Birth Centenary Celebrations of Jananeta Irabat Singh, 1996 : Book Translation
- Part 3 -
Chachadagi Tejpat Pambi (Tejpat Plant from Chachad)
(A travelogue with a story on Irabot)

James Oinam *

 Chachadagi Tejpat Pambi Torbunggi Tera Pamida Satpa Meibul
Chachadagi Tejpat Pambi Torbunggi Tera Pamida Satpa Meibul

Chachadagi Tejpat Pambi
(Tejpat Plant from Chachad)
(A travelogue with a story on Irabot)

Translator's Note : Translated from Manipuri section of the book below
Book: Birth Centenary Celebrations of Jananeta Irabat Singh, 1996
Editor: L. Damodar Singh
Joint Editor: Dr. N. Tombi Singh
Jointly Organised by
Eastern Zonal Cultural Centre, Calcutta and
Department of Art and Culture, Manipur,
Sept. 29 and Oct. 13, 1996

Cover design: Premananda Roy
Published by: Shri Th. Subol Singh
Printed at: Padma Printers (Computerised), Paona Bazar, Imphal – 795001

[Foreword: In the travelogue written by Khaidem Pamodini, the writer talks about her journey. From Chachad she went to Burma border. While travelling on the road as they reached Burmese border, a young man travelling with her enquired if she wanted to see the place where once hid.

On replying that she would like to see the place, they went to the village and met an elderly woman called Leishingla and requested her to tell the story of Irabot. The story told by mother Leishingla has been reproduced below.

The part "Chachadagi Tejpat Pambi" is taken from the book "Torbunggi Tera Pambida Shatpa Meibul" (The Bonfire that Blossomed on Tera Plant of Torbung) with permission from the author.]

"Let me go ahead to arrange tea for all of us in the nearby village," saying this V.D.O. went. After resting for a while we started walking again. After walking a while one young man said, "Ojani [lady teacher?], Do you want to know the place where Irabot stayed? Do you want to see?"

"Which Irabot? Who?"

"Haven't you heard of Neta Irabot? Don't you know, Ojani?"

"I know. I know very well. I call Neta Irabot as 'Khura Ebunggo' [uncle]. When I was a student, I lived with them for a while. He treated me very well."

"Let us go to his hiding place as he knew my face very well."

"Without word [permission] from the V.D.O., we can't go. Even if we go let's hear from him first."

"Ojani, Are you afraid of V.D.O.? V.D.O. will surely agree if you express your desire to see the place."

"It is not that I am afraid, but if I am in your territory then shouldn't I listen to them?"

"You are right, Ojani."

V.D.O. was waiting for us. We put the matter to the V.D.O. as soon as we reached the place. The V.D.O. happily agreed to the see the hiding place of Irabot. We went to the place. V.D.O. led the way. Few women, children and elders were from the village. We 14/15 of us went to the place. We went laughing and talking all the way.

After going few uphill and downhill we passed the face of a gorge and reached a quite place, facing the quite mountain. The face of the gorge had tejpat trees only, and no other plants. The people asked mother Leishingla to tell everything she saw and heard about Irabot to sister (the writer) so that they can also hear. We have brought mother here for this. And turning to the author they said, "Sister can also ask whatever she wants to know."

Leishingla started telling the story without any delay. "Daughter, Irabot was handsome. Was fair. Hair fell loosely. He told us not tell others that he is living here, in this village. We did not tell. We did not let anyone know. Our villagers loved him very much. The villagers fed him. Families took turn to supply food for him. We wanted him to live in the village, but—"

"Please tell further mother."

Mother Leishingla said, "The thing that Neta Irabot used, he liked very much, and also like by young men and children."

"What is it mother?"

"It was a box that made sound. When he put on his music box then people will crowed around him—women, children, elders…just like bees."

"Did mother see these things or did you hear people say it?"

"Not only saw it and also was part of it. The music box played such nice beautiful songs daughter I don't know how to compare it to. Irabot will sit in the middle smiling. He would look at the faces of the people. He was a lovely man. One cannot forget."

