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.
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:
A scholar listening to a poet reading at a pre-lunch reading session of English Literature Circle, Manipur University on 24 January 2017.
(Dedicated to those sons of ladies, pershaps also daughters of ladies, deadly wanting to get some time-swelling surgically removed off their life. Seriously 😂)
The last day in hell–just one more day–
I wish this time swelling removed surgically.
Dry wishing does nothing to these immaterial walls
though these silk-worms shit tiny time particles
slower, ever slower and slower, as if run out of itself.
These time walls feel rather thicker and tougher–
so squeezing time-tight, hammer-squashing.
A cool old timer serving a term long as time
Looks at me without an expression in his face,
“Son, tell ya how ta kill time d coolest way?
Just fucking do nothin’ an’ den time is yer
spa bitch gropin’ ya eprywha, in an’ outa yer booty,
and d bitch gets old an’ tired an’ dies.
Just domp do fucking nothin, son.”
Impressed, I look at this cool serial time-killer,
unperturbed like peace carved on cold stone.
A child was born with death, a poppy birthmark
tattooed cutely on its tender skin adding art to flesh.
Pulling long carrot roots from the soft mulch
one weary evening, the boy saw sleepy time,
inveterate as an old hoary smoker, drowse across the valley
like a lucent birthmark floating free of skin.
What’s the body to the earth?
It reaches for and slips down to the floor
when breath begins migrating
and the blood slows down to a thick stop.
The accordion, singing voices, loud laughters and cries
and brisk and elaborate movements of dance
have made it a warm winter in the suburb pub.
The cold of the floor creeps up his cheeks
in exchange for the warm flow from
the cooling hole in his heart—
he is drowning in his own life.
A dancing girl takes a break, sits down
at a stool by the counter and tosses a swig
of red-blood hot life into her life-sucker.
Crimson seeps through the cotton clouds
slowly revealing the sky bleeds—
crimson drops trickling down the cold earth.
Death is quite different when you’ve survived
Several suicides and several other deaths—
Death is so useless; life—you’ve nowhere to go!
I died there in that city, in that small, dark, boring room
In those monotonous restaurants
Those parks, those benches, those thorns
Those hospital beds, corridors and clinic rooms
Those same boring streets, same boring traffic
Day in, day out. Year in, year out!
I lived there, across the city, digging a grave across it
I died there, across that city, in that grave
Buried my dead body there, in that grave, across that city
With the body of my dead love—
Love, nowhere to live, nowhere to die.
A piece of me still moving—a sure sign of life,
Like a dead actor in an olden movie.
Something doesn’t quite let it alone—life, death,
And I love it and I hate it—it just confuses me.
No name! My heart just pumps it, and it flows
Through my veins and capillaries all over my body!
Quiet like a dark mountain at night.
The grey curls from the ash tray
trail up like an unwilling soul
stretched from life to death.
Somewhere in the dark under the thatch rafters
they would meet with the spiral
up from the cigarette between his fingers
and the infrequent clouds from the lips.
He’s smoking away the night—
the night comes in a whirlpool into his cigarette,
mazing through that stuff of the tube,
turning into brooding smoke on the other side
in the cave that blows it back out
in clouds into where it belongs.
Bored, I had gone out time and again,
spilled my heart out in the moonless night
wide as a fisher’s net, to see
if anything in the dark interests me
I found this untitled, unfinished poem when I organize my usually messy desktop today. Too messy today. The MS Word properties say it was written on 7 January 2017. Left unfinished. Many poems. In fact most poems. Yes, I often delete unfinished poem, when I cannot finish them, when I am not in the same mood as I was in when I wrote the original piece. I don’t know why I wrote this. Not in the same mood.
Here is another piece. Left unfinished on the same day–7 January 2017. This one is titled, but certainly unfinished:
Melody at Dawn
This dawn the rain suddenly comes.
I had thrown my wishes up in the skies,
my memories too, where they’d come from.
and I’d forgotten about the rains.
Now suddenly the drops of the rain
come a long way and patter these ancients
against my doors and window panes,
on the dusty leaves in the garden
and the hard long-dry ground—
they must be kicking up the dust
the air smells of the dusty long sigh
of the earth and the vegetation
at the first rain of the season
after they have held their breath for long.
From the balcony I see the dark all around wet,
the sound all around are wet
and the strings of rain run on in the dark
and the drops of rain beat on in the wet.
January 2017. That was when I was so deeply depressed, if I remember it correctly. And when I did not want to talk with anybody or see anybody. I remember I wanted to flee Delhi, but I could not yet do so until 16 January after I had done the formalities at my university, which I wanted to run away from too. I was in no mood to see a single human being, especially the ones I have known and am familiar with.
I more often than not delete unfinished poems. I know I would not ever be able to finish them. I have not done it today. I don’t know why.
Forgotten moods. Forgotten pieces of my self. The idea of the self! How much do I know about myself, if knowledge is made of memory? I forget most about myself. So life goes on. Forgotten promises to myself. Forgotten wishes, left unattended. Pieces of life left unlived. Strange pieces of life I have rather lived, without having wished at all.
লৈরাংবগি গারী চৎখ্রে মশা লূম্না
ওল্লদুনা নুং থাবা লম্বীদা চকা
লান্দুনা লম্বী চিদাইগি মোংশোঙসে৷
লৈরাংনা নীক-নীক, নোম-নোম
লম্বীগি অকূৎ-অতোঙ তান্থাদা৷
ঙাইজবনি নুংতিগি খূঞ্জগে হায়না লৈরাং
য়েংদুনা লৈজহৌবনি চৎখিবদো গারিনা
লম্বীগি অকূৎ-অতোঙ তান্থাদা৷
পোৎয়োমসি অসুম পুরিবনি পুনীংদুনা, নুংশিদুনা
উহৈশিংসে ফংদবদি নত্তে য়ূমগি হৈকোলদুদা
শাত্তবদি নত্তে নাচোমশিংসি ইপাগি লৈকোলদুদা,
অদু পুরক্লিবনি নুংশিদুনা চৎলুবা লমদমশিং
খূদোলজনীংদুনা লেম পানা ৱাৎত্রবা ঐগি নুংশিবশিংদুদা
হেকচরক্লিবনি হৈরাং লৈরাংশিংসে থমোই কয়াদ ঈরাঙ হৌনা
পীবগি অপেনবদু ফাওজনীংদুনা, থারম্লবসু পূম্নমকসে মখোয়না৷
চৎলিবনি পোৎলূমসে পুদুনা ৱারবসু ৱানা
করম্নদি লংথোক্লমগনি অদুক নুংশিনা খুদোলবীরক্লগা নঙনা?
করিদি পুরুনি নুংশি খূদোল পোৎলূমসে নত্ত্রদি?
করম্নদি খূল্লুনি চেগায় চেগুম খুলগি লম্বী মতাইদগি
থাদদুনা নুংশিবসে লম্বীগি ঊফুল মথক্তা?
ও! করিগি অসুক নুংশিরিবনো নঙনা ঐবু?
নুংশিবা য়াদব্র খরা তপ্না, খরা থোৎনা, মতম শাংনা?
তৌফম খঙহন্দ্রে নঙগি নুংশিবনা ঐবু
চৎফমসু খঙহন্দ্রে লম্বীসি নীং তম্না
অসুম নীক্তুনা লৈরে থমোই মরীসে ঐগি!
চৎখি নুংশিবা কয়ানা ঐবু লান্দুনা অসুম
হাইফেত্তফাওবা য়েংলমদনা করিসু মরী থোক্নদবগুম
ঈচেলগা তোর্বানগি উপালগগি মতৌগুম৷
ফজবা পূম্নমকসে য়েংজরিঙৈ ঙমজদনা ইশকসে শেমজবা
মিপাইজরিঙৈ থোৎল লৈনাশিংগিদমক উনখাসিদা
মথূম মরাঙ হৌরিঙৈ পীক্লবা থমোইসে ফজবগি ঈথক্না নীকপিরদুনা
অসুম লেপতুনা লৈরম্লে তোর্বানসিদা, লম্বী মতাইসিদা
খঙজহৌদ্রে করিম’ ঐসু চৎকনি হায়বা৷
ফজবা পূম্বসে য়েংনা য়েংনা
নুংশিবা পূম্বসে উনা উনা
ঈখৌ লাংলক্লে ঐ অসুম অসুম
ইখূবামসিদগি অসুম য়ুখ্রবদা পুন্সি মহীসিনা৷
ঐ অসুম চোকথরক্লে,
নুংঙাইনা অমুক্তং তূম্নীংখ্রেদা!
Me reading Tomas Tranströmer’s Nocturne (trans. Robin Fulton).
Me reading A Winter Night by Tomas Tranströmer.