There are people who create changes in society, Maipakchao Oinam is one of them. He is a 58-year-old social worker who is a part of the INA troops (Indian National Army) and has made many changes in the life of people in Thanga. He was born and brought up in Thanga and is the first person to start a homestay in Manipur.
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Maipakchao Oinam lives in Thanga with his wife. He has two children, an elder son and younger daughter. His son is studying hotel management in Delhi and his daughter stays with him. His wife runs a business of fishnets (locally called ‘eel’) making where she has given employment to many girls and women around the village.
Maipakchao is a popular person in Manipur because of his social activities. He is called the face of Manipur tourism.
He has started his homestay in 2013. After starting the first homestay in Manipur, the government officials used to come and live there. Many officials have stayed here and talked about the political and social changes in Manipur. Oinam started the Maipakchao family homestay under Loktak Ecotourism Development Organisation (LEDO).
How did you get the idea of starting a homestay Mr Oinam?
He said, “Initially when I used to roam in Manipur, I saw big fancy hotels and the guest house started which are expensive and not very good. Therefore, I saw a need for starting a homestay. One of my friends, Raj Basu from Kolkata, gave me the idea of starting a homestay. At that time, the community wasn’t developed. We never spoke to outsiders nor had any idea about the outside world.”
His friend asked him, what do he usually does when relatives come to his house. He said he gives them some room or a place to relax. His friend told him to do that with all the travellers who want to come and experience the local life around Loktak Lake by starting an authentic and local homestay.
Before starting the homestay, Oinam attended many eco-tourism programmes held in North East India. “I went to Darjeeling to see the setup and learnt how to provide the homestay with the local feel of the area. After attending these, I got to know the real meaning of a homestay. It is something, where you stay with the family in their environment and experience their culture.
Having food with them, experiencing their local life and doing things which they do for the day, that makes the homestay authentic. I don’t think many people know this definition. Therefore, I wanted to set an example by converting my home to a homestay for the travellers who want to experience local life around Loktak Lake,” he explained.
In 2013, Oinam started his homestay with the intention to provide the local experience of culture, history, food and overall lifestyle of the place so that people can also relax their mind and body.
How did tourism help you grow?
“After starting this homestay, many people from India and outside India came here and experienced life. I got people from all around the world coming and staying here. Many researchers used to come to Loktak to research and learn about the place. The local people used to introduce them to me and I helped them in their research. I never went out of this place, since birth I’m here and I’m gonna be here till the last day,” he said with pride.
Oinam completed his graduation from Moirang. Thanga was always been part of his life. “I have lead many cleaning and educational movements to make Thanga more developed and upgrade the living standard of the people. I wasn’t a person who was into tourism for very long. I just saw the need for providing a homely place to relax and that’s why I started this place. By God’s grace we got a good response,” he said.
What kind of travellers come here? Have you found any interesting personality?
“I met people from Australia, Germany, Russia and from different parts of the world. I made sure that they have a good time seeing the places and experiencing local life. They were all good and even I got to learn different things from them. Indians also come to this place from different part of our country. Every personality is unique in their way and I learn from everyone. I believe the learning process is endless and a person should learn even from a small child to a grown-up adult. They can teach you a lot about life,” he said.
“My life is surrounded by the development of the Meitei and different communities who live here. A lot of people have supported me to do work for the community. It’s not a one man’s job. It needs support which I got from my people. Many from outside come and they see the development of the place which gives them an idea that this part of the country is also getting ready for a brighter future,” he said with immense joy in his voice.
What will be the future of this place, according to you Mr ?
“Changes are happening very fast. Dynamically things are changing. Earlier the roads were not good, electricity and water were not proper, house and sanitation were not that good. Now for the past few years, these things have changed a lot. I myself started a polio booth camp in Thanga. I’m doing it for the past ten years. I have seen a lot of positive changes in the living style of the people which is really good,” he said.
But Manipur has some negatives activities things as well according to Oinam. “Due to the tribals from the mountains, a lot of violence is there which disturbs the peaceful environment of the area. Many tribals have become transporters of drugs from other countries and importers of drugs to the metro cities of India. I believe the government should take measures to restrict this kind of activities. As the gateway to South East Asia, Manipur is developing a lot because India is building proper roads to commute to Myanmar and different part of Asia. I see positive changes in the coming future,” he said with a big smile.
How are climatic changes affecting Loktak Lake?
“The ecosystem of Loktak Lake is at a very critical stage. As hydrology is affecting the water bodies, Loktak Lake phumdis are becoming thinner year by year. The rainfall is also not proper in the area. All these changes are happening because of deforestation and modernization to generate more wealth and power in Manipur. The pollution level is also getting increase year by year with more and more plastic deposition in the lake. The life under the water, as well as the life over land, is getting affected,” he said.
The people of Thanga have been trying really hard to avoid pollution and make it a natural place. Many cleaning and educational programs are conducted around Thanga so that people get knowledge of what issues they are facing.
“I believe people should be aware of the critical condition of Loktak Lake which is really precious to all of us,” Oinam said as he signed off.
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