The 24th annual convention of the North American Manipur Association (NAMA) marked the largest gathering in NAMA history with nearly 130 participants in attendance. The annual NAMA conventions that take place every year at different locations provide an opportunity for all the Manipuris living in North America to reconnect with friends and family and rekindle Manipuri tradition and culture. Manipuris across North America gathered under one roof on July 3rd and 4th at Washington, D.C., meeting one another, dressing up in traditional attire, joining in traditional song and dance, eating ethnic food, renewing old friendships and making new ones. Members in attendance traveled far and wide from many states in the USA, including Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, Texas, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Tennessee, Alabama, and Florida.
Friday July 3rd, 2015 – Social Gathering at Rollins Congressional Club
The 24th NAMA Convention commenced with a social gathering at the Rollins Congressional Club in Rockville, Maryland on Friday July 3rd, 2015 at 7:00 PM. The convention hall was jam-packed with men, children and traditionally dressed beautiful Manipuri women. The stage was set up with a Manipuri theme. An ethnic potluck was held by the DC Area families (Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC) in the evening. While the dinner was underway, NAMA t-shirts were sold. Romola Kshetrimayum and Monica Laishram sang songs and music was played by Nishi Asem, Martin Haobam, Sagar Sharma, and Chingkhei Akoijam. The slide show compiled by Naba Singha displaying the former NAMA members, activities and events was played on the projector. The gathering and the dinner concluded at 11:00 PM.
Saturday July 4th, 2015 – Main Event at Rollins Congressional Club
The main event took place on America’s Independence Day, the 4th of July. While Americans celebrated their independence, Manipuris in North America celebrated their reunion at Washington D.C. The registration began at 9:00 AM on Saturday morning while breakfast was served. The Mistress of Ceremonies was Babyrani Yumnam. The event started with a welcome address by the President of NAMA, Amom Ruhikant Meetei. The welcome address was followed by an opening song “Ho Ima Poknapham Ima” by the President himself, Thoihen Heisnam, Monica Laishram, Prativa Amom and Prety Amom. After the song, the President extended a warm welcome to everyone present and appreciated their support for the association. The President urged the members to continue providing support for future NAMA activities.
The President’s welcome speech was followed by the General Secretary’s activity report. Hori Irombham, the General Secretary of NAMA discussed the activities accomplished in the years 2013-14 & 2014-15. Hori further attested to how NAMA is actively supporting several organizations in Manipur through donations and endorsement during the past years. Lily Sharma, the Treasurer of NAMA, then presented the financial report for the years 2013-14 & 2014-15. According to the report NAMA’s financial standing continues to grow.
Naba Singha, Delly Adhikarimayum, Lalit Pukhrambam, Surjalal Sharma, P Swornalata each presented a speech. The presenters discussed the evolution of NAMA and how the association has progressed significantly in terms of program development and membership size. The presenters also reiterated the history of Manipur and discussed how Manipur became a part of India. The founders of NAMA were honored. The participants stood in silence for a minute in remembrance of NAMA members who have passed away.
The newly amended NAMA Constitution was distributed to the participants for their review. Upon strict review of the language, terms, laws and principles of the newly amended NAMA constitution, the members offered their approval. Once approved by the members, Dritha Kumar announced an official final approval of the new NAMA constitution.
Shilpa Phairembam Weiss, the Assistant General Secretary, as well as the main coordinator of the NAMA Excellence Award program unveiled the NAMA Excellence award program. Shilpa outlined that the award program is a new initiative that aims to reward and motivate the talented Manipuri students in North America who have excelled in the field of academics, sports and arts. There was a good turnout in the inaugural year and more applications are expected in the future.
The recipient of the 2015 Sports Excellence Award was Adam Laishram, son of Dr. Joy Laishram and Christina Laishram of Ontario, Canada. Adam is a national hockey player. He played for Team Ontario alongside some of the top NHL draft prospects in the league. Adam has achieved many prestigious awards and played at the international level representing Canada. The recipients of the 2015 NAMA Academic Excellence Award were: Prativa Amom, daughter of Amom Ruhikant Meetei and Kebola Wahengbam; and Bosco Chanam, son of Kulabidhu Chanam and Pramodini Chanam. Their applications were evaluated judiciously and the academic excellence award recipients were selected based on their academic performance, overall GPA, voluntary experience, and participation in extracurricular activities.
Once the awards were distributed, the Chief Guest, Maisnam Riten Kumar who currently works in India as a Superintendent Engineer/Director, Ministry of Road, Transport and Highway presented a speech. The Chief Guest expressed his joy of being there at the convention and appreciated the effort and time that NAMA has been giving for the betterment of our Manipuri community back at home as well as here in the States. There was a 1 hour lunch break after the Chief Guest’s speech.
Members assembled around 2:05 PM after the lunch to give their votes for the new 2015-2017 executive members. Listed below are the candidates that were elected:
1)President – Lukhoi Shougaijam (Virginia)
2)Vice President – Hori Irombham (Illinois)
3)General Secretary – Shilpa Phairembam Weiss (Missouri)
4)Assistant General Secretary – Bijon Ayekpam (Washington, D.C.)
5)Treasurer – Lily Sharma (Maryland)
6)IT Lead – Nishi Asem (Ohio)
7)Cultural Secretary – Monica Laishram (New Jersey)
8)Member – Abhishek Sanoujam (Texas)
9)Member – Johnson Elangbam (Tennessee)
The President, Amom Ruhikant Meetei, and the NAMA members congratulated the newly elected Executive members. The President elect, Lukhoi Shougaijam, presented the vote of thanks. Lukhoi thanked everyone for their attendance and appreciated the DC Area family for being a great host.
The cultural program began with a beautiful “Mangala Charran” performance by A Indrani Sharmi. The Mangala Charran was followed by a heart touching flute performance of the Indian National Anthem by Ridhi Chingakham. Noopur Singha then gave an amazing “Krishna Abhishar” dance performance. After the dance, there was a very cute drama based on a folk tale “Pebet Macha and Haudong Lamboiba.” The drama was performed by Naba Singha, Monica Ingudam, Marc, Magen, Darshil, and Langlen.
Amy Shougaijham played the American National Anthem on the piano. Lavani Laishram danced to fusion music. Langlen Heisnam sang the song “Chingda Satpi Eengelei”. Navya Asem presented Thougal Jagoi. Prety Amom sang the cover of the song “I Am Not the Only One”. Lilianne Pukhrambam played “Sentimental Saraband” on violin. Prativa Amom sang “Color of the Wind”. Monica Laishram also sang “Eigi Chenghi Manam.” The songs were followed by “Thoibi Jagoi” by A Indrani Sharmi, Linthoi Angom, Lily Sharma, Monica Ingudam, and Ebechaobi Laishangthem. Once the Thoibi Jagoi performance was done, Amom Ruhikant Meetei presented two songs “Nouribi” and “Hey Ima Manipur”. Airi Haobam sang “Let it go”. Prasana Kumar gave a classical sitar performance. Naba Singha and Chingkhei Akoijam also joined Prasana by playing drum and guitar. The rock ensemble composed of Martin Haobam, Raj Chingakham, Nishi Asem, Sagar Sharma and Chingkhei Akoijam played several songs. The slide show compiled by Dillon Laishram was played on the projector.
Prativa Amom acknowledged and awarded the children participants with a certificate of participation. After the certificate distribution, there was a “Leima Jagoi” performance by Kebola Wahengbam, Amom Prativa, Amom Prety, Ambrabati Adhikarimayum, Anju Aheibam, Lily Sharma, Priyadarshini Koijam, Khumanleima Laishram, Swornalata Takhellambam, Judy Sarungbam, and Linthoi Angom. Finally, all men, women, and children irrespective of age and race gathered around, held hands together and danced happily to the beat of the drums to a grand Thabal Chongba. This concluded the big event of the day successfully.
The 2015 NAMA Convention was a perfect example of a close-knitted Manipuri community in North America. This gathering has also proved how well the Manipuri traditions have been practiced abroad. Abhishek Sanoujam and Geetanjali Laishram who attended the convention for the first time commented, “The convention is absolutely great! We feel like we are in our native place. The food tastes even better than the food we make in India. After long time, we even got an opportunity to participate in Thabal Chongba. Thanks to NAMA for inviting us.”
What made the convention even more interesting was the crowd that filled the room. People of different races and ages socialized and appreciated the beautiful culture of Manipur. Brian Weiss, American husband of Shilpa Phairembam Weiss stated, “The exposure to the richness of the Manipuri culture and the hospitality of the people made the weekend a great event to remember. The food was excellent, the performances were entertaining, and the Thabal Chongba was exhilarating. I look forward to next year!”
The NAMA Executive team would like to take this opportunity to say a heartfelt “Thank You!” to everyone who has attended the convention. The phenomenal success of the convention is a reflection of the ever-increasing dedication and enthusiasm the members display. Special thanks goes to the DC Area Families who hosted the program and arranged the potluck. The Executive team hopes for a continued support from the members and are glad that they are able to help people back at home and here in North America.
If you have any questions for NAMA or would like to contact the executive team, please contact them at namagroups(aT)gmail(doT)com. We look forward to seeing you at next year’s convention!