Missing my father’s funeral

My father’s passing marked the beginning of a new dimension of life. Since he was ailing with Dementia for a long time, and was no longer able to sit up for long, I felt his time was coming. I returned to US from Manipur with a heavy heart wondering if it would be the last time I saw him, as he blessed me, putting his right hand on my head. He was laying in the daybed, in the living room. I held his hands with both my hands tightly before I left. That was the last time I saw my father.

After some months, I was woken up in the early morning with my brother’s shaking voice at the other end of the phone line, sharing that our father has passed away. It was agreed and decided, that they will proceed with the fire cremation funeral ritual that day itself as per the local norms and traditions in Manipur. Then, I had agreed too, but in coming times I questioned myself on “Why such a hurry?” during the sleepless nights where I couldn’t quite get closure to my father’s passing, as I didn’t see him go. The question of “Where did he go?” kept floating on for a long time.

My mother and brothers were busy with the preparation of my father’s rituals and couldn’t come on the phone. And I was feeling so helpless knowing that Baba was soon going to be cremated and I wasn’t there. I made my offering of light and burning incense stick, and hastily called my cousin brother. I requested  him to keep the phone line open, so that I can hear what is going on in the background. I sat quietly and heard the instruments and songs played as part of the rituals.

Suddenly out of nowhere, I remembered the vicious raw words from an unknown person who commented that I will not make it for my Father’s funeral in retaliation for writing the Poem “Students in Manipur”.

I was deeply pained and saddened and had written “A Funeral for my living Father” then.

A Funeral for my living Father

You mock about my ailing father,

Who is old and frail,

Who is battling with his memory,

Taking time to recall my name,

And yet greeting me with such profound expressions giving me the peace that feelings cannot be snatched even by Dementia,

Living his second childhood with his days numbered.

You curse about my living father,

Mocking about his funeral when he is alive,

Judging that I won’t make it for the funeral,

A funeral which you pitied the Leikai (community) will perform without me,

Such vicious words,

Such hateful words from someone I don’t even know.

You, hiding behind a fake name,

You have won in wounding me,

It’s true, I sleep every night with the biggest fear that I will miss his last moments,

It’s true, that I have failed to be with him at his hours of need,

It’s true, I have played out in my mind of every tiny details of how soon I can reach,

To be on time to hold his hands.

And I wish you would never have to feel the pain and helplessness of the separation and distance,

And remain blessed to be serving your Father living under the same roof,

Blessed to know for sure that you will light your Father’s funeral,

Blessed to know that you will be there holding your father’s hand as he crosses to the other world,

Blessed to be sleeping peacefully throwing words of mockery to the failed ones,

The failed ones like me.

  As the cremation is going on in Manipur and I was sitting in US, I tried to concentrate and be present with the faint sound of the rituals coming from the phone, I tried to think of Baba, but I couldn’t. I just couldn’t, the words, the unknown person’s vicious raw words kept coming again and again and I just couldn’t get it out of my head. I couldn’t stop my tears and I started falling into those words, that narrative, making me feel that my writing has brought upon the situation of me missing Baba’s funeral.

And I couldn’t quite write the way I did for a long time. But now it’s time, time to write, write on what matters to the heart and soul. I am ready to celebrate Baba’s life, carry him within me, spread the love and strength he has instilled in me.

Now you know how raw vicious words can bruise one’s soul, will you think twice before you hurl it?


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About Monica Ingudam

Born in Manipur (India), based in Maryland (USA) patent holder for identifying Caller ID, with Computer Science Engineering background, you will find Monica Ingudam crunching numbers and data as an Analyst. During the weekends you will find her hosting FindingTheVoices talk-show featuring authors, artists and people who inspire, empower, educate and entertain with the vision to connect and spread positivity. You will find her reading, writing and painting in her quiet time.


Mourning for Gurumayum Shyamsunder Sharma, sculptor artist of Three Mothers Art Gallery of Manipur.

Mourning for Gurumayum Shyamsunder Sharma, sculptor artist of Three Mothers Art Gallery of Manipur.

As we are nearing the completion of five years of FindingTheVoices, I was reflecting on moments that made FindingTheVoices real, moments that gave meaning to my quest and vision to continue FindingTheVoices.

