26th NAMA Convention Report, Houston TX, 2017

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Introduction
The 26th North American Manipur Association (NAMA) Convention made history. The turnout of the event was huge. People from different ethnic groups of Manipur attended to make this event first of the kind and one of the largest gathering in NAMA history. Approximately 120 members attended this convention. Members from different places in North America gathered to meet, socialize and celebrate Manipuri traditions under one roof on 2nd-3rd July at Houston, Texas. The convention was a diverse and a colorful event, attended by people from different ethnic groups of Manipur. This event highlighted NAMA’s continued efforts to bring different Manipuri diaspora of different ethnicities together. It also provides an opportunity for the younger generation of Manipuri American to learn and value our rich and diverse Manipuri culture. By engaging the members in the cultural performances and discussion, the idea of community spirit and our Indian root is strengthened.

Strong and tenacious team efforts of Texas Manipuri truly made this convention successful. This event was the outcome of several months of planning and coordination between the executive team and the planning committee. Moirangthem family (Bish & Sarita) got the ball rolling by reaching out to every Manipuri family in Texas to form an organizing committee as soon as they returned from Charlotte NAMA 2016 convention.

Meet and Greet, July 2 2017
The first day of the convention was held at Holiday Inn Houston SW, Houston Texas, USA. Meet and Greet event started with a warm and friendly welcome from Texas Team who dressed up as cowboy and cowgirls while sporting NAMA T- Shirts. NAMA T-Shirts were distributed to the members.
The event took off with a welcome speech by Roshan Ngangom, on behalf of the host team, and then followed by the member introduction round. Each member along with their family was requested to get up on the stage and give their brief introduction and share their feelings about attending 26th NAMA convention. All the single attendees sportively came up on the stage in one group and introduced themselves.
Pratiksha and Bina Raghuwanshi’s showcased homemade Herbal Skin/Hair care product based Laimu. 50% of the Profit was donated to NAMA.
Delicious Indian food were served with a special mention of Rohu Ataoba Thongba, Soibum-Yendem Eromba, Gobi Manchurian, Chicken 65, Dal Makhani, Rasgulla and Gulab Jamun for desserts.
The evening ended with the attendees enjoying a game of Grand Tambola, commonly known as Housie in Manipur. People rushed to buy the tickets to enjoy the game and have a chance to win the prize. After a nail-biting spell, we had Rabina Mangsatabam, Shanti Thokchom, Leonard Arambam, Latamani RK, Dr. Dilly Laishram as the winners of quick five, 1st Line, 2nd Line, 3rd Line and Star respectively and the grand full house winner went to Neeti Shougaijam. All of the winners voluntarily donated all or part of the prize money to NAMA, supporting the causes NAMA stands for.
Main Event, July 3 2017
The main event held at Holiday Inn Houston SW, Houston Texas, USA kicked off with Registration and Breakfast. The event hosts, Rex RK and Cyra Ngangom introduced and welcomed the guests of honor and the chief guest for the day. The chief guest was Ravindra Dinakar Joshi, Senior Diplomatic Officer – Indian Embassy, Houston and guests of honor were Mrs Vandana Joshi, Falguni Gandhi – ICC President, Parul Fernandes – ICC Member, Pastor Hegin Haokip, Ngangom Rastrapati Singh – Ret’d Chief Engineer PWD Govt of Manipur, RK Latamani Devi – Ret’d Lecturer, RK Sanatombi- Ret’d High School Teacher, Pastor Zaklei Kaping, RK Falguni – Chairman IIM Shillong – Ret’d IAS, Jamuna Advani – Poet and Author, Bina Raghuwanshi, Yanglem Ganga and Yanglem Nilamani Singh – Joint Registrar Co-Operative Dept.
