Nongmaithem Tombi Singh’s contribution to the making of Hijam Anganghal a Mahakavi

Surjitkumar Loitam
Contd from previous issue
When he came for the function, he joined the coterie of enthusiasts who had planned to confab with one Salam Ibohal Singh, a living erstwhile student of Anganghal residing at Shamurou Market, now an oldie whom Hijam Anganghal once tutored, to explore a new facet. From that oldie, it was possible to collect many stories of Mahakavi Anganghal’s early days. Oja Tombi could discover from the interview that Anganghal was a very versatile man.
Adapting Jahera, the novel into a Radio Serial:
While the yearlong Birth Centenary Celebration of the Mahakavi was going on throughout the state of Manipur, All India Radio, Imphal attempted to grasp the opportunity of showing distinguished respect to the Mahakavi by broadcasting an adapted radio serial of the novel, Jahera of the Mahakavi. When the authority of the AIR, Imphal entrusted the responsibility of adapting the novel to Oja Nongmaithem Tombi, considering him to be the right man to do it gingerly and successfully, he welcomed it and accepted it. Right away he took up strategies to materialize the plan. Tremendous succor could be received from prominent theatre and Sumang Lila persons– Lamabam Gojen-dro and Manaobi MM who were one-time students of Oja. The dialogues of the play got gradually developed through frequent arguments and interactions that took place among them. He took help from one Sharni, an aunt in his locality, in an attempt to know better about the then women’s common parlance to suit the idiolect of Ibecha, a prominent woman character in the novel. The very features of Sharni became the perfect visage of Ibecha that Oja Tombi created in his mind. He observed the idiolect and idiosyncrasy of his aunt Sharni minutely and could derive materials. While creating the play he consulted many great personalities of Manipur and his local oldsters frequently. Thus completing the writing of the play within the stipulated time, he could submit the adapted radio play to AIR, Imphal, and its broadcasting in 13 episodes starting from October 1992 at 07:45 pm every Saturday of every week after the evening news continued up to December 1992 taking three months. Since then, Jahera, the novel that was once only in the hands of some educated elite has now opened up to the general public. It became the favorite serial of the then-radio audience. Lots of plaudits were showered upon Oja Tombi. On listening to the radio serial the daughter-in-law of Anganghal, Rajkumari Sanajaobi was so much pleased that she gave many a time lavish praises to Nongmaithem Tombi. It was for the AIR to pay a profuse homage to the Mahakavi. On the part of Oja Tombi also the successful broadcasting of the radio serial turned out to be his valuable gift to the Mahkavi.
His penchant for the collection of Mahakavi’s books and their study
Furthermore, Oja Tombi began to pay attention to the in-depth study of Anganghal’s books. Therefrom some articles of criticism on Manipuri literature have been contributed. Two articles titled Khamba Thoibee Sheirengda Untliba Darsan (Meitei Amasung Hindu Anigi Wakhal Punsinba Wakhallon) [The Vision Depicted in Khamba Thoibee Sheireng] (Synthesis of the ideas of Meitei and Hindu philosophies) and Mahakavi Anganghalgi Jahera da Utliba Awangba Nungsibagi Masak (The Ideal Love Depicted In Mahakavi Anganghal’s Jahera) appeared in the books of the State Level Mahakavi Centenary Celebration  Committee published in the year 1994, Mahakavi Anganghal and Manipuri Wareng Khara (A collection of his loose proses).
Amidst his hectic activities on Mahakavi and others, in the year 1996-97, he synergistically attempted with Hijam Romani-the son of the Mahakavi, Nungleppam Shyamkanhai, and myself, to produce an enlarged edition of Mahakavi’s poems including the newly found 13 poems from old journals and those already published ones. This time also Oja Tombi took charge of the editor and could publish a complete book of Anganghal’s poems.  
His contribution to Mahakavi’s Anniversary celebrated by the Tunggi Yaifanaba Semba Kanglup:
On an early morning at the beginning of July 1996-97, a delegation of the Kanglup visited Oja Nongmaithem Tombi at his residence to request him to participate in a seminar to be held as a part of the 102nd Birth Anniversary of the Mahakavi at Shamurou, his birthplace. At that time we, all the members of the Kanglup, were youths below 20 and callow in the fields of literature and culture and so, at the onset, we felt timidity to accost Oja. By that time Oja Tombi was a Professor at Manipur University. Contrary to our wimpiness, Oja warm-heartedly agreed to our request and encouraged us for the endeavor we had undertaken. Besides this, he volunteered to distribute the invitation cards to his literature-lover friends in the Imphal area and also advised us to consult with Oja Elangbam Dinamani, Head of the Manipuri Department, Manipur University so that he also would extend help in his capacity. We met Oja Dinamani as advised. He too warmly agreed and took the significant responsibility of printing the seminar papers without making the Kangpup pay for them and also offered to distribute the printed invitation cards including that of Oja Tombi and some others. In the seminar on the topic, Manipuri Sahitya da Anganghal gi Khut ee Neinaba (Exegesis of Anganghal’s writings in Manipuri Literature), Oja Dinamani acted as the moderator, and three distinguished scholars, namely Nongmaithem Tombi Singh, Lamabam Gojendra, and Thoudam Tombi Singh read out seminar papers as resource persons. The grand support received from Oja Tombi made the initial step of the Kanglup, the 102nd Birth Anniversary Function of the Mahakavi held at Shamurou, his birthplace, successful.
Oja Tombi participated continuously as a resource person, chief guest, moderator, etc. in almost all the anniversary functions of the Mahakavi organized by the Kanglup from 1994 CE to 2019 CE. Many articles were also contributed to the memorial journals of the Mahakavi published by the Kanglup. Oja Tombi knew no fatigue in assisting with the functions of the Mahakavi and participating himself as if it were his own.
His Role in Erecting Mahakavi’s Statue at MU Campus
Discussions have been initiated since 1995 CE within the coterie of intellectuals such as Mahakavi’s son-Hijam Romoni, Elangbam Nilakanta, Elangbam Dinamani, Nongmaithem Tombi including the representatives of the Tunggi Yaifanaba Semba  Kanglup about erecting a statue of the Mahakavi at Shamurou, his birthplace. The attempt for procuring a piece of land from the premises where the Mahakavi was born and brought up was not initially successful. Some years had elapsed in chagrin. In the meantime, leaving aside the matter of the statue, and with the approach of the year 1997, a critical treatise, Mahakavi Anganghal-Ahanba Volume, was published with Oja Elangbam Dinamani as the editor, containing articles newly written by some of the distinguished writers, poets, and scholars of this land like Aribam Kumar Sharma, Dr M Kirti, Dr Debaraj, IR Babu, Dr, S. Tomba, Nongthonbam Kunjamohan, B Jayantakumar Sharma, Thangjam Ibopishak, and Nongmaithem Tombi and along with those collected papers from the incessant seminars held during anniversary functions. During the following week, Oja Tombi in his column of Nongmai Pundit, wrote a detailed analysis of the book.
(To be contd)