“Life after retirement from the Govt. Service was little disappointing for me as I had to spend the days without doing anything. During service, I enjoyed my days working with the staffs. But after being at home in retirement, I was lonely. I decided to buy some tools and started making wood craft items on the veranda of my house. Tools and woods were my friend after retirement from service. Now, I can earn a lot from this manual work as many customers throng my house for supply of woodcraft items. I do this job as a hobby, not as a commercial venture. So the woodcraft items are made available to the costumers on a more affordable or cheaper price than those of other woodcraftsman which also attract more customers. Money earned this way means more than what I earned during my government service.”
Irengbam Thambalngou, woodcraftsman shares his life journey in an interaction with Manipur Times at his residence.
Thambalngou took up the work of woodcraft as a means of earning money but as a hobby to spend his life joyfully after retiring from Government service.
Irengbam Thambalngou,74 years is the third son among the four siblings of Late Irengbam Thambou Singh of Kwakeithel Moirangpurel Leikai, Imphal West. His father Irengbam Thambou was a carpenter by profession. Activities of his father’s making various furniture items in the workshed at home gave an inspiration to young Thambalngou’s mind to make many items made of wood. He joined the carpentry works of his father and got the entire knowledge of making woodcraft items from his late father. His father was an expert in making many items of wood that he even made a bye cycle made of bamboo
Painting, wood craft, cultivation of horticulture crops are the main hobbies of Irengbam Thambalngou. He learnt painting in Imphal Art College in 1954. Under the guidance of Art Guru Shyamo Sharma, he learnt writing of Numbers, Capital Letters, Human Anatomy, Designing of all things, Light and Shade for one and half years. He went to Kwakeithel M E school upto class IV and passed Matriculation from Kha Imphal High School. After passing Matriculation, he worked as field Assistant in Agriculture Department, Govt of Manipur. After ten years of service as field Assistant, he got no Promotion. He wanted to complete B.sc ( Agri ) and requested the then Agriculture Director for permission to undergo his further studies in Rajasthan. However, his director declined his request and told him to resign from service if he wanted to undergo further study. Luckily, after sometime, one Baumik who was the Agriculture Director permitted him to undergo B.sc (Agriculture) in College of agriculture in Udaipur, Rajasthan under deputation basis in july 1977. He pursued B.sc (Agriculture) with a colleague named Bimoval Anal from Chakpikarong for 6 years.
During childhood, he was so excellent in painting. He could draw any picture. He could draw the picture of Mahatma Gandhi in minutes for which he received appreciation from his teachers.
He joined his service as Field Assistant in Agriculture office located at Ukhrul in 3rd March 1978 and was promoted to Assistant Agriculture officer. He was then Promoted to Agriculture Officer and posted to Senapati District in 1981. During his service he was posted to different hill districts of Manipur. He was so happy to transfer him in hill districts while other employees were reluctant to go to hill. This is the uniqueness of his service.
In 31st May 1997, he retired from Govt service as Agricultue officer. After retirement, he started making different wood craft items. Some of the excellent woodcraft items he made include Khambana kao faba (catching of cow by khamba in Manipuri Mythological story Khamba Thoibi ), Long khonbi ( stream fishing woman ), , Fou soubi ( woman grinding Rice ), Sanabul pubi ( woman carrying pot ), Lubak pubi, Pakhangba ( statue of pakhangba, a deity of Meetei ), Firuk pubi, Hand pounding, Tiger fight, Manipuri polo, Sangai ( blow antlered deer, an endangered deer species found only in Manipur ), Deer,Hidakfu thakpi hanubi ( woman smoking tobacco), Ganja thakpa nupa ( man smoking Ganja), Mahadeva, Budha, Imoinu, Eagle,a man carrying the earth, Offering water to Traveller, Cungoi paiba, man beating Meetei drum, woman catching fish on boat and others. Many NGOs come to his house to buy these items and export to outside. His woodcraft items have been displayed in Many Handicraft exhibitions. Recently, he earned about Rs. 20000 during Manipur Sangai Festival 2013.
Commerce and Industries Department, Govt. of Manipur honoured him with the appreciation award in recognition of his excellent skill in making woodcraft items in 2008.
Trees like Heibong, Jackfruit, Tairen, Wang, Khehu are the main raw materials for making or designing his woodcraft items. Among these trees, Wang tree is the best one for making woodcraft items. For his woodcraft Industry, The trees are mainly procured from Saiton and others. The trees are cut into many pieces with a handsaw by this 74 years old man The rate of these wood craft items ranges from Rs. 1000 to Rs. 5000 according to their designs.
Woodcraftsman Irengbam Thambalngou plans to expand his business. He, however, worried that he may not be able to see his dream because of his growing old age day by day.