Book Title: And He Opened the Window
Author: Binapani Thokchom
Translated from Manipuri by the Author
In the year 1941, His Highness Maharaja Churachand KCSI, CBE took his last breath at Sridham Navadweep. At the demise of the great ruler of Manipur, people mourned throughout the land with the sounds of five bombardments. Bodha Chandra Singh succeeded his father Sir Churachand. Soon after his accession, Manipur became a principal theatre of the Second World War. The entire extent of Manipur was under the cover of dark smoke of sorrow. As the WWII grew worse day by day Manipur also had to suffer from severe blows.
Japanese planes bombed Imphal on Sunday May 10, 1942. Many people left their homes and fled Imphal to take refuge at other places. Everyone was all agog with curiosity at their first sight of the aeroplanes. A new international road was carved upto Burma cutting the hills and paving along the plains. There were Gora (white), Negro, Pathan armies all over Manipur. The administration ceased to function for a few weeks. There was an air-raid on Imphal again on the 16th• Towards the end of May, offices began to function at Kwakeithel at the house of the Inspector of Police. Johnstone High School was run at Khagempalli at the house of the Head Master. There was a lull on the Manipur front about a year.
On April 20 and 21, 1943, Imphal was bombed again. The air-raid of the 21 8t was immediately before the commencement of the examination. Soon after it was all clear, the examination started. After this there was a lull for about one year again.
On March 16 and 17, 1944, there were air-raids on Imphal. After a week or so, Japanese Divisions penetrated up to Sawombung (about 7 miles north -east of Imphal) through Ukhrul. Other Japanese Divisions pushed up the Indo-Burma Road and the Tiddim Road and reached the valley. A Japanese Division cut the Imphal-Dimapur Road on the 29 March 1944 and the siege of Imphal began. 33 Division under Major General Yanagudi the best Division of Japanese army in the conquest of Burma arrived.
The Indian National Army came with Japanese forces. The Japanese advanced up to about Lokpaching (about 11 miles south-west ofImphal). On the 21st March 1944, General Tojo stated in the Diet that the administration of Indian territories occupied by Japan would be carried on by the Provisional Government· of India of Subhas Chandra Bose. Accordingly, the area around Moirang and the Andaman Nicobar Islands were in the hands of the Provisional Government of India.
Many refugees from Burma were camped at Lamangdong under the order of the government. There were about five hundred of them at the Lamangdong refugee camp. There were many deaths due to the long journey and starvation. They were accompanied with bundles of precious silk clothes and gold. But they had to meet with deaths despite their wealth.
Dr. Gobardhon was also posted in charge of the refugees. It was the saddest moment in his life when nearly half of the starving refugees died without taking food he had prepared for them. Many warring Japanese soldiers also came there and stayed there. However Japanese soldiers were unfortunate as they could not find any food. The British forces had barred the entry of Japanese vehicles bearing foods. They had to eat whatever vegetables they could find. They were courageous even though they had been facing the acute scarcity of food. Such were the Japanese. They would spend the night up in the trees and by the day they would pretend to be the local villagers. They would snatch away the food and cattle from the villagers by force. Many Gora (British) soldiers arrived at Ningthoukhong on hearing the news that there were many Japanese there. Five Japanese soldiers had already killed many Gora soldiers. Ultimately they were captured alive in an actual encounter as they were short of cartridges. Those five Japanese soldiers were trampled to death by the angry British soldiers.
The allied powers had supremacy in the air. They moved in the 5th Indian Division, complete with equipment, from Arakan by air and strengthened the defence of Imphal, which soon became the Stalingrad of the East. Some of the fiercest battles of the Second World War were fought near Imphal. The severe fighting in Bishnupur and Palel areas was in the second half of April, 1944. By the first week of May, the Japanese began to lose ground.
In June, after the relief of Kohima, the 2nd Indian Division moved down along the Imphal-Dimapur Road to raise the siege of Imphal. The 5th Indian Division too pushed up along the Dimapur Road. The two Divisions met at the 109th milestone from Dimapur on June 22, 1944. The siege of Imphal was raised. Soon, the Japanese were completely repulsed from Manipur. The Indian National Army retreated with the Japanese forces. The Japanese accepted their surrender after the droppings of atom bombs on the 6th August 1945 and on the 9th at Hiroshima and Nagasaki respectively. Unchallenged supremacy in the air was the main factor of the allied victory.
In the month of August 1944, an order was received for the retirement of Dr. Gobardhon. He had served people for thirty years complete. During the tenure of thirty years in service, Dr. Gobardhon was posted in the hill district of Ukhrul twice, two times in Churachandpur, twice in Mao-Maram, twice at Kangpokpi and Moirang each.
A grand function was arranged by the Medical Superintendent at the Civil Hospital near Khwairamband Bazar for the farewell of the first doctor of Manipur. The government arranged Gold Medals. There were male and female singers invited at the grand function. Famous singer Ngangbam Nimai was also among them. Dr. Laishram Kirti embraced the retired pioneer doctor and showed admiration for him with full of tears in his eyes. As Dr. Laishram Kirti was an adept Manohar Sai singer, he also presented one of his best on the occasion. And the female singer, Chandrakala presented one of her best songs. After lunch, the function came to an end.
After his retirement, he was there in his homestead at Loklaobung. He made his fairly grand thatched house just like his father made at Ningthoukhong. But he found the condition of the house lack of repair; there were filth all around the house as they lacked proper fencing. So he planted Shambal-lei plant and China Rose all around. A man called Ashang (a Tangkhul) used to come there; he was a gardener and a tiller.
He also dug a pond, not very big but medium one. A group of climbing plants was planted near by the road. In the rainy season, little water borne flowers could be seen blossoming in the pond. At the northern corner of the yard, there was a big thatched barn of paddy.
Dr. Gobardhon owned fifty acres of paddy field given by his father as his share of property. There was a man called Sekhar who was in charge of collecting the paddy, and for this act of collecting paddy every year he got the yield of one acre of the paddy field as his own share for his service. So he did his job and went to the barn every year. Dr. Gobardhon bought another piece of plot at Lokloobung near his house but ultimately he gave it away in charity to a poor widow called Laimayum Lukamani. There was a story of the donated land. It is said, the Brahmin lady used to bow to him everyday in the morning asking for the land. Pati Devi, Gobardhon’s wife strongly opposed to this. But Dr. Gobardhon did not listen to his wife, he donated the piece of land to the Brahmin lady (pranam ka parinam Aswirvad). Since he had been posted at different parts of the hill districts for a long time, he had sent off his sons and daughters to different states outside Manipur for studies. Thus he sent his eldest son, Manibhadra to Calcutta Cotton College, second daughter Satyabati to Dhaka Medical College, the third son Satyapriya to Jorhat for study of Mechanical Engineering, Bimola Devi to Guwahati University and Birendra and Nongyai to Shillong. His youngest daughter Binapani and son Nabachandra stayed with him.
Author and translator