We’ve heard of, read about and studied many great men and women who’ve walked the face of this earth but not many of us are fortunate enough to have known them personally or lived with them. I too, have heard, read and studied about many such great men and women but very lucky and fortunate to have known, lived with, respected and most of all loved one such man , who rose from the most neglected part of India, a self-made man who’s vision, wisdom, understanding, knowledge, simplicity and love for his fellowmen paved the way for the world to know of an indigenous group of people living in the North Eastern part of India, Manipur, Mizoram and across national boundaries of Burma and Bangladesh called the ZOMI people. This man is T.GOUGIN, my maternal grandfather, known to his people as Pu T. Gougin, Upa T. Gougin and “FATHER OF THE ZOMI”.
A huge painting hangs on the wall of his living room showcasing his dream and life’s purpose. A painting not difficult for anyone who’ve seen it, interpret it, as I too understood it as a child. It depicts on one side the current Zogam state of affairs while the other side of the painting depicted the story of a new Zogam in all the glories of development, equality of status, equal opportunity for all, freedom from fear, hatred, jealousy and most of all peace and oneness.
However, this small tribute is not about T. Gougin’s contributions and achievements for much have been said and written. But about the side of him which not many know, the side of him as a grandfather which I knew him best as, for I am not worthy or qualified enough to talk or write about the great work he left behind.
I don’t recall seeing very much of my grandfather during my much younger days for those were the days spent busy and away, working amidst and for his people in some Godforsaken villages, woods and jungles far away, leaving the comfort and warmth of home and the company of his wife, children and grandchildren. However grandma always made up for his absence. Some instances I clearly remember were the once where he was never alone but always surrounded by like minded followers who gave him their all for the greater good of the people. Another  instance I clearly remember was a time he came back home from a trip somewhere and brought cartons full of mangoes which were very different from the ones we get back home. What a treat it was and grandma made sure the seeds were replanted. My grandfather was blessed with many children and grandchildren. Imagine the chaos and havoc we must have created when we were all together. But, not once can I recall an instance where he shouted at us or shooed us off. He had a big home to accommodate us all and a big compound for us to play and enjoy ourselves with fruits such as mangoes, bananas, pomegranates, grapes, papayas, sugarcane etc. So, we grew up safe and protected under his umbrella never needing any outside playmates as we were more than enough ourselves. That place holds our fondest memories as children and till today, we always go there first instead of our own houses whenever we come home for visits or holidays because that was and is our ideal Home Sweet Home, and no one can take those memories and experiences away from us. No wonder, the local people called us Gougin Hah-leh-sounte (Gougin’s fruit of love and labor). Christmas time was an all exclusive family celebrations at Tuibul Village, on my grandfather’s initiatives, where he was the Chief. Described in English, Tuibul Village would surely fit a country estate with the exception of horses and barns, as any other village at that time, with three majestic Peepal trees at the entrance and a wooden traditional family house to welcome us. Huge open space for recreation, mango orchard, vegetable gardens, poultry, fishery and which also once had an operational silk farm. I clearly remember us children going swimming in the pond (I’m hydrophobic so I can’t swim as much as I want to) while I stand and watch my cousins take a dive from the tree branches above the pond and cheer!!! We go scared and cowardly into the night searching for a particular insect that makes noises on the trees. Sit outs in the afternoons enjoying seasonal fruits. Time flies and changes, children grow up, adults grow old, people’s priorities change and nothing is the same but memories to be cherished.

There was a time in the late Eighties(1980’s) when my grandfather’s house, compound and the adjoining Zogal Community Hall was full of people who looked like us, spoke somewhat like us but looked despair and needing of help. Though I don’t really recall much, all I remember was that they were from Burma (now Myanmar). My grandfather opened his heart, pocket and home to them. Today, as an adult, I look back and realize that they were our very own people who suffered under the Burmese acheter du cialis en ligne Military Regime and came running for help and shelter to my grandfather and our people here in Manipur, India. If I’m not mistaken there were even dead bodies that needed to be taken care of. Only if my grandfather was alive and in his senses today, he would be a very happy man and would probably shed tears of joy to know and learn about the recent developments happening in Burma for he was an ardent supporter of Democracy and liberation of the Burmese people specially the Zomis living there.

