Many waited on the roadside as the Olympics silver medalist made her journey home.
For a brief moment on Tuesday, many in Manipur seemed to have forgotten about the grief and hardships caused by the devastating second wave of COVID-19 pandemic that is still raging in the state.
After a spectacular performance in the ongoing Tokyo Olympics 2020, ace weightlifter Saikhom Mirabai Chanu returned to her home state on Tuesday afternoon.
Family members, many from her locality and other supporters thronged the Imphal Airport to receive her. Chief minister N Biren Singh along with some of his ministers also arrived at the airport.
And as soon as she stepped out from the Arrival section of the airport, she was swarmed by the reporters and well-wishers. She was whisked away by the chief minister in his BMW. Later, at a reception held at the City Convention, Biren said that he did so in view of the prevailing COVID situation.
But as hundreds of well-wishers lined along the Tiddim Road, Mirabai had to be shifted to the front seat and waved at the crowd, rolling down the window of the car.
At the reception function, Mirabai dedicated her silver medal to the people of Manipur. All that I have achieved today is because of the prayer and trust of the people of the state, she said. Mirabai also showed gratitude to her coaches Anita and Brojen who taught her the game at the start of her career.
The silver medalist also thanked her parents for their support, while narrating how she sacrificed and dedicated the last five years. The journey to Tokyo, she said, started in the Rio Olympics, 2016, where many criticised her performance. That became an inspiration and she has been on a roll since then, winning several competitions and setting up a world record in the road to Tokyo games.
In recognition of her achievement, the Government of Manipur created a new post and appointed Mirabai as additional superintendent of police (sports). And as announced earlier, a cash incentive of Rs 1 crore for bagging the silver medal and another Rs 10 lakh for her world record in clean and jerk, were awarded. The cheques and appointment letter was handed over to Mirabai by CM Biren at the reception.
Standing on an open SUV (Gypsy), Mirabai was showered with flowers and Lengyan, a traditional cloth usually worn around the neck, by the people standing on the roadside of Imphal-Ukhrul Road.
Escorted by a team of Imphal East police, the long line of vehicles didn’t stop to accept garlands due to the COVID situation. Instead, the crowd clapped and showered petals of flowers. With a band of musicians and young boys shouting slogans like “Mirabai na yaifare”, “Manipur Ema na yaifare”, the entourage cruised to her home.
The gates of almost every household of her village were lined with a candle, some flowers and a utensil filled with water. Some even garlanded her with cash-garland (cash instead of flowers).
And as soon as she reached her home, she prayed at the shrine of Ibudhou Khamlangba, a Meitei deity, near her home at Nongpok Kakching, Imphal East. The local clubs also organised a reception ceremony in the complex of the shrine.