Is chatlaroige a word?

Words with the suffix string -laroige (or -raroige) began to trickle in to my ears at least fifteen years ago. Considering the remarkably small scope of my social interaction, specially where Manipuri is the air, it must certainly have been writers that I heard such words spoken by for the first time. The first mention of any such words as far as I can remember was by a writer friend of mine, Thokchom Kiran, from Wangoo Mamang Sabal when he spoke in a Sahitya Seva Samiti literary function at Yambem Mani Sahitya Bhawan, Kakching, around 2005. He was–I don’t know if he still “is”–a Meitei or Meetei (not sure which one) revivalist at least in language. When he mentioned a -laroige or -raroige word, he was not just using it unconsciously–he was damning it, he said it was wrong, meaningless and unreasonable, and symptomatic of shameful degradation of the so beautiful and dignified language of Manipuri.

Why I assume it must be the first time I heard a word with the suffix string -laroige or -raroige said or written is that I was surprised when he used those example words. He used more words than one (one word I can remember is touraroige), I think, and he was mentioning them as examples. The first time I heard such words said was when they were sad by one of their die-hard critics. Interestingly I did not find anything wrong or so degraded in the words. I must have heard such words so many times after that day and I must not have paid much attention to them that three years ago, I found–when I paid attention to what I talked with people on the phone–many such words to have crept into my speech.

Then, in recent years after I find myself saying such words, I find a new wave of language saints (writers, especially elderly ones) outspokenly hating such words and doing all they can to throw them into the sea.

Now the question is: Is chatlaroige a word? Are such formations words?

In the last few years I have heard several people who do things with words as the primary occupation of their life–poets, columnists, general language lovers–damning words of the form verb+la/raroige and cursing those who say these words.

One of their arguments is that such words are formed of two negative elements making the word something like the English word irregardless, blamed equally and for similar reasons. A teacher of mine, P. Kunjo, who taught me English in the late 1990s, has criticized this word in a couple of public speeches, one being when he presided over my third book, the Manipuri translation of some of Tomas Transtromer’s poems. P. Kunjo is an MA in Manipuri, has taught Manipuri at college (he was the Principal of Kakching Girls College), has tutored hundreds of students in English grammar at his residence, writes prose and poetry in Manipuri, often contributes articles to the most widely circulating local vernacular newspaper, Poknapham. His major argument against verb+la/raroige is that it is double negative. I also have read poet Birendrajit Naorem appealing to his follow poets against such words.

However, I don’t see no double negative here. -loi/roi is negative but -ge is not negative. I would rather say what is apparently problematic and troubling the sprachgefühl of the peevers is this unlikely combination of the negative and the affirmative-looking element in a single word. Still I don’t think it should necessarily be a problem because, not just in linguistics but in all human realms of understanding, we first conceive of something affirmative and make the negative counterpart of it. Even the philosophers who believe in the harmony and unity of things base their negatively polarizing terms on already existing affirmative terms–advaitanon-dual, etc. Moreover, I think -ge is not really an affirmative polarity item. In linguistics, polarity is a grammatical category associated with affirmative and negative. -ge functions as a maker of four things in different cases:

  • Asking permission for what you want to do. For example, Ima, imannaba mayam chak chanadouri. Ei yaoruge?
  • Asking somebody’s opinion about what you are going to do. For example, Sigi hidaksi thajillaga yenge. Bera kadourijatla?
  • Making your intention (what you are going to do) known, at least just for information or for your own pleasure. For example, Hayengdi furit fajaba ama leiruge.
  • Telling somebody that you will do what they have told you to do. For example, Hoi, ngaihak leirage touge.
The four above uses of -ge (and its phonetic variant -ke) are distinct. Interestingly these sentences are all in the affirmative and this polarity is not because of -ge. How will you ask the opinion of your superior when you say you are wondering if it is OK not to do something, or when you ask the permission for not doing something, using the negative equivalents of the first two examples above, without introducing new words or phrases? Normally we add negative polarizing items at the end of verbs–chat-te, chat-loi, etc. But these straight negatives don’t carry the additional senses or nuances that could have been conveyed with -ge.
To be continued.

Haggard House

Its stairs creaking to the weight of
the ghosts of memories walking up and down
while I lie curled up in the bed
like a fetus in the wombing dark
listening to the trembling house pumping
memories in and out mixing times
into watercolor clouds.

The house is going home–
the roof, the walls, the floor boards, the cornices–
piece after piece, faithful to the earth’s beckon,
its pull of love,
and I feel being lowered in a wheelchair in a hospital elevator
to an underground theater
where they contrive to stop the clock.

