a provider for their families independently.
Since the early days, women in India faced many problems on gender discrimination, many amongst the women have fought for their rights and also eradicating gender bias over many centuries. However, in Manipur its an age-old tradition for more than five hundred years that women here have been considered to be valour, skilled, who also played an active role in many social, economic, political and cultural protests, which also ultimately gave rise to “Nupi Lal ” ie, “WAR BY WOMEN ONLY” and they also fought against political conspiracy that marked a change in the political regime during the British colonial period.
Here in Ima Keithel, there are varied shops filled with prerequisite commodities for our daily life which aids people from poor to rich. There were shops selling items for pujas, traditional clothes, fruits and vegetables, lai tharoi (terrestrial pulmonate gastropod molluscs or simply freshwater snails). There were shops which were also selling délicieux street foods. Here in Ima Keithel, any women irrespective of their background, religion or community can have their shops.
The moment one enters the market they will be beguiled by the strong smell of the bamboo shoots. Ima Keithel has continued to provide their visitors with everything from traditional basketry, handmade pottery, traditional hand-woven garments, to dried fishes and the very famous morok chilies.
It is also an important hub for working women to exchange their ideas on social problems, politics, and their cultures. It is indeed a symbol of women empowerment. Ima Keithel is verily a place that represents the state of Manipur where women are highly respected.
One would never be disappointed by the way the shopkeepers treat their customers as they highly respect them and welcome them with open hands and smiling faces.
Ima Keithel is one of the oldest, all women run market started somewhere around 16th century. Many proud Manipuris also advert it to be the queen of all the markets.
“YOU GET IN LIFE WHAT YOU HAVE THE COURAGE TO ASK FOR” –