In the quaint village of Nongpok Sanjenbam, situated in the heart of Manipur’s Imphal East District, a tale of determination and resilience unfolds. Meitram Punshiba Meitei, a 29-year-old with a spirit as indomitable as the Manipur hills, embodies the saying, “Punsi lambidi esana semjagadabani” – meaning, “man is the creator of his life paths.” His story is one of unwavering perseverance and the relentless pursuit of a better life.
Punshiba’s small fruit juice stand, known as ‘Punshiba Tasty,‘ is situated along Khurai Tinsid Road, positioned strategically on the roadside that leads to the renowned temple sites of ‘Sanamahi kiyong‘ and ‘Chingoi Baruni.’
Punshiba’s journey began far from the glitz and glamour often associated with success. He was not born with a silver spoon, nor was life generous enough to wait for parental support. Educated only up to the 10th standard, Punshiba is the sole child of his parents. His young wife, Meitram Angoubi, hailing from Takhel, and their 4-year-old daughter, Meitram Henthoi, complete his small but loving family.
Life taught Punshiba Meitei the value of hard work and resilience early on. “Thabakti afang-afangba sui, peisa tanbadi leppa yade,” he would say, which translates to “there are no restrictions on the kinds of work; one just can’t stop earning.”
Punshiba engaged in various manual labor jobs to make ends meet, including construction work, newspaper vending, and working as a salesman at a cement shop. However, the global COVID-19 pandemic disrupted these activities, leaving him searching for alternatives.
It was during this challenging period that a local elder suggested he try his hand at running a juice bar. Punshiba, always one to explore opportunities, decided to take this advice to heart. As the saying goes, “When there is a need, there is a way.”
Being the breadwinner for his family, Punshiba Meitei understood the responsibilities that came with it. From a young age, he left no stone unturned in his pursuit of a livelihood. Alongside his juice bar, he delved into farming, cattle rearing, and poultry.
His home became a haven for cows, goats, and local breed chickens, all contributing to the family’s financial stability. With unwavering support from his parents, Punshiba’s family also embraced subsistence farming through kitchen gardening.
Despite facing initial challenges and skepticism – “Houdorakpagida minaga laknarakpdo, angang-ga oibanina yam ekaijei” – Punshiba opened his juice bar on a trial basis during the traditional Meitei pilgrimage event known as “Baruni kaba.”
The objective was to cater to visitors during this event, but the stall’s popularity grew, attracting more patrons and like-minded individuals who opened ice-cream and catering stalls in the vicinity. Together, they transformed the spot into a bustling hub along the route to Baruni Hills.
Reflecting on the recent ethnic violence, Punshiba Meitei acknowledged that business had suffered but was gradually recovering. During festivals and feasting seasons, especially en route to “Sanamahi Kiyong” and “Guranagor,” daily sales would reach impressive figures of Rs 8,000-10,000. Even on regular days, the stall would generate a respectable income of Rs 5,000-6,000, providing much-needed support for his family.
However, the prolonged closure due to the ethnic violence took its toll, leading to a dip in sales for over three months. With resilience and determination, Punshiba Meitei managed to regain momentum, now averaging daily sales of Rs 3,000-4,000, albeit with modest profits.
As a fruit juice stall owner, he sourced fruits and ingredients from local markets such as Lamlongkeithel and Khwairamband, with pineapple supplies coming from relatives in Thayong village.
Punshiba’s greatest wish is for peace to prevail – “Leita-lairaba eikhoidi wai, lanse loisin hanning-e.” He hopes that the ongoing conflict can be resolved so that the impoverished can find relief.
If his business were to falter, Punshiba Meitei remains open to returning to farming, a field he deeply appreciates. He firmly believes that young individuals should embrace innovation and entrepreneurship, paving their paths to self-sustainability.
In a world where adversity can be relentless, Punshiba Meitei’s journey stands as a testament to the human spirit’s resilience. His unwavering determination and ability to adapt in the face of challenges serve as an inspiration to us all.