Playwright, theater director, voice artist and radio anchor O. Birmangol (b. 4 April, 1928) talking with poet and sculptor Thangjam Ibopishak on 19 February 2019.
When his daughter-in-law led us (Thangjam Ibopishak and me) into his room, he was in his bed with the curtains down. Oja Ibopishak announced our arrival and he identified himself as the younger brother of the famous lyricist Thangjam Kora. O. Birmangol knows oja Thangjam Ibopishak–he cannot forget him; there is a history. But oja Ibopishak identifies himself this way to elderly people and I like this humility.
O. Birmangol started up, a spark of joy twinkling in his expressive eyes and face and some meaningless exclamations of happiness escaping his mouth involuntarily in that sweet, familiar, nostalgic voice.
His daughter-in-law wanted him to change because we said I would photograph him. But he flatly said he wont, even when I asked if he wanted.
“This is how I am,” he said.
“I prefer it this way too, oja,” I said smiling, quickly glancing in mid-sentence toward his daughter-in-law for a regard.
O. Birmangol’s eyes are lively and expressive like theater in real life. The contours of his face and the wrinkles in his face creases into the shapes of what his voice communicates. His hands draw accompanying shapes in the air. His body bends to the sides, leans forward and backward. If you observe closely, you will see these gestures have textures and they change every few milliseconds.
Later, he moved to the chair he is sitting at in the above photograph. On his right is his toilet chair. His son must have made it for him. In the background, there are framed photographs and certificates of recognition.