A Yaoshang to Remember

A tug of war showdown at a park in New Delhi

A festival is celebrated for its essence. So, sometimes it does not matter where and how you celebrate a festival as long as we keep up the essence. This year, we celebrated Yaoshang, coinciding with the last day of the festival, in our traditional style but with a typical quintessence in New Delhi.

We organized typical games like chafu thugaibi and thouri chingnabi. The best part of the event was the tambola housie. We had gathered at a popular park, as we scratched and shouted for the quick fives, stars, the lines and the like.

For a while, we felt so closer at home. It was indeed a typical spring evening. The only sad part was time restraint. Sundays are always precious for working professionals. We had to spare our Sunday afternoon to catch up with one another. The event, which was supposed to start hours earlier, began a little late. Yet, we make it up with unrestrained fun and frolic. I am sure, as a side note, we managed to redefine the concept of ‘Meitei pung’ here in Delhi.

Well, I do not intend to bore you all with my personal experience of how awesome my Yaoshang festival was. Still, I would like to stress on how important it is for us to catch up and celebrate every festival together, whether we stay back home or elsewhere across the world.

I have observed in all these years that our folks in Delhi do not have a unifying factor. Most of the diasporas and expatriates rely heavily on internet, and social media to be precise, to connect with their friends and families. I consider it that there is always a strong undercurrent of nostalgia among us. Most of us are homesick during many occasions. In fact, festivals fuel up our nostalgia meter.

Beyond the Yaoshang play-field

Quite contrary to my over-expressive opinion, I have also come across many Manipuris in the city who get pissed off with the smell of ngaari, soibum or hawaijaar. They, in my opinion, are the chanafam khangdraba kaangbu.

Ngari, soibum and hawaijaar are a few of the distinguishing factors of our community. The smell of ngari or soibum while crossing a building or ally makes most of us nostalgically hungry. And that’s a unique specialty of our community. Correct me if I am wrong.

No doubt, we have students’ associations here but in my opinion, I think we need a body that unifies both the students and working professionals in the city. Don’t you think we are quite used to community living? Besides, we get more ideas that further grow when we interact with one another. I used to crack jokes about a demand for a greater Manipur in the capital. I hope this does not sound like a step to launch a demanding crusade, like a homeland — a concept that we find it hard to resist.

Back at the Yaoshang arena

Nevertheless, I missed the original flavour of Yaoshang back at home — those countless games and sports at the leikai lampak, many chaak chanaba programs, getting pampered by mom’s delicious insaangs and the list is endless. I do miss all my leikai friends and cousins, with whom I grew up together celebrating Yaoshang and many festivals to the fullest.

We do celebrate Yaoshang here but we celebrate it paying a due homage to all the best memories about the festival we have. I had wished many a times to celebrate Yaoshang in the city. I randomly shared my plans then but never had any support from anyone in particular.

This time, we managed to make a difference with the help of some very good friends. We wore colourful phanek on that day as a reminiscence of good old Yaoshang days. Nothing can beat that.

We do have terrific plans for celebrating the forthcoming Cheiraoba in yet another compensatory attempt to lessen the degree of missing home. No matter, how and why we celebrate it, what makes us feel good is the feeling of being together with our own folks in the city. We come from different leikais; most of us did not even know one another but then the nostalgia factor, like a strong yubi thouri, binds all of us together.

I am glad to share that a Yaoshang, Cheiraoba or Chakouba in Delhi will never be the same again. Thanks to all my friends who have supported me and chanura marup (a group of exported Meitei chanuras) in pioneering this endeavour. We hope we can repay our gratitude with a scrumptious Cheiraoba meal soon. You might even want to join us. Cheers!

This appeared in 7 April 2013 edition of the Sangai Express 
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