Yesterday I shared a picture in Facebook sharing a moment “It broke my heart to see the crumpling condition of Three Mothers Art Gallery in Imphal, Manipur.”

#5years #FindingTheVoices #Manipur #29Sept2012 #LookingBack #Moments It broke my heart to see the crumpling condition of Three Mothers Art Gallery in Imphal, Manipur.

Then I shared another picture of another moment “I was truly touched and felt connected by the way Gurumayum Shyamsunder Sharma, sculpture artist of Three Mothers Art Gallery calling me “Sana” instead of my name. Sana, literal meaning is gold but it’s a way of addressing someone with love in Manipur. And I had forgotten this beautiful way of addressing.” I remember my mother fondly sharing about her childhood “Oh, when I grew up, I was Ebemma at home.”

Staying away from Manipur for 25 years now, I have missed experiencing many of the beautiful ways of life in Manipur. The journey of FindingTheVoices have been very fruitful and enriching to me as a person, striking a deep chord in taking pride of my origin and roots.

#5years #FindingTheVoices #Manipur #29Sept2012 #LookingBack #Moments I was truly touched and felt connected by the way Gurumayum Shyamsunder Sharma, sculpture artist of Three Mothers Art Gallery calling me “Sana” instead of my name. Sana, literal meaning is gold but it’s a way of calling someone with love in Manipur. And I had forgotten this beautiful way of addressing.

Sir Laba Yambem commented on the post sharing the news about the passing of the main artist of Three Mothers Art Gallery.

I got confirmation of the sad, very sad news that Gurumayum Shyamsunder Sharma passed away on August 12, 2017. He was born on September 24, 1955. The news filled me with such grief, regret and anger. His passing is a big loss to Manipur, a big loss to the community of sculptor artists of the world.

It is my deepest regret that we have failed him in recognizing his talent and giving him the support to nurture his inborn gifted talent. It gave me goosebumps when he shared about seeing the vision of what to carve when he sees the raw roots at nights and hence he worked mostly at nights. He didn’t have a blue print for any of his sculptors, it was all in his mind which he carved.

I saw a true artist seeing the blessing of such talents in Manipur. His sculptors conveyed the deepest meaning in art form with important relevance to the history and people of Manipur. But it broke my heart to see the crumbling gallery, the beautiful artwork smudged with dust from the fallen ceiling. It made me think of the art gallery in other places where artwork are kept with such value, boxed within glasses, guards closely monitoring the many lined up visitors from touching the artwork.

His vision of what he wanted to carve is truly inspirational but we have failed him to provide a platform and nurture his talent.

If you haven’t heard about Three Mothers Art Gallery, that is the first failure point. Why haven’t you heard about it ? Why don’t you know about the artist? Where are the visitors lining up to see his artwork? Why is his artwork not promoted? Where are the promotions? Why is his gallery crumpled? Shouldn’t his artwork display be one of the main display for tourist spot in Manipur?

Gurumayum Shyamsunder Sharma (September 24, 1955- August 12, 2017) gifted sculptor artist of Three Mothers Art Gallery, Manipur passed away. He was just 61 years old. He had dreams, many unfulfilled dreams. I have failed him. The people have failed him. Manipur has failed him. India has failed him.

I implore you to visit Three Mothers Art Gallery, Wangkhei, Thangapat Mapal Palace Compound, Imphal East, Manipur and seek your help and support for elevating Three Mothers Art Gallery in Imphal.

 


Monica Ingudam, founder of FindingTheVoices, A weekly talk show with the vision to promote positivity in the conflicted land of Manipur. Monica Ingudam is based in Maryland, Unites States and is originally from Manipur, the Indian state.


 

Who says there is no hope for Manipur?

Who says there is no hope for Manipur?

I started the New year with such strong hope, the much needed hope for Manipur after hearing the voices of the people of Manipur as I watched Impact TV’s Mega Manung Hutna show on the idea of Manipur and bridging the gap.

Firstly I want to thank and appreciate the team of Impact TV Manipur in getting such eloquent Panelists. This is one of the best initiative of discussion which included different ethnic groups creating a platform for everyone to express their views in a very civil way with words. Such discussions including all the groups are much needed to understand the views and issues of Manipur. The choice of Panelists to include representations from different segment of Manipur considering ethnicity, backgrounds and Institutions is very much appreciated. The questioning, presentation and moderation was very well executed. This will go a long way to peace and progress for Manipur. Thanks to Impact TV for stepping up and taking ownership to fill in this big gap to bring the people of Manipur together.

