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E-Pao! feature-Yaoshang celebrations in Bangalore!

Manipuri Meitei Association, Bangalore LOGO Yaoshang celebrations in Bangalore!


The spirit of Yaoshang was seen glowing radiantly in Bangalore last Sunday. The Manipuri Meitei Association, Bangalore, celebrated Yaoshang 2002 at Nandan Grounds, Austin Town in Bangalore on Sunday, 31 March 2002 complete with all the imaginable fanfare and colours not to forget the most enthralling "Thabal Chongba". It was just simply splendid an occasion.

MMA Bangalore is an 8-year-old association of Meiteis living in Bangalore who are mostly working persons decided to make Bangalore their stead. There are more than 20 members with families enrolled in this group coming from various backgrounds. Then there are those who haven't enrolled as yet. It was originally an effort to bring together married Meiteis aka 'yum kei pal-laba kaangbu' who were living in Bangalore.

In their effort to further their endeavour to form a Meitei community in Bangalore, MMA for the first time organized a public event on the occasion of Yaoshang, in good faith and to help improve cooperation and goodwill among the ever-increasing number of Meiteis in Bangalore. They are the people most youngsters look up to and respected in the 1000 plus Meitei boys and girls studying in Bangalore. Well they did it and did it well. There are more than 100 estimated working Meiteis in Bangalore with more than half of them with families and children living with them.

This is the first kind of social inter-mingling of Manipuris socially in Bangalore beside the annual get together organized by the Manipuri students' association. There were quite a few non-Manipuris too. The most nostalgic affair and emotion stirring sight came from the women and children. The children, some 20 of them, in their very colorful best found it very enjoyable and in fact they must have enjoyed more than anybody else. They seem to like both the heat and the dust of Yaoshang. Did we all not after all, when we were much younger than today? Then it's such a pleasant sight to see so many women attired in the Meitei traditional best. Makes one say that Phanek is the best dress when worn perfectly with a matching top.

The event began a little late in the morning, as you might have guessed it right it was later than the specified time, protecting and demonstrating the sanctity of the easy going Meitei way of life. The weather was perfect and somehow Bangalore has a way of showing similarity with the Yaoshang time climate back home. The wind carried similar fragrance of springtime flowers too. It was hot by Bangalore's standard but considered warm comparing to other Metros. And it was a day overcast with puffs of cloud every now and then offering momentary relief from the heat. The scorching Yaoshang sun shone high above the sky as the revelers apply colours to each other followed by the very indigenous sports events, which included 'chaphu thugaibi', 'thouri chingnabi', 'yetum lengbi lamjel', 'musical chair', 'spoon race' for the children.

Its was so much fun to be playing such sport thousand of miles away from home. In the Thouri Chingnabi women's event it was between the Leisabis and Mous. After a 1 minute tugging the Leishabis won the war. In the men's event it was between Pakhangs and Nupi-thirabas. Nupi-thirabas defeated Pakhangs in 15 seconds flat in what was apparently an effortless war. The defeat of the Pakhangs had its writings on the wall and the less we discuss it the better.

Next stop, lunch hour!

A 7-dish lunch was the best part the day activities. 7 meticulously selected meitei dish was served and it tasted just like home. Volunteers with gifted meitei culinary skills took to preparing the menu. 2 dishes of fish (matum thongba & atoiba), laphu eromba, kobi shak, shagol-hawai thongba, hawai-tharak ooti and hangam-maru achar were the order of the day. Hawai-tharak ooti was on top of the demand curve but all the other dishes too taste superb. Lunch was the crowning glory of the day as never before such a luncheon had been organized and organized so well.

As the day progressed and the Yaoshang sun slacken its grip on the Yaoshang sky slipping steadily due west it was time to set in motion the much-awaited event. Its time for Thabal Chongba. Earlier in the day preparations have been made for illuminating the ground in a manner exactly how one would find it back home. With teepee shaped poles and strings of coloured paper. Slowly well-adorned crowds begin to trickle in. It turn out, in the end students out numbered the Meitei association crowd. All the Thabal enthusiast were there and hip-town Bangalore is ready to shake a leg to the Thabal music. Try organising a 'Thabal Chongba' anywhere where there is a sizable number of Manipuris, all who could make it there would be there. This time round there were Thabal enthusiast from Mysore and Mangalore besides many other non-Manipuris.

The chief guest of the evening was supercop H T Sanglianna, commissioner of police, Bangalore city. He was invited to grace the occasion and formally open the Thabal Chongba. It needs to be mentioned here that Mr. Sanglianna (IPS), a Mizo from Churachandpur in Manipur has the reputation of being a super sincere cop here with 2 feature films named after him. He is quite a living legend and a role model in Karnataka.

Sanglianna arrived promptly at 5:30 pm. After a warm welcome in the traditional Manipuri way and after exchanges of pleasantries with the Meitei Association members he was asked to address the gathering, which in fact everybody was waiting to hear. His speech was consummate with hard-hitting facts. He stressed on the situation back home and its hopelessness. Spoke about the deepest corruptions and shallow progresses made since his schooldays at the Bengali High School. The speech dwell on how each one of us should contribute towards making Manipur a better place to live. He remembers how Yaoshang used to be in his younger days and emphasized how amidst celebrating this joyous festival we must all focus on social up-liftment. Few more speeches followed by the Meitei Association members on its role and vision to make a practical and resourceful Meitei community in Bangalore.

Phew! finally Thabal Chongba after all the heat and the dust, finally. But suddenly it's a no go. Only a few were dancing while the rest were just watching. It's so obvious an attitude to an observer how shy and reserved the Meiteis are that the chief guest had to literally come out and call out everyone to join the dance. Mr. Sanglianna himself joined the dance. Then it starts to get dark and suddenly the Thabal Chongba is in full swing then suddenly it dawned on the observer that this particular dance must take place in the dark. It looks like apart from the dance Thabal Chongba also provides an atmosphere to interact with one another. And for those who simply stand and watch have the equal right to do so as Thabal Chongba can be as much fun and enjoyable by simply watching it. But dark or no dark Meiteis will remain a shy and reserved kind.

The dance went on till about 9 pm and for some it would be one of their most unforgettable moments, those who danced for the first time, their first flight. If anyone thinks that he can't dance, well it only takes the courage to just step right in and join one of the worlds most celebrated human chain dance. Once in the ring and the circle of people holding hands together in a chain, the music has its effect on you and your mood takes a swing. Upbeat! after that you never wanna let go of the hands that you are holding. It becomes so irrelevant whose hand you are holding as long as you continue to dance and you begin to realize this is much more sane and fun than you thought. But then again for those who are experienced the thrill lies in switching hands as frequently. Know what it means?

Its so surprising to know that Thabal Chongba has a different beat for everyone. Here people from all range of age danced together and seemingly have fun too. Where as back home it seems to belong to a privileged select age group. And its so mesmerizing to know that dancing in a circle could be so enticing and fun. Could it be because the heavens are watching? Does the word Thabal have its mysterious meaning? Only heaven knows.


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