A personal reflection on loss and grief

Monica Konjengbam *

 Vegetables planted next to the community ground by the
Vegetables planted next to the community ground by the deceased :: Pix - TSE

Human experiences of death in the family are undeniably challenging, especially when the cause is a tragic event such as a murder or an accident. The pain that deaths in such circumstances instil in the bereaved often goes beyond the grief related with natural deaths.

I have experienced the loss of four family members, each succumbing to different causes. The first was my grandfather (Pupu), a man etched in my memory for his meticulous nature—always keeping things tidy, dressing in a refined and polished style, sporting a cheerful smile, and possessing beautiful handwriting.

He earned a degree from Dibrugarh University and served in the Manipur Rifles. In his time, those with such qualifications were highly respected. His father, my great-grandfather, was a celebrated Nat Sankritana singer of his time, and Pupu probably learned religious practices from his father. Pupu fervently followed Vaishnavism, engaging in daily rituals.

He wore a tilak, was dressed in clean attire, and offered prayers to Lord Krishna, Balabhadra, Jagannath, and Subhadra, accompanied by fragrant flowers and incense. Only after this ritual did he have his lunch. His meal comprised a variety of dishes, and as the youngest grandchild in his direct lineage, he would playfully hand-feed me daily, a tradition he shared with his other grandchildren also.

The second loss was my grandmother. She possessed a spontaneous and organized nature, adept at managing her family with precision. Growing up in the Hamom family, where many were involved in or connected to the arts, particularly music, she showcased her love for music by singing during events like Yaoshang (Holi) and Rath Yatra (Kang).

She grew up alongside a Brahmin (Bamon) family named Anoubam, immersed in daily religious practices and cooking techniques. Despite the limited educational opportunities for women during her time, she could read and write in Manipuri script. Recounting her school days, she expressed gratitude to her older brother, Hamom Pupu, who carried her piggyback to school every day, enabling her education.

Her death hit me harder than my grandfather's, and it made me realize the depth of emotions associated with losing loved ones more than ever before.

The third loss was my Bachou (father’s older brother), which occurred in the last year of my college. I remember him as someone who enjoyed teaching me Math and Physics, often praised me, and delighted in hearing me sing songs. With a deep love for arts and culture, especially music, drama, and theatre, none of us pursued these professionally, unlike my great-grandfather. Bachou often encouraged me to sing during our evening walks in the courtyard. He led a fulfilling life with a good job and was the most sociable among his siblings.

The most recent and devastating loss is my cousin brother (Dachou), whose murder has left an indelible mark on our lives. The shock and trauma persist as we grapple with the reality of his untimely demise.

Ever since I laid eyes on his lifeless body at the JNIMS morgue, sleep has eluded me, and nights have become a relentless struggle to blink. Unlike the first three experiences of loss and grief, this one, which became public with his death, is markedly distinct and is hitting us, as a family, the hardest.

The eagerness of an Indian digital news publication to secure interviews has resulted in them weaving narratives with their own preconceived notions, depicting my cousin's life as if they were intimately acquainted with him, surpassing their understanding of him compared to ours. Another well-known Manipuri live streaming blogger displayed audacity by visiting our grieving families and boasting about his popularity and channel.

This behavior was in response to our refusal to allow live streaming of our grieving families. This has prompted me to delve into contemplation, questioning whether the family's privacy is genuinely being respected.

Can stories be assumed and narrated arbitrarily, attaching labels to my cousin to suit the media's narrative ? What if their account is untrue ? Why is there a tendency for people to speculate and create their own narratives about a person's life and associate them with the cause of their death ? Can we accurately represent and speak on behalf of the deceased without proper understanding and evidence ?

With my cousin no longer alive, there's no chance for him to rise from his grave and correct any misrepresentation or falsehood about his character.

The news of my cousin's death was delivered by my mom on 5 December early in the morning around 5. In a state of disbelief, I initially thought I might have misheard her, hoping for a repetition as she tearfully conveyed the news. Upon the second utterance, the reality of the sorrowful news hit me, and I began to shudder in my bed. In my room, my parents, equally devastated, silently shed tears.

As much as I hesitate to bring the nuances of my late cousin's life into the public sphere, there is a need, as a family who shared in his growth and experiences, to revisit those moments that shaped him into the person we all knew.

This is particularly important because the media and individuals who did not experience his upbringing as we did may not portray his life accurately and might only present it through a narrative they perceive as the truth. I can sketch an approximate life journey of how I knew my cousin by dividing it into three phases of my life:

First, it was during my childhood. My cousin, a rock music enthusiast, adorned his room walls with Bon Jovi and other rock band posters. During his time, cassette tapes were all the rage, and he had tons of them in his room. I learned about the music of Scorpions, Aerosmith, and more from him. I usually saw him wearing a leather jacket, jeans, and boots.

He rode a Yamaha bike. And that hairstyle – a bit longer than the norm, styled to perfection, echoing the spirit of those Bon Jovi days.

Second, during my college days, he was working in a 3-star hotel in New Delhi. Our encounters were sporadic, fleeting moments during visits to my cousin sister's place or those rare vacations. This time, I didn't get to know him as intimately as during the carefree days of my childhood.

Then the third act after my college when he returned home after working many years in Delhi and engaged in private jobs in Manipur. I will always remember him during this phase as someone who devoted much of his time to social work, participating in community volunteer service, and showing a keen interest in gardening.

Picture this: in the aftermath of our Meitei traditional moonlight dance, the 'Thabal Chongba,' in the early morning, he would be the lone soul cleaning up our entire neighborhood. And when families were called upon to send a representative for community service, he was always the first to step forward.

He may be gone, but his vibrant touch on the land lives on in these images. This brief reflection is how I will remember him forever. He dedicated much of his life in social work in the neighborhood, which shows that he was a social-minded person. As a person of the kind that he was, he must have certainly been moved by the current Manipur crisis.

However, our families have no information about whether he was affiliated, as suggested by some, with any group or organization. What we can affirm is that there was no visible indication of this in his lifestyle. His way of living remained consistent in the last few weeks or months. We don’t think he was more than who we know him to be, while we may be wrong.

My cousin was a good man. His voluntary social and community work speaks volumes about that, though we don’t make it a point to say we are proud of that because youths doing voluntary social work are commonplace in Meitei society.

We find solace in knowing he was a good man, a good human being. What he did in the last few days of his life was something of this sort—taking steps towards community welfare. We, as a family, feel good about it, though the cost, his death, traumatizes us. There is no other him. It is a permanent loss.

Dachou, may you find eternal peace. It's sad that I can only say this much for you, and hope for timely justice for you and other victims.

(A grieving cousin sister of Konjengbam Medhabanta, who was among the 13 young men from the Meitei community killed in a jungle in Manipur’s Tengnoupal district by suspected Kuki insurgents in cold blood.)

* Monica Konjengbam wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on December 27 2023 .

* Comments posted by users in this discussion thread and other parts of this site are opinions of the individuals posting them (whose user ID is displayed alongside) and not the views of We strongly recommend that users exercise responsibility, sensitivity and caution over language while writing your opinions which will be seen and read by other users. Please read a complete Guideline on using comments on this website.

  • Ibudhou Cheng Hongba #1 : Gallery
  • Violence in Manipur 2023-2024 : Timeline
  • Kind attention 'Your Lordship' CJ of India
  • 'Opposition-less Govt in Nagaland is rhetoric'
  • Xorai - Assam's cultural symbol
  • Natural ways to lighten dark underarms
  • Is Delhi doing the right thing ?
  • Set the priorities right
  • Ima Keithel flood- May 30 #3 : Gallery
  • Modi's arduous journey & fate of Naga peace
  • Indo-Naga Talks (From 2012) :: Timeline
  • Autism: Why fit in, when you can stand out?
  • Bloodstained Masquerade :: Poem
  • Dharamvir Singh: Forgotten hero of TV
  • What is keeping the clash going on ?
  • Warning of a coming politico-military storm
  • Birth Centenary of Jananeta Irabat, 1996 : #6
  • The Great June 18 Uprising : Timeline
  • The Great June 18 Uprising : Gallery
  • Are we on track to end AIDS by 2030 ?
  • 3 writers from Manipur for Sahitya Akademi
  • Manipur's traffic, parking: A big nuisance
  • Career in elderly care
  • Keeping the folks under a state of confusion
  • Nothing neat about NEET
  • Aid to relief camps @ Jiribam : Gallery
  • Id Festival- 'Id-Ul-Azha' :: Book
  • World Day to Combat Desertification 2024
  • NDPP did not lose LS due to local problem
  • RSS chief says, priority Manipur
  • What if not IIT ?
  • Waiting for a response from the PM
  • The test of leadership failed
  • Descent of Radha-Krishna #35: Download
  • Gastronomy tourism in Manipur : Gallery
  • Triathlon : Manipur bag 6 medals (3 gold)
  • Illegal immigrants/fugitives from Myanmar
  • Eid-ul-Adha: Embracing sacrifice
  • A solution to Meitei-Kuki-Zo conflict
  • The Power of Poppy - 35 :: Poem
  • Scientist of Manipur: R K Brojen Singh
  • Brief sketch on General Balaram Sougaijamba
  • Non-violent for peaceful, mutual co-existence
  • Homeless person ..alcoholism & defeated TB
  • Cancer on rise among young adults
  • Defending, fighting for Idea of Manipur
  • From partiality to complicity
  • Bike Rally - Sekmai to Kangla : Gallery
  • 'Modi must announce finality of Naga pacts'
  • Gliding over Brahmaputra
  • Question leaks cause stress among student
  • Home remedies for prickly heat
  • After IIT, AIIMS it is now IIM
  • Stealing spotlight from Manipur crisis
  • Tarpon chaklen katpa @ Andro #2 : Gallery
  • Strongly condemns violence in Jiribam
  • Lessons from outcome of LS election
  • Tumcho releases "Goodness of God"
  • Right diagnostic for antimicrobial resistance
  • 12th June is World Day against Child Labour
  • Hands of geo-politics ?
  • The row over NEET-2014
  • 2nd Annual Art Exhibition #1 : Gallery
  • Chilli Chicken: Film Spotlighting NE in B'lore
  • Committee of Narcotics Anonymous - Imphal
  • The Power of Meditation
  • Oceans as a career choice
  • Getting more and more audacious
  • A test of leadership
  • Education Fair @Imphal #2 : Gallery
  • Gifting two seats to Cong
  • Voters empowered democracy
  • Postcards from Meghalaya premieres
  • Milk : Essential nutrient for a healthy body
  • Failing in competitive exam not end of world
  • Delhi : A mere spectator
  • Abandoning Jiribam
  • Birth Centenary of Jananeta Irabat, 1996 : #5
  • Ima Keithel flood- May 30 #2 : Gallery
  • Mainstream in Shoes of Alternative
  • Protect the medicines that protect us
  • Lets take action for our land & our future
  • Democracy and independent media
  • Agenda at work to shut Western Gate
  • Keeping Manipur on the boil
  • Descent of Radha-Krishna #34: Download
  • The Enigmatic Journey of 'Laikhutshangbi'
  • Individual and the Social
  • An Ardent Appeal to All Concerns
  • Condemnation of Attack & Govt Inaction
  • The Power of Poppy - 34 :: Poem
  • Scientist of Manipur: Laishram Shanta
  • Alien fishes spotted in Manipur's rivers
  • Training on mushroom at Langthabal
  • Digital avatars or deepfakes ?
  • 7th June is the World Food Safety Day
  • How to prepare for UPSC after 10th ?
  • The Jiri violence
  • Beginning of a new vote culture ?
  • Bimol Akoijam (Cong) wins Inner PC : Gallery
  • BJP, NPF & other NDA pay heavy price
  • Nature is one of greatest blessings of God
  • Plantation drive in Tripura, Assam & Manipur
  • Summer beauty
  • Environment conservation & over-exploitation
  • Is Modi cut out for leading a coalition ?
  • 'Ishanou' Selection @ Cannes #2: Gallery
  • Scholarship for Johnstone Hr Sec students
  • 1st foundation day of Interfaith Forum
  • World Environment Day: Our land, our future
  • Indonesia stronger anti-tobacco measures
  • Navigating a fragile Myanmar: India's policy
  • New breed entering electoral politics
  • The road to formation of new govt
  • International Dance Day #1 : Gallery
  • Matchbox marketing mantra
  • Stop harming nature :: Poem
  • Saving for oneself & the Nation
  • Model United Nations (MUN) conducted
  • Tobacco: Threat to health & environment
  • Candidate from ruling party biting the dust
  • The verdict
  • Birth Centenary of Jananeta Irabat, 1996 : #4
