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The Princess Diary

At the outset, let’s make it very clear. The Sangai Express had no professional relationship with Imashi MK Binodini, who passed away on January 17, 2011, in the sense of contributions in the form of articles and opinions and suggestions as well. Secondly we would like to state our stand that this editorial is not written to go along with the tide, but with deep conviction based on the principles of The Sangai Express.  Each and every member of The Sangai Express family were amongst those who admired the lady not only for her achievements in the field of art and literature but in the manner in which she so adroitly maintained her elegance, sans any air of royalty, which is indeed a rare trait. Maybe it was the ease with which she reached out to the aam aadmi while maintaining her elegance, which her persona cuts across all section of society in today’s sharply polarized Manipur along ethnic ties and lines.

After RK Madhuryajit and MK Priyobarta, Imashi Binodini was perhaps the last standing icon, representing the royal lineage of Manipur, though we cannot overlook the presence and influence of Maharaj Leishemba, the present titular King of Manipur. Royalty is sometimes such a dicey thing, that it serves as well as demeans the personality of an individual, and rare is the man or woman, who can carve a niche of himself or herself which has nothing to do with royalty. This must be all that more difficult during the growing up period of MK Binodini, born as she was in 1922. Youngest daughter of the late Sir Maharaj Churachand and Maharani Dhanamanjuri, Binodini grew up like the princess, which every child can only dream about, and during those days, she had the rare privilege of studying in some of the most prestigious institutions in the country or the North East region.

From Pine Mount School in Shillong, easily one of the two best all girls’ schools in Shillong even today, she returned to Tamphasana Girls’ School for her higher secondary and then back to Shillong again where she studied at St Mary‘s College. A stint in Art at the Bishwabharti University, Shantineketan in West Bengal molded and produced the Binodini that the world saw. We have given a brief sketch of her educational background, not to glorify Binodini or royalty or the royal lineage but to recognize the significant quality that we all saw in the late princess, the significant point being humility without an air of arrogance. This quality becomes all that more relevant if we consider how some illiterate nitwits belonging to the same clan of a Minister or some powerful person throws their weight around. This must have surely pained Imashi during the winter of her life as well as the centripetal forces at work. Her achievements as a writer, a creative lady with fine taste and elegance need no further mention and herein lies the question of what made MK Binodini some sort of an icon in Manipur, where even the most cynical did not have much to say anything against her ? Was it because of her royal lineage, was it her beauty that shone from inside as well as outside or was it due to some immense contributions she made towards the Manipuri society?

An answer to any of these posers will be difficult to find or come by, for MK Binodini was a lady who could not be type caste in any mould. If she was a successful writer, winning fame and glory for herself and the State, she was also a Mother of two sons, who have both gone on to make a mark for themselves in their chosen field. Parents across the world know how tough and what a big challenge it is to bring up children, especially when one is a single Mom, but this did not have any adverse impact on the late Princess and the manner in which she handled her divorce from the late Dr Nanda Babu Roy, had dignity and self respect written all over it. At least this is what has been narrated to us by our elders, when we were growing up in the 80s.

As we have often said, it is easy to sing paeans to a person, who is no more, but we at The Sangai Express firmly believe that the highest respect must be paid to the departed soul; there is no point in going overboard and praising the works or contributions of man or woman who is no more. MK Binodini was not exactly known neither for her philanthropy nor for taking up any cause which are important to the people of Manipur, but the fact lies that there was a certain sense of aura, of dignity, an atmosphere of respect whenever one talked of the late Princess and this is something which we cannot ignore. It takes charisma, character, personality and of course the ability to take the people along and this is not an easy task, especially if it means doing it for more than 50 years, which the late Princess did with aplomb.

What makes MK Binodini all that more remarkable and adds to her persona is the fact that though she was born as a princess with a golden spoon in her mouth, the dawning of the new understanding of the state and the abolition of the royalty and later the privy purse, must surely have been some unpleasant experience. It is her strength of character, her education and her ability to keep up with the changes in the world, that the new developments did not scar her in anyway. As elegant as she was, MK Binodini personified the strength of character in its purer form. As we had said, we had no professional relationships with the late Princess, but she certainly was a lady who deserves the salutations of everyone. One primary reason why the aura surrounding her did not ebb with the passing years, lies in the fact that MK Binodini as a person outshone and outdid Binodini the daughter of Maharaj Churachand.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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