Manipuri short story writer and one of the state’s top cops, Rajen Moirangthem (left) and Manipuri poet and sports columnist, Saratchand Thiyam on the evening of 16 January 2017.
Both of them are national Sahitya Akademi award recipients. I set out as an editor when I assisted Mr. Rajen in editing Chumthang, a literary journal published by Sahitya Seva Samiti, Kakching.
Saratchand and I came to know each other at a seminar at India International Center, New Delhi, in 2005. Organized by Katha. As a young boy–youngest among the delegates–I was a panelist in a discussion program–Knowledge Keepers and Dream Makers. Did he get a book of his released during the seminar? I don’t remember. Something like the English translation of his Nungsibi Greece was hot then.
A cute light smile spread across his pensive face when he saw me during a literary program in Manipur in mid January this year. He still recognized me after over ten years. The first and the last time we met was at a translation workshop in Kakching in 2005. He, like participant, patronized me, though quite distantly–I was a young boy then, and the youngest translator.
We walked out. He extended a hand to me, and I clasped it in both of my hands. “How are you, sir?” I asked. “Spent!” His reply was cool and quiet as ever. I had to strain my ears when I first met him. Later it occurred to me that we are almost equal in this regard–remaining within our own auditory comfort zones, both of us are not much considerate to our listeners.
Konsam Kulladhvaja, a Manipuri literary critic
I recognized the smell emanating from his person. Alcohol. He has always loved that, since when I first knew him. In any case, that goes well with him.
When I requested for a photograph giving the reason “You are going into history,” he did not protest but he was not enthusiastic either. But the expression on his face was not for words to describe. My camera was yet to be held up.
Depression broods in art. Anger chafes in art. The fires, cries and deaths of war do not spare art. Every human thing touches art. Still, there is something about art that keeps it cool. You will rediscover the innocence of humans in old men of art being together. Just being happy, without any reason. Just being together. Just listening to each other’s songs. A cappella. Just listening to each other’s poems or short stories.
These guys are such folks. I photographed them after a literary program in Manipur early this year. January 2017. From left to right:
At Mountain Gym, Hijam Dewan Leikai, Thangmeiband, Imphal, Manipur
He was an interesting character in the surrounding I found him in. What he was dressed in, how he moved, how he walked, how he bore his body, how he sat, what he did, where he was. I was immediately interested, and the interest remained alive for the whole while (the thirty or forty minutes) we were almost next to each other. My balls were not big enough for that much close proximity😁😂😅 to take a shot without asking him first. I have had quite a few dramatic experiences (which are quite a lifetime’s adventure not to be repeated, to some people) in my short photographic journey. Earlier that very day, some Myanmarese policemen made me to delete some photographs they did not want me to take back into India. The Indian Border Security Force (BSF) personnel at the border entry gate had also made me to deleted five invaluable photographs. Deleting them was like undergoing an abortion.
Photographically a rude and aggressive person, I don’t like most of my photographs taken after communicating with my street and found subjects. Something is usually lost from the situation in the photograph. If we both are available for a long enough talk to establish sort of a contextually required mutual understanding, I like (and sometimes prefer) talking with them. That is a different aesthetics and the subject behaves differently, in a more relaxed mood.
That day we were not available for such a walk-up talk, but he was too close and aware of my presence and every movement I made, and I did not want to regret not having photographed him. I requested him. He immediately smiled broadly. That was something I had not seen in the last 30 minutes or so, and that totally changed the scene. I lost something forever, and gained something unexpected. I photographed his smile. I still miss his face without that beautiful smile. That was quite something.