Buonglienkung - A Man Of Life

By Joyful Thiek *

Last night I could not sleep, not that I could at other times. But last night it was different. It was the death of Buonglienkung.

For the information of those staring right now at their computer screens with blank faces, Mr. Buonglienkung Buongpui is a song writer, a music composer, a musician and a singer of the finest order, at least in so far as our standards are concerned, a father of five and a caring husband to a beautiful wife. But that's not what I want to say; rather his ability to inspire, his zeal and passion in serving the Lord, his love for life, that is.

Born in the then small village of Muolvaiphei, Churachandpur, Manipur in 1970 and living there ever since, Mr. Buonglienkung (so he is commonly known) belongs to the Hmar tribe of Mizo, is, by denomination, a member of the Independent Church of India (ICI), and by early profession, a cultivator. His testimonies talk of climbing the steep slopes of Kangzam hills in search of firewood or for the purpose of burning charcoal to help support his family - harsh moments made harsher by the reality of it all.

Buonglienkung was not born great. God remade him into what we now fondly remember him as, but only after much trials and hardships, for that is how a man is born. For the same reason, many of his songs are in praise of the Lord, seeking to thank God for the blessings He's bestowed upon mankind after the many fights and struggles. Buonglienkung's craze for music did come early in life, but the opportunities did not. Fortunately for him, the lack of opportunities didn't stop him from dreaming. Instead, he chose to linger and that is what made him what he is today.

I was nine when I first met him in 1997. My family had just moved in to Muolvaiphei on account of Dad's theological studies. Mr. Buonglienkung was then our Sunday School teacher. Even then, he'd already taught us his songs. But I did not realise they were his songs back then, and for all I knew, they were good songs and I enjoyed singing them. When there was the annual conference of Naupang Sunday School Union coming up, he'd teach each of us our own parts for the group singing competition. When there was nothing coming up, he'd teach us Tonic Solfa, which I made it a point to miss. How I hated Tonic Solfa when I so much loved singing!

When his first kid, Esther, became of age, he sent her to Mount Carmel School, Muolvaiphei. Likewise thus followed the other kids. But the thing about these girls was that they had already begun singing even before they started school, and what with the huge appreciation for singing prevalent at the time in Mount Carmel School, the girls had much better platforms for showcasing their talents and praising God in the mean time.

That was one thing Mr. Buonglienkung made sure of. As of now, the girls had even done their own recording with their Mom and Dad, singing one of their daddy's own songs and their family's favourite for that matter, 'Rinumna Khelah Malsawmna (Blessings beyond Afflictions)'.

The year of 1999 marked a change for Buonglienkung as he joined the Rural Women Upliftment Society (RWUS), a Churachandpur based NGO. In the mean time, he served the ICI as a music promoter on a contract basis, travelling to places as different and distant, rural and urban, teaching music to the Christian youths under the initiative of the ICI.

Even before this, he had been with the ICI Central Choir as choir conductor for almost a decade, and has been, in fact, to this day. Then in 2004, he was elected as an Assembly Member of ICI and has been ever since. He also worked with the New Life Ministries as music instructor.

Many of us probably came to learn of him from the Champhai-Aizawl Tour of celebrated singer Lalruotmawi in 2006. Worth mentioning here is the fact that most of Lalruotmawi's first songs were written by Buonglienkung, including the hits 'Kros Thilthawtheina' and 'Thiemthu Hril Thei Kan Ta Nawh'. You might have noticed his enthusiasm and energy then at the Tour.

That is a characteristic of Buonglienkung he is so known for. Everywhere he goes, from the remote village of Saipung in the Jaintia Hills, Meghalaya to Phulpui in the Vangai Hills of Churachandpur, from the North Cachar Hills to Aizawl or Delhi, he is unchanged. He always bear in mind the fact that the God he serves is unchanged no matter where, no matter when, and that gives him the ability to not differentiate a gathering of ten and a gathering of thousands. And that is why he is a life-long champion of musical gatherings.

In his short lifetime of 38 years, Buonglienkung had written more than 210 songs, a figure the equal of which you'd normally not see. It's not just that. His songs are almost always instantly appreciated, a number of them being translated to different languages, and an even greater number sung by almost everyone.

To get an idea of the magnitude of his songs, try going to any Hmar christian youth gathering or something the like, you're most likely to hear a couple of his songs being sung, if not more. That is Buonglienkung. That is God working through him. And in fact, most of the Hmar christian youth songs (Thalai songs) that I know of are his, what a shame I didn't give much attention to the details of songs I'd come across in the past years.

His songs had won him many awards and so thus his personality. The list includes Lelte award for Best Composer of the Year (2007), Achievement Award from DHWA (2004), etc, you name it. He also received citations and mementos from different organisations and christian groups, and his songs had been favourited in local music channels over weeks, and sometimes months.

Now just when things have finally began to fall into place however, just when his children are beginning to grow into shape, just when his family is getting settled, the cruel hands of fate should come creeping in and steal from us that we love, oh how so unfair! How so miseraby unfair when he spent even the last moments of his life serving God.

On the 29th of October, 2008 (Thursday), Mr. Buonglienkung was still in the Parbung-Pherzawl hill areas of Churachandpur with the local church youths when a high fever gripped him. The malarial fever coupled with his diabetic body was too much to continue his mission there and was immediately rushed back home.

On the 1st of November, Saturday, he was admitted to Churachandpur Civil Hospital from where he was transferred to the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS), Imphal the next day. Then this morning (3rd Nov., 2008) around 1:30 am, Buonglienkung left this world for his heavenly abode, leaving behind his loved ones, to be with the God he's served all through this time.

To the world, he died a music legend. To his four daughters and his son, he died a caring father. To his wife, a loving husband. And to me, he left as an inspiration. A man so dear and true, this world is too poor to hold him. And he may have died today, but ten, twenty, a hundred years from now, his songs will still live on.

God be with the bereaved family!

* Joyful Thiek writes for the first time to . The writer can be contacted at joyful(dot)thiek(at)gmail(dot)com . This article was webcasted on November 13th, 2008

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