Book Title: And He Opened the Window
Author: Binapani Thokchom
Translated from Manipuri by the Author
Gobardhon educated Thokchom Dijamani Singh, the son of his step brother Jarma Singh. Dijamani became a matriculate at that time. Later on he became the head master of Ningthoukhong Primary School.
Thokchom ningol Vasundhara Devi is the daughter of Dr. Gobardhon’s cousin brother Thokchom Chinglen Singh. With the inspiration of Dr. Gobardhon she became a literate lady and completed her eighth standard at that time. She became a Head Pundit later. She also received the award for “the best teacher” of her time. She also took keen interest in music and theatre.
Such was, Dr. Gobardhon’s hope and ambition to enlighten people he was associated with. He wanted to spread the light of education. In his endeavour he succeeded in bringing about changes with some and failed to do so with some.
Dr. Gobardhon’s younger brother Thokchom Narahari was strongly opposed to the education at ideas of Gobardhon. But, the youngest son of Narahari, Thokchom Nandashyam was inspired by Dr. Gobardhon; he learned Hindi Rastra Bhasha.. Later on in his life, he became a Hindi teacher and was one of the pioneers in spreading Hindi knowledge in the different district of Manipur.
In 1947, India got independence. The British yoke was removed. Bodhachandra became the Maharaja of Manipur. The actual ruler was the Chief Commissioner who was sent from Delhi. There were intrigues and Manipur was on the radar of the Iron Man Sardar Patel. The new Maharaja was called to come to Shillong. And he was kept under house arrest at Red Lands in Shillong.
The poor Maharaja was not given any other option than to sign an agreement. That was the Manipur Merger Agreement 1949. There was no more Darbar Assembly in Manipur. Once a sovereign state, but now under the pressure of this uneasy atmosphere, the Maharaja decided to devote his life in worshipping god by sacrificing all his possessions and family. He went to the Baruni Hill; there he founded a sanctified place; named the place as Gouranagar.
One day Dr. Gobardhon happened to meet Sagolsem Indramani who was the founder of The New Girls and Adult Night School. Indramani said, “Actually I can’t find good teachers”. After that Dr. Gobardhon became a teacher. Because he could not live without doing nothing, Dr. Gobardhon used to go to the school with bicycle. The founder of the New Girls’ and Adult Night School, Sagolsem Indramani was born on the 2nd May 1907 at Thangmeiband Khuyathong.
He was popularly known as Oja Indramani. He established an orphanage and two High schools. Around 1948, the Lilasingh Khongnangkhong High School was only at the M.E. level. When Oja Indramani was given the responsibility to look after the welfare of the school as a secretary of the Managing Body, he raised the school upto the High School level and managed to get a pucca building constructed. After that he handed over the charge of secretaryship to a local patron. In 1951, a school called The New Girls’ and Adult Night High School was established at Khoyathong. Classes for the girls were held during day time and at night for adult, males only. This was a stepping stone in the development of women’s education in Manipur. Those persons who were either employed for day time duty or too old to read in the lower classes of the generals were given a chance to be students in the night time starting around 5.00 p.m. upto 9 p.m. This enabled the employees to improve their educational levels which were an essential requirement for further promotion in their professions/jobs.
During the epidemic of small pox that spread throughout Manipur, there were innumerable deaths. The state authorities announced that each and every body should come out to get vaccinated and if anyone did not come out for it, he would be fined at the rate of 25 paisa each. The fine must be paid to Garrot. Almost all the people came out for the free vaccination but the hill people did not come forward. They fled in groups to far remote places. Many rumours on how they could not understand the meaning of vaccination came about.
Dr. Gobardhon could not stay idle whenever such epidemic broke out and spread. So he wrote an application to the medical directorate for the job of a doctor in exigency. But he was told that there was no vacancy as many new doctors had come in. But it was known that there was a vacant post of a doctor in 44 IT Road. Dr. Gobardhon had no other choice but to serve at 44 IT Road. At that time, he was on the older side of his age. It was the time when Naga hostiles two were very active. Vehicles for passenger to the 44 IT Road were not available. As he had served long in the hill areas, he thought to himself that Naga hostiles would not do any harm to him.
When he was posted at a small dispensary at the 44 IT Road, he found that only a few high landers lived there but all in hunger and poverty. No market no vegetation. Only timbers were grown. Late at night, the sound of the vehicle carrying woods and timbers could be heard. There the old doctor, without hesitation, lived absolutely in a camp life. A little wooden bed with small dining table of round wood and little chairs of bamboo were the only available furniture there.
This time, his wife Pati Devi did not accompany him. She preferred to stay at home looking after the children and family. His third son Birendra followed him in the posting area. Birendra had left his studies in Shillong without appearing for the veterinary examination. He cooked meals for his father and served him. His son Birendra hated staying in that isolated hill area with his old father. Knowing that, Dr. Gobardhon always tried to convince his-low-spirited son saying:
“You must listen to what I say. And always remember this sloka-
Pita dharma pita swarga pithi
pirmangtapo priyante swarga devata
(Try to make happy your father. If your father is pleased with you, all heavenly gods will be pleased with you).”
His son Birendra got pacified with his father’s words. In the meantime, the malice of the Naga hostiles reached its zenith. They indulged in looting and carrying out ambushes on the government forces. From that time, extortion of money from every section of society had started. The old doctor bore the humiliation of the hostiles.
Some Nagas who had fought in France during the World War I submitted a representation to the Simon Commission, wherein the Nagas stated that they wished to be left out from the proposed reformed scheme of India. They preferred to be under the direct administration of the British. The Government, however, did not agree and merely clubbed the Naga areas as Excluded Areas. At this stage, a political wave developed and it probably set the future of the Naga underground. They began thinking in terms of a separate homeland for the Naga people of India and Myanmar.
During the World War II, the Japanese after the siege of Burma, attempted to enter India through Manipur and the Naga Hills. The Nagas were fully involved in the extensive fighting that erupted in Ukhrul and in the Naga Hills. While the majority supported the British, a small group joined the Indian National Army (INA). After the war the Deputy Commissioner of Naga Hills, launched an organisation called. the Naga Hills District council to repair the damages of war. However, in April 1946, in its Wokha session, it was rechristened as the Naga National Council (NNC). In June 1946, the NNC submitted a memorandum to the British Cabinet Mission who came to prepare the ground for granting independence to India.
The activists who called themselves Naga underground often came to Dr. Gobardhon and spoke indecent words and took medicine forcefully. There they did not use the word Hepu or Doctor Pa as other tribals elsewhere died. They did not even sit or talk nicely. The doctor said nothing but gave the things they demanded. It’ was on the contrary to his assumption and he was dismayed at the attitude of the Naga rebels.
“Hey! Meitei old man. Give us whatever we ask. We need the medicines.”
Few amounts of medicines in the dispensary were taken away by the hostiles. They just came and disappeared with the medicines. Doctor Gobardhon had been serving in the hill area for forty years and he had never heard such words like “Meitei old man”. Infact, he became old, 70 years of age by that time, his brown hair completely white including his beards and mustache; the two noseband falling deep, all the wrinkles highlighted on the face and eight teeth both front and lower jaws were missing. Threatening him not to argue they picked up all the first aid items lying on the table. Several . times he was humiliated by the Naga youths. However, he consoled himself by remembering slokas from Bhagabat Gita.
Yada Yada Dharmasa
GIani Bhabati Bharata I
Abhyu Tha Nama Dharmasa
Ta Da Atmanang Srijamyahsh II
Paritra Naya Sadhu Nang
Bina Shaya Chadu Kritama I
Dharsng Thapna Thaya
Sam Bhawami Yuge Yuge II
The tribal youths used to call him “Doctorpa”. “What had made them so rude towards me? The time had gone. Oh the good time.”
One day at 44 IT road, the doctor came across with a complicated situation. A woman in coma was unable. to deliver her child. Her husband requested he do for again and again to save his wife. However, he could not climb up to the house on the high hill as he had grown old and weak. Dr. Gobardhon asked the man,
“Arrange for some ropes!”
The old doctor climbed the steep hill with the help of the ropes. He kept chanting,
“Krishna, Hare Krishna Hare KrishnaJ”
He used to see the villagers who lived on the height. It was not a new thing to him. Sometimes, he was carried on a bamboo-made palanquin by the tribal. There was no culture of paying fees to the doctor and it was totally out of the hill people’s minds. In various occasions, the villagers presented him maize, pumpkin and taro roots. The old doctor never said a word to the villagers. But the behavior or manner of the youths of the new breed both in hills and in the valley shocked the old doctor.
Dr. Gobardhon could hear all political changes happening in the town from his old friend Sanajaoba (Sougaijam Samarendro) the ex-Darbar member. Everything political as well as social norms had changed. After his posting in 44 IT Road, his daughter Seityabati (Ebemhal) got her degree from the Dhaka Medical College and she became a doctor. She came to the Medical Superintendent and made a complaint about her old father’s posting in the most ridiculous place in the hills in the midst of the Naga rebellion. According to the complaint, the medical superintendent made arrangements for the posting of the Doctor to Sagolmang. All the family members urged him to retire and take rest. He did not say anything. One fine day, he went to market and bought a black hair-dye. He dyed his white hair with it and said,
“I am still young at heart and strong!”
His wife and children laughed but the old doctor went to Sagolmang dispensary as an active young man. After a month in Sagolmang, the election of the Territorial Council was held. Everybody was busy when the electioneering began. On the Election Day, his eldest daughter, Dr. Seityabati came to pick up his old father with a car. The polling station was at the Pettigrew School. After parking the car at the school ground, his daughter said,
“Father, cast your vote. Please do not forget your candidate is Chakri Tombi”
Dr. Gobardhon replied,
“Ebemhal! I, your father, will cast my ballot for Tera Lai alias Tera lbomcha. I have made promise to him.”
“Bah, father! You are a man of words, your die-hard habit!” Dr. Seityabati, his daughter laughed.
(Concluding part next week)
Author and translator