Secondly a big thanks to each and everyone amongst the Panelists for sharing historical events, experiences, your thoughts and views. I could feel the voices coming from the heart giving goose bump at times. I could feel the sadness of the idea of disintegration of Manipur in each voice spoken. They spoke with such love for Manipur, for peace and reconciliation leaving me inspired, empowered and enriched with their sharings.

Love the reinforcing story shared of how Muslims got assimiliated into the Manipuri society and the then King’s approach to protect and respect, giving the religious and cultural freedom to the Manipuri Muslim community. It was interesting to learn about the Royal feast and value sharing platform between the valley and hill people of Manipur much earlier keeping the peace and love amongst the people. The personal experiences shared by the Panelist members of the Valley and hill people coming together were touching. These experiences may be small but it goes a long way to connecting us.

Also the lack of good governance, corruption, the feeling of alienation of tribals in Manipur, misunderstanding of the word Manipuri(language or the people) and lots more were covered. You have to watch the discussion and be informed.

Sir Amu Kamei remains my star of the discussion. His response is awesome, love the way he spoke and expressed, straight and direct. I would love to meet him someday.

I invite all of you to listen to the full discussion of Impact TV’s Mega Manung Hutna. For those who can’t understand Manipuri and is asking for subtitle, you should ask the Indian National TV Channels to feature such discussions bringing up the voices of the people of Manipur, and the North East at the National level.

When we have such strong voices with such good intent and thoughts for unity, peace and progress of Manipur, Who says there is no hope for Manipur?

Now everyone of us have a responsibility and ownership to contribute in the idea of Manipur. There are many takeaways from this discussion which needs to be addressed. Ask yourself how are you going to contribute? Let’s focus on your individual contribution.

Happy New Year 2017. To love, peace and progress for Manipur.

 


MI_S03_withlogoMonica Ingudam, founder of FindingTheVoices, a talk show presenting voices from different parts of the globe with the vision to promote and spread Inspiring, Educative, Empowering and Entertaining stories in the violence-torn landscape of Manipur.


 

Low ebb of humanity in Manipur? #IromSharmila

Portrayed Low ebb of humanity in Manipur?

It was supposed to be a day of celebration, a day of freedom for Irom Sharmila Chanu when she broke her 16 years of fast. I watched the news coverage with her smiling coyly as she expressed that she would prefer to break her fast with honey rather than the water people suggested. Media from all over the world flew to Manipur to cover this important moment, a date which will be marked in the history.

With her newfound freedom, she must have expected a very different experience moving around freely after 16 years. I cannot imagine her level of excitement at that moment. Growing up in Manipur my freedom was very limited within the walls of my parents house, my school and books. My parents accompanied me everywhere in the name of the conflicts and the situations. I experienced a simple rickshaw ride alone very recently and I felt free and was very excited. So I can only imagine how excited she must have felt to move freely after being confined for such a long time.

But the reaction and harsh unwelcoming words from some small section of people that evening broke her heart leaving a very very bad taste. It’s hard to watch her break down. This video (Courtesy:newslaundry) stuck with me and it’s in my head. She doesn’t deserve to cry like this specially on her day, a day which should have been filled with celebrations. And yes, I stand in shame for such treatment and humiliation she had to go through on the day she set herself free, a day she could walk around freely after 16 very long years.

Yes, there may be a difference of opinion. Yes some of her comments and the way she said or did, might have hurt many because you truly supported her from your perspective. But your immediate action of rejection and outrage makes everyone question your kind of support. She must have her reasons for what she said or did. Can’t we all put everything aside, be the bigger one for a bit and see her as a human? Did it need to be resolved or dissolve at her moment leaving such a bitter taste, hurting even more? Where has our empathy gone? Where has our patience gone?

And the words that followed. Such mockery belittling her honest and genuine effort making many question the existence of humanity in Manipur. And the discussions comparing her with Martyr with an open disapproving note of her decision clearing inferring the preference to die? What kind of example and precedence are we setting for the youth where we glorify and elevate the dead over the living? Does one have to die for the glory and elevation?

