An intrepid 25-year-old from Manipur is raising the bar for women all over the country with her courage and commitment
By Yambem Laba
Manipur has produced an umpteen number of world stars in the realm of sports. Beginning from Rajya Sabha MP and Olympic medalist Mary Kom to footballer Bem Bem to Everester and Padmashri awardee Anita Gurumayum in mountaineering to the recent Olympic silver medalist Mirabai Chanu, the list is a long one. Almost every Indian women’s sport team will have a presence of a Manipuri woman.
But here we are talking about a woman belonging to a different genre altogether. Meet Gerinda Loitongbam, a petite, 25-year-old girl. She is the second of three siblings. Her father had suffered two strokes earlier. In 2019 she had a calling different from others lured into established sport. She decided to drive alone from Imphal to Delhi in a car, a distance of almost 2,400 km. She had been to Delhi once before but that was by air. She had no idea about the challenging terrain she would be encountering enroute. She had no sponsor. But she had the backing of her mother Somi Loitongbam who works as a technician at the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences at Imphal. Her mission was to spread awareness on Crime Against Women enroute.
So, armed with a Mobile operated GPS she turned the ignition switch of her car on 28 January 2019. Her mother provided her with money to buy fuel en route. She took a total of six days to reach the capital, spending nights at petrol pumps and hotels and creating awareness at schools along the way on “Crime Against Women”. She said her theme was focused more on gender equality and not really aimed at suggesting gender superiority. She said driving on the highways was not so difficult, but she lost her way once she reached Delhi. The maze of traffic and the many flyovers overwhelmed her to the extent it took her more than two hours to reach India Gate in the capital from the city’s border. She was hosted by her elder sister who is pursuing her PhD at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi whilst she was there in New Delhi. After staying in Delhi or three days, she made the long drive back home.
There were no receptions awaiting her at Imphal, but she did not mind. Instead, she enrolled for a yearlong course in mixed martial arts with the Kanglei Martial Arts group and began producing videos depicting her bringing down three to four boys in fist fights much in the same fashion as Angelina Jolie does in her films or Michelle Yeoh, who starred in the James Bond film “Tomorrow never dies”, does.
She is up by 6 in the morning and does yoga for an hour to improve her concentration and spends the next few hours surfing the net, while simultaneously improving her video productions. She spends the rest of the day honing her martial arts skills. She is also into motorcycling and is a member of the Motor Tribe Club and can be seen zipping on a Jawa 350 CC motorbike on driving expeditions across the State.
Finally, this multitalented girl got national recognition when earlier this year she was conferred the National Women Excellence Award by the National Academy for Art Education, a group based in Pune, Maharashtra. The citation read, “You are being awarded with the National Excellence Award for year 2022 by the National Academy for Art Education, Pune, Maharashtra. This award has been finalized by considering your professional background & achievements in your career profile”.
How does this hyperactive girl relax? She grins and says she plays the guitar to soothe her mind and relieve stress.
(The writer is the Imphal-based Special Representative of The Statesman. This article was first published by The Statesman under the headline – ‘Angelina Jolie of the Northeast’)