By: Sanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh.
In my childhood days, during the “LAI HARAOBA” festival of my village though I didn’t know the real meaning of laiharaoba & Maibi jagoi( Dance) etc ,I enjoyed it but the event I most eagerly waiting was the Mukna –Lamjel, that use to hold one day after the last day of Lai haraoba(Lairoi).According to the tradition of my village, the players who are to take part in Mukna(Traditional wrestling) are put into two teams, which leaders and elders of the village named as Laroi panna and singloi panna or Lairembi panna and Lairemba panna. Each team is led by one of the best player whom we call him Mukna Jatra. Both the teams will arrive at the Laibung after traditional rituals at the residence of the Jatras. After the Mukna team arrived, the athletes who are to take part in marathon race (Lamjel) in the same team as Mukna arrived. In case of marathon race, the team leader is generally the one who got first, second or third place in previous year. The judge (we call him, lamtharoi) is the one who got hat trick in this marathon in other days. The encouragement given to those athletes by our people during their run by shouting: CHENKHATLU-CHENKHATLU” still fresh in my mind. The prizes given to those winners are very simple, very lovely but I envied at it. The prizes were those cloth of our deities which are conferred by Laipanaba. After that, the winners will go around the laibung where our elders (Famnaiba) also encouraged them by giving whatever they have, may be cash or kind or flowers etc. I liked and envied at it even though I could not take part.
Whatever the case, it may be, I thought, games and sports in every part of Manipur might have been originated from Lai-haraoba. In addition to this, the Art & Culture of Manipur has also been associating with our Lai-Haraoba, I supposed myself. It could be the driving force which makes Manipur famous in Games & Sports as well as in Art &Culture, all over the World. It’s not wrong to say that in Manipur the spirit of Art & Culture as well as Sports started from every families, right from childhood days by every one of us. It’s a well-known fact that every elder of all our family started teaching dance to all our minors by saying “TADING –TADING “.
Who are those players who bring laurels for our motherland Manipur from National and International arenas? And where are they from? Are they the children of those rich, powerful big shots? Or are they the children of those who are taking utmost care for the career of their children by dragging out from sleep in early hour of a day for tuition by paying advance payment for tuition? AS of now, it’s not so. Most of the players who brings laurels and gives the name of the Manipur in the world are those who are deprived of proper education, basic amenities of contemporary world and children of those parents who can’t look after their children just for hand to mouth way of survival. They simply come to nearby playground, watch playing then induced the feeling of playing without any sports suits. At this point of time, I recall one Manipuri Film “NOBAB” which portrayed how our sports stars groomed.
It is encouraging to celebrate Sports person’s Day(Shannaroisingi Numit) every year on 25th February in commemoration of awarding Manipur “The Raja Bhalindra “ trophy for overall team champion in 5th ( Latter on 30th ) National Games in 1999 at Imphal. On the sideline of this celebration, when we look into the condition of our players, playgrounds, sports infrastructures vis-à-vis the welfare scheme taken up for the players ,it is in a highly deplorable state and hope for our players is greatly miserable. In the remote areas, away from greater Imphal, though there are few play grounds, there is no sign of development and improvement. In the greater Imphal areas, play grounds are replaced by Community halls where certain indoor games can be played but not possible for any outdoor games. In the grass-root levels at villages and in the hill area there is no sign of translating anything into action which are inevitably to do for the development of Sports. NATIONAL SPORTS UNIVERSITY, the foundation stone for which was laid by Prime Minister is still in its infant state. The budget allocation for Sports & Culture instead of escalation seems to be cutting down. Because of this a great apprehension among the people develop whether our sports & culture will be outshine like yester-years. Felicitating eminent sports persons on this day by giving incentives or awards is a good step. However simply honoring those on this day will improve the condition of our sports is the question that many asked. Will it be worth to identify those local clubs and persons who are dedicated for the development of sports in our state and confer or honor them? This act will help to re- orient our sports activities in progressive direction. On the other hands, most of our schools do not have sports grounds which is one the most important criteria to be fulfilled while recognition is given by the Board/Govt. Due to lack of this important infrastructures, people started posting voice that most of our schools are something like a private tuition or coaching centers which in turn snatch away the inherent properties or qualities of our children who are our future pillars into a spoiled bread. Simply shouting and honoring few eminent sports persons by the Government on this 25th day of February every year will not help to translate our dream of Manipur to be the power house of sports into reality.