"Mother is that all you saw and remember?"

"No. There's more."

She continued, "He carried the music box wherever he went. He also had a fountain pen ("kolom muktabi"). In the plains and in the bushes while he is hiding, it is said he does not stop writing with it. I did not see him write books, but people told me. In the morning and afternoon, he does not live in the house in the village. After having early meals, he will take the pen, paper, music box, and watch and leave.

His watch was not the type that you wear on your wrist. It had a long string. Hanging from the shirt, it was kept inside the chest pocket. I heard them call it 'jeb ghari'. One worn on wrist is called 'khudang ghari' and one carried in the pocket is called 'jeb ghari'."

"He does not return home until it is dark. He usually returned in the evening when it is getting dark. He stayed among the tejpat trees in the morning and afternoon. Our villagers loved him more than the money. At time the government announced a reward of Rs 10,000 for anyone who could tell whereabouts of him. But none in our village wanted Rs 10,000 and did not tell about him."

After some time, about 3 or 4 months, he came back before dark. He called 2 or 3 elderly people and said, "I have leave this village. It people know I am living here. I cannot wait, I have to change village.

Thus saying in the morning he was not in his place. All his things were also not there. All the villagers without saying anything searched for him. But he could not be found. Thus, Irabot vanished without a clue."

After listening to the entire story we left to see the boundaries of Burma. V.D.O. said, "If we climb top of that small hill we can see the borders of Burma. Sister, are you tired?"

"Not tired. Stop for a while. I want to say something."

"What is it?"

"I want to take a tejpat plant to grow at my home. Is that OK?"

"Yes, let's pull up one when returning back. We are going to return this. There is no other way. If we pull off one now it will be tiring to carry it."

Mother Leishingla said, "While telling the story of Irabot, I forgot something to tell."

I asked, "What is it mother?"

"After Irabot left, it may 2 or 3 years I forgot. One day some young men went hunting and found something below a deep gorge that looked like the foot of Irabot's music box. However, I did not see. People talked about it. Some said may be he has been eaten by a tiger. Some said he must have reached Burma. Unable to climb steep mountain he must have thrown it away. People said he wanted to carry it with him so much. We don't know if he is dead or alive; we are in the dark daughter."

We saw borders of Burma. V.D.O. said, "This is the limit of Manipur. As we cross this, it will be Burma. Those are Burmese army." "See that shiny thing," V.D.O. pointed out, "that's Ningthee river."

After watching for while we returned in the direction of the mountain where tejpat trees grew. I asked the young men to pull out my tejpat tree. The men said we thought Ojani might have forgotten about it and they looked for a beautiful tejpat tree.

And they pulled a beautiful tree bearing many leaves. I asked will it grow in the plains. One of them replied, "Ojani, make a small mountain. Water should not enter its roots otherwise it will die. Else it will grow on its own."

And thus, to our paces we carried the tejpat trees. The man who carried the plant use a long and broad banana leaf and wrapped the roots of the plant with some wet mud in it. Over that again a torn carry bag ("bora") was wrapped so that it can be carried in a jeep.

We returned to Imphal. I remembered being told to make a small mountain. As told by them a small mound was made for the tejpat tree so that is no waterlogging on its foot. It was planted with great earnest. While planting the tejpat, I remembered "khura ebunggo." Khura ebunggo would sit on a mat and write on a small table ("phan").

On the stencil he would write to print on litho. I remember eating "chagempomba" given by the wife of khura ebunggo princess ("sanaebemma") Khomdonsana. Khura ebunggo and I said opposite in their small courtyard in the sun and ate together.

Now the tejpat tree is big. It has become mature. Whenever I see the tree, I remember khura ebunggo. The tree was planted to remember him. It is still growing now. When I die, the tejpat will still grow in my courtyard. My tejpat tree from Chachad journey.

(Source: "Torbunggi Tera Pambida Satpa Meibul" by Khaidem Pramodini, 1993, reproduced with permission from the author)

To be continued .....

* James Oinam wrote this translated article for
The writer can be contacted at jamesoinam(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on May 27 2024 .

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