TODAY -

US Sojourn
- Part 4 -

By Yumnam Rupachandra *


But if it was not for Nick I would not have come across all these good folks. Nicholas Manoharmayum, friends call him Nick, is based out of Philadelphia and he came to US with the IT wave ahead of the 1999 millennium bug. US was recruiting anyone who they thought could find a way to fix the millennium bug problem which every computer with 1999 age limit had.

Remember the global fear of every computer breaking down when the clock ticked 12 O'clock on 31st of December 1999. Nick, a computer engineer came with that wave and has since stayed back. Apart from his profession Nick has made a commitment to link people of Manipuri origin staying or working or on short term visit to US.

He keeps close link with another Manipuri in New York- I wished I had visited that city- Somi Roy, who of course everyone in Manipur associates with baseball and cinema. Somi, is now trying to draw the attention of Kentucky Horse breeders to our rare Pony.

Back to Nick - Nick is a traveller and he drove several miles on the east coast from Philadelphia to Baltimore to be with Bob's family this weekend. Last weekend he had driven to another city to another friend's house. He makes these travels several times in a year just to keep in touch with the folks from back home.

Also joining us at Bob's was Khilton and young Somananda, a bachelor on the look out for a pretty girl willing to join him in US.

Now I have a story to tell about Khilton who lives and works out of Fairfax in Virginia. Khilton came to US because of his skills in Thang-Ta. He came as an instructor and what's amazing about him is that he has managed to make several Americans both white and black take to the art for the love of it.

What is it that makes these Americans take to Thang-ta which apart from being a performing art is yet to make it to the world stage as competitive sport like the Japanese karate or the Korean Taekwondo? Khilton would rather have me ask the question to the folks who have taken up Thang Ta than answering himself.

So it was a cold December evening that I found myself outside CHEVY CHASE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, Bethesda, Maryland. There was already one car and waiting the instructor was Dainis Jirgensons.

Dainis was already an exponent of a Chinese martial art when he came across Manipuri Thang ta. He studied Chinese internal boxing for over 20 some years and was a Certified massage therapist. He is in late fifties and his association with Thang ta went back to march 1997.

Others joined us as we troop into the school auditorium which the group had hired during off time in the evening.

Leonard Tony Baker, Retd. US Army, a Karate expert and a licensed Pilot who now works with UNITED AIRLINES say he has been practising Thang Ta for last four years.

I asked him what made him gravitate towards Thang ta especially after he has had exposure to Karate and with so many other high profile oriental martial arts schools available in the city. This is what he said- "I kind of like the philosophy of Thang ta which goes way back to its cultural roots."

If Tony is there for philosophy, 15 years old basketball player Andrew Touber is there because of the agility that thang ta provides. I am able to jump higher and dodge faster because of thang ta, he said.

Then there was Rayned Wales, a Data analyst with ten years each of Japanese Aikido and Chinese internal boxing and Loyd Gore with fifteen years of Chinese internal boxing. Khilton had successfully sold the good points of thang ta to this group and this was one amongst many groups in and around DC that Khilton visits on rotation.

US even has its own Thang ta association and is surprisingly a affiliate of Hula Sindamsang, Keishamthong Leirak under Ojah Devabrata Sinam with Padmashree Ningthoukhongjam Khelchandra as its Chief Advisor.

The NORTH AMERICAN THANG-TA ASSN was formed in March 1998 with DAINIS JIRGENSONS as its Founder President. These die hard have embraced the Manipuri Thang Ta but have they ever visited the birth place of the art, Manipur? No. But the desire is there and they dream of the day when they can visit this land called Manipur.

This then was part of the story of these folks who have chosen to widen their horizon and look elsewhere to make their home far away from Manipur. But there are more of them from East to West coast.

When the World Trade Centre came down (9/11), a Manipuri was atop at the Window to the World restaurant, he died trying to save fellow colleagues. With his death Jupiter Yambem, brother of eminent journalist and former Member of Manipur Human Right commission Yambem Laba, became the Manipuri face in the US in those terrible times.

I had interviewed him for SEEN TV in what was to be his last visit to Manipur before the fateful day. He talked about the Manipuri Diaspora in US and how the North America Manipuri Association-NAMA-was trying to get the Manipuri living and working in US to come together and preserve Manipuri culture half way around the world through practice.

Today the number of Manipuri in US has grown. New York, itself is said to have about 200 Manipuries working. Several of them are on the west coast while still some others are spread out across the great nation.

Their stories, I am sure will be as interesting but that will be for the future when I make another trip to the great country.

Concluded......



* Yumnam Rupachandra wrote this article for The Sangai Express .
This article was webcasted at e-pao.net on 13th April 2009.


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