Adieu ! Oja Raghu Leishangthem - the author of Khungangi Chithi

Salam Rupachandra Singh *

   Raghu Leishangthem : Manipuri Poet
Raghu Leishangthem : Manipuri Poet :: Pix - TSE

When the butterflies visit the flames
Groups of Heron are flying
And while clouds too aimlessly
In the rhythm of folksong
The birds on the trees
The birds as flutists
Sing nodding their heads

The above lines show that he was really a poet, a poet once mingling with the chaotic world of the 21 st Century. He was calm and soft spoken, always deep in thought and with a target to materialize things into writing poems which had been in his mind. Though physically lean, he was a man with a strong mind and with the full vigour of hope that he would overcome and succeed.

Oja Raghu Leishangthem, the author of Khugangi Chithi "The Letters From The Village", is a recipient of two prestigious National Awards of "SAHITYA AKADEMI" in literature. He was very angry with the system where no rule of law existed and also where justice was never seemed to be done. In a stage of his personal life and career, he fought aplenty in Courts for getting justice seemingly done towards him and his service career.

And my intimacy with him was dragged by his urges to get justice. He filed cases one after another for redressal of his grievances and also suggested his fellow Government servants to do the same. In most of the cases, he was successful. Once he was suspected to be detected with a dreaded disease and when he sought withdrawal of fund from his GPF account, the same was denied but released when he knocked the door of Courts through his wife while he was outside the State for his treatment.

However, he was later on declared to be free from the suspected disease but got surgically operated for other ailment. He was a poet and could not tolerate injustice. He had never shown anger or got into fights as far as my assessment goes but took to legal recourses. It is very much shocking to share that he was so much troubled and traumatised at the last stage of his life that his service book was reported untraceable which is a must for placing before the DPC for fixation of scale of pay under MACP Scheme and the 7th Pay Commission in connection with his pension.

The sour and bitter taste of life, he expressed so calmly and peacefully in his writings. The sweetness of life, he hardly expressed in his poems but with symbolic, ironic and sarcastic dictions as outcome of life. It is worthy to mention that one should learn calmness and good conduct from Oja Raghu Leishangthem.

A man hailing from Thoubal district and urbanized later he never forgot the village and rustic life and lensed his eyes on the lakes, rivers, trees and birds, huts and meadows. And also the cities and towns, of guns and violence, women and exploitations.

Though physically weak, Oja Raghu Leishangthem did a lot of work in his fairly short lived life in the field of Manipur Literature as his mind was amply strong. He worked for many years as office bearer of some literary organisations for development of Manipuri literature I feel regret as I could not complete some of his works requested to be translated into English as they remain incomplete. Some of them are- Patpan Thoibi and Khoriphaba. I cannot make Oja Raghu happy due to my lack of will power and more inclination towards my professional ambitions.

Oja pushed me up to a level to complete the assignment of Sahitya Akademy, New Delhi- to translate his award winning book "Khungangi Chithi" and subsequently another work of Naorem Bidyasagar "Khungang Amasung Refugee". Oja! I am extremely indebted to you and I will never forget your encouragement shown towards me and I 'sorry' as I have been not as strong as you mentally.

He used to walk locking hands together behind and facing down his head on the road as if searching for words of his poems in this merciless but beautiful world. He rode a scooter for long in his life and finally sat in a car but with the help of a driver at the fag end of his life.

As inhabiting in the same locality, I used to accompany him in many functions and gatherings wherein we were commonly invited. Moreover, some elderly people like Pabung Late RK Jabotbihari Singh, RK Danisana Singh, Pabung Likmabam Rameshwar Singh, Shri Thongbam Meidhe Singh, Shri Sagolsem Kulachandra Singh etc., are/were Team members for social gatherings and ceremonies. We had different set of meetings and life's companionship looking and peeping through the windows of the world and analysing the reflections of society in the mirror of life.

Covid had made people stay away from physical crowding and also feeling of fear and hesitation to visit one another. It is really true that the foot of lamp stands shadowed. Some months back, at a ceremonial function, one literary friend of mine told me that Oja Raghu was very sick, though I am near to him, I didn't know or heard about it.

I had visited Oja soon and sat together with him enquiring his health condition. At that time, Oja Raghu was seen very weak but he told me that he was improving. In between, the second wave of Covid-19 restricted gatherings and mobility.

Occasionally, we talked on phone and even spoke of getting an award for his book which had been translated. He was happy to hear it and I pledged to meet him personally. I was called up by him recently to solve the problem of his missing service book which was to be in the custody of the Government authority.

On my advice, his worries had lessened, but a man who wanted justice and thought that justice only would beget through the Court of law, he enquired me a lot on what to do. Again, the same had happened, I did not get the news of the demise of Oja Raghu Leishangthem immediately.

When I came back from work, my wife told me 'Have you heard that Oja Raghu Leishangthem is no more ?' Disbelieving I asked, 'When?''Today morning', she said, 'Why you didn't tell me in the morning?' To this she uttered, 'Thinking that better to tell after your work'.

Oh! Without loss of time, I rushed to his house, met his son and asked him to inform the media as news, saying, 'Oja was not an ordinary person, he was a figure, a face in the crowd'. Oja! you are a pride of us as a Manipur poet in Indian soil.

The seeds of your fertile works have already grown to other parts of Indian cities, Colleges and Universities appealing to humanity and mankind. Your demise is a great loss to us but we are proud that your works and deeds will remain immortal. Enjoy life in heaven like you had enjoyed on this earth.

* Salam Rupachandra Singh wote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on September 29 , 2021.

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