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E-Pao! EI - An emerging woman director

Chaibi Devi - An emerging woman director
Oinam Anand *



One of the uniqueness which Manipur has got as a legacy from their forefathers is the better participation of the women in social, cultural and political activities.

Women of Manipur have been taking active roles in socio-economic problems in addition to maintaining their daily household chores. In times of social crisis women of Manipur come up infront to fight for justice. The women’s’ war of 1903-04, 1939 and the bold demonstration before Kangla on 12th July 04 are some of the rare examples that are not found anywhere in the world.

At the same time, women of Manipur have a greater share in blooming the beautiful flowers of the rich cultural tradition of Manipur.

Whether it is ritual, festival, cultural activities, stage plays women are not lagged behind this made counterparts and even woman overpassed man in production and direction of stage plays.

A woman director is making her presence in stage plays and Shumang Leelas and even get recognition outside the state through her maiden venture as a director in a short play which got second place in all India competition recently.

She is none other than Smt Chaibi Devi. Her complete name is Khuraijam Ongbi Chaibi Devi, wife of Khuraijam Inaobi Singh of Pungdongbam Maning in Imphal East district. She is essentially a woman who throve on her art and her endeavour to fame reminds the old saying that there is no substitute for hard work.

Chaibi was born in 1962 at Khongman Mangjil in Imphal East District. Her mother was a reputed Nat-Sankritan and Khubak Eeshei singer of her days. Chaibi inherited the love of dance and music from her mother and she took part in dance and Ras-Leela staged in her locality in her childhood days.

Chaibi got married to a family of repute having joint family system, maintaining a high standard of living in the decent society. As a family ‘mou’ she had to attend to many household activities from morning to night and she had to manage activities from morning to night and she had to manage to subdue her mounting love for art and stage play in the core of her heart.

Her husband Inaobi hails from Kongba bazar. The Khuraijam family has a vast area of agricultural land in Lamlai A/C. Almost all the brothers, sisters and uncles of Inaobi work in many Government offices in different capacities as engineers, doctors, lawyers, lecturers and live in Imphal city.

But Inaobi, a well educated man choose to lead a simple life in the village. He is maintaining the vast agricultural land left by his father on behalf of his brothers and sisters. He is at present a model agriculturist and gardener among the village farmers.

Mother of two, one son and one daughter, Chaibi has to keep her love for art in check because she feared that it would have aversely affected the career of her children. Now both the son and the daughter manage to stand by their own feet. The son is now in Chennai doing his MA Degree, the daughter doing BCA in Gauhati. So time is ripe for her she thought to revive her love for art and stage play.

Chaibi and her husband had to look after the affairs and management of a Jaganath Temple which had been built in the 1950s by their forefather and dedicated to the public of the locality for worship. In the annual festivals like Rath Jatra, Jallakelli Chaibi did not fail to perform, a solo dance, or a Khubak Eeshei pala or even a Jallakeli Pala before Lord Jaganath. And from this mandop with the blessing of the Lord. Chaibi came into prominence with the launching of a tele-play and from then onward she never looks back.

First, she became an actor (she took male part) in the Tubi-Leima Jatra Association Kongba for about two years. Then she formed a cultural organisation in the name of ‘Nongpok Ningthou Drama cum Dance Association’. This cultural organisation has been participating in many drama and Shumang Leela festivals in and outside Manipur and bagged many prizes.

Some of the achievement of the Association are
(i) Staged a Shumang Leela ‘Florence Ninghtingle’ in the 33rd All Manipur Shumang Leela Festival 2005. Though failed to achieve awards in any category, this play was widely acclaimed by the critics and theatre lovers,
(ii) Staged a Shumang Leela ‘Sanagi Keirak’ directed by Chaibi herself. This play got 2nd best play in the 34th edition of the Festival.
(iii) Staged ‘Langmai Chakhanu’ in the recently concluded Shumang Leela festival- 2007.

In the 10th All India Multi-Linguel Drama/ Dance Festival- 2007 held from 18th to 22nd April at Jhamsedpur Jharkhand which was organised by Amateur Artists Association, Jharkhand (AAAJ), the Nongpok Ningthou Drama cum Dance Association has got many awards, including, the 2nd best play, second best actor (Chaibi herself in the role of ‘Nungjeng Piba), second best actress (W. Roma), best make up (Pritam). Above this the cultural troupe has also got the best dance performance award in Naga Dance and folk dance respectively.

Besides maintaining daily household duties as a Manipuri house-wife, Chaibi is using her most available time in group discussion with her fellow artist about new projects. She is somewhat shy to interact with media for not having academic degree under her belt.

But she can express in abrupt Hindi. She speaks little but more practical and according to her opinion woman should be encouraged not only in acting but also in production and direction of plays.

Chaibi gives the credit of her success to her beloved husband who supported her always in time of need. It is said that there is a woman behind every man’s success. But it can also be said that there is a man behind every woman’s success. The example is Smt Chaibi Devi, the emerging woman director.


* Oinam Anand writes regularly for The Sangai Express. This article was webcasted on June 05th, 2007.


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