Such intolerance drives me to seek out my quest to feature kind, strong voices and gestures to get her strength and smile. Words can make or break a person. Kind encouraging words and gestures can be very powerful elevating the strength of a human soul. I hold to many words I received giving me the strength to go through trying times.

Also the wide-spread coverage of a blanket statement that Manipur has shunned Irom Sharmila have challenged me to seek out for her well wishers and change that narrative and prove them wrong. I don’t agree with the Media reporting that the whole of #Manipur is shunning Irom Sharmila .

We come from a society where we aren’t comfortable or encouraged to speaking out our feelings but now is the time to speak out. Eche Sharmila needs us and we need to change the narrative for Manipur.

Calling out to one and all to join me in Waakhal, The people speaks up!

“You are not alone” a series of FindingTheVoices dedicated to Irom Sharmila Chanu of Manipur. #ISupportIromSharmila

I want to believe in the strong presence of humanity in the people of Manipur, let’s change the portrayed low ebb of humanity in Manipur!


MI_S03_withlogoMonica Ingudam, founder of FindingTheVoices, a talk show presenting voices from different parts of the globe with the vision to promote and spread Inspiring, Educative, Empowering and Entertaining stories in the violence-torn landscape of Manipur.


 

Accepting the real Irom Sharmila Chanu of Manipur

Accepting the real Irom Sharmila Chanu of Manipur

It’s heartbreaking to see Irom Sharmila Chanu in tears fighting for her basic right. She pleads for her right of choice, right to make her own decision. She wants to break free from the iconic image created by the people. She is more than the icon, she wants people to know her, the real her as a simple woman who loves peace. And now she is emotionally battered by the mental attack she received from the angry crowd and the reaction after she broke her 16 years of fasting. Does she deserve such kind of treatment at this juncture?

Many are showing disappointment that Sharmila hasn’t consulted them before she announced her decision and retorting back that they can fight for the cause with or without her. This will only alienate her even more widening the gap. Many are coming up quoting examples of instances of when and how they have supported her and it’s true that the people have supported her in their own way. However it’s a very long 16 years of struggle for her where she must have spent hours and hours in solitude and loneliness where her interaction with people are limited, very limited. It must be such a moment of loneliness where she saw no one around and said what she said sharing her thoughts. Don’t we all go through such moments? And don’t we expect that our love ones will stand by us during such times? By abandoning her aren’t we proving that her insecurity and fear of being alone is true? Isn’t it time to show our moral support for her?

It is a big question as to where she will be staying. It’s reported that Red Cross Society announced that they are ready to give her shelter with the condition that she cannot be involved in any political activities during her stay with them. That’s a BIG condition, considering her vision of joining politics. Can anyone accept the real Irom Sharmila Chanu without any conditions imposed?

Many are questioning on how Sharmila can succeed in politics but isn’t it an opportunity for the people to change the scenery of politics of Manipur? Why brush off with such negative criticism? Why not support and let her try? She has touched many people’s heart. She brought so much attention of the media and people at the national and international level getting AFSPA and Manipur the attention it needed. Maybe her presence in the political scene of Manipur will bring the much-needed attention of Manipur in India and internationally. In fact the Indian government should take this opportunity and offer her a platform to nurture and help her vision, the vision of a peace loving woman who have only strived for changes adopting peaceful non violent means.

As always most of the media digs and frame questions providing coverage to the sensational and controversial reaction portraying the rejection of the people. Just as Sharmila stated she knows that there are people, especially amongst the youth who are looking for change, change to a positive society, I believe that we have a lot of people who supports her and accepts her for what she is. I am seeking your voice for her. FindingTheVoices is inviting you to participate in a special episode we are making to consolidate your voice showing your stand for Irom Sharmila Chanu. Ready to change the narrative portraying the acceptance of the real Irom Sharmila Chanu? Because I know that those isolated cases reported by media doesn’t represent the overall reaction of the people.

I met Eche Sharmila just once and felt connected instantly, read and followed many of her coverage. I believe that she can bring a change, the much-needed change in Manipur. I believe that she can speak bravely and honestly on many of the topics people including myself are silenced to speak or write about.

Don’t let anyone say you can’t do it, Go for it, I am with you Eche!