My personal interaction with my grandfather started when I was in my early teens, the 90’s. Those were the days when my sister Janet and I studied and stayed in Little Flower boarding School, Imphal. We’d come home for holidays and he would be the first person we’d run to greet, while he was usually in his study, typing something on his typewriter or reading, as I mostly recall. He was always so proud and happy to see us. Instances where he would tell us to study hard as that was our only job as school kids and showed us photos framed up in his study room of himself and some great colleagues and personalities like Rajiv Gandhi and some more, saying this and this person is this and that and to strive and become someone like them someday. A particular day I still clearly remember was a day I accompanied the house maid who cleans the 2nd floor, his quarter, my grandfather was watching and listening to the news of something important enfolding and the television was quite loud, I sat next to him watching for a while but could not make sense of what was happening, so I happened to ask him what the news was about and he explained to me the Gulf War although I’ve forgotten the exact explanation. That’s how I came to know of the person named Saddam Hussein and the Middle East countries and Black Gold (Oil). Then, after the explanation, he went into his study only to return with a thick book in his hand for me to read titled “Idi Amin”( When I watched the movie “The Last King Of Scotland” much later in life, I was reminded of this episode with my grandfather) I took the book because I was too ashamed to tell him I’ve never read a book so thick with huge contents while the sheer size of the book scared me. I kept the book with me for a few days, read the first page and slowly sneaked it back into his bookshelves during his absence.
My grandfather was a man of high discipline who never believed in words but deeds and deeds he did set and showed as examples to be followed. He was always an early riser, took morning walks all over the town he loved, bathe early every single morning, had breakfast followed by his many appointments with people from all over and different walks of life, rich, poor, needy for help, advice and consultations (something like the God Father? Yes, except the crime plots and business for profit topics). He never indulged himself in any kind of bad habits such as drinking and smoking, he highly detested them. He believed in forming good eating habits and loved Dal, a high source of protein. He also taught us cleanliness and appropriate personal grooming. He also enjoyed all kinds of entertainments like watching movies and television. Anyone living in Churachandpur town or ever visited cannot but miss the famous landmark “Light House”. Once the hub of the town, adjoining the other side of his property, which was a movie theater and not even he was spared to succumb the thrills it provided. At that time there were only two great people for us the grandchildren, one being Late Pu Kampu, the owner of Light House and the other our grandfather, T. Gougin who were good friends with mutual respect. Pu Kampu opened the windows of our eyes and imagination of the world outside beyond Churachandpur, Manipur. We almost became addicted to movies, thank God for schools and the river Tuitha, the hub for the youth then. Too often we would be lining outside Pu Kampu’s office asking him/begging him free entry passes for movies taking grandfather’s name. Imagine, the harassment we must have caused him, poor old man, may his soul rest in peace. The news of his death was heartrending to us as we cried tears of river. My grandfather’s view was simple, learn a lesson from what you have seen and watched. Another time was when WWF (World wrestling Federation) was a big sensation and all the young boys were glued to it, so was he, for a while when it started. I’m not sure what exactly about the show fascinated him but one day, he urgently called grandma who had to leave whatever she was busy doing to rush and watch the wrestling show for which we all at home had a hearty laugh and he returned us his familiar shy smile.
He was an incredibly handsome young man, emotional and romantic at heart. He appreciated beauty in all its forms of nature and loved to nourish it. He was a man of real flesh and blood who could easily flip into shyness at the sight of beautiful women, no wonder he married our Grandma, a very beautiful and innocent young woman who stood by his side through thick and thin, irrespective of whether she understood the magnitude and importance of his work for the Zomi people. To be honest, they were a complete opposite. He was a highly intellectual man well ahead of his time with vision, understanding the needs of time and people, a leader…… while his wife was a simple and innocent person, who was happy and content with smaller things in life like children, grandchildren, gardening and rearing farm animals. I’m sure the great things that my grandfather did during his lifetime were beyond a world of her imagination as much as it was for us his children and grandchildren despite the education we received. Nevertheless, she always supported him by being a good wife and always there for him to come home to. Her ignorance was never a deterrent to my grandfather for we could see with our own eyes how much he loved her. He would always enquire about her before every meal for my grandma was a moody eater in a sense, she could skip meals for reasons best known to her. He unwinds himself in the evenings with hobbies like feeding fishes in the pond within his property, playing badminton or just taking a walk around the compound. One such evening, I, happened to be with him again and he pointed out to me the side of the property which had a long one-storey wooden house specifically made to rent out to homeless people, and said to me “someday I will turn this into a school and I want you, Deiboi (my name) to be the principal”, which made me so nervous. That just proves to show how his mind was never idle for the good of the people as he firmly believed and advocated for every children’s right to education.
I’m not sure if I should call my grandfather a holy man but spiritual he was, believed in the supreme Divine, God. The famous verse, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”, was the motto of his life and his constant reminder to us his family at every family prayer meetings. He understood the meaning of “What does it profit a man, if he gains the whole wide world but suffers the loss of his soul”. He was a constant seeker of his own soul’s redemption in everything he did, so, in other words he believed in the truth of doing right, living right and showing the right path. He always followed the 2nd Commandment, keeping and observing the Lord’s Day (Sundays) as sacred and holy by going to church without fail.
Time passed, he grew older and weaker day after day with the onslaught of his illness Dementia/Alzheimer, slowly forgetting us all but never forgetting for a single day his purpose in life. Became the bud of people’s jokes, the very people he sacrificed his entire life for and as he rightly said “They call me a fool, because I live amongst the fools”. Now, we look around and at every side we feel the void that cannot be filled, the loss so deep our hearts cannot fathom but we rejoice in the hope that you are finally at rest and at peace with God.

My previous trip home September 2010, with my little baby boy, Sydrogi Maximus Thangden Chang, his great grandson, was the last time I ever saw my grandfather still walking, talking, reading, eating and smiling though not in his full senses. That’s the last memory I have of him that I’d like to remember and will always carry close to my heart and to my grave. The last sunset evening I sat down with him reading a local booklet that had his name and picture. I pointed to the picture of him and asked “Pupu, who is this man?” He looked up at me, gave me his very familiar unforgettable shy smile of content and acceptance and said “That’s me, T. Gougin”.

Accounts based on my observations and experiences and not to hurt anyone’s sentiments.
Dedicated to my son Sydrogi Maximus Thangden Chang.
By his Beloved Granddaughter,
Jessy Deiboi Chang.
12th July 2012