President of NAMA, Lukhoi Shougaijam started the proceedings with a welcome speech sharing his gratitude to everyone for their participation in the humble gathering of Manipuri Diaspora in North America. Mr Sougaijam was excited with NAMA celebrating this cultural event in Southern state of Texas for the first time. It was an honor to have respected dignitaries from Indian Consulate, ICC and elders from Manipur to grace the event. The welcome speech is followed by, the melodious tune of a patriotic Manipuri song, “Sanaleipak Manipur”, performed by Sarita Moirangthem, Neeti Shougaijam, Urnija RK, Sunita Yanglem, Sarju Laishram, Pratiksha Raghuwanshi, Lukhoi Shougaijam, Nongthang Langpoklakpam, Leonard Arambam, Ajitkumar Thokchom, Rakesh Moirangthem, Shyam Loukham, and Lamyanba Sapam.
Our respected Chief Guest, Ravindra Dinakar Joshi thanked Mr Lukhoi, Ms Sarju and entire NAMA team for inviting him to be the chief guest of the event and expressed his pleasure in joining NAMA convention 2017. He appreciated NAMA for hosting such an event to help promote our tradition and culture to the next generation. He talked about how different ethnicities of Manipur make it a diverse and beautiful state. He mentioned that Pandit Nehru rightly described Manipur as ‘Jewel of India’ with picturesque backdrops such as Loktak Lake. Mr Joshi Congratulated NAMA on the success of the event and expressed his desire to visit the Northeast India in near future.
Dr. A. Surjalal Sharma, Chairman of Advisory board and one of the founding members of NAMA, expressed his pride about how NAMA has strived to preserve our heritage in North America. He mentioned about how NAMA has evolved from few members to a strong organization representing people from different communities of Manipur across North America.
The Chairman of Election committee and one of the founding member of NAMA, Dhrita Sinha emphasized that NAMA is a community of Manipuri people no matter where they are born. He recollected some of the history of NAMA and the founding members, and his hopes moving forward. He reminisced about NAMA convention being organized in different cities like Toronto, Detroit, New Jersey, Chicago, D.C., New York. He also thanked all the first time members for their support. All the speakers expressed their love and commitment to NAMA.
For Pastor Helgin Haokip(his first NAMA convention) the Convention felt like a Family reunion in a foreign land. He will always cherish our NAMA founders and patriots from 1992 till today to fulfil NAMA’s vision to bring together Manipuri diasporas. He narrated story of his Meitei Tutor whom he felt forever indebted. He compared Manipur as Singju, as Manipur is a diverse and multicultural state that has its own unique beauty. Furthermore, he pledged his support to NAMA, the one and only place where we can share our unity in diversity like ‘Moirang Lamkhai Singju’. Lastly, he expressed his wish to meet everyone in the next convention in Tulsa.
Mr. Falguni RK enlightened the attendees about how Chingmee and Tammee have common origins and why they should always stay united. He narrated a story that proves Chingmee and Tammee are brothers. He said, “We all were in hill while our valleys were covered by water bodies. As sea level decreases, some of us went down to valley to find good fortune and other remained in the hill. Those who came to valley were later called Tammee”. He further mentioned that was the reason why “Mera Wayungba” is the symbol of strong bond between valley and hill dwellers.
President of India Culture Center, Falguni Gandhi expressed her profound happiness to be part of NAMA convention. She appreciated Pratiksha Raghuwanshi for being persistent to connect ICC with NAMA. India Culture Center represents all Indians in America and aims to promote Indian heritage, arts and culture. It was founded in 1973. ICC is connected to 17 organisations and now NAMA is one of them. ICC invited everyone to join Indian Independence Day celebration at Stafford Center.
One of the eldest attendees was Jamuna Devi Advan wowed everyone with stories about her journey; her childhood, completing BSc from Delhi University in 1958, moving to States in 1996 and fascination about reading, writing and sport. She narrated how post retirement, she started writing articles, stories, poems and memos which are published in India and sold at ecommerce site like Flipkart. She talked about one of her upcoming books to be published in both Meetei Mayek and Bengali Script. She narrated the summary of two stories and recited her two poems. One of the poems “Epoklamdamda eikhoi ahansing”, which is dedicated to the old parents and grandparents whose children and grandchildren live abroad touched everybody’s heart. She also expressed her love for the city for Houston.
