Sweet memories of my friend Bijaya Yumlembam

Dr Sadhana Ningthoujam *

 Sweet memories of my friend Bijaya Yumlembam
Sweet memories of my friend Bijaya Yumlembam :: Pix - TSE

The untimely death of Bijaya Yumlembam at Shija Hospital and Research Institute, Langol due to Covid-19 on the 12th April 2021 (Wednesday) was a blow to all of us who were closely associated with her; it was so sudden and tragic that we could not accept the reality for quite some time. Now let me travel through memory lane on her life story as far as I can recollect. She joined service in All India Radio, Imphal as Transmission Executive on the 19th April 1989 and was promoted to Programme Executive in 2003.

Before joining AIR, she was employed as a casual announcer of Western music in AIR; she worked at AIR, Silchar for nearly 5 years there before the promotion to Programme Executive in 2003. She was a highly professional and knowledgeable official that she was given charge to look after various sections of programmes such as music, Naharolgi Khonjel, Wari, English talk, women's program.

She was an official in charge at the Asian Broadcasting Corporation's - Folk Music Festival at Colombo Sri Lanka, where she accompanied Manipuri folk singer Mayenglambam Manka. She also promoted Thokchom Lansana Chanu folk singer and she accompanied her to Beijing. She loves to promote talented girl child and youth.

Bijaya was my childhood friend. During our school time in Little Flower School, we enrolled ourselves in Laura Vicuna club, during summer and winter vacations, we Bijaya, myself along with Salesian sisters of Little Flower School visited some villages to find out their acute problems; we were in 7th standard, we had helped a blind girl who was brought from a tribal village and admitted her at RMC Hospital, Imphal, got her eye operated and thus cured her eyesight.

During her hospital stay, we used to cook food at home and served her requirements and stayed beside her in turn wise manner as a part of giving company to her. We could do it because we were supported by our school's Salesian sisters under our club Laura Vicuna's activities. During our holiday times I used to knit woollen sweaters and jerseys for the children home (50 of them), stitched clothes and gave it away to needy people. So my holiday was all occupied in such activities.

We have co-ordinated with each other in club activities and worked together among our like- minded friends inculcated from home and from the School. I still remember the Science Exhibition competition, when we had moulded model out of the wet mud taken from our school pond and completed our project work. Bijaya was among the demonstration and explanations team group in that said exhibition held at Johnstone Higher Secondary School. Our school got first prize in the exhibition; Bijaya was among the selected group to attend the exhibition at the Calcutta.

She had participated in March pass for the 26th January parade, our School, Little Flower School got first prize for three consecutive years. I did not participate because my father, N Benoy Singh had rightly pointed out to me that I could not tolerate the eve teasing of the people during the parade. She was very intelligent and participated in academic activities and I, Shadhana participated in games and sports.

I got first prize in running race in spite of my big size. During prize distribution time, Don Bosco Father did not believe my 1st position and 2nd position holder was one of my friends who was very thin and lean person. I used to participate in throw ball and Kabaddi. The other opponent team refused to play whenever I had participated probably due to fear of my size. After 10th standard we went to different places to continue our studies.

Bijaya loved promoting young talented girl child, as being in the All India Radio, she happened to identify frequently talented child artistes at the station. She shared to us that we need to promote a young girl whose voice was very melodious and popularly known as Baby Pushparani for audition at Bombay, Sa Re Ga Ma Little Champ. In the year, 1994, November, Bijaya put in Rs 30,000 from her pocket so that she and our friend Mandakini could take Baby Pushparani to Bombay to participate in the 1st audition. She accompanied her along with our friend Mandakini (Bhamori, Hindi teacher at ISKCON, Manipur) who had taken Rs 20,000 from her saving and arranged for staying, lodging and fooding at Bombay, ISKCON temple; all free of cost and they stayed there for 10 days.

Ajit Das helped all the four members from Manipur namely Bijaya Yumlembam, Mandakini (Bhamori), Pushparani and her father to stay at Bombay ISKCON Temple, Juhu free of cost for almost everything for promoting Baby Pushparani the daughter of our soil. For the first audition, they travelled by the train up to Bombay, it was a big success. We selected songs for Pushparani collectively; Echema Kamala also took keen interest for her too.

