The 2nd MK Binodini Memorial lecture was given on the occasion of MK Binodini Devi’s 92nd birth anniversary celebration at Chandrakirti Auditorium on 6th February, 2014. A book titled, Isei Binodinigi, edited by Aribam Syam Sharma and Chongtham Kamala, was also released by Chief Minister of Manipur, Okram Ibobi Singh, who was present at the occasion. The memorial lecture titled, Dismantling the Master’s House: New Genres in Women’s Writing was delivered by Urvashi Butalia.
On the sidelines of the memorial lecture, Manipur Times had an interaction with Urvashi Butalia, a Padma Shri awardee for her contribution to literature and women’s writing. The event was organised by IMASI: The Maharaj Kumari Binodini Devi Foundation whose objective is preserving, protecting, promoting and developing the artistic, intellectual and cultural legacy of the late Maharaj Kumari Binodini Devi.
Urvashi Butalia was honored with the Chevalier des Artes et des Lettres by the Government of France. She is not only the publisher of Irom Chanu Sharmila’s collection of poems, Fragnance of Peace, but also the co-founder of Kali for Women, India’s first feminist publishing house. She is also the incumbent Director of Zubaan, an imprint of Kali.
Urvashi Butalia said, “It will be good if Manipur government provides monetary support to writers for translation works. There are very few people who can translate from Manipuri to other Indian languages or even to English. So Manipuri masterpieces are not known to the outside world. Like, we have only two authors, one is Irom Chanu Sharmila and one is MK Binodini – that is because Somi Roy approached us, gave us her work; got it translated. Manipuri writers need to be known outside Manipur as well and it would be very good if the work could be translated to other Indian languages and English. Appreciation is a must for a writer.”
Urvashi said, “Women’s writings are so special, so good and so many encouraging new things. It should be done and women should be encouraged. Manipur has such a strong women’s culture, you have women’s markets and retail is in the hands of women. They are so strong here – you see what the imas did in the Thangjam Manorama case. It is important for women writers to reflect Manipuri culture. I think Manipuri women have shown how strong they are when they came out and demonstrated naked in front of Kangla Fort. It was an inspiring example for women across the world and especially in India. You know just became very important for many us to see the courage and power of these women. I think there are lots of lessons to be learnt for rest of India from the Meira Paibis of Manipur”.
She added, “It could be done online or offline. I came here twice ten years ago. I came to visit the Naga-Kuki areas. I have to do a long paper on the Naga-Kuki conflict.
“I admire the effort to set up IMASI-Foundation to archive Binodini’s works. It is very important to archive women’s work; and to make her works known to the world to grab public attention because here you have a woman who had such an interesting life experience, who had written so many things in so many different forms. And they are actually limited to one language which is not known beyond Manipur”.
Roop Raag, co-founded by M.K. Binodini Devi, presented songs written by her at the function. A play, based on the translation by M.K. Binodini Devi of Rabindranath Tagore’s Karna Kunti Sangbad, was also staged. Yengkhom Roma and Narendra Ningomba acted in the play with background music and lots of oratory skills. The concept and design of the stage act was by Ratan Thiyam. The play mesmerized the audience with excellent ambience of light, costume, set, background music and dialogue. The Chandrakirti Hall, which was packed with well wishers dignitaries and invitees, maintained a pin drop silence with all the audience got deeply engrossed to the excellent presentation of the play.
An appreciation speech just before the release of thebook on M.K. Binodini Devi was also presented by L Joychandra, a writer and scholar of Manipuri and English Literature.
M.K. Binodini Devi was the first female graduate of Manipur. Her education was the result of being the daughter of Manipur’s first western educated king, Maharaj Churachand Singh, and his queen, Maharani Dhanamanjuri, who assigned her English companion Mrs. E.M. Jolly, as her daughter’s first English Teacher. M.K. Binodini Devi got her formal English education at Pine Mount School and St Mary’s College, Shillong, became fluent in Bengali at Vidyasagar College, West Bengal, and was the first Manipuri woman to study art at Tagore’s Viswa Bharati University in Santiniketan. Most of her literary works are based on the common people of Manipur. She is the key renaissance figure of modern contemporary Manipuri culture.