From Wankhei, With Love!

Home is a place where you grow up wanting to leave, and grow old wanting to get back to. 
–– John Ed Pearce.

I cannot agree more on the above quote. When we were teens we thought it was a trend to leave home to pursue our studies and later to shape our career, staying outside Manipur. The lucrative career opportunities, the glitz of big city life, the big fat salary we would earn every month and most importantly, an escapade from the ennui of restlessness and hoo-hah in the state — all of these are a few accountable reasons why most of us prefer to stay out of home for all the years. ‘Yumda leiba bheebhula chudro... toufam chaafam keim khangdabani, meisuu suklaak laakte amambaduda matha sai...’: these are some of the most heard comments from those of us who prefer to stay out of home. We pretend to sound so cool while telling all these but deep in our hearts we know what we are craving for; we know what we want but since there is a big gap between our wants and means, we console ourselves with such make belief melodramatic dialogues.

But for an insane fellow, no one wants to leave home and settle outside Manipur. It has become a drift among most of the Manipuris to stay out of home, either to pursue higher studies or to settle with some lucrative careers. In pursuit of success, most of us reconcile with almost everything that we come across. We often miss everything about our home yet seldom admit it because we the outsourced lots are expected to be strong-hearted creatures. We are expected to be rational most of the time. Emotion should be always checked as it ruins our logic. All these are nonetheless not true as I have mentioned earlier too. The truth as I understand is that we miss home every single day right from dawn to dusk. From a very personal experience, at the outbreak of dawn, when the chirps of morning birds wake me up, I miss the sound of numberless sendrang. Come numidangwairam, I cannot help missing the similar chirps of sembrang and when it is lai-dhoop time, I miss the sight of that dimly-lit lantern (read laaten) at our maangon and the fragrance of burning mekruuk that spreads across the home, making us feel more blessed and pious.

Well, it does not matter whether you live in a big mansion or a thatched khaangpoksung, home is home and it is the best place on the earth, not just because it’s the place where our heart is, but also because it’s where our root belongs to. We cherish everything about our home and its surroundings. From a local perspective, the mundane of the most mundane things are found sweet or nostalgic when it comes to our very leikai. The lamjao sorok, the pukhri beside the road, the pan dukan or Potfham where we buy singju or achapot (it could also be a kwa matap), the hotel where one enjoys ideal chit-chats with leikai friends, the community hall, the leikai lampak etc. — all of these evoke nostalgia on our mind. Taking a golden chance of homesickness, I am filling up the remaining part of this column today with the same homely recipe. It’s about a very special penchant for a place in Manipur where most of my memorable childhood days were spent. So here is a bicycling trip down a memory lane through my lens that justifies the title of my column—‘From Wangkhei, With Love’

The beautiful ruins of Sana Konung, the sacred Govindaji Temple, the vast spreading Ningthem Pukhri, not to forget the quaint presence of Ramji Prabhu, the hub of hockey and football: the Eastern Ground, once a mini market: Keithel Asangbi, the famous Panthoibi and Durga Puja Lampak, one of the Government run schools for Girls in Imphal: Wangkhei Girls’, and of course Kaka Chaoba’s Pork Vendor at Thangapat, Rani Handloom at Lourembam Leirak, the faklaang segaiba school: Wangkhei Boys’ High School, one of the most happening clubs in the city: Lizard Library at Meihoupham Lampak, one of the mission schools in Imphal East: St George High School and one of the popular caterers: ACGRU tent house — these are some of the vivid pictures that continuously strike my mind whenever I remember Wangkhei, the very place where I was born and brought up, the place where most of my friends, family and saagei natei live. Nostalgia is a seasoned disease in my heart when it comes to Wangkhei and anything associated with the place. Call it the ‘frog in the well mentality’ or anything, but I am a typical Wangkhei Ningol who loves to flaunt as much as she can about this very place in Manipur.

I must not forget to mention that Wangkhei is also the place which is authentically associated with the origin of Wangkhei Phee. Small-scale handloom industry is a booming sector in this area at Imphal East district. Wangkhei maidens are always famous for their hard work and diligence. I have come across a very funny local saying ‘Wangkhei Nupada Leirunu, Wangkhei Ningol di Louba yai’. I am not sure if this random saying reflects the ideal image of a Wangkhei Ningol as if she is the epitome of all womanly virtues or otherwise it’s just a saying.

By the way, I am extremely sorry to hear about the news of (Late) Chungkham Rani. She was the one, who created a signature brand in Manipur handloom industry commonly known as Rani-Phee. Earlier known as the ‘Engineer-Phee’, Rani-Phee is an exclusive collection for every Manipuri woman. Thanks to that great lady who set her own trend in handloom industry in the state, she will always be remembered. She had been and will always be one of the ‘Prides of Wangkhei’. It’s a great loss that she is no more. May many innovators join her league in the future and make the place proud. And may God bless her soul to rest in peace!

Before I conclude this write up, I heartily want to thank all those individuals from Wangkhei from different fields who had made me proud in the past and who make me proud at present. This is to all the ‘Prides of Wangkhei’. Cheers!

This article was published on 2 June 2012
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