Pastor Zaklei Kaping and his wife Gia thanked NAMA for inviting them. Pastor Kaping stated that it is a magnanimous gesture on the part of NAMA for opening its door to all the ethnic groups of Manipur. It was a wonderful experience meeting visionary and influential leaders of our state and the consul of India in Houston, listening to their encouraging and uplifting speeches and exhortations. He remembered his school teachers from Kakching, Moirang and how he feels so blessed to be always connected with people from valley. He mentioned about Shirui Lily Festival which CM Shri N. Biren Singh initiated to bring plain and hill people together. He thanked NAMA founding members who work so hard to bring us together and all the leaders who has been serving for the greater good of humanity.
As a token of gratitude, NAMA presented gifts to the Chief Guest, Guest of Honor and other important guests. Due to time constraint, the chief guest, Mr. R.D. Joshi, Guest of Honor Vandana Joshi, Falguni Gandhi, Parul Fernandes were not able to attend the program till the end. But they exchanged information so that NAMA and organization they are part of remain connected to complement each other. Mr. Lukhoi, president of NAMA, on behalf of all the attendees thanked representatives of Indian Consulate and ICC for their valuable time.
NAMA Executive team updates:
The Executive Team presentation was presented by Lukhoi Shougaijam – President of NAMA, Sarju Laishram – Assist. General Secretary of NAMA, Lily Sharma – Treasurer of NAMA and Nishi Asem – IT Secretary of NAMA.
The president expressed his belief that increasing the participation of Manipuri Diaspora in North America in the convention and engaging them in other activities will make NAMA a much more complete organization. He appealed to the Manipuri Diaspora in North America to be willing participants in NAMA affairs. He thanked the Texas team for reaching out to different ethnic groups of Manipur in and around Texas and made this event colorful, beautiful and diverse. He emphasized that Manipuri includes all people of Manipur and that we are connected together as one. We have student mentoring program, collaborate with organizations and institutions of Manipur and play our part in giving back to our society. Recently, Chief Secretary of Manipur visited the States and had fruitful discussion of how we can progress as a society and we look forward to continue our dialogue.
Assistant General Secretary, Sarju Laishram took this opportunity to further add some of the recent achievements. Through Educational mentoring program, NAMA assisted people who aspire to study in US. Ms. Laishram mentioned the NIT collaboration program through which two of our NAMA members Gautam Thockchom and Shyamananda Sapam visited the campus and interacted with the students. Through the Meitei Mayek Enrichment program volunteers teach ‘Meitei Mayek’ script. Four students have enrolled the program and we hope to have more students enrolled in the coming years. NAMA Members would like to extend their expertise and help shape Manipur to develop as a society.
NAMA Treasurer, Lily Sharma provided the detailed financial report for the year 2016-17. Since 2008, NAMA financial status has grown eightfold. She thanked all the members for their strong support and faith, without whom NAMA would have never stand strong. She mentioned about the source of fund and the status. Some of the proposed financial allocations include creation of the NAMA Emergency fund and Core fund. Lastly, she appealed everyone to continue supporting NAMA.
IT Secretary, Nishikanta Asem highlighted some of the IT development work done in the past year –
● NAMA website maintanance, Educational and employment resources, Nongin newsletter, NAMA members portal and vision. The educational and employment information available in the NAMA website has been a great resources for people who seek to study in US.
● NAMA member portal serves as a great reference point for NAMA members, connecting people with similar background and job profile, and people living in same state.
He thanked the current executive members Shilpa Phairembam, Monica Laishram, Johnson Elangbam for all their support and he hoped to see the new executive team transforming such initiatives to the next level.
Vice President of NAMA, Mr. Hori Singha gave the vote of thanks. He thanked everyone who took part in the NAMA convention 2017 and made it a grand success. He on behalf of NAMA appreciated people who come from all parts of US and overseas to take part in NAMA convention 2017. Mr. Roshan Ngangom complimented the attendees who came in ethnic wears which made the convention vibrant.