When they came back, we all decided to arrange for the second audition, to fly to Bombay, in order to meet the requirements we planned to organise charity show for the second audition and her education as well. We even approached Manipur Governor ON Shrivastav for Baby Pushparani's admission to Kendra Vidyalaya School. Bijaya and myself, Shadhana Ningthoujam were members of Kargil Trust also. There was this norm that the first priority for admission in KV/central school was given to intending candidate whose parents or guardian is a Central employee.

Echema Ch Kamala who was a Central service employee agreed to support Pushparani as a guardian for admission in Kendra Vidyalaya School; so she stayed at echema Kamala's place for her education to continue there and we were all very happy when she started attending classes in the Central school. Thus Pushparani picked up Hindi language very remarkably and was able to communicate in Hindi reasonably well in a short span of time. In the year 1995, April, Pushparani had gone to Bombay for the second audition and she did very well too. We were very proud of our lovely talented daughter of Manipur.

The Blind School Teachers Association approached us to support Sunita Nepram and they believed that whoever, we (Bijaya, Bhamori and Sadhana) have supported the persons in any field always succeeded in their venture. So we helped them in organising the charity show for Sunita Nepram at Gandhi Memorial Hall. Sunita did very well in 'Sa Re Ga Ma' audition. We have many shining stars of our motherland. Likewise it is worth mentioning the young shining folk singer stars like Manka Mayenglambam and Thokchom Lansana Chanu have participated at Sri Lanka and Beijing to represent India. Their careers have zoomed and they became renowned singers and stood distinctly in the society, because of their talent with of course dedicated support of philanthropic people like Bijaya and us.

We used to help underprivileged youngsters, in our capabilities, I Sadhana financially supported the operation of a young fellow who was limping with a muscle atrophy case. He was cured after a prolonged illness due to some complication of his wound healing; now he is alright with the help of physiotherapy and medications. We enjoyed doing all sort of activity to help but sometimes we landed in trouble and we took risks very often too. Once Bijaya's father Mr Y Brajamani told us "Sadhana don't risk your reputation in such charity where the recipient does not understand the value of your contribution".

At the time of cease fire incident of 18th June 2001, we volunteered in helping the injured patients in the RIMS hospital. We collected all the clothes from homes and distributed to the people who were fully drenched in rain inside the RIMS Casualty. I had given my shawl to Mr Biren on the stretcher who have been operated under orthopaedic surgeon and later on succumbed to internal injuries inside the intestine.

I sought permission from the RIMS Superintendent Professor Ahanthem Dwijamani to volunteer in stitching the injured patients; the casualty was overcrowded, my friend Bhamori controlled the crowd and Bijaya was helping the ambulance services outside to send the patients or others out or receiving and directing the routes in the ambulance services.

I was lucky that day because it was my night off day; I could provide my helping hands for the cause of our motherland. I have started stitching one by one in the casualty. After then I did a quick round in the casualty beds and I found a very young beautiful lady with IV drip on, bandage applied over her head, her blood pressure was very low and she was pale too.

 Sweet memories of my friend Bijaya Yumlembam
Sweet memories of my friend Bijaya Yumlembam :: Pix - TSE

I enquired about her and found out her wound on her head were not stitched. So I transferred her to the stitching room in casualty. I opened the bandage, the cut was very long it extended from the bridge of the nose to high up the forehead and taking antiseptic care; then I had just started stitching the wound when one fellow asked me whether she would be scarred or not; I answered that such wonderful proud scar mark, I would not be able to achieve in my life time.

At that time her tears kept flowing down without any sound and she bored her pain silently. I kept wiping her tears and continued stitching her wounds; heart touching moments observed inside the RIMS casualty during the cease fire incident. We always go beyond our professions and we love to do that for the welfare of mankind.

Bijaya interacted with youths and participated in the various camps at the State level and National Integration Youth Camps organised by the Nehru Yuva Kendra. In the evening, all the cultural programs of different States and the golden opportunities of exchange studies of art and culture and there was a room for interacting among the campers too.

Bijaya was the bridge with the eminent personalities in the fields of sports; artists and dancers etc. and arrangements were made by her to interact well with the campers from outside Manipur. She gave her time always. We were given various topics in the field of health issues for talks and for Bijaya in the fields of media and mountaineering.

There were leadership training camp organised by the NYK District coordinator. We campaigned for voluntary blood donation and made the youths aware of the importance of donating blood. We organised many blood donation camps at Thanga, Bishenpur and other far-flung areas and provided blood to the JN Hospital blood bank and even RIMS too. Our youth Mr Ningthoujam Nandalal is still helping in the RIMS blood bank, organising voluntary blood donation camp at the campus.

Bijaya loved music, trekking, and travelling; she was a dynamic and high spirited lady with multiple personalities. She spent her times to the fullest possible ways in all the fields. She was vibrant, energetic, witty and jovial all the times. She cut jokes and she usually shared very interesting stories and made everybody laugh, that was why everybody invited her in any gathering for the wonderful moments.

She was the life member of Manipur Mahila Kalyan Samiti, but she rarely came to the MMKS office as she was such a busy person; however she usually participated when there were acute problems such as when we demonstrated for our rights to procure our disputed land of MMKS at Lamphelpat and another issue when all the Imas of MMKS organised awareness program of HIV and AIDS at Moreh under CRY project.

We, Bijaya, Eche Chitra and myself were there to help all the Imas, namely Imaibem Poda, Ima Bimola, Ima Saraju, Ima Jyomati, Enebem Pramodini and others during the program. They wished to visit Tamu so we took them there for sightseeing and to Pagoda. She rarely visited children Home, Dewlahland after that.

We encouraged youth for adventure works and participated in climbing and other events, and one of the youths asked both of us why we were trekking in the high mountain, instead we should be sitting in front among the elderly listening to Wari and Lairik Taba etc. We were laughing like anything and that was the wonderful moments and relieved from the tiring, hectic climb.

I would like to share our precious moments, Bijaya and myself were returning from Bombay, reached Manipur Bhavan at Calcutta. We met troupes of Manipuri Artists numering nearly 1500 who had come to perform at Manipur festival at Salt Lake, Sorbhumi Threatre led by the hon'ble Minister of Art and Culture Dr Nara.

He had coordinated with the Bengal Governor for exchange cultural programs. We attended the inaugural function, the renowned artist Echema Roma arranged Samji Nachoms (decorated with scented flowers combination, arranged beautifully in such a way for wearing at the ear lobe) for the volunteers of about 10 of them to maintain the uniformity and they were wearing our traditional dresses.

And then I provided malle parangs (traditional jewellery) to all the volunteers which I had brought from Bombay (that belonged to my cousin, Sangita). We had the chance to watch the courtyard play "Memsahebgi Sari" at the Sorbhumi Theatre, Salt Lake Calcutta. The next day, we left for Jaganath Khetra by train, that night we were shivering inside the train.

I had one pair of socks, one piece I wore and another Bijaya wore and we tried to bear the cold windy night but it was not helping, finally we both shared the berth together and warmed ourselves. The moment we reached Jaganath Khetra station (Orissa), we went to buy two woollen shawls for each of us to be used for the return journey. Then we went to offer puja at the temple and then we hired a vehicle for going to sightseeing places like Konark temple etc.

We did not stay longer because all our travelling schedules were tight so we returned to Calcutta and then back home. Bijaya was very farsighted and she was always determined to do anything to please herself, just like an eagle she kept observing and identifying the situations and remained alert most of the time. She even planned for retirement and to establish an old age home also.

'Man proposes God disposes', we cannot predict our life at all, everything is in the hands of God, this Covid-19 pandemic has abruptly taken away our friend, Bijaya Yumlembam from all of us, the eclipse has swallowed the light forever and only the vivid sweet memories remain within our hearts.

* Dr Sadhana Ningthoujam wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on June 03 2021.

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