Shri Langonjam Birmangal Singha : A devout worshipper of Manipuri literature & culture in Tripura
- Part 1 -

Dr Anuradha Nongmaithem *

This article is based on the interview conducted with Shri Oja Langonjam Birmangal Singha, one of the eminent writers of Manipuri and Bengali literature in Tripura. He is also one of the active founder members of Manipuri Shahitya Parasad, Tripura.

Oja's works are widely appreciated both in Tripura and outside Tripura. He is considered as one of the most influential and powerful writers of contemporary Manipuri literature, especially in Tripura.

He began writing in his early 20s. I dearly address him as Oja (a word denoting intellectual person and a guru). Oja is a soft spoken person. I have never heard him speaking stridently or rudely to anyone, he has a charming personality and is very much down to earth. Sometimes I even missed out what Oja was saying due to his soft spoken nature.

The total opposite character to Oja is Echema Mina ( Echema- a word denoting elder sister), Oja's partner and mother of two children. She is fun loving, jolly, full of life and vibrant. Oja without Echema is incomplete, both complement each other. They are a perfect match. Echema is the epicentre of the family.

I have seen Echema accompanying Oja in almost all the programs that Oja had attended. I got an opportunity to attend program with both of them on several occasions, with the latest addition being Oja's new book release program Takhelda Manipuri on 28th May, 2023 at Nazrul Kalashetra, Tripura.

Echema is an eager learner. On the way back home from any program Echema used to give feedback to Oja and share her views and point out the missing information and give suggestions too. I believed this kind of emotional attachment with her husband's work is very important for a healthy marriage and progressive approach towards life. No doubt Echema plays an important role in Oja's life personally well as in Oja's literary endeavours.

Oja due to his professional commitment, could not enter the literary journey earlier, nevertheless he is able to carve a niche for himself in the literary tradition of Manipuri literature in Tripura. He has been continuously contributing in the field of literature over the past four decades. He mostly writes under his pen name as L Ibomcha, a name lovingly called by his family members.

He has published three books under the pen name. Oja is born into a happy middle class Manipuri family to late L. Ratan Singha, his father and mother Langonjam ongi Gulabi Devi in a village named Narayan Khamar under West Tripura District, which is about 15 kilometres towards south from Agartala city. They were seven brothers and sisters and Oja is the sixth child.

He was send to Agartala city to complete his higher education. His parents wanted him to become a doctor. Little did they know that medical profession was not his true calling, literature is his passion and his real identity. After his studies, Oja settled down in Agartala city and subsequently purchased a plot of land and now he is permanently residing in Agartala city with his loving family since 1972.

According to the school certificate Oja's academic date of birth is 23rd June 1957 and but his actual date of birth is 10th March 1956. He completed up to class Vlll from Ishan Chandra Nagar Pargana High School near his native village (Narayan Khamar under West Tripura District). He got admission to class lX at Bodjung Higher Secondary School at Agartala in 1972 and passed Higher Secondary Leaving Exam in 1975.

For his graduation he got admission for Bachelors of Arts at Maharaja Birbikram College, Agartala and graduated in 1978. During his graduation he started involving with leftist students wing, and was involved in various protests for the benefit of the underprivileged students. His involvements with student's movement even led him to jail for a day.

Later on, his experiences with involvements in political ideology are reflected in his short stories. He did his Master's degree in Bengali Literature from Tripura Central University in 2011(while he was in service). During his service, he was exposed to both Bengali and Manipuri literature, which later on became the resources for his literary journey.

He joined Government service as a Sub-Editor under Information & Cultural Affairs Department in 1982 and eventually retired from service as a Senior Editor in 2017. Oja also acknowledged that he was exposed to Manipuri and Bengali literature after he joined the service.

He said there were no books available in Manipuri literature due to this he got less exposure to Manipuri literature. But his love for literature was already ignited during his graduation time, he used to grasp any magazine, journal, newspaper and books from library or from anybody.

Due to the poor connectivity between Manipur and Tripura, there was less Manipuri books available. Things have really changed now; Tripura Manipuri and Manipuri in Manipur are closely connected due to technology and development in transport both by roads and airways, which ultimately help in flourishing the literature and cultural exchange between the two states.

He has recently completed the tenure of the Post of General Secretary, Manipuri Sahitya Parishad, Tripura. He explores the unlimited resources of Manipuri literature as a founder member and there was no turning back for Oja, embarking new milestones with his essays and short stories.

He is also an advisor for Manipuri Language Development Committee, Tripura Government. And he also serves as a member of Sahitya Akedemi Manipuri Language Advisor Board for two consecutive years from 2011-2012 and again from 2018-2022.

Oja is happily married to L Mina Devi. Both are blessed with two children a boy and a girl. Oja's son L. Bibhas Singha is a Mechanical Engineer and he works in Tripura Graminbank as a Senior Manager, daughter Anisha Singha, an Electronic Engineer, works in a multinational company, Hyderabad. He is a doting grandfather to one grandson, Bharagav Singha, pet name Sana from his son.

The family makes sure that they go on family trip at least once in a year and one can find photos flooded in Facebook with family celebrating every function together as far as possible. Echema Mina is the binding force of the family. She is such a doting wife, mother, grandmother and fun loving personality, full of life and energy.

It is rightly proved that behind every successful man there is a woman, so is the case with Oja too. During the interview it was also revealed that it was Echema who insisted Oja to complete his Master's degree in Bengali literature from Tripura University.

To be continued...

* Dr Anuradha Nongmaithem wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is an Assistant Professor of English, NIT Agartala and
can be reached at dranuradha nongmaithem(AT)
This article was webcasted on August 22 2023 .

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