On a stormy July evening in Imphal, the Chanu household sat glued to the telly, praying silently for one simple thing—that there should be no power cuts for the next couple of hours in the day. The electricity did not trip that day, and they could watch their daughter Sanamacha win three weightlifting golds in the 53 kg category at the recent Manchester Commonwealth Games. The gods were kind to them and memories of a bitter failure at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 had no place to come back in the celebrations that followed.
Twenty-four hours earlier, another family in the neighbourhood was partying, for a similar feat. N. Kunjarani Devi had once again found her magical touch to pick up three golds in the 48 kg category. But Manipur’s contribution to India’s unprecedented success at Manchester did not stop with these two. India’s women’s hockey team, which showed uncharacteristic grit to take the podium with a golden goal, was led by a Manipuri, W. Surjalata Devi. Three others in the team—goalkeeper Ksh. Tingonleima, Pakpi Devi and M. Sangai Ibehmal Chanu—all belonged to the state. And in the euphoria that followed India’s medal haul, few realised that seven out of the 32 golds at Manchester were mopped up by players from this tiny insurgency-wracked north-eastern state.