Imphal Review of Arts and Politics

Tejimala Marengkangmei and husband Hiten Mongia at their weddding.
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No Barriers Before Passion for Success or Love: No One Can Keep Them Apart

The love story and marriage of Tejimala Marengkangmei from Senapati, Manipur and Hiten Mongia from Delhi reads like a Mills & Boons romance and is an example for marriages between people who we think are poles apart. This couple has moved from being poles apart, to a state where no one can keep them apart.

 

She loves Dal Makhani and Karahi paneer. He loves the hot Ngari chutney and Iromba. She is Tejimala Marengkangmei, a beautician and hair stylist from Senapati, Manipur who has opened her own salon in Delhi. And he, is Hitesh Mongia, her husband, a hundred percent Delhite, working in the hospitality industry.

Tejimala and husband Hitesh after their Hindu marriage reception

Married since the past “almost five years”, theirs is a facebook friendship which jumped all hurdles of caste, creed, religion, language, difference in culture and native state to reach the winning post of marriage, and living happily since then.

“I was initially very hesitant as I had heard of many fraudsters luring naïve women through social media, and committing all kinds of crime. We North East women, are specially vulnerable as I think we believe easily”, says this smart businesswoman. Hitesh however persisted in his efforts to prove his noble intentions and love for his fair lady from the Liangmai tribe of Manipur. His mother and sister too supported him in this pursuit of his lady love, and wholeheartedly approved of the love match despite the many differences in culture, religion, caste, creed, eating habits and so on. Teji too has adjusted.

Today after their marriage in 2017, which included both a Church marriage followed by Hindu rituals, Teji and Hitesh pray to both Lord Jesus Christ and Hindu Gods and Goddesses with equal fervour.

“Delhi has on the whole been very kind to me. I have never faced any discrimination or serious racial hassles even when I was single and was new to the city”, the enterprising young woman replies to our questions regarding the same. Elaborating about herself, Tejimala disclosed that she had come to Delhi in 2008 right after her graduation from Mt. Everest College in Senapati, Manipur. Her childhood, she told us, was spent in a humble home at Thonglang village, Senapati, Manipur with her farmer parents and six siblings.

“From Manipur, I came straight to Delhi to do a hair stylist course and after that I started working”, Teji says adding that she was the only one among her six siblings who stepped out of Manipur to study and work.

The ambitious young woman informed us that she had started her Delhi sojourn with a hair care and hair styling course from the well known Pivot Point institute in New Delhi run by ace beautician Blossom Kochhar. This was followed by training stints at Schwarzkopf and Loreal institutes. Work started with alma mater Pivot Point, followed by stints at ‘Looks Salon’, ‘The Barber Shop’ at the 5-star ITC Maurya and a few others. The enterprising girl started her own salon called Malana TG in Delhi’s Humayunpur area in 2014 and since then, there has been no looking back for the woman.

Tejimala at work at her salon

“I have plans to open branches of my salon in Manipur in the future. Do pray for me “, the vivacious girl says when asked what made her open her salon in Delhi instead of her hometown or home state. Elaborating her answer and giving us an insight into her keen business sense, the girl points that although women of the North East are very beauty conscious, they have less facial and body hair than their Northern counterparts. “Genetically women from North East do not have much hair in the eyebrows or upper lip or arms and legs, and so they do not require much threading or waxing. In contrast, women of Delhi come for eyebrow shaping and threading, upper lip threading, arms and leg waxing almost every 15 -20 days, and so our income is more here. Also rates for beauty and hair services are less in the North East”, she adds.

Not forgetting her North East roots however, Teji has brought in many touches of her state to her shop. Apart from decorations, one would also find oils infused with herbs from the region known to accelerate hair growth or prevent hair loss, local North Eastern treatments for aches and pains etc which are a rage among her non-North Eastern customers. Teji proudly upholds the acceptance she has received in Delhi by informing that “over 80 per cent” of her customers are local Delhites and only around 20 per cent being ladies from the North East living in Delhi.

This happy scenario did get a huge jolt, like a majority of other businesses, after lockdown was imposed due to Covid. “My beauty parlour which used to get 30 to 50 customers per day pre-Covid, suddenly dropped to only very few customers per week after we re-opened post lockdown, even though we made it known to one and all that all Corona protocols were being maintained. People were scared to come out and we cannot blame them”, the girl talks about her hard days, remarking that this was one of the worst periods of her life.

Tejimala: life and luck favours the brave.

What kept her going and helped her to tide over the bad days was the emotional support from her husband and in-laws, and financial support from her Delhite landlord who waived off rents for a few months and slashed the rent for many subsequent months, thus helping her to keep her salon door open.

“Whenever I complain about not having enough money in hand to go shopping, my husband scolds me saying that instead I should thank God and my lucky stars that my salon has survived the worst days of the crisis”, Teji says, adding that her salon’s earnings are now “slowly returning” to its pre- Covid heydays.

“May God take away this Covid pandemic from the world,”, Teji says rounding up her tete-e-tete with us with a prayer for the entire humanity.

And till the time that happens, the good old instances of just popping into a salon to get some stubborn hair curls straightened, some messy eyebrows shaped, some moustache getting into the mouth trimmed, might just seem like tales of a bygone era…

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