MI_S03_withlogoMonica Ingudam, founder of FindingTheVoices, a talk show presenting voices from different parts of the globe with the vision to promote and spread Inspiring, Educative, Empowering and Entertaining stories in the violence-torn landscape of Manipur.


 

A new strategy to repeal AFSPA in Manipur, with food, marriage and politics from Irom Sharmila

A new strategy to repeal AFSPA in Manipur, with food, marriage and politics from Irom Sharmila

Today my news-feed is filled with the multiple coverage of Irom Sharmila’s decision to end her 16 years of fasting on 9th August 2016. Indian Express, BBC, Reuters, The Hindu, Times Of India, NDTV, Economic Times and many others have featured her story, one of the few times I cannot complain about the media not picking up news of Manipur.

Most people seem surprised with her announcement including her own family members. I am equally surprised but surprised that it took her this long. And more than being surprised, some people seem to be disappointed, very disappointed by her decision passing judgemental remarks, questioning and criticizing her decision, her capability of joining politics and her choice of personal life.

Why do you question her decision to end the fast? What is the guarantee that the outcome will be any different than what we see now, even if she continues fasting? Would you rather she continue with the fast till the very end and then type “RIP” or join the long queue for the floral tribute donning the white mourning dress?

Why do you think politics is not for her? Which political figure of Manipur would you prefer? You supported and accepted her as she was fasting sitting in a corner, building up the image of the Iron lady, but the idea of her becoming a leader is repelling? Or Is it that the political scene in Manipur has become so muddied that you have given up hope on any change in that front?

You seeked out to her for giving statements and comments for the issues/causes time brought on, which are many in a state like Manipur but you forgot to ask about her? Maybe you did ask her, maybe she did share on her own, in her frail voice but her thoughts which are not in line with the cause was hushed or edited out. Why is the idea of her getting married questionable? Or is it her choice that is not acceptable?

16 years is a long time, must be even longer for someone who is fasting and living in solitude for the most part. When I met Eche Sharmila back in 2015, I saw a woman who wants to live her life beyond the movement she is standing for, a woman very much in love, and a very lonely woman who didn’t anticipate such a long journey. We cried together talking about her situations, even giggled over simple things in the short visit I had.

It must have taken a lot of courage to make this decision, and not fulfil a promise she had made publicly. As per the reports, she indicated that she will continue with the movement and is only changing the strategy as it’s clearly not working even after 16 years. Why alienate her with all these judgmental and criticizing comments after all the sacrifices she has made so far? Why not get together and support her?

I am very happy for her, for this potential alternative of living.  A new chapter with a new strategy to repeal AFSPA with food, marriage and politics for Irom Sharmila. Go for it, Eche!


MI_S03_withlogoMonica Ingudam, founder of FindingTheVoices, a talk show presenting voices from different parts of the globe with the vision to promote and spread Inspiring, Educative, Empowering and Entertaining stories in the violence-torn landscape of Manipur.


 

Kishalay Bhattacharjee, Danger of a single story from Manipur

Today, I want to share a video of covered by iValley Talks. This video was shared more than 1 year ago way back in July 2014 with only 596 views. In this video, Kishalay Bhattacharjee talks about the danger of a single story from Manipur. Kishalay Bhattacharjee, an author, a senior journalist who has been with broadcast television for twenty years, seventeen of which he spent at New Delhi Television (NDTV) where he was a Resident Editor covering conflict in India’s North-East. He is a regular columnist and speaker on conflict and post-conflict situations in India.

First of all I would like to thank and recognize the work of Kishalay Bhattacharjee and also to each and every brave journalists reporting the conflicts stories of Manipur. Their reports have given a glimpse to the world of the conflicts and issues of Manipur. In this video, he talks about what and how he has failed to cover other stories, stories which are important in breaking the stereotype image the world sees. He has covered only the images of violence. And in his attempt to cover other stories he has written the books “Che in Paona Bazaar” and “Blood on my hands: Confessions of staged encounters”

He is right, there are a lot of stories which needs to be covered, stories where people rise and celebrate life in the midst of the conflict. There are stories of people working together showing hope, unity, integration and progress in the conflict zone.

People (both government officials and public) working together and rising up. Such stories aren’t covered. But you will see stories of the divide amongst people and people OR people and system, covered in bold with the same title and content (even with the mistakes carried over), being circulated.

