The North American Manipur Association (NAMA) celebrated its Silver Jubilee on 2nd and 3rd of July, 2016 at Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S.A. Approximately 100 members attended this convention. Members flew and drove in from different places in North America to meet, socialize and celebrate Manipuri traditions together under one roof. The convention is the perfect embodiment of the love and unity amongst people who share the same Manipuri values. It also provides an opportunity for the younger generation who are born and brought up in the USA to learn about Manipuri culture.
The untiring energy of the Charlotte Manipuri team truly made this convention successful. This event is the outcome of several months of planning and coordination between the executive team and the planning committee. Members were provided with delicious ethnic food and beverages, including Ooti, Eromba, Hawaichar, Nga-thongba, Paneer, Hawai and more. The women and children dressed up in Manipuri attires. Candies, color books and crayons were provided for the children. The customized NAMA T-shirts were distributed to the members. Agendas, pens, NAMA Mentoring Program testimonials and 2016 NAMA Excellence Award recipients’ information were included in the program and distributed to the families.
The masters of ceremony for the convention were Balesh Koijam and Rebecca Mairembam. The food and beverage manager was Chanambam Damarjeet. The key coordinator of the event was Sagar Adhikarimayum. The photographer was Johnson Elangbam. The web conference manager was Dhrub Aheibam. The convention planning committee comprised of: Sagar Adhikarimayum, Amom Ruhikant Meetei, Omnath Khundongbam, Nishi Asem, Martin Haobam, Balesh Koijam, Chanambam Damarjeet, Rosanta Nahakpam, Chirag Patel, Lukhoi Shougaijam, Hori Singha, Lily Sharma, Dhrub Aheibam, Tampha Patel, Monica Laishram, Johnson Elangbam and Shilpa Phairembam Weiss.
First Day, July 2nd 2016
The first day of the convention was held at the Weddington Swim & Racquet Club in Weddington, North Carolina. The registration and reception started around 2:00 PM in the afternoon. The program started with a welcome address by Lukhoi Shougaijam, NAMA President. A slide show that represented the emotions of the Manipuris living far away from their native place was played. These slides were meticulously put together by Balesh Koijam with an effort to let the viewers understand that no matter where in the world we live, we do have a part in our heart that always long for our far-away state. Members who attended the convention came up on the stage and introduced themselves and their family. Lalit Pukhrambam, an Advisory Member of NAMA, spoke about the evolution of NAMA. “There was a time when the members communicated through postal mails,” recalled Lalit. He further relayed on how NAMA has progressed from a humble beginning of about only 12 members in the U.S. and Canada to a 200+ members that we have today. He is proud to be a member of NAMA, the oldest international organization of Manipuris located outside of India.
Dilly Sharma enunciated on how happy she felt to attend the convention and the pride she felt to learn that NAMA has completed 25 years. “Attending NAMA convention is like attending a family reunion where we enjoy sharing our common heritage and culture. We see a mini-Manipur when we come for these conventions. For many of us who are far away from Manipur which we still call “home”, the wonderful feelings we experience when we attend these conventions are indescribable,” said Dilly Sharma. She further highlighted the importance of the members to attend the conventions if they would like to preserve Manipuri culture and heritage here in the U.S.
Kebola Wahengbam spoke about how nothing could stop her from attending most NAMA conventions. She expressed how she invested time and effort into molding their daughters into a perfect meeteilon speaking women. “If my daughters do not respond to me in meeteilon when I call them, I end the conversation,” said Kebola. Ensuring that their daughters follow and understand Manipuri culture and traditions is her first priority. She witnessed first-hand the sleepless nights spent by the convention planning team to plan and discuss convention activities and thanked them for all their dedication and hard work.
Swornalata Pukhrambam spoke about how NAMA kept herself and others connected via telephone in its early stages. Swornalata stated, “NAMA conventions have allowed Manipuris to preserve the beautiful Manipuri culture. In addition, the conventions also provide an opportunity for people to meet and socialize.” Swornalata strongly recommended that NAMA should continue working on increasing the members.
Sarita Moirangthem highlighted her strong association with NAMA for the last 23 years. She also recollected an interesting experience that she encountered in the immigration counter with an Indian on her way to Toronto in 1997. She was on her way to attend NAMA’s convention and she still remembers how hard it was to let the Indian immigration officer understand her originality – an indication of the limited Manipuri population in North America at those times. Sarita was the Treasurer of NAMA in the year 2007-2009, a member who has always been there for NAMA.
Nancy Yambem, a special member of NAMA, presented on how NAMA has progressed in the last 25 years. She recalled those times when NAMA was young and small. Nancy has been part of NAMA since its birth. She appreciated the current members for working hard to expand this organization. Nancy was presented a gift from NAMA as a token of gratitude.
