Book Title: And He Opened the Window
Author: Binapani Thokchom
Translated from Manipuri by the Author
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.
Besides his own kids, he called the children of his relatives from Ningthoukhong and kept them at his residence to study at Imphal at least up to matriculation. Because by that time, the students could study upto the college level in Manipur. They were all his relatives from Ninghthoukhong. He paid special interest to his sister Leima’s sons. He gave many valuable advice to all the children in his house. He told them that each and everyone should recite Swarsawti Bandana at the very beginning of studies. He taught them,
“Swarasti bidyakamal lochani bishwarupi
Bishalakhi bidyadahi namstude”
He called upon his younger brother Mani Macha, and the also the son of his step brother Jarma Singh. He ordered them to come and stay at Imphal to study. But Mani Macha was a money lender and he ran groceries at Ningthoukhong; he did not take interest in study any more. He was still totally against the new education system. So all his sons and daughters were all interested in business. But only one son of Manimacha came to Imphal for study, his name was Thokchom Nandashyam. All the sons of Thokchom Leima came to study under pressure of both Gobardhon and Thokchom Leima. Both of them were in the same opinion; they respected each other and listened to each other. But the eldest son of Leima, RK. Sanahal fled from study frequently, many times; he was caught and punished. He was kept under lock and key and without meals for one complete day. But all these acts were in vain. Later he remained illiterate. His brothers RK. Sanayaima, RK. Noyonsana and RK. Gangasana were studying in CC high School. There was one girl who loved to study. Her name was Basundara Thokchom. She listened to her uncle Gobardhon’s advice. She went to school.
So after the retirement, his pension could not meet all these expenditure. Added to this time of economic crisis, his step sister Radhamati with her three daughters came back after divorce from her husband who became lunatic.
Dr. Gobardhon was always short of money. He could not afford the expenditures of his children’s education. He wanted to take up private practice as a doctor, again. One day, he went to the Treasury Office to take his pension money. Unfortunately, the office was found closed. There he met one of his friends, a war time special contractor-Laishram Gouramani alias Pink Saheb. Those days, a few Manipuri men dressed and lived like English gentleman. Dr. Gobardhon and Pink Saheb were such type of people. Laishram Gouramani asked,
“How are you my friend? What brings you here?” “I came here to take my pension money but today’s holiday, 1 did not know.”
“You look so worried my friend, tell me what ails you?”
“Now 1 need some money”
“I can’t believe you. My friend Gobardhon is brokeJ”
“You don’t know. 1 have to look after my own children as well as many of my relatives who are staying in my house for study. After all, I’m a retired man.”
“Here, take this one hundred rupee note. Can you manage with it, my friend?” “I think 1 can. I will repay you soon.”
“Forget it! That’s what friends are for. Think positively we are far ahead of many people.”
“You are right, Pink Saheb” Dr. Gobardhon and Pink Saheb laughed together. He took one hundred rupees from Pink Saheb. Afterwards, he repaid the money to the Pink Saheb after he had served in ARM.
An advertisement was published by that time from the Assam Relief Measure for some posts of doctors to look after the war victims. Dr. Gobardhon applied and got selected. At the services he rendered at the ARM he found a new kind of enjoyment and satisfaction. There were lots of eatables for the doctor such as rice, canned fish, canned meat, canned milk, coffee; packages of daIs etc. These were all new to the family members and attendants. They did not know even how to open and use them. The doctor’s cook asked of a certain item among them. The doctor simply replied it was coffee. On the other hand the cook took it for Kobi (cabbage in Manipuri) and cooked them. It turned out to be a funny incident. However, the service tenure at Assam Relief Measure (ARM) was for a short time. It was taken up for the rehabilitation of the people who were affected by war and strong earthquakes. A wedge between two plates of collision, the Himalayan region in the North and Indo-Burma in the east, the north -eastern region is one of the seismically most active regions of the world. The region is prone to natural disasters like earthquake, floods, landslides, cyclone and occasional draught. Disasters cause sudden disruption to the normal life of a society and cause enormous damage of property to a great extent as well as many epidemics which make the people of. the region suffer.
In 1943, a major earthquake rattled the northeast on region of India. It was felt strongly in the region and in neighbouring Manipur. Not much is known about this earthquake as it occurred at the height of the World War II when the threat of Japanese aggression on the eastern border of British India was causing an extreme degree of strain. Doug Warr, who was stationed with a medical unit near Dimapur, gave an eyewitness account of the events of that night.
“At that time, I was stationed with a medical unit stationed on the Manipur road, seven miles from Dimapur. I was awakened in the night by violent… there was a rumbling noise. In the morning we discovered that there were fissures and great unevenness in what had previously been level ground, trees had fallen and buildings had been damaged. There was some damage to the Manipur road … ” As a result of the remark, doctors were called to serve the affected people.
It was a short period of two year only that Gobardhon served in ARM. Dr. Gobardhon’s cousin sister Thokchom Komolini was the first pioneer lady educationist in the history of Manipur. Unfortunately, she was born physically handicapped; her right leg was deformed since birth. Hence, she walked with her heels. Since childhood, she had lived in Silchar in order to treat her physical disability. During her stay in Silchar, she completed her minor education which is upto Class Six. When she came back to Manipur, she became a teacher in the Ningthoukhong Lower Primary School where Gobardhon had studied. She was married to R.K. Komolsana. One day, Churachand Maharaj paid a visit to Ningthoukhong and was surprised to see a lady teacher for the first time in his life. Churachand Maharaj then took her to Imphal and made all the arrangements for her stay in Imphal and Komolini became the tutor of Maharani Dhanamanjuri. She also gave private tuition classes to the daughters of many noblemen in Imphal. Churachand Maharaj established the “Moirangkhom Girls L.P. School” and made her the leading teacher. Besides being an educationist, she was also and expert in knitting and she passed her knowledge to young aspiring ladies of Manipur society.
Sanayaima and Noyonsana the son of Gobardhon’s elder sister Thokchom Leima passed the minor examination. They continued further education in the Churachand Higher Secondary School. Later, Sanayaima became a teacher in “Imol Junior High School” and Noyonsana became a central government employee in the Census department. His other nephew Gangesana was of a different attitude. He refused to take up a government job and became a master tailor.
Author and translator