Let me give an example. During the flood and landslides calamities in Manipur this year, the people (irrespective of ethnic community) came together reaching out to the people affected in the valley and hills. This was an empowering example of people coming together. Then, there are the army officials who worked very hard in repairing the roads for the people. Where are these stories ? Aren’t these stories important ? There is no divide in this effort and so this story didn’t reach the media.

So yes, I definitely echo that we need to change the single story portrayed in the media. And I am in the quest for FindingTheVoices, I believe that these stories will bring a change and create a positive image of Manipur and positive thinking to many individuals. I believe that this will definitely contribute to change the scenery of the conflict and violence-torn to peace and progress in our society.

Reference: IVALLEY TALKS

Voices from the common people, family, victims of AFSPA in Manipur

Many have asked me about AFSPA and I am sharing a documentary movie which covers about AFSPA, protests and situation in Manipur, voices from the common people, family and victims of AFSPA in Manipur.

When I grew up, before learning any games to play like any other child would, my father taught what we need to do when we hear gun shots, how we need to prostrate, crawl and where we need to go where we will be safe. I grew up in fear and stayed mostly at home, went out only out of necessity like attending school, and close family gatherings/functions. Everyone is home before darkness, gates are closed before darkness. I never saw any night life in Manipur. I thought it was normal while I was there, but coming out of Manipur and seeing the different ways of living, I realized how different it is growing up in a place of conflict, growing up in Manipur. And I hope someday, soon, there will be peace and the common people of Manipur can walk in the street without any fear, and live freely.

This is a strong documentary showing the reality and life of common people in Manipur. Watch it to understand and see a glimpse to a few cases where the victims, family of victims who are common people of Manipur.

Jano Devi, widow shares her story of her husband ending up death after he was picked up from home. She shares her story while she carries her infant baby at her back. She ask the question with tears , what should she answer when her child grows up and ask “Where is my father ?”

Binasakhi Lakshmi Devi, mother of victim shares her story of her son, who was picked up from home. Her son was found dead.

Thoudang Nanwa Singh shares about how he was beaten up, tied up and 5 to 6 personals forcing their genital in his mouth. He was tortured beating him again and again, playing with his genital.

Sharmila Irom started her fast after ten civilians were shot and killed while waiting at a bus stop on 2 November 2000

Kshetrimayum Netalini Devi, sister of victim who lost her sister while army personals started shooting in their residence

Source:

Photo: Google search (Manipur AFSPA)

Video: Youtube (Manipur in the Shadow of AFSPA  , A Documentary produced by Harsh Dobhal, Human Rights Law Network & ANHAD uploaded in 2010)

~The End ~

 

 

Education and Financial Independence for Woman

Education and Financial Independence for Woman

An article by Monica Ingudam


As we celebrate Woman’s day today, I would like to thank my parents and all the parents who have given the gift of education and raising a girl child with gender equality despite the economic background. The best gift any child could receive is the gift of education which would last a lifetime with the knowledge gained, but also giving a path to attain financial independence.

Financial independence for a woman plays a very important role to live in dignity, to voice the mind, to get the freedom to do little things in life, little things that matters in your heart, lifting your self-esteem and confidence. It’s a whole different charm and satisfaction to do things for yourself or for your love ones with your own hard earned money, than it is doing by asking or begging someone or even getting it as a gift.

For “many woman” who are financially dependent, she is faced to accept decisions and whims of the bread winner of the family. Though she may be contributing and managing the home front with excellence, her life gets compromised in many ways. Her voice getting drowned, not heard and finally silenced, reducing her status to a programmed robot, a human robot taking commands with the only freedom to shed tears.

Some may argue this is not always the case and I agree. But if you ever fall in the category of the “many woman” and you are equipped with “Education”, you have the “choice” to attain financial independence pursuing your career to sustain yourself, free yourself, find your voice, and live a life with dignity.

~The End ~

This post is dedicated to all my young student listeners to pursue your education no matter what. There is a time and place for everything and now is your time to study.

This article, though edited was featured in the March 2014 issue of “Northeast Today” magazine, page 57.  Thanks “Northeast Today” for featuring my thoughts on celebrating womanhood.