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Gambhir Singh’s Homecoming: From Mumbai to Manipur in 40 Years

Meet the real life ‘Muqqadar ka Sikandar’ who, after four decades, gets to go back home to Manipur.

Published
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3 min read

Video Editor: Ashish MacCune
Video Producer: Chandni Sharma
Video Input from Manipur: Sunzu Bachaspatimayum

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‘Rote hue aate hai sab, hasta hua joh jaayega woh muqaddar ka sikander, jaaneman klahleya’ - ‘Muqaddar Ka Sikandar’ (1978).

Khomdram Gambhir Singh was singing this superhit song from the film Muqaddar Ka Sikandar when he was filmed for a YouTube video. It is this video that eventually helped him return home to Manipur after spending 40 years in Mumbai. Forty years of anonymity, loneliness, and the hardship and of being just another homeless man in the city of dreams.

1978 was the year when Muqaddar Ka Sikandar released – this was also the year when 34-year-old Gambhir left his home in Khumbong Mamang Leikai in Manipur and decided to move to Mumbai. And now his life is a ‘lost and found’ Bollywood potboiler of the 70s.

I was with Manipur Rifles since I was 16 years old. I worked for more than 10 years but then my father wanted me to take care of my ancestral farms. So I quit the forces and started farming. By the time I was 34, I was done. My siblings had grown up, they could take care of the fields. I left for Mumbai without telling anyone.
Khomdram Gambhir Singh
Gambhir Singh at a shelter home in Mumbai after being found due because of a YouTube video. 
Gambhir Singh at a shelter home in Mumbai after being found due because of a YouTube video. 
(Photo: The Quint/Ankita Sinha)
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What happened to Gambhir for the next 40 years is like a blur. No clear answers are there. He says he wanted to return home but met with an accident and broke his leg.

Gambhir did odd jobs, worked in mills, but for most part, had to resort to begging.

Forty years were spent in simply trying to survive in Mumbai, until October 2017. That month, Bollywood fashion designer Firoze Sakir saw Gambhir in Bandra. Gambhir sang a song for him and told him his story. Firoze shot a video of this interaction and uploaded it on YouTube.

“I met him one-an-a-half years ago. He was having problems with kids, they were abusing him and they were calling him Nepali. He is not a Nepali, he is a hardcore Manipuri. He loves Manipur and he kept saying he is Manipuri and he’s an Indian, and this is what touched me the most, you know. I don’t remember how I took that one video, which has gone quite viral now. Maybe he needed to talk to somebody and there was nobody that could relate to him. He had no friends and people used to rob him. He used to make good money by begging and they used to steal his wallet, steal his clothes and he was absolutely finished,” says Firoze Shakir.
Gambhir Singh at a shelter home in Mumbai. 
Gambhir Singh at a shelter home in Mumbai. 
(Photo: The Quint/Ankita Sinha)
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Almost 6 months later, the video was seen by the people in Manipur. It included Imphal West Students Club secretary Atom Samarendra. Khumbong Mamang Leikai, the place Gambhir said he came from, is in Imphal west. The local police were able to trace Gambhir’s family and after due verification with Mumbai police, they decided to travel to Mumbai to bring Gambhir home.

Gambhir Singh with Manipur police personnel who had come to take him back home.
Gambhir Singh with Manipur police personnel who had come to take him back home.
(Photo: The Quint/Ankita Sinha)

Gambhir returned to Manipur on 19 April 2017. But unlike 40 years ago when he just vanished, this time everyone knew he was back home. People had gathered at the airport for Gambhir’s grand welcome, the media was chasing him for interviews and his comeback was for the world to see. But Gambhir has a problem.

I can’t speak in Manipuri, I have forgotten the language. I would like if people talk to me in Hindi.
Khomdram Gambhir Singh

But Manipur is a place where Hindi films are banned and very few people speak or understand Hindi. There may be no one who will appreciate the Hindi film songs he sings, the songs which eventually got him back home.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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