Goodbye Chi’am… See you In Heaven!

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(This article is dedicated to the good memory of Late Chihanngam A. Shimray)

by: Rehoboam Lester Makang

“It’s hard to say goodbye, my friend,

But this waiting can’t last forever;

Sooner or later the sun must set

Ending this time together.

I wish that I had one more chance

To spend another day with you,

And even though I know I can’t

I’ll see you in heaven …”

— Guardian

Cloud Photography by Moirangthem Ranjit
Cloud Photography by and photo credit : Moirangthem Ranjit

During our pre-university days, my cousin Chihanngam once played to me this song by Guardian on his BPL Sanyo stereo. Little did he know that he would make the song one of the most memorable ones in my life. Ten years down the line, those words from the song have come to be loaded with meanings — they aptly sum up the whole of my emotional self and the pain with which I struggle to come to terms with the sudden loss of my beloved cousin who passed away on December 13, 2011.

Passing of days, weeks and months may have trailed behind it the propinquity of that fateful day. But it hasn’t taken off the ache in our heart. Seems like I can never get over this dream-like tragedy. It is so surreal that he’s gone, gone away from our midst. And that life wouldn’t be the same any longer without Chi’am, the name I fondly called him in short.

For me, he was more of a friend than a cousin and more of a cousin than a friend at the same time. Our short-lived (fated) relationship will definitely defy description; we grew up together learning the ABCs, sharing joys and sorrows, the good times and bad and many ups and downs of our lives.

To this day, I vaguely remember those morning classes we attended together as small kindergarten kids in Imphal. After the class, we would play in the yards of family quarters in the Tribal Colony at New Checkon where both of our families lived together for some time. It was in the late 1980s that we parted ways for the first time when his family moved to Langol Housing Complex which was then freshly opened for occupation.

But we never took our hearts anywhere we went and we didn’t let the distance grow us apart from each other. We would come around as often as possible. He would come and stay for a couple of days at our house and I at theirs. I remember so many occasions when we put up together in his small-sized room cracking jokes and funny stories at bedtime. In fact, we never let our friendship grow dim and cold even as we went to different schools.

After matriculation, we got back to our good old company when my family moved house to Langol Housing Complex in the late 1990s. That was when we did our PU together at the MBC Higher Secondary School, Imphal where we had the best of times in our lives. On one occasion at a literary meet at our school, we joined up with some mates and presented a song titled “The Lord Is My Shepherd” to the full accompaniment of guitars and percussion which got us photographed right on the stage, so to speak.

What stuck out in his personality was his intrinsic ability to maintain a contagious aura of warmth and jollity which many a stranger found to be easily befriended. Thanks to his outgoing nature, we could create a big circle of friends from our class as well as from other classes. During those days of carefree living, our gang lived much like the proverbial birds of a feather. So much so, Chi’am and I even accompanied our gang to Tongou, our village in Ukhrul district, one Christmastime.

But as everything sweet is short, soon after our final exam, he left for Shillong for further studies where his mother was posted (and she still is). Thereafter, communication between us took a beating. Those were the days of landline phones and the phenomenon of cell phone was only a pipe dream then. PCOs were the only destination for anyone who wished to speak to their near and dear ones staying outside. As such, we got to speak to each other only once in a while though we wrote to each other occasionally.

Later in 2006, while I was in Chennai, we had the chance to reunite once again; he came down to do a short course in music. Though we were busy with our own studies, we often made the time to spend the evening and holidays listening to music and playing his instruments together.

Like me, he was also a die-hard rock music lover. But he was such a good admirer of musical instruments that he brought down his black Casio keyboard that he bought in Shillong and even got himself a brand new acoustic guitar a few days after he landed in Chennai. In fact, his passion for music was truly amazing. Whenever there were ­­­­any new arrivals of music at the market, he would be the first to grab hold of them. One place he would frequent for his music shopping in Chennai was Landmark, a chain-department store at the Spencer Plaza.

He was already done with his music course when he returned to Manipur the same year near Christmas. But it was his wish to come back to Chennai one day and meet all of his dear friends down there.

Since then, we rarely saw each other though we still managed to keep in touch over the phone. I remember one occasion when he rang me up and said, “ Re’om, I’m doing fine at Tongou…..I’m missing you guys and Chennai a lot…..convey my wishes to all our friends…..I’m surely coming back…”. And before he could do that a new beginning was coming; he got married and settled down in our village where he served as a teacher in a mission school run by the local Church. So humble and unpretentious of him to had grown up and lived in cities and yet able to quickly adapt to pastoral living.

The last time I met him at our village in 2011, he was just as happy. We talked about our lives and our families. He told me he got a meagre salary from teaching but he supplemented it by giving private lessons.

With a casual goodbye, I left for Ukhrul the following day. Surely, I was looking forward to a happy meeting one day. But that day was never to come. Alas! It never crossed my mind that would be our last goodbye. It never occurred to me that we would be parting like this. Without so much as a chance to say “meaningful goodbye” to each other.

It’s said only the good die young and yes, 33 is too young to die. We believe he had been whisked away by the Almighty to be by His side. Though it is beyond us to commit his spirit to the arms of the Creator, we hope the Pearly Gates did open up for him. Chi’am had assured himself of that as we once talked about a song about the hereafter of a believer. We pray and wish him Godspeed on his journey to the great beyond. Amen.

* Contributed by Rehoboam Lester Makang , he can be reached at lesterrmakang{at}yahoo{dot}com

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