-Kanpat Gangmei, 2nd Year, B.Sc. Chemistry Honours
(With special thanks to Gaikhang Guanmei)
Once upon a time, there lived in a village named Buanruangluang (Tamenglong, Manipur), Meiriang and Lubuannei, whose love story remains one of the best of its kind and is a favourite folklore of the Zeliangrong (Naga) tribe.
Meiriang was an orphan boy who looked after himself from a very young age. Lubuannei too, lost her father when she was a child, but she had her mother to look after her. Right from their childhood, they were fond of each other and Lubuannei’s mother treated Mieriang as her own son. They would spend time together while going into the forest to collect firewood while Lubuannei’s mother would till the fields.
On one ocassion, Meiriang asked Lubuannei whether she wanted to marry someone from their village or from other villages, but when she did not respond, he told her that he would marry her away to someone else. When she heard this, she bit his arm. This made him realise that she might have romantic feelings towards him, just like he did towards her. After several years, Meiriang grew up to be a fine man of good values and was respected in the village. In those days, the strength of a man determined his status in the society. Meiriang was the strongest of all and he excelled in all physical activities and sports. The elders of the village made him the head of the Khangchu, which comprised of the young men in the village. Lubuanei too, turned out to be a lady of good character and moral values and she was widely known for her beauty.
One day, Muliangah, a gentleman from a neighbouring villlage came for a visit to Buanruangluang. He was also a champion in his village and was comparatively a richer man than Meiriang was. Meiriang and Muliangah decided to test their strength by having an arm wrestling. In the first round, Meiriang lost and in the second, he won. But the visitor was not content with the result and he challenged yet again. After quite a struggle, Meiriang finally won. However it was revealed later that the visitor had a different purpose for his visit, which was to see the beauty of Lubuannei. Shortly after this, the father of Muliangah came to ask for the hand of Lubuannei in marriage for his son. Being a widow who knew about hardships, Lubuannei’s mother agreed to marry her daughter off to this young, rich and respectable man.
Lubuannei was not aware of this and had she been so, she would never had agreed to the arrangement. The marriage ceremony was set for the day after harvest. When Muliangah occasionally kept visiting her village, Lubuannei grew suspicious of the situation and when suspicion turned to truth, she furiously confronted her mother. Her mother explained to her that it was for her own good and that if she didn’t obey, she would commit suicide. Lubuannei had no other choice than to listen to her mother and she shared her woes with her childhood sweetheart, Meiriang. Meiriang told Lubuannei that fate destined them to separate from each other and also reluctantly gave his best regards for her wedding and departed. While leaving, he wept his heart out, since he promised himself that he would never see his deeply beloved anymore. He would not have anybody to watch the sunset together with, nor would have someone like her to share his thoughts with. Since Meiriang was an orphan, Lubuannei was the only person he got attached to and there was nobody else who could understand him better. Soon enough he knew that they would be walking on different paths of life. Though he loved her very much, he gave into the idea of marrying Lubuannei off to a richer guy since that would make her suffer less and let her live in the comfort of her husband’s wealth.
It was time for harvest and Meiriang finally went to his fields. A few days later, the elders of the neighbouring village came for Lubuannei. She decided to pay Meiriang a final visit but he had not returned yet. Luckily for her, she met a woman who was on her way to the fields and she asked her necklace to be given, as a farewell gift, to Meiriang. However, when the woman reached the fields, she could not find him and she left the gift in the barn and went on her way. Later when Meiriang went to his barn for lunch, he saw it and realized it was Lubuannei ‘s and he ran all the way back to the village, only to find her gone. He then ran along the path all the way to the neighbouring village in the hope of catching up with them but soon realized the futility of his pursuit and called her name loudly, in exasperation. Lubuannei heard her lover’s voice echoing in the valley and responded, but in vain. He was too far behind and would never be able to catch up with the gang of men who had her captive.
Theirs was a love story which would begin and end within their own little valley, which was too timid to break from the shackles of the larger mountains that held it close and throttled. Till date, those mountains still shiver with the chilling echoes of the names of the two lost lovers – Meiriang and Lubuannei.