The man who bridges Manipuri Meiteis living beyond the eastern horizon

Hareshwar Goshwami *

Shraddha' - Last rites of late Pabung Kakchingtabam Sunder Gopal  at Mandalay, Myanmar :: March 26 2017
Shraddha' - Last rites of late Pabung Kakchingtabam Sunder Gopal at Mandalay, Myanmar on March 26 2017

Many people express their deep sorrow and heartfelt words when Aigya Sunder Gopal Sharma departs this world for the heavenly abode of God on 15-03-2017. There are hundreds more who could not express but felt shock and sorrow at the news of the demise of this man they lovingly call Aigya. Some friends and well wishers of Aigya even went to attend his 'Sradha' at Mandalay as a token of love for the late Aigya.

Still there are hundred others who could not go to Mandalay for one reason or other but observe it in Manipur. I am among the ones who could not go to Mandalay except offering some flowers and a prayer at the 'memorial service' organized by Indo-Myanmar Association and the YVO jointly at Wangkhei Pujah Lampak on the day of his Sradha. In profound contemplation, I recall an occasion in which I met Aigya for the first time.

The incident took place some fifteen years ago. That time I was working as Officer on Special Duty (OSD) to the then Chief Minister, W. Nipamacha Singh. As usual, I was very busy that day with official works and could not respond to the phone that was ringing continually. But I was forced to hold the phone due to its repeated buzzing.

The man on the line was an elderly person whom I have high regards since long. Before I could say a word, he told me that a team of Manipuri Meiteis from Mandalay was to arrive at Imphal that evening and would be staying for some time in Imphal with primary objective of offering prayer to Shri Shri Govindajee.

However, due to obstruction at Pallel by the Police, the team was forced to move back to Tengnoupal for their homeward journey towards Mandalay via Moreh after halting that night at Tengnoupal, he continued. In short, they were pushed back allegedly for lapses in immigration procedures. What the Tamo on line wanted was immediate intervention of the Hon'ble Chief Minister to bring back the team at Imphal that very evening, so that they may not be disheartened during their first visit.

I immediately went straight to the office chamber of 'Pabung' Nipamacha and informed him about the situation. At that time a very high ranking police officer was speaking (in fact routine briefing) to Pabung as usual for an evening. The police officer told me with an angry tone not to mingle with such matter. I didn't respond, instead continued insisting Pabung to allow the team to proceed to Imphal.

'Pabung' was looking up at the police officer, seemingly for a positive response. But the police officer pleaded that he had prior information about the problem and the visit of the team was not acceptable. He even said that there could be persons connected with insurgents in the team. Pabung's response to the police officer was quick and abrupt.

Ibungo Pakisthan-dagi India-da phaoba lai khurumba-di adum chatnei. Makhoisingdo houjikmak Imphal-da porak-u; lanhouba samnaba yaorammaga phaodana. Silence prevailed for some time. CM 's logic seems to have outwitted the officer and he instantly informed the concerned officials to bring back the team who were proceeding towards Tengnoupal from Pallel to Imphal. I was so happy and went towards Thoubal for reception of the team with 'Tamo' and other well wishers who were waiting outside for 'Pabubg's response.

That night Aigya and his team halted at Shri Shri Ramji Prabhu Complex situated at Wangkhei Ningthem Pukhri Mapal (If I remember correctly). I was so overwhelmed and excited to meet our long lost kinsman from beyond the eastern horizon. I could not interact with them except with Aigya for a few minutes, as they were very tired.

In fact, Aigya was the only person in the team who could speak Manipuri properly at that time. Next day, as expected, Tamo informed me that Aigya and his team wanted to call on the Chief Minister of Manipur whom they never met before. The arrangement of the meeting was not difficult for me as I knew the programme chart of the Chief Minister.

The meeting was arranged. The team was treated something like an undeclared State Guest as a hearty breakfast was also arranged at the indication of the Chief Minister himself. Both Pabung and the team led by Aigya were so happy as the occasion was first time for all of them.

Once again, the complicated part of the programme looms up for Aigya and the team wanted to have a photograph together with the Chief Minister of the land, so precious to them. The proposal was again objected by the Intelligence personnel posted at the CM's Secretariat. The objection was on the same ground that the entry procedures of the team in Manipur had lapses and a photograph together with the Chief Minister could be a complicated one in future.

On this, it was Pabung who was disappointed more than all of us. However, true to his original self, Pabung unexpectedly told us to photograph saying, " Phaklangda Manipur Calendar ga thetpara yeng-u. Kananasu khangpot natte, kadaida namba photo-no haiba. Eina Mandalay da chatpada nammakpa photo oiraboi khanjagani."

Security personnel were amazed. In fact, I was guided by enthusiasm, an enthusiasm for brotherhood and oneness which had partly blinded me. Photos were taken as much as we could. This occasion once again proves that, love knows no boundary. Aigya and his team were very happy. The keenness and hospitality of a Chief Minister at the first meeting might have inspired Aigya to come to Manipur more than hundred times thereafter for connecting the two separated culture once again.

Later on, people who frequented Aigya's place at Mandalay told me that Aigya Kakchingtabam Sunder Gopal Sharma, who is also called U Htun Swe in Burmese meaning something like (Ekaikhumnajariba) Sanathoi kept one of those photographs of the then Chief Minister Wahengbam Nipamacha Singh, Aigya himself and myself carefully at a corner of his drawing room.

Today Aigya is no more. I do not know whether the photo is still there or not. But the missing link Aigya bridges and the imprint he created in the mind of the once great Manipuris would remain for generations to come.

* Hareshwar Goshwami wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on April 10 , 2017.

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