  • Imphal valley districts flooded #3 : Gallery
  • Navigating Remal amidst Manipur conflict
  • We are #GenerationRestoration
  • Intl Day of Innocent Children Victims
  • Apparel Industry Skills & Innovation CoE
  • What's in a cyclone's name ?
  • Ongoing clash, the floods, the losses
  • Exit poll predictions
  • Descent of Radha-Krishna #33: Download
  • Evading flood & rethinking urbanization
  • Manipur Flood: Health Advisory
  • Onus on civil bodies to ensure NNPG unity
  • Rats also cause flood
  • Benefits of JEE Main mock tests
  • People have spoken, now the results
  • The fury of Remal
  • Ima Keithel flood- May 30 #1 : Gallery
  • The flood in our Stars
  • The Power of Poppy - 33 :: Poem
  • 'Group of people misrepresented themselves'
  • EV industry and career options
  • Scientist of Manipur: Chandrakant Aribam
  • Candy flavoured traps to hook next Gen
  • Commemorate Naga Plesbicite Day 1951 #2
  • Tobacco affects health & environment too
  • Jio extend validity for Customer in Manipur
  • Students must learn about AI irrespective
  • As vote count day approaches : Floods
  • Imphal valley districts flooded #2 : Gallery
  • Flooded : Sacrifice of Yairipok's Maiden
  • World No Tobacco Day 2024
  • Chandam Rishikanta wins NPC Nat'l C'ship
  • Flood: Helpline numbers for emergency
  • Battling body odour ?
  • Floods : Not entirely natural phenomena
  • PM Modi's purpose
  • Imphal valley districts flooded #1 : Gallery
  • June Calendar for Year 2024 : Tools
  • Flood: Control Rooms & Helpline numbers
  • Economic impact of ongoing conflict
  • Army Recruitment Rally for Manipur
  • Cut deficit, boom likely
  • Are Gods angry ? Wake up call for Manipur
  • Beating of the Retreat #2 : Gallery
  • We did Overcome: Mayhem of Month of May
  • Training on mushroom at Potshagbam
  • Famous female Mathematicians in India
  • Disinformation campaign thengnare
  • Human trafficking puts humanity to shame
  • Sky opens up in all its fury
  • Licypriya meets Italy PM & Pope Francis
  • HSLC (Class X) 2024 : Full Result
  • HSLC 2024 : Important Info & Grading System
  • HSLC 2024 : Pass % : Private Schools
  • HSLC 2024 : Pass % : Aided Schools
  • HSLC 2024 : Pass % : Govt Schools
  • HSLC 2024 : Statistical Abstract
  • HSLC 2024 : Comparative Statement
  • Combined Defence Services Exam 2024
  • Good show in Class X exams
  • Downplaying the crisis
  • Birth Centenary of Jananeta Irabat, 1996 : #3
  • Reviving Lamphelpat : Conservation : Gallery
  • Commemorate Naga Plesbicite Day 1951 #1
  • "ST status for Meetei" at Hojai
  • The Power of Poppy - 32 :: Poem
  • Insights from CUET-UG Counselling
  • International Day for Biological Diversity
  • Unseen force at work: Time to unravel it
  • Sheikh Hasina's revelation
  • The Vanishing Meitei Tribe
  • Building career in defence & strategic study
  • Why example of model code of conduct ?
  • Ownership of responsibility
  • Will pressure mount on key players in NE
  • How to save your foot after an accident
  • Children Camp @JNMDA Imphal #3 : Gallery
  • Education Fair @Imphal #1 : Gallery
  • Project Associate @ CSE, Assam Univ
  • Understanding schizophrenia
  • Advancement in Multi Objective Optimization
  • When will women in voter list increase ?
  • Making 2 plus 2 is equal to 5
  • Changing face of drug menace
  • Scientist of Manipur: Jayanta Manoharmayum
  • 25 yrs since Atal Vajpayee visit to RIMS
  • 4 Lakhs donated to support (L) Maipak Family
  • Clarification: Guwahati Meet on Humanitarian
  • Start UPSC prep after 12th for success
  • Tips to avoid melting makeup in summer
  • Giving a big solid push to ST demand
  • Time to come clean
  • Sajibu Cheiraoba: 1 occasion, 2 narratives #3
  • Khongjom Day @Khebaching #2 : Gallery
  • 'Ishanou' Selection @ Cannes #1: Gallery
  • Birth Centenary of Jananeta Irabat, 1996 : #2
  • Scientist of Manipur: Amom Ruhikanta
  • Preserving Thang-Ta :: Rare Photos
  • Regarding Human Rights Situation in Manipur
  • Malemnganbi Laishram : Science Topper
  • Featured Front Page Photo 2024 #2: Gallery
  • Thokchom Sheityajit : Arts Topper
  • Aiena Naorem : Commerce Topper
  • Hr Secondary Exam 2024 : Science Topper
  • HSE 2024 : Subject Pass Percentage
  • HSE 2024 : District Pass Percentage
  • HSE 2024 : Candidates with Highest Marks
  • Hr Secondary Exam 2024: Science Full Result
  • Hr Secondary Exam 2024: Arts Full Result
  • Hr Secondary Exam 2024: Commerce Result
  • Hr Secondary Exam 2024 : Arts Topper
  • Hr Secondary Exam 2024 : Commerce Topper
  • Aftermath of ferocious hailstorm #1 : Gallery
  • Radio E-pao: Manipuri Film OST (130+ song)
  • Nupi Landa Thaunaphabishing : Full Book
  • A ferocious hailstorm @Imphal : Gallery
  • '365 Days of Chin-Kuki Aggression' : Gallery
  • National Science Teacher workshop
  • Sajibu Cheiraoba Chak Katpa #2 : Gallery
  • Scientists of Manipur : Ngangkham Nimai
  • GHOST of PEACE :: Download Booklet
  • List of Kings of Manipur: 33 - 1984 AD