Houston-Manipur! We have lift off!

It all started when Pratiksha Joshi Raghuwanshi contacts Sameeta Angom about the ICC’s Independence Day celebration about a month before the event (August 25, 2013). One of the performances of the event was United India organized by Mr. Yash Havalimane. The idea of the performance was to display the diverse culture of India. The performance was to last about 45 mins and 15 groups were given 3 minutes each to come up with a sub-performance relevant to their local culture. Our group was given the onus was of representing North-East India. We were in a bind initially as the time was short, resources were limited and we didn’t have too much experience with performances at such level in Houston. So the classic question of “Who is going to do what and how” was keeping us anxious. We had to come up with a theme song, slide show of Manipur, introductory speech & the performance, all in a matter of a couple of weeks. At one point we even thought of saying no as we thought we wouldn’t be able to do justice. But we decided to give it a shot.
After a few casual discussions we decided to walk the ramp displaying the colorful traditional dresses of Manipur. First we had to find participants and then costumes. Sameeta contacted the Iche Lily Haokip, Ruati (who’s family moved to Houston from Bay Area in California), Sarju Laishram, Rabina Mangsatabam and the ever adventurous Iche Shanti Thokchom to be part of the this performance. Iche Lily’s children Nenghoikim, Sharon, Patten and Amy, Ruati’s sons Randy and Marcus, along with our children Cyra and Laksh became the participants of the performance initially. Then, it was we learnt that Pratiksha’s sister-in-law Vrinda and her niece Anya will be visiting the weekend of the event and was added to the participants. One day Sameeta was having a casual conversation with one of her good friend Ms. Jabali Patel about the event and our participation; she thought that it would be cool for her kids to dress up in traditional Manipuri costumes and thus her children Keisha and Riti became part of the performance.
We also needed to come up with a theme song and “Sana Leibak Manipur” became the obvious choice. For the slide show we received numerous contributions from the members of the Facebook group Manipur Photography Club which is highly appreciated.
All of us got together at our residence for lunch for the first on 17th of August. We did a few trial runs and then we headed for the rehearsals the very next day in Katy, TX. During the course of the rehearsal, we got a few pointers about how we can make our performance better. The following Friday night (2 days before the event) we had another practice session. Two groups were formed to enter from either sides of the stage. I was to usher one of the groups and Sameer Raghuvanshi (Pratiksha’s Husband) was to usher the other. Everyone was tired after sometime and we decided that we have done what we can considering the constraints. One thing we were banking on inspite of the lack of preparation was the fact that not too many people in the audience was exposed to the unique & colorful costumes of Manipur. Even then Iche Lily was so worried, she called Sameeta at night about how this is all going to pan out.
Anya and Vrinda reached Houston the evening before the event. Iche Shanti also reached Houston late Saturday night after yet another adventurous flight path (that’s a whole another story by itself).
On the day of the event all of us met at our residence to get ready. Sameeta took up the responsibility for providing makeup service to all female participants. We were able to cram in another rehearsal for the final time before we left for the event.
So we reached the event venue about ½ hour before the scheduled time. Ours was the 6th performance of our group called “United India”. As planned I was ushering our participants on the right and Sameer the ones on the left of the stage. As if our anxiety was not enough, Laksh got cranky just before we hit the stage and he was on the group Sameer was ushering. So at the very last minute Sameer and I had to switch places. I was able to calm him down just in time to send him out on to the Stage. From that point there was no turning back; Literally! Luckily we made perfect use of the allotted time (which was one of our major concerns). The receptions we got were tremendous. I forgot to mention that Sameer and I had to walk the ramp on Jabali’s insistence at the last minute. She felt that we may end too early, which proved to be the correct call in the end. After our performance, our people after people came up to us with compliments. We felt that all of our scrambling and anxiety was worth it. Pratiksha brought gifts for all the participants (Thank you Pratiksha!). We also plan to organize a get together in a few weeks. Few days later, we heard the news that our group “United India” was recognized with a gift of $500 from a well-wisher. Mr. Havalimane plans to organize a get together with the 110+ participants of the group. Thus, ended one of my most memorable group event of my life.
The overwhelming response gave all of us the confidence and the motivation to perform at such stage in the future.
I would like to thank the Iche Lily’s family for providing colorful costumes, Ruati’s family, Jabali and family for active participation, Oja Sarita for providing Firup, Iche Shanti for travelling all the way from Tulsa, Oklahoma just for this event (She was literally on the road for two days for a 3 minutes performance), Sarju & Rabina for taking out time for the performance, Pratiksha & Sameeta for coordinating everything end-to-end. I also want thank my partner in crime, Sameer Raghuwanshi for his enthusiastic support in spite for his hectic schedule. I also would like to thank all the friends and families who showed up to show support. Special thanks to ICC & Mr. Havalimane for this opportunity.
**Participants: Amy Haokip, Patten Haokip, Sharon Haokip, Kim (Nenghoikim) Haokip, Rabina Mangsatabam, Serju Laishram, Kiesha Patel, Riti Patel, Marcus, Randy, Anya Thakur, Cyra Ngangom, Laksh Nongpok Ngangom, Shanti Thokchom, Sameer Singh Raghuwanshi, Roshan Ngangom and Pratiksha Joshi Raghuwanshi.
**Behind the Scene heroes: Sameeta Angom, Jabali Patel, Lily Haokip, Ruati
-By Roshan Ngangom

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