Excerpts from an interview with Binodini a decade ago (in 2000)

By Witoubou Newmai *

MK Binodini poured out her heart ten years ago when Witoubou Newmai, Editor of Newmai News Network (NNN) interviewed the princess at her Yaiskul residence on a cold and cloudy afternoon of December 14, 2000. This interview was carried in The Sangai Express on the December 15 edition of the same year.

At Raj Bhavan

Newmai News Network (NNN): Being born in a royal family, tell me the advantages that you had in your life?
Binodini: I am first of all proud of my heritage. Whatever I had achieved or what I am today is due to, say, not in a royal family but being born in Manipur. The royal family is very much part of the heritage. You see, life of the Meiteis and the Meitei society itself is a big institution of art and culture. So being born and brought up in a royal family is much closer to this institution as compared to non-royals. During my younger days I had been involved in many activities. I have seen my parents singing. In our palace there were so many Loishangs. These loishangs belonged to the royal palace. So due to all these conditions, I am what I am today.

NNN: You had also been to Shantiniketan in Calcutta.
Binodini: Actually I am a painter also. That was the reason I went to Shantiniketan. I went there to learn painting and sculpture after my graduation from Calcutta University in 1944.

NNN: But you have become a prolific writer.
Binodini: No, I did not complete the art training. I came back to Imphal and got married in 1950.

NNN: Any thought of career while pursuing an academic education?
Binodini: No, I never thought of a career. From my childhood days I had been dreaming of becoming an artist, say a painter. That was the reason I did not do my MA degree.

NNN: What about writing?
Binodini: I never knew I would become a writer.

NNN: What triggered you to become a writer?
Binodini: Actually I started writing during my school days but never thought of publishing them.

NNN: What actually I wanted to know is that when did you become a serious writer?
Binodini: Initially, I was never a serious writer. I used to write very casually. But one fine day a Manipuri girl who belonged to the association of Manipuri students studying in Calcutta came to me and asked me to contribute an article for their journal. Instead of writing an article I wrote a short story. The name of the story was entitled "Nungairakta Chandramukhi". It was published. The journal was circulated. A copy of it also came to me. Then Prof Nilkanta, a well known poet and critic had written it in a newspaper mentioning the name of the story "Nungairakta Chandramukhi". He had written a lot of praise about my writing saying that he had found a new writer, a Manipuri short story writer. When I read it, I was very much thrilled and also I was very much encouraged. After that I started writing very seriously.

NNN: Well, your famous "Imagee Ningthem" which had won France's prestigious Grand Prix Award in 1981. It was a story of a boy who draws a lot of sympathy from the audience. What incident made you to create such character?
Binodini: The story of "Imagee Ningthem" was inspired to me by a woman of my neighbourhood. That woman is a kind hearted woman. She is still living today. Yes, her husband was having an extra-marital affair with another woman. So since her husband had betrayed her she used to come to me to get consolation probably. Whenever she came she used to bring her little daughter also. Her daughter had a sweet face just like her mother. So seeing the condition of the child I thought of writing a story based on the fact. So in my play "Imagee Ningthem" I depicted this girl child as a boy. In my story it was a boy.

NNN: Are you still writing these days?
Binodini: Yeah, I am still writing.

NNN: Currently on what theme?
Binodini: These days I am very much disturbed and confused.

NNN: Disturbed and confused in the sense?
Binodini: Look at the present situation of our society. I am nearly 80 years old now. But think of the up-coming young writers too, they have been disturbed. They are worried and feel uncertain about our society.

NNN: So why don't you write about the ever worsening condition of our society?
Binodini: I had written stories based on Army Combing Operation and sent them to the AIR but they had been rejected. The concerned people do not want to publish or serialize in Radio.

NNN: So you have given up?
Binodini: No, now I am planning to write stories based on the feeling of agony and pains borne by the mothers whose children have joined underground groups. I do not know much about the activities of the undergrounds but I known about their mothers–what they think and how they feel.

NNN: Like your "Imagee Ningthem" do you have any specific inspiration?
Binodini: Yes, I know one woman in our locality whose two sons have joined underground groups. I used to see her in our locality whether in the shops or in the roadside. She is so worried and disturbed mentally. Due to this she has become very thin and feeble. So there are also so many women like her case. This woman is desperately against the army combing operations thinking that her two sons be killed. For the woman like her I feel pity.

NNN: So what would you like to say about the sovereignty movement of Manipur?
Binodini: I am not sure about myself what should I say. I have got some hesitation and reservation to comment on this matter.

NNN: But do you regret that Manipur had been merged into the Indian Union?
Binodini: Yes, I regret so much. It is not that I belong to the royal family but I feel as a Manipuri that even today people have regards for the throne, for the monarch of Manipur.

NNN: Besides putting your imaginations and thoughts into black and white (paper), you also have great concern for the practical activities as we can see it in your book "Loktak I see".
Binodini: I love Loktak. All the people of Manipur love Loktak. There are many stories originated in and around Loktak. It is the source of Manipuri literature. This Loktak has gone now. People want to ruin the naturality of Loktak. They want to build five-star hotels there. We don't need such hotels in Loktak.

NNN: Anytime of your life have you dreamt of joining politics?
Binodini: Yes, I was attracted to politics but I have never involved in it seriously.

NNN: Lastly, you said you are disturbed and feel uncertain. What made you so?
Binodini: Just before you came I was reading the newspapers that there were clashes in the Assembly hall. This is the greatest regrets. Such incidents make me uncertain and bleak thoughts come in my mind whenever I found such cases. These sixty Ministers and MLAs should resign immediately. They should be showing example to the people but instead they were hitting each other. They do not feel ashamed of their deeds. They have sold Manipur. They have mortgaged Manipur. They should resign at the earliest.

Read a complete profile on Maharaj Kumari (MK) Binodini here.

* Witoubou Newmai, Editor of Newmai News Network (NNN) did this interview and was published at The Sangai Express. This article was webcasted on March 12 , 2011.

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