Ningshila Shimray, 80, is a native of Kangpat Khullen village in Manipur’s Kamjong district

Kamjong: Life has been harsh on Ningshila Shimray. The 80-year-old native of Kangpat Khullen village in Manipur’s Kamjong district had to drop out of school when she just finished Class VI owing to financial constraints faced by her family. However, that has never deterred her from picking up a book every now and then and quench her thirst for knowledge.

Shimray was first introduced to the world of books during the late 1940s. By 1955, she had already finished her Class VI from Bungpa village, probably making her one of the first Tangkhul women to have attended school then, especially at a time when education was not given enough importance, more so for girls.

“Back then, not only were people ignorant about the importance of education, but time was also not right for me,” she lamented, adding: “If I think about those days, I feel sad. It breaks my heart for not being able to complete my studies. It still haunts me.”

However, Shimray — or Ayi (grandma in Tangkhul language), as she is fondly called — let bygones be bygones. To make up for lost time, she continued to read books whenever she got an opportunity, even after she got married in 1958.

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She was blessed with a doting husband and seven lovely kids. However, for the second time, she got hit by reality — only this time, it was harsher. Five children, including her husband, passed away at a premature age.

Amid the busier and ‘husband-less’ life, she tried to get involved actively in Church and societal activities, but had to leave it later owing to age. However, one thing she couldn’t give up in life was her urge to read books, magazines and newspapers whenever she sees them.

“It keeps my mind active and curious,” she said.

When asked if she still wants to go back to school and study, she quickly jumped in and said, “Of course, I would love to. It is good to study and become someone in life. But I guess, it is too late for me now.”

Ayi now lives with her only remaining son in the village. If you happen to visit Kangpan Khullet village, you will find Ayi at the courtyard of her house — reading almost worn-out books, magazines and newspapers that she had collected during her earlier years.

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