By: Indrakanta Ngangbam
Imphal, Oct. 14: Hope and persistence can make everything possible. It is seen in a Pena artiste who lost both her kidneys and woke up from the death bed to promote the traditional musical art of the state representing cultural shows in different parts of the globe and nurturing young folk art lovers.
Trained under the guidance of Padmashree Khangembam Mangi, Ngasam Durgeshori Devi became a Pena exponent contributing in the promotion of the unique Pena music of traditional Manipur showcasing in different platforms. However, remained like an unsung personality.
When this journalist came across her, the history she narrated about her career and struggle turned out to be iconic besides her unpopularity among the masses.
Ngasam Durgeshori, a 33 years old girl from Thangmeiband Lourung Purel Leikai, Imphal was fond of music since her early childhood when she was in class III. She learnt Hindustani modern music and traditional dance during her early life. After she entered the Jawaharlal Manipur Dance Academy in Imphal she became acquainted with the Pena, traditional musical art/traditional musical instrument.
”I love and practice various types of music and dances, but decided to take up Pena with the motive to promote our less listened music inherited to the people through generations. It appeared as if it remained practiced only in rituals in festivals like Lai Haraoba”, said Durgeshori.
“I was very happy when my parents bought me a harmonium, but I was even more happy when I get a Pena”, said Durgeshori.
She said she practices Pena to promote traditional art form which is less popular to the youth and feared for extinction with the emerging different forms of modern music. Pena was not practiced by woman in early days, but today it became acquainted with girls too, added Durgeshori.
She is one best among few girls who practice Pena. She is the only girl Pena artiste who was rewarded scholarship by the ministry of culture, Young Talent Scholarship, 2011. She was associated with Laihui, a popular traditional musical organization, in the state.
She teaches the local youth the art when she gets time out of her busy schedules. She has also produced a girl child Pena artist who was rewarded national scholarship, which too was the first for a girl child to get a scholarship in Pena.
She is at present working at Anjika society for Manipuri dance and moment therapy musical institute at Kolkata as a multi art performer and instructor. At the same time she is also serving as music and dance guru in a school in Imphal.
Durgeshori travelled in different parts of the world like Indonesia, Brunei, Cambodia, Singapore China etc. She remains busy travelling throughout the nation and abroad showcasing the unique art of Pena and its associated folk dances and ballets.
After graduation she completed her master’s degree at Manipur University in Dance.
During her career she was diagnosed with both kidney failures in 2013. A couple of years went by and she got her kidney transplant at AIIMS, Delhi. She was almost death with the Hemoglobin content just at 1 (four) as against the normal 12.5. She didn’t lost hope.
“While I was lying weak in the hospital bed, I sing the lyrics of Pena in my heart and mind even though I couldn’t sing them out. I believed I will live and sing loud”, said Durgeshori.
After her transplant she struggled recollect her knowledge and began to write musical lines and slowly picks up the lost vocal and the tune of Pena out of her darkest part of life. She resumes her performances and continue teaching and preaching the folk art.
She got the kidney form her younger brother. Durgeshori is the only girl among four children in the family.
“It was unbelievable that she survived and remains courageous with even after both kidneys were failed, I admire her spirit. But sad, nobody knows the reality”, said Th. Sangeeta, national award winner in dance.
She said there are different forms of Pena of different tribes in Manipur. If a common platform is given and organised Pena festivals regularly, it will certainly help in bringing positive integrity in the state. She also said the appearance of Tangkhul during Lai Haraoba festival shows that the hill and valley people are brothers. Lai haraoba festival is incomplete without a Tangkhul Lad with his spear. ”Pena can remove the division between the hill and valley people in the state.
After returning from Indonesia, Brunei, and Cambodia after showcasing my performance, I was preparing to perform at Singapore. However I became sick and doctors told me of failure of both the kidneys. It was my most socking part in Life. My career was seized while I was at AIIMS. I was worried if I could come back. But the determination and faith in God has brought me to how I am today. During my dialysis I didn’t stop writing notes of the music and practice when I can sit up. With the blessings of the almighty and my determination I am able to continue. Said Durgeshori.
Her life never ends to struggle. Her parents were daily earners. Her beloved mother passed away last year after suffering in hospital with cancer. Her father who is a Mukna (traditional sport) exponent remains weak.
She never shows off her woes to anyone, remained singing the Pena. Durgeshori is jolly to all and one can see only smiles on her face every time.
She is still surviving with costly medicines being procured by her own earning while at the same time supporting her family. She regularly visits hospital for checkups. Her Pena tune never fails to fill the neighbouring air everyday.