I was born and bred in the cultural atmosphere of Manipur. I had decided to devote myself to the art of Manipuri Dancing and Music. I started receiving training from a very famous artiste of Manipur, Smt. Gambhini Devi with whom I used to participate in many festivals in Manipur. But it was only when I became, in 1958, along with my friend Vinodhini Devi (Who is now a teacher in the Bhartiya Nrityakala Mandir of Patna), Guru Bipin Singh's student that I received scientific and systematic training for the first time. Afterwards Ibeyeima Devi, Thambal Tombi Devi, Jamini Devi, Guneshwari Devi and many other girls started learning from Guruji who seemed to me have determined to give intensive training to us, the Manipuri girls, who can express and reveal his deep knowledge of Manipuri Dancing, through our dancing, singing and even Mridang playing.
Guruji was a very hard and disciplined taskmaster. We had to reach Guruji's place beore dawn and we had to do his domestic chores also. Our training started at 6 o'clock in the morning and continued till 11 o'clock. In the afternoon we studied from 3 pm to 6 pm. He was very perfectionist. He would make us practice the same piece of dance again and again till he was reasonably satisfied. It was so difficult to escape his discerning eye for each and every detail and sometimes we had to suffer his wrath.
Guru Kalavati Devi Ji (right in picture)
He not only made us learning Manipuri songs and playing of Mridang from other expert Gurus, but gave us theoretical training rom Vashnavite Texts on Dance and Music and Natyashastra. Almost every three months, he would invite other eminent Gurus who would evaluate our progress. Many artistes and Gurus regularly visit us and used to become awe-inspired by Guruji's knowledge and creative dance compositions. He would also take these opportunities to discuss the technicalities of dance with them clarifying his own misapprehensions and get confirmation of his own point of view. In three years with hard and disciplined training, he made us complete his 6 years course. Our examination was taken by a committee of expert Gurus and Scholars under the auspicies of Govindjee Nartanalay of which Guru Bipin Singh was principal. A degree of 'Nartan Visharad' was conferred upon us.
Afterwards Guruji took some of us to Bombay to participate in the dance programmes presented by his eminent disciples, the Jhaveri Sisters. Even to this day, I have continued advance training along with Jhaveri Sisters and I am touring with them all over India and abroad for last over 25 years.
Apart from formal training and examinations Guruji would sometimes test us in his subtle ways. Once a very famous Guru from Imphal had visited us in Bombay and I was asked by Guruji to write down some very difficult and complicated 'bols' in Drumel and Dwadashmel . But because of his hard training I was able to acquit myself. I had to remain in continuous practise because Guruji would like us to compose new items on our own.
I utilized this learning in directing many programmes on Tagore's dance dramas. Now I realize the value of his training when I teach other students and also try to bring perfection in them.
Because of Guruji, Manipuri Dance and Music has become an essential part of my life.