NAMA Excellence Award is a good initiative to recognize and motivate members in the field of Academic, Arts and Sports. The recipients for the 2017 NAMA Excellence Award are:
NAMA Executive team has a term of 2 years. Every two years new Executive members are selected. 2017 is an Election year. Election committee Chairman – Dhrita Singha, Advisory board Chairman – A. Surjalal Sharma formed a committee and nominated new Executive members. Listed below are the candidates that were elected:
● President- Bish Moirangthem (Texas)
● Vice President – Renu Laishram (New York)
● General Secretary – Roshan Ngangom (Texas)
● Assistant General Secretary – Sarju Laishram (Texas)
● Treasurer – Lily Sharma (Maryland)
● IT Secretary – Kelvin Ashem (California)
● IT Assistant Secretary – Lamyanbam Sapam (California)
● Cultural Secretary – Hegin Haokip (Oklahoma)
● Executive Member – Zaklei Kaping (Texas)
NAMA President, Lukhoi Shougaijam and his executive team congratulated newly elected Executive team and wished them a successful tenure.
NAMA Excellence Award in Sports: Laksh Nongpok Ngangom is a 7 year old attending 1st Grade in Lovett Elementary School, Houston, Texas. He joined Kim’s School of Taekwondo when he was 4 years old. He has progressed to “Green Stripe” belt and plans to pursue his Black Belt. In his first Tournament (37th UMA Taekwondo Championships), he got a Gold Medal in Poomsae(Forms). He has also won Gold and Silver medals at different Belt levels in different Tournaments since then.
NAMA Excellence Award in Arts: Dillon Laishram is a 16 year old who is very passionate about filmmaking. His short video on Traffic Fatality for Vision Zero (New York State) won 2nd place. He wants to pursue entrepreneurship and start a business in filmmaking in the future. He is keeping his body fit by participating in Taekwondo. He is preparing for the SAT exam which will help open doors for his future in college and career. One of his short films ‘Taekwondo Spirit’ was also screened just after lunch break. The film was about how Kids are getting addicted to technology and how being engaged in some sports makes one active and disciplined.
NAMA received video messages from the Honorable Chief Minister of Manipur, Shri N. Biren Singh and Honorable MLA of Sagolband, Shri RK Imo Singh. They congratulated and wished NAMA on the 26th convention in Houston, TX and expressed their gratitude to the Manipuri diaspora in North America for their efforts in maintaining and showcasing our culture.
NAMA Photography Contest 2017: Thank you all participants for entering in the contest. The creative, beautiful and inspiring photograph prints were displayed at the venue for audience to vote. Sally Longjam is the winner of the contest, Shanti Thokchom got 2nd place and Johnson Elangbam got 3rd. Congratulations to all the winners.
Cultural Programs/Entertainment:
There was a plethora of performances by attendee young and old, keeping everyone entertained.
Laksh Nongpok Ngangom kicked off the cultural program with Khamba Jagoi, a folk dance that displays the mighty Moirang Khamba. Later on Laksh showcased his Taekwondo skills with Advance Form 4 by breaking boards with different style of kicks with the help of Kim’s School of Taekwondo, one-step sparring and self defense.
Cultural fashion show displaying beautiful and colorful traditional attire of different ethnicities in Manipur including Hmar, Meitei, Moyon, Tangkhul, Thadou-Kuki added glamour to the convention. The participants who captured the attention of the audience were Sameeta Angom, Lily Sharma, Peraly Meyer, Momo Haokip, Neeti Shougaijam, Anju Aheibam, Raj Thokchom, Jay Moirangthem, Maria Ahmed, Borbitin Ahmed, Trishna Sougrakpam, Yaiphabi Langpoklakpam, Rabina Mangsatabam, Irah Chandra, Pret Khobung, Marcus Johnson, Lily Haokip, Shanti Thokchom, Renu Laishram, Jenitta Nongmaithem, Carolyn and Hegin Haokip, Sameer, Pratiksha and Sameesha Raghuwanshi. The showstoppers for the cultural fashion show were Kiyamba Langpoklakpam in Thang-Ta and Laksh Nongpok Ngangom in Khamba costume.
A series of instrumental performances wowed the audience. Oshin Aslot performed a heart touching flute recital of ‘The Blue Daube Waltz, Oh! Susannah, and Auld syne Lang’. Kiyamba displayed his piano exploits and also sang ‘Hingminasi Eikhoi’. Amy Shougaijam performed ‘Along the River’ by Elena Lucas on the Violin. Marcus Johnson played Clarinet – ‘Melody from the Opera Orpheus’ by Gluck and ‘Andante Grazioso’ by Magnani.
Brother sister duo of Yaiphabi and Kiyamba Langpoklakpam sang ‘Te Te Tenawa’, which amazed everyone. This was followed by Amy and Lavani Laishram performed ‘Supermarket Flowers’, ‘Say you won’t let go’, and ‘Holding me back’. Arushi Sharma sang Taylor Swift’s ‘Love story’, Jay Shougaijam sang ‘50 states song’. Roshan Ngangom sang ‘Anouba Jukki Anouba Asha’, Ritan RK sang ‘I’m yours’. Rex sang ‘Loktak pat ki hi honba’ from Koi, Navya Asem sang ‘Bad things’, Hegin Haokip along with his wife Carolyn Haokip performed a song, ‘Laklo Marupsa’ followed by the group folk dance, ‘Lai Haraoba Jagoi’ by Sameeta Ngangom, Sarita Moirangthem, Pratiksha Raghuwanshi, Sunita Yanglem, Lily Sharma, Sally Longjam, Neeti Shougaijam, Renu Laishram, Peraly Meyer, Sarju Laishram and Urnija RK.
After the cultural program, it was the time for much awaited ‘Thabal Chongba’. Once the infectious beat of Thabal music starts, no one could resist. Everyone joined in and danced to the exhilarating rhythms of Thabal music ending the convention in joyful mood.
The direct contributors of the event are:
● Master of ceremony – Rex RK and Cyra Ngangom
● Key event Coordinator – Roshan Ngangom
● Food and beverage manager – Sameeta Ngangom, Sunita Yanglem, Pratiksha Raghuwanshi, Nongthang Langpoklakpam
● Photographer – Sushil Laishram and Jay Moirangthem
● Online streaming coordinators – Nishi Asem and Dhrub Aheibam
● Reception and Registration – Rabina Mangsatabam and Sally Longjam
● Media reporters – Jenitta Nongmaithem and Sarju Laishram
● Convention planning committee – Texas team: Bish Moirangthem, Sarita Moirangthem, Sameeta Ngangom, Sameer Raghuwanshi, Subhash Chandra. NAMA Executive Team: Lukhoi Shougaijam, Hori Singha, Lily Sharma, Nishi Asem, Monica Laishram, Sarju Laishram, Shilpa Weiss, Johnson Elangbam.

Testimonials from attendees:
NAMA Convention 2017 was like a beautiful flower garden to me. I’m proud to be part of it. Cherish the mission of NAMA. What a global village we all are in. ~ Thien T. Haokip
So happy to be part of NAMA convention for the first time and pleased to meet all of you. I felt home outside of home. It was so much fun and I truly enjoyed it. ~ Jenitta Nongmaithem
26th NAMA Convention was a great success. It really is evident how much work, meticulous planning goes into putting it together. Totally fun and memorable event. ~ Ajit Moirangthem
Conclusion:
We are connected and united under NAMA. The next annual convention will take place in Tulsa, Oklahoma. We look forward to seeing you all again next year. If you know of any Manipuris living in the North America who are not aware of NAMA, please share our information with them and encourage them to join the association. If you have any questions or comments, please email us at namagroups@gmail.com. To learn more about NAMA, please visit our website http://www.namaonline.org/ . Stay updated with the news and events of NAMA by liking our FaceBook page https://www.facebook.com/NamaSince1992/

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