Dr Mohendra’s book “My memories of Imphal from 1941”


Lt Col M Ranjit Singh (retd)
 Dr Irengbam Mohendra is well known to the readers of ‘The Sangai Express’. He used to write a regular column for the newspaper for many years. In fact, he wrote around 700 articles and most of them were published in the newspaper. To reintroduce him to the readers, therefore, will tantamount to gilding the lily. Besides writing articles, Dr Mohendra has authored five books which has already been published. His sixth book, ‘My Memories of Imphal from 1941’, was published in London in 2022. Book release function of the above book in Imphal was planned during the International Polo Tournament of November 2022. But due to certain technical and administrative reasons, the book could not be printed in Manipur on time. He has, however, gifted around 20 copies of the book to his well-wishers in Imphal. I am one of the lucky guys to get a copy of the book.
 “My memories of Imphal from 1941” is a huge autobiography with 451 pages. It is not a continuous and methodical narrative of his life. He in the book gave details of his personal life during his childhood in Imphal and imbedded many incidents and situations which had happened later in other places like Shillong, Darjeeling, Agra, Nainital, Bombay, Delhi, London etc. In the Prologue of the book, Dr Mohendra aptly mention this- ‘For those born before 1946, it will be a trip down memory lane. For younger persons, born after 1946 (Generation X), it will be a lesson in history.’
In fact, his book is perfect history book of Imphal. He, in his book, recorded exhaustively the transformation of tiny and sleepy Imphal town to a noisy sprawling city during the last 80 years.
He did his schooling from Ibotonsana LP School at Uripok. The school is now a Girls’ School. He used to walk barefoot on rough, dusty, and potholed Uripok Road unbelievable to today’s children. All these and also the schooling system then followed in Manipur, he wrote in details in his book.
He witnessed the first Japanese bombing of Imphal on Sunday, the 10th May, 1942. He was, at the time of bombing, eating some raspberries on khongnang mana that he bought for a pie. Many traditions and rituals prevalent in those days in Manipur are no longer known to the present generation. Some of those forgotten traditions as he had experienced then are mentioned in the book in details. The style in which he wrote about Hari Uthan, one of the forgotten religious festivals of Manipur, is simply superb. One would recollect that in the olden days there used to be a fight known as ‘duel’ in the Western Society where two individuals fought to restore one’s honour. “Kangjeibung thoknaba” (a Manipuri parlance) was a challenge fight between two individuals and was something like Duel. The modus operandi of “Kangjeibung thoknaba”, a common occurrence till the early nineteen fifties of Manipur, are adequately explained in the book.
 The characteristics of a Meitei has been well explained by the author in his book. He wrote, “Meiteis possessed an immense and abnormal fund of self-esteem. They also harboured the belief that no living person could be better than them. Eina Mahele. I am the greatest, Muhammad Ali style. Meiteis in general and I are narcissists at heart. A narcissist is one who has an inflated sense of his or her own importance”. Another observation he made about national characteristics of Meiteis will go well with the present happenings in Manipur. He wrote, “one of a few national characteristics of Meiteis was their capacity to adapt to horrific changes in circumstances and environment. They were very adaptable and good survivors, by virtue of their inherited traits. They survived the ‘seven years’ devastation’ and Japanlan in modern history”. I fully agree with his observations and am sure we will overcome the problems presently created by the Kukis in Manipur.
 There are many rare photographs in his book. One would find the photos of Imashi Binodini in her younger days, Pangal Sanahanbi (1961), Rani Gaidinliu and also of Thong Nambonbi and Old Sanjenthong Bridge. Unfortunately, the sizes of the photos are too small and the quality of the photos not that good. Overall, one would enjoy reading his book and also gain many valuable knowledges kind courtesy to his creative writings. The copies of his book, I believe, are available with all the leading libraries and also with few of his friends and relatives. Try and read the book. Happy reading.