Dr Shantikumar’s journey of life: From Ooti to world champion

Dr Shantikumar’s journey of life: From Ooti to world champion

IMPHAL, Jul 18 : No doubt, Ooti is one of the most popular delicacies of Manipur. Yet Dr Ngangbam Shantikumar now feels allergic even on hearing the word Ooti.
Even though Dr Ngangbam Shantikumar is now a citizen of Taiwan, he was born in Manipur and he grew up here.
Not only Ooti, maize is another food item which Dr Shantikumar now finds quite abominable. Yet, Ooti and maize are closely associated with the childhood of Dr Shantikumar who is now a world class body-builder.
He won the Mr World title in 2013. Not only that, his crown of glory is now adorned with so many gold medals won at several international body-building championships/competitions.
He is a champion of Pro Natural Olympia and he is the first from the entire Asiatic continent to win Pro Natural OIympia.
Apart from being an international judge of body-building, he is the president of both INBA Asia and INBA Taiwan.
He is now married to Taiwanese native Chaningleima and they have two sons and two daughters. Dr Shantikumar is currently serving as an English Professor at De Lin University of Technology, Taiwan.
Although Taiwan and Manipur are poles apart in terms of development, Dr Shantikumar still deeply loves Manipur and he has keen interest to work in Manipur and groom young body-builders.
Ngangbam Shantikumar was born in a very poor family at Uripok Bachaspati Leikai and he is the youngest of 10 siblings.
His childhood is largely a narrative of extreme suffering and struggle. But his life took a dramatic turn soon after he met Taiwanese girl Chaningleima.
Speaking to The Sangai Express at Sagolband Moirang Hanuba Leirak where his parental family have shifted, Dr Shantikumar recalled that his parents moved to Luwangsangol near Kanglatongbi in search of work when he was four years old.
Together with his parents, he stayed there till he was 12. In the morning he used to go to school and in the evening, he worked as a cow-herd.
On his way back home after tending to cows, he would collect firewood and gathered Loklei, Pullei etc which were growing in the wild.
His parents stayed at Luwangsangol working as tenant farmers. When they could not give the agreed quantity of paddy, they must make up the missing quantity with money. And if they could not pay money for deficit paddy, they were made to work at the landlord’s house.
There were innumerable days when the family did not have enough rice to meet daily requirements. As such, they used to cook Ooti with green Pangkhokla. They used to have Ooti so frequently that Dr Shantikumar finds the popular delicacy totally adverse. Same is the case with maize which used to be served as their staple food for many days during his childhood.
He sometimes feels angry when his children ask him to buy pop-corn.
Together with two elder brothers, Dr Shantikumar moved to Tera where he studied from Class VI to Class X at Tera Rural Institute. It was during this period that Shantikumar was introduced to Yoga by Oja Manglem of Tera Sapam Leirak and Gurumayum Jadumani.
He used to take part in Yoga competitions and he won first position in State level competitions twice or thrice. At that time, Yoga and body-building competitions were held together.
On seeing his physique, late Kabui Sanajaoba of Mayang Imphal suggested that body-building would be more appropriate for Shantikumar.
Subsequently, he started training for body-building under well known body-builder Oja Maipak for around six months.
Pointing to Shantikumar, Oja Maipak said, “Here is the sure winner of this year’s sub-junior flyweight title”. It was these words of Oja Maipak which inspired Shantikumar to dedicate to body-building.
On account of sheer poverty, Shantikumar could not even buy textbooks when he was studying BA 1st year in DM College.
“The years when I was studying in DM College was the most miserable period of my life. I even went to Old District Hospital to sell my blood so as to meet the bare minimum expenses of my education but the hospital refused to buy blood from me because my blood group was AB+”, Dr Shantikumar recalled.
As he was about to complete BA course, Dr Shantikumar was once scolded by his father for spending all the time in studying rather than doing anything to augment the family’s income. As he retorted, his father asked him to leave the house.
It hurt Dr Shantikumar so much that he came out from the house with an intention to go somewhere.
Next morning, he boarded a bus and went to Ukhrul. Then he went to Itanagar after changing several trucks where one of his elder brothers was working. There he sat for entrance examination for MA Linguistic Course at JNU. He got selected and went to Delhi. But he did not get hostel and he used to sleep in the dining room of Manipur Bhavan.
His brother who was working as an engineer at Itanagar used to send Rs 500 every month for around two years to meet his educational expenses.
On seeing that his brother too was facing a lot of difficulties to meet the financial requirements of his (brother’s) own family who was then married, Shantikumar asked him not to send any more money.
In the meantime, he took part in a body-building competition and won Mr Delhi title.
Then he represented Delhi and won Mr Natural India title. For this sporting feat, JNU gave him a monthly scholarship of Rs 200.
When he was doing PhD in 1995, Shantikumar got an opportunity to take part in International Korea Youth Festival and it turned out to be the biggest turning point of his life.
It was during this festival that he met Taiwanese girl Chaningleima, a Meitei name he selected for his future wife.
As they became close, Chaningleima invited Shantikumar to Taiwan and she even sent the flight ticket.
Shantikumar went to Taiwan and stayed there for 13 days during which he met all the family members of Chaningleima.
After that they communicated regularly through telephone. She also sent money when he was doing PhD. They got married in 1996 and the marriage ceremony was solemnised in Manipur with the bride wearing Meitei phanek.
After sometime, they went to Taiwan where Dr Shantikumar got selected for a post of Professor at De Lin University of Technology.
All the four kids are called common Meitei names viz; Che-Che, Nanao, Bem-Bem and Bung-Bung.
Although he is now a citizen of Taiwan, Dr Shantikumar has a keen desire to return to Manipur provided he is given a post like Director of Fitness Department, Manipur University of Sports.
To a query about the present situation, Dr Shantikumar underscored the growing importance of enforcing Inner Line Permit System or a similar mechanism in Manipur.
In the absence of such a mechanism, not only indigenous Manipuris, all the indigenous peoples of the North East region would be wiped out after some time, he said.
Questioning if there is problem in implementing ILPS in Manipur when the same system is being enforced in neighbouring Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh, Dr Shantikumar said that he was proud to fly the seven-coloured Salai Taret flag of Manipur when he emerged victorious in international competitions.
He added that his wife has enormous roles in attaining his present status.

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