The Buried Placenta
My origin, my buried placenta,
buried beside our homestead,
got mingled with the soil
to enrich the manure in our garden;
I get enthralled to look at the beautiful flowers
that have come out of it.
I do not dig around my surroundings anymore
to retrace my placenta,
’cause I’ll fail to find it intact again.
I’m merely toiling in my garden
to grow more of beautiful plants and flowers
that they will tranquilize the mind of an onlooker.
–Prof. Jodha C. Sanasam
–(Translated by the author himself from his Manipuri poem “Eigee Hourakpham Naophum”)
I like beginnings with a quote or an extract. I feel that somewhat sets the tone of the narrative. This time around, I’m starting with a short poem in place of the usual text extract. I selected this poem from a small book titled “Into the DNA” which is an anthology of poems that Prof. Jodhachandra Sanasam co-authored with another writer, Ibohal Kshetrimayum. I chose this poem randomly, only keeping in mind its short length, and not so much considering its underlying meaning. But it looks like this short poem has a lot to say about the poet in him. I feel he must have always wanted to be identified as a writer of the soil. I do see a reflection here of his longings to remain firmly rooted to the land, his people, and its culture. He was true to this till the end and had remained committed to the cause.
The last time I met him was in the middle of March at a small literary event, a prize distribution ceremony, organized by the Nahahol Sahitya Premee Samiti, Imphal. He was receiving an award at that event. Prior to this one, I got to meet him briefly on the day his latest (and sadly “last”) book got released which is a novel by the name of “Thaja Chanu” written in the Manipuri language (Meiteilon), and that was in mid-February. The response to the book release was quite commendable from what I saw. He seemed to have a fan following of his own.
He may be Dr. Jodhachandra Sanasam to the populace, but he happens to be my uncle and we fondly call him “Kakaton” as he was my father’s first cousin. He was the last-born son of his parents and was lovingly called Tomba by the family members. Tomba means the last one in Meiteilon. Of late, I had received invites from him to functions that he felt I could be part of. I had started to take interest in his books as I wanted to have a taste of the kind of writing that he does. The big deterrent though in this is my inability to read the Manipuri script fluently as I had gotten a little out of practice (and am not so proud of this). I had wanted to read the English versions but they were very few and the options were limited. He had gifted me with two of his books. One was the hard-bound “Khamba Thoibee Sheireng Of Anganghal,” and another one is a copy of his latest novel “Thaja Chanu.” Khamba Thoibee Sheireng Of Anganghal is his translation work of Hijam Anganghal’s poem book “Khamba Thoibee Sheireng.” This is a mammoth of a book and may not be palatable read to a lot but would definitely be a treasure to any book collector and book lover.
He passed away last Sunday due to complications following the Wuhan virus infection – another one of the many losses we are enduring due to this pandemic. Born on November 20, 1944, at Singjamei Okram Leikai, Imphal, he was 76 when he breathed his last. During his lifetime, he wrote and published as many as 23 books which included his 2012 Sahitya Academy Award winning book “Mathou Kanba DNA.” He had won many awards and accolades for his contributions to Manipuri literature. In 2018, Manipuri Sahitya Parishad honored him with Sahitya Bhushan Upadhi. His body of work included novels, short stories, poems, lyrics of songs, and translations. People know him more for his writing and social activities.
Over and above being an eminent writer and having made enormous contributions in the field of Manipuri literature, he was also a well-known clinician and ENT surgeon. He had served as Principal at the Nobel Medical College, Nepal. Prior to that, he had a long experience as professor and head in ENT departments at three medical colleges in India including our own Regional Institute of Medical Sciences, Imphal (RIMS). He continued to extend his services as an ENT clinician even after retirement and had continued to serve as consultant physician.
He was a life member in various organizations of writers, social clubs, musicians, lyricists, and health professionals. He also served as president and secretary in these organizations.
Major part of his life, he was dedicating more time towards his services as a medical professional and only used to write whenever he could find time to do so, but if we mark his words, his passion and calling had always been ”writing.” He only could give more time towards his passion after he retired from his engagements as a doctor.
As I was preparing for this write-up, I was going through some of his previous interviews for reference, and from them, I got to know that he had a slight inkling that his latest book Thaja Chanu was going to be his last one. He had expressed his wishes of taking up projects like translating Homer’s epics The Iliad and The Odyssey into Manipuri but also mentioned being a little doubtful of their completion citing old age and experiencing some decline in his overall health. The last few years he seemed to be operating at a faster pace trying to accomplish what he had always aspired for. If I have to opine, I feel he did exceptionally well in every sphere. He was a good man, a successful doctor, and an accomplished writer. He was extremely well-known in his career as an ENT doctor during his hay days. He had made an impressionable mark as a writer and had left behind precious legacy of knowledge for future generations.
As for us relatives and on the home front, he was our go-to person when any problem cropped up regarding health issues. He was always kind enough to guide us or give the treatment himself if that was in his capacity. He was insightful and always patient in convincing what the problems were all about.
Personally for me, he was my personal doctor, always a pillar of strength, the one who gave the right explanations for the complicated chronic problems that I had in the past many years. He was the one who helped me out in making the right kind of decisions when it came to matters of health. He was a complete person, a gem, a rare breed which one does not find very often. His passing away has left behind a huge void which would be very difficult to fill. But we are happy we have his works to go to when we need the “feel of him” around us.
1 thought on “Remembering Dr. Jodhachandra Sanasam (Kakaton): Doctor, Poet, but Above all a Good Man”
Kakaton was a gem of a person , always guiding and supporting all of us to do better and better. He was a big influence in not just my choice of career as a doctor today but also a very determined cheerleader when i chose this field decades ago. His books were very insightful and engaging. I looked upto him and always admired his kindness and generosity towards anyone who needed him. He will be remembered by many with the love and affection that he always gave to everyone throughout his lifetime.
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