MB: On my last trip, I was walking on a slippery floor, carrying something heavy, and I started to fall. If I’d just fallen I might’ve been OK, but in catching my balance, I torqued my back. I thought I’d just pulled a muscle very badly, but I later learned that I had actually broken a disc in my back. Because of that I was in agony and partly lost the use of my right leg. I had no real medication in India, just ibuprofen. I didn’t go to the hospital—partly because I didn't know how badly hurt I was, and partly because hospitals in Manipur have to deal with regular power outages, and they also have different approaches to dealing with serious medical situations. So I opted to just work through the pain for almost two weeks. Back in New York, I found out I needed surgery to remove a centimeter of disc from the nerve shaft that runs up and down the spine. And then there was a long recovery.
More: How did you keep going in the face of all that? How did you keep up your passion, your determination?
MB: It’s a kind of stubborn pride. I didn’t want to let the people in Manipur down. I felt a tremendous commitment not to be yet another person who would disappoint them. They’ve already had too much disappointment and psychic abuse; I was damned if I was going to be part of that list. And I cared too much about the work that had gone into the film; I couldn’t quit working on it without reaching my own standard of how the film should be, and that took a long time.
More: What’s the situation in Manipur now?
MB: Something called The Disturbed Area Permit Requirement has been lifted, so once you have a visa for India, you can go to Manipur without a special permit. As a result, there is beginning to be more tourism and Indians can go there without restriction, which brings some money into Manipur. And that’s great, but the state is still under martial law, which means businesses stay away. So in that sense the situation has changed very little.
More: What do you hope will happen next?
MB: My intention is to show the film in India, with the hope that the film will show India the courage and spirit of the people in Manipur and create an upwelling of support for the lifting of martial law.
We also hope that the U.S. embassy and consulates in India will continue to facilitate sports projects and other exchanges, thereby making Manipur more open and more of a center for baseball and sports activity. That's another way of helping the people.
More: What can More readers do?
MB: The ultimate solution is a political one, but in the meantime, there a couple of ways to get involved. First Pitch is raising money to supply baseball equipment (the Manipuris have very little and a lot of it is old and worn; one kid I met, for example, had a hand-me-down glove with no leather left in the palm) and build a regulation baseball field for them complete with a diamond and the necessary safety features. Instructions how to donate are on the website, firstpitchusa.org. To help women widowed by the violence, you could consider making a donation to Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network. This NGO, founded by Binalakshmi Nepram, who in 2011 received a "Real Heroes" award from the CNN-Indian Broadcasting Network, is a women’s empowerment group that helps women whose husbands have been killed in the conflict to make a living. Some of these women are not only widows, they are also shut out by their late husband’s family and left entirely on their own to support their children.