কাউনখ্রবা চান্নবশিং

নীংশিংবদগি খরা চৎলগা লৈবা য়ূম ৷

নুংশীৎনা তপ্না নোম্লুবদা
চ্রিং চ্রিং তপ্না খীংলকই
মাঙ্গোলদা য়ানবা ৱিন্দ চাইম
নীংশিংবনা অচীকপদা পোক্লিবগুম ৷

অদো ঊনানা তপ্না কেনশিনবদা
নোংলৈনা ঈপাক নৈরগুম
য়ূমগি মমি কয়াা মচোই মচোই গ্লাসকুম
মখোল থোকতনা ৷
অদৈদি নাপু মচুগি ঊনা ৷

নাপু মচুগি ঊনা ৷

কুইনা লংথোক্লবা রেল লম্বীদা
রেলগারী অমা চেনখি লমহাঙ লমজাউ ফাওনা
মাগি অমুবা তুরিনা
কোইয়েক য়েকশিন্দুনা ঊৎমান মচুগি অতিয়াদা ৷
লম্বী কাউরব্রা অথৌবদো?
লাঙবদি উদে অতোংবা কনাশু,
অচীকপতনিদনা অরাপ্পদগিদি
লানশু, শিবশু, কপ্পশু ৷

শকখঙদবা নুংশীৎ ৷
অরাপ্পদগি লাকপা পাউ
ঊফুল ৱাইফুল ইতৈ তৈ
ইৱাউ ৱাউনা থুংলৈ ৷
কনাশু খঙদে কনাগি পাউনো ৷

মথৌ লোইরবা রেলগারী
অরোইবা খাম্ফমদা মশা অসুম ঈংথরকই ৷

অহিংনা হৌবা লেপখিবা

য়ূমদোম্পোক ৷

পুুুুন্সিনা মখোল থোকতনা লেঙ ওৎলী
ত্রাফিক্কি কার মরী মরীগুম অরাপ্পদা
তহাবা হায়খৈ লৌথোকখ্রবা
পুুুন্সি ৱারীগুুুম শকখঙদবগি ৷

মতোন্দা অমম্বা কা ৷
নুুংদাংদদি অতিয়াদা য়ানবা য়ূমগুম
মনুংদু ইঙান ঙাল্লী ৷

নাইতোম্লবী ৷

ইতৎ তত্তনা
চিথীশিংনা পাইথোরকই
অমম্বা কাগি থোঙনাউদগি
অঙৌবা খুনুগুম ৷

কদায় কদায়দনো পাইখি ৷

কনা কনাদা থারিবা পাউনো?
করি হায়রিবনো অচীকপদগি?

খুনুদি অমত্তসু হল্লকতে
নুংদাংদসু ৷
অঙৌবা খুনু ৷

নোংমদি অহিংনা মম্বদা
কা অসিসু য়াওখি ৷

লৈমায়দা হৈদোক্লবা পুন্সি

অৱাংবা য়ূমদগি তারকতুনা
পুন্সি অমা হৈদোক্লে লৈমায়দা।
পুন্সি কোনবা থুংদবা য়ূম।
য়ূম্না কোন্দবা পুন্সি।

লৈ পুন্সিনা লৈবা য়াদবা মফম,
পুন্সি থম্বা য়াদবা মফম,
লম্বীগুম্বা, চৎপদি য়াবা, লৈবদি য়াদবা।
কৈদৌনবা মফম্নো খঙদে--
থিরুগবা নকশিনফম করিদগি লাপথোক্লগা করিদা
খঙদববু ইমিংগি বনানগুম ইরায় লায়বগুম।

হৌদুনা চেল্লী মখোয় খরদি
তম্নবা য়ূমদগি।
লম্বীগি লম্বীমক্তা--
ত্রেইন তালিশু, ঈরোইনদবা তুরেলসু,
অঙাংগি তেলঙ্গা মরকসু।

ইচোৎ চোৎশিল্লী লাঞ্জেল্লকপা পুন্সিনা
চঙজফম পীদবা মফমদা,
পুন্সি থমদবা মফমদা।

পুন্সি অমা হৈদোক্লে লৈমায়দা।

খোমজিন তাশিল্লী ৱা ঙাঙদবা খরনা
পুন্সিগি মচেৎ মকায়শিং
মফম চাবদা থম্নবা।
(পুন্সিগা লোন ফাওনব্রা মখোয়,
অরোনবা খঙব্র মখোয়?)

অদুদগি হল্লকই অচীকপগি মহৌশা।
নুমীৎ তাবগুম
নত্রগা নোং ঙানবগুম।

ইনাক্তদি লৈয়ুদনা ৱা ঙাঙদ্রসু

ইনাক্তদি লৈয়ুদনা ৱা ঙাঙদ্রসু


তুমিন লাকই অচীকপদগি খোঞ্জেল ওইফাত্রিবা অমা
খোঞ্জেলগি লমদা, পুরকপগুম করিগুম্বা পাউ অমা
মখোঙ থাংদুনা চৎপা অচীকপনা অচীকপদা
মখোঙ লৈমায় তাদ্রিবা
থোৎপা, নৌবা, লৈতবগুম্না তনৌবা অঙাং৷

তহা তহাই খোঞ্জেল খরদি
কৌরবগুম মমানা চৎখিনু য়াদনা লাকপা শান্নফমদগি৷

অচীকপগি ফক্লাংদা নাকোঙ থমদুনা ৷
মখোল থোকপা লেপখ্রবা খোঞ্জেল, মদুনা লেঙবা খোৎপা নুংশীৎতা
কনাগিদমকশু নত্তনা৷ মশাগি৷ মহৌশাগি৷

নুংশিবা খোঞ্জেল, নুংশিবা ঈশৈ
মখোঙ থাংদুনা চঙখি অচীকