A place of pride on the medals tally The Ngari spirit
The spirit is laudatory and this is not an exercise in self patting. Manipur was the spirit that encouraged, cajoled, nudged and even pushed the participants to be podium finishers and bring a smile to the people back home who are still reeling under the ongoing ethnic clash that erupted back on May 3. It is this spirit which should be lauded and if history remembers 2023 as the year of blood, tears, displacement, it should also be remembered as the year in which the spirit of Manipur emerged in all its glory to enable 82 of its stars to finish on the medal table. And out of the golden list of 82 medallists, 30 won Gold, 22 Silver and 30 Bronze. A remarkable feat by any stretch and making the medals tally all that more significant is the fact that the total of 30 Gold medals was better than the combined tally of the seven other North Eastern States. Assam with 14 Gold was a distant second in the North East region followed by Arunachal Pradesh with 6 Gold, Mizoram with 2, Nagaland 1 taking the combined tally of the 7 NE States to 23 Gold. A State with just about 30 lakh population in a country of over 130 Crore and the sense of joy and satisfaction that enveloped the people when Manipur came in at the 7th rank is something which is hard to put to words. Making things all that more remarkable was the fact that there were many Meiteis who represented the six others which came higher in the medals tally. Services which came in at the second spot would not have been a complete team without the presence of athletes from Manipur and so is the case with Maharashtra, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala and Karnataka-States which occupied places above Manipur on the medals tally. If Manipur glowed under the spirit of its athletes at the National Games in Goa, then it also went a long way in etching the North Eastern region in the consciousness of everyone in India. Stands in complete contrast to the understanding of the North East which has been projected as the land of drugs and poppy by the drug cartels under whose sway and influence a community has been dancing.
It is this positive image which Manipur should work towards and not be deterred by those whose vision cannot go beyond the poppy fields and the drug trail. It is also heartening to note that right after the 37th National Games, president of Manipur Olympic Association, Th Radheshyam talked about the 38th National Games which is scheduled to be held some time in October/November next year. It is this preparedness which fits in perfectly with the spirit, perhaps fuelled by Ngari, that drove the performers from Manipur. Again it is this spirit which has brought the National Sports University to Manipur, despite the outlandish claims laid on Koutruk and come the moment of reckoning this spirit will stand by Manipur for all time to come. This is not the first time that sportspersons and athletes from Manipur have brought laurels to the people and the North East region and one just has to rewind to the 2020 Olympics when home grown S Mirabai Chanu opened the medals account for India in bagging Silver in the discipline of her choice. History will remember 2023 as the year of blood and hatred yet at the same time, it should not be forgotten there were heroes and heroines who brought laurels to the State, her people and the North East in general by booking a place of pride on the medals tally. Manipur made it to the news not because of drugs being seized or some well known personalities dancing or striking a pose for the camera in the poppy fields. This is surely cheers for Manipur and at the same time should be a slap to those who revolt against the move of the Government to clear encroachers who have earned notoriety for cutting forests to make way for poppy plantations.