The entertainment program started with Navya Asem’s wonderful gymnastic performance. Amy Shougaijam played Dance of Fire on the violin. Savya Acharya sang and performed Fight Song on the piano. The members and the songs presented on the first day were: Hey Ima Manipur by Amom Ruhikant, Eigi Laibakki Chandan by Aashvi Acharya, Sumang Khuding Mera Wa by Lukhoi Shougaijam, Nangbu Nungshi by Monica Laishram, Hada Samudon Ayangba by Airi Haobam and Nungshinaringei Asuk Waaba by Balesh Koijam. Simi Moirangthem sang Thinking Out Loud in dedication to the NAMA parents. Simi was accompanied by Ridhi Chingakham on the piano. Aisha Sobti played guitar and sang Wild Things and Stitches. There was a music performance by the NAMA band that comprised of Martin Haobam (Lead vocal), Thoihen Heisnam (Vocal and Guitar), Raj Chingakham (Vocal), Ashish Yengkhom (Vocal), Mohit Sobti (Vocal), Monica Laishram (Vocal), Rebecca Mairembam (Vocal) and Balesh Koijam (Vocal), Nishi Asem (Lead Guitar), Rosanta Nahakpam (Guitar) and Sagar Adhikarimayum (Drums). Along with the band, Martin Haobam presented the songs Yellow, Hard to Handle, With or Without You, Summer of 69, and Sweet Child of Mine, Rebecca Mairembam presented Shatkaire Thamoi gi Leirang, Rosanta Nahakpam sang Let Her Go, and Raj Chingakham and Martin Haobam together sang Hotel California. Ashish Yengkhom and Raj Chingakham together presented the song Time.
The musical performance was followed by a group photo session which was then followed by dinner. After dinner, members assembled to play Housie (Tambola). The housie was coordinated by Balesh Koijam, Ingoba Ningthoujam and Sagar Adhikarimayum. The housefull winners were Bish Moirangthem and Anjarani Ahongsangbam. The Quick Five and the second line winner was Priya Chingakham. The third line winner was Lily Sharma. The winner of STAR of Housie was Ambrabati Adhikarimayum. The housie was the last activity for the day.
Second Day, July 3rd 2016
The second day of the convention opened with a bright sunny morning in Charlotte. The event was held at the William R. Davie Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. Breakfast was served at 9:00 AM and the attendants socialized. Best wishes sent from India were presented as a slide show. People who’ve sent their best wishes for the NAMA convention are: Halley Laithangbam (Popular Manipuri Model), Devdutta Sharma (President, Dynamic Manipur), Rajkumar Somio (General Secretary, Dynamic Manipur) Elizabeth Okram (Treasurer, Dynamic Manipur), Dr. Premi Nunglekpam (Member, Dynamic Manipur), Chinglemba Ngathem (Member, Dynamic Manipur) and Yengkhom Anilkumar (Member, Dynamic Manipur).
Ridhi Chingakham’s flute performance of the American and Indian national anthem marked the beginning of the event. Lukhoi Shougaijam, the President of NAMA, welcomed everyone and appreciated the Charlotte team for hosting the event. An opening song Sanaleibak Manipur was presented by the team: Amom Ruhikant, Thoihen Heisnam, Balesh Koijam, Monica Laishram, Khumanleima Laishram, Memicha Khundongbam, Binata Waikhom, Rebecca Mairembam, Rangila Yengkhom, Kebola Wahengbam, Tampha Patel, Ambrabati Adhikarimayum and Linthoi Angom. The song was accompanied by Sagar Adhikarimayum on drums.
A tribute to Jupiter Yambem, one of the founding fathers of NAMA was given by the Chairman of the Advisory Committee, Dr. A. Surjalal Sharma. The chief guest and guest of honor for the day were Perry and Carrie Culpepper, founders of Broken Hearts Ministries, a registered global organization that provides support to orphans and widows. They were welcomed and introduced by Rebecca Mairembam. The chief guest, Perry Culpepper gave a speech. Perry thanked NAMA for inviting him to be the chief guest of the event. As a token of gratitude, NAMA presented a gift to the chief guest.
Dr. A. Surjalal Sharma spoke and expressed the pride he feels of NAMA’s achievements. “I would strongly encourage our members to continue working together to achieve a common goal, putting aside individual views and preferences,” said Dr. Sharma. Nancy Yambem also spoke about how NAMA started, how Jupiter Yambem and she was involved from the beginning, and how the organization has advanced. Dhrita Sinha spoke of Jupiter Yambem, retold some of the history of NAMA and the founding members, and his hopes moving forward. All the speakers expressed their love and commitment to NAMA.
The Executive Team presentation was given by Lukhoi Shougaijam, President of NAMA, Shilpa Phairembam Weiss, General Secretary of NAMA, and Lily Sharma, Treasurer of NAMA. Lukhoi highlighted the plans for the future of NAMA. The President also stressed the importance of streamlining the fundraising process of NAMA. He further discussed outreach programs that would bring publicity to the association. Shilpa summarized what NAMA has accomplished in the period of July 2015 – July 2016. NAMA has raised funds to support the flood victims in Manipur, a Manipuri contestant in the Mr. International contest, emergency support funds of a Manipuri family in the USA, and many more. “NAMA will be starting Meetei-Mayek online education program in the near future. We will also continue supporting and working with the organizations namely Dynamic Manipur and National Institute of Technology, Manipur to uplift the educational status of the students in Manipur,” stated Shilpa. Lily, NAMA Treasurer then provided the details on funds raised during the period July 2015 – July 2016 to support people in Manipur as well as here in the USA. Lily thanked all NAMA members for their strong support and faith in NAMA.
The Executive Team presentation was followed by Jay Moirangthem’s presentation on “First Generation Manipuri”. Jay articulated on how Manipuri kids of his generation have identity crisis as they try to blend with the diverse culture of USA. Jay appreciated NAMA for helping the younger generation shape into a proud Manipuri, and for teaching them Manipuri culture and traditions.
Lunch was served after Jay’s presentation. During lunch members enjoyed the beautiful Manipuri slide show created by Johnson Elangbam and Monica Laishram. The slides displayed various cultural pictures that defines Manipur and its culture. Some pictures were Sangai, Meetei Yumjao, Loktak Lake, Lai Haraoba and many more.
After the lunch, members reconvened to congratulate the 2016 NAMA Academic Excellence Award recipients. NAMA Excellence Award program was initiated under NAMA’s ex-President Amom Ruhikant’s leadership in 2015. The main coordinator of the award program is Shilpa Phairembam Weiss. Through nominations and applications, NAMA selected the award recipients for 2016. The recipients for the 2016 NAMA Academic Excellence Award are:
Seine Yumnam, an Undergrad at Wabash College, Indiana, U.S.A. Seine is majoring in Economics and minoring in Mathematics. He has made the Dean’s List for all the semesters for the past three years for achieving a GPA above the benchmark. Besides aiming for consistency in his performance in college, he tries to gain hands-on working experiences. He has worked for various companies ranging from consulting for BMW right after the freshman year to working as a trader at WallStreet bank this summer (2016). Going forward, he wants to pursue a career in the Financial Services Industry.
Arina Tayenjam is a 9-year-old girl studying 4th grade in Ackerman Elementary School Omaha, Nebraska She is the daughter of Jiten and Bijiya Tayenjam. In the month of September 2015, Arina was selected as an All-Star Student for the class. She participated in running club, coding club, choir, and other extra curriculum activities. Her hobby is reading and she has read 70+ story books. Some of the remarkable achievements of Arina are qualifying for the Millard Public Schools 3rd through 8th grade High Ability Program (HAL) for gifted children and scoring >97th percentile in math, social studies, writing, and science and health.
Levin C. Patel has completed 3rd grade and will be starting 4th grade soon in Gaston Christian School in Gastonia, NC. He has made numerous academic achievements. A mathematics enthusiast, he was recently awarded the Mathematics Award for his outstanding score in math. He has been placed on the A/B Honor Roll for achieving a high standard of academic excellence. He also received a Bible Achievement Award in recognition of his outstanding achievement in Bible. Levin is the only son of Chirag and Tampha Patel.
The Board of Trustees election was held and members voted for new Advisory Committee members and Election Committee members. The newly elected members to be part of Advisory Committee are: Sarita Moirangthem, Shanti Thokchom, Sushil Laishram, and Ashish Yengkhom. The elected members to be part of Election Committee members are: Dhrita Sinha (Chair), Thoihen Heisnam and Raj Chingakham. The 2016 NAMA Photography Contest’s results announcement followed the election. The online voting completed the night prior to the second day of the convention. Data revealed Balesh Koijam as the winner of the photography contest. The second and third prizes were awarded to Preetam Yengkokpam and Amom Ruhikant respectively. Hori Singha, NAMA’s Vice President, then gave the vote of thanks and appreciated everyone who was involved in organizing the event. After the election, members gathered to take group pictures.
There were multiple cultural programs. Manas Yengkhom took out his very cute turtle named “Squirt” and showed and described about it to the audience. Children were thrilled to see the turtle. Levin Patel performed ‘Yankie Doodle Went to Town’ and ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ on the piano. Lilliane Pukhrambam played Sinfonia composed by Jeffrey S. Bishop on violin. The Khamba Thoibi Dance was performed by Lisa Adhikarimayum and Lamyanba Ningthoujam. Leima Jagoi was performed by Airi Haobam and Adina Yengkhom. The beautiful songs and the talented singers who performed on this day were: Chingya Tamya by Carrie Culpepper, Poinu Loubuk Uraga and Mamal Yaodra by Amom Ruhikant and Love in the Dark and Make You Feel My Love by Prety Amom. Langlen Heisnam sang My Favorite Things and was accompanied on guitar by her father, Thoihen Heisnam. The talented team – Balesh Koijam, Rebecca Mairembam and Martin Haobam along with the NAMA band performed the song Ningjaba Mana. Furthermore, a duet song Choirabi was presented by Martin Haobam and Monica Laishram. The song Mensinba Ngamdraba was also sung by Balesh Koijam. Several songs and music was performed by the team that involved Raj Chingakham (Guitar), Nishi Asem (Guitar), Brian Weiss (Guitar), Rosanta Nahakpam (Guitar), Sagar Sharma (Drums), Martin Haobam (Vocal), Thoihen Heisnam (Vocal), Tiken Salam (Vocal), Mohit Sobti (Vocal).
The musical performance was followed by Mou Jagoi by Kebola Wahengbam, Swornalata Pukhrambam, Khumanleima Laishram, Ambrabati Adhikarimayum, Linthoi Angom, Lily Sharma, Rangila Yengkhom, Prativa Amom, Binata Waikhom, Priya Chingakham, Tampha Patel, Anju Aheibam, Prativa Amom, Neeti Shougaijam, Anju Rai, Nandini Sobti, Sarita Moirangthem, Memicha Khundongmayum, Anjarani Ahongsabam, Rosa Mutum.
As the evening set in, members prepared for the much awaited Thabal Chongba. Sagar Adhikarimayum was the drummer and the women initiated and danced to the tune of the drum. Following the traditional norm, men then joined in and everybody danced happily to the driving beat. The convention ended happily and successfully.
An after-party was hosted by Chirag and Tampha Patel in their house at Gastonia, North Carolina. Most of the members gathered in their house, sang songs, played music, danced and had dinner together.
The NAMA Executive Team would like to give their special thanks to Amom Ruhikant, Kebola Wahengbam, Tampha Patel, Chirag Patel, Omnath Khundongbam, Memicha Khundongbam, Chanambam Damarjeet, Balesh Koijam, Sagar Adhikarimayum, Ambrabati Adhikarimayum, Dhrub Aheibam, Rebecca Mairembam, Ingoba Ningthoujam, Rosanta Nahakpam, Binata Waikhom, Martin Haobam, and Khumanleima Laishram for all the hard work they’ve put into making this convention successful.
Testimonials from members:
“We are very proud to be a part of the 2016 Silver Jubilee Celebration of NAMA! A big thank you to the Charlotte Team, the NAMA Executives and all the NAMA members! The convention was a big hit. Thank you for putting all the efforts, hard work, time and love to make it a very well cared-for function. We had a very good time meeting all the fun-loving people (familiar faces, new faces) and having all those delicious foods. Long live NAMA!” ~ Anjarani Ahongsangbam and Deep Acharya
“We are so happy to be part of NAMA family for the last 23 years. Also, we are happy to participate in this year’s Silver Jubilee celebration in the beautiful city of Charlotte. The Queen City hospitality is awesome; I have no words to express. Next year in 2017 Houston will welcome you all to celebrate the 26th NAMA convention (we love to host in Texan/Manipuri style).” ~ Sarita and Bish Moirangthem
“I have always wanted to attend the convention but never got a chance. When it was celebrated in San Francisco, I was on my vacation to India. This time, I am so happy that I am able to make it. This event is so much fun and I truly enjoyed it.” ~ Feroz Khan
“We’re so pleased to be part of NAMA association. We just wanted to take a few moments to express our gratitude. It was such a nice pleasure to meet you all. We had a marvelous time at the 25th NAMA Convention. Our sincere Thank You to everyone.” ~ Nandini and Mohit Sobti
The convention is a perfect example of unity and love among the Manipuri community. Everybody, irrespective of caste, creed, religion, race all came together to celebrate Manipuri traditions. We do have a mini-Manipur in the U.S. To pass down the Manipuri traditions to the younger generation is one of the association’s goals and bringing the children together works towards this end. The NAMA Executive team would like to thank all the members for attending the convention and making it a successful event. The next annual convention will take place in Houston, Texas. We look forward to seeing you all again next year at Houston, Texas. If you know of any Manipuris living in the USA 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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/