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One day with Rev. (Dr.) Valson Thampu in Imphal

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By-Ningombam Bupenda Meitei
On my birthday yesterday, I thought what I shall do to begin my day, and a moment of memorably beautiful time, spent with none other than the former Principal of my alma mater, St. Stephen’s College, came back flashing in my mind’s eyes and instilled a new motivation to pen on it to not only recall, remember but also to imprint the legendary – at least for me to begin with and extends to, perhaps, all – one day that I spent with such a great soul in none other than my own home city Imphal, the capital of Manipur. Loktak Lake, the largest freshwater lake in the North East India, at Moirang, a few kilometers away from Imphal, became the lone witness to discover my uncovering of the spiritual and truth seeking humble soul of the human being personified in the principal.
Rev. (Dr.) Valson Thampu, who recently retired after completing his tenure as the principal of St. Stephen’s College, Delhi, came to Imphal to meet the old stephanians, who were, and are, in the position of a senior Cabinet Minister, Chief Secretary, Additional Chief Secretary, many senior bureaucrats and top police officials, of Manipur. Imphal was organizing an international event, the Sangai Festival, in later part of December, 2015 when he arrived. He was also accorded a warm welcome and escorted by the senior Cabinet Minister and the Chief Secretary to a function, held as a part of the Sangai Festival, attended by the state Chief Minister and a host of ambassadors and high commissioners. We, the stephanians of Manipur, including an Additional Chief Secretary and intellectuals, were expecting to dine with him, but we were also intimated about his planned dinner with other dignitaries who also had arrived for the festival. Later, he, also being overwhelmed by the love of stephanians from Manipur, left the dinner, hosted by the state, and joined the stephanians’ dinner in a humblest way where in a very calm atmosphere, old days’ memories and discussions took place in such a way that he literally admitted, at the end of the dinner, that he had not seen such a pleasant exchange, in Imphal, with stephanians in his life.
  I had such a remarkable time with him by having been blessed with an opportunity to take him and showed my city, Imphal, which is also thousands years old’s cradle of Manipuri civilization. I went in a morning to call on him to a hotel, where he, other diplomats and the Chinese ambassador to India were also staying for the Sangai Festival, and found his room locked. On my way back to the hotel’s lobby, I met him and saw him walking back to the hotel after having a round, on foot, of the localities surrounding the hotel. He smiled and shared the joy of having a morning walk in such a beautiful place, bestowed with such a naturally favourable weather. I then escorted him to the historic 2nd world war’s aerodrome, which is no more in use now, at Koirengei, Sainik School Imphal, Don Bosco Imphal, world war cemetery at Deulahland, Imphal, Ema Keithel ( the world’s only women’s market ) and Kangla Fort. After his speeches and interacting with the students and teaching staff of the two schools, Sainik School Imphal and Don Bosco Imphal, I took him to EmaKeithel or Mothers’ Market (‘Ema’ means ‘mother’ and ‘Keithel’ means ‘market’ in Manipuri) from where he bought Chak Hou(or black rice). He also bought Manipur’s pine apple for his way back home. From Imphal, we headed towards Moirang, the ancient place where Khamba Thoibi – an epic love story of ancient Moirang – of Manipuri Literature was recorded. At Moirang, around 45 km from Imphal, we had a lunch on the top of a hillock, which houses a tourist centre with restaurants and cafeteria, on Loktak lake.After having the lunch, we went to Indian National Army Memorial at Moirang to remember Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and Azad Hind Fauz’s arrival to Moirang with the help of Japanese troops. The journey which began from around 8am in the morning ended by around 5pm. Later in the day, Impact TV, a media channel of Manipur, interviewed him.
 It was over a lunch with Rev. (Dr.) Valson Thampu on Loktak Lake, which is also known as “the mirror of Manipuri Literature”, that I could sense and feel his simplicity, honesty and humanity in its noblest and humblest way. When I showed him the city and its surroundings, I took him as the principal of my college, but slowly, in the long distant drive away from Imphal and going towards the purest waters of Loktak Lake in a serene air with Mother Nature, I started acknowledging his inner self and it was essentially an engagement with his inner realm that has not compelled, but rather impelled me, to write this piece of mine. He was very clear in his mind that his stay in Imphal was to get away from the media projections of him in New Delhi. He wanted peace not only from media, per se, but was also in search of inner peace, far away from the world of materialism, to delve into the universe of spiritualism. Thereby, he, despite my reminder to him of his mobile phone being kept in his hotel room, told me that he did not want to be disturbed by the phone calls. It was in our informal conversation that I came to know his initial childhood upbringing as a Hindu child, who used to visit temples for religious prayers and rituals, and later he imbibed Christianity. His mother played a significant role in shaping his mind, heart and soul since his childhood days. His morning assembly speech at Don Bosco Imphal was full of emotions and humane values that he deeply stressed himself as an “orphan” and hailed those with parents being so privileged. It was his oratory, imbedded with moral values of mankind, that did enthrall not only the senior students but also the primary class’ kids, who not only smiled while listening to his talk but also even replied to his engagingly moving questions to them, of the Roman catholic school.
 It was indeed, the lunch that gave me a moment to proactively ask him questions on ethics, values, philosophy and law, humanity and concerns of the college and nation, besides his childhood and life. It was a natural flow of exchanging dialogue, in which I found the inner being in him which is essentially very peace loving, soft hearted and full of human emotions which are deeply sensitive. He is honest from his heart and he could even ask his own critic, “why do you write against me?”, but the critic really needs to understand him in the form his inner self, and not necessarily all the times as the principal, though ‘former’ now, of the college. My dialogue with him was not with the principal, but with human being, per se, in him and it was a bliss interacting with such a soul who loves peace, harmony and understanding with Mother Nature in the presence of none other than Mother Loktak Lake. Media too is mostly critical of his administration as the then principal of the college, but hardly a presentation of his mankind, humanity and love for peace has been put into light. What is also important in life as a human being is also to understand the human being in that person, whether he holds an office of eminence or not. The words of a stephanian Rev. (Dr.) Valson Thampu – “Let’s not talk about each other, instead let’s talk to each other” – shall remain an aptly matured philosophy of his. He shall be remembered for his purity of heart, search for inner peace and quest to grow bigger and leap higher on the ladder of spiritualism.
(Ningombam Bupenda Meitei is a poet, author and orator)

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Imphal Times is a daily English newspaper published in Imphal and is registered with Registrar of the Newspapers for India with Regd. No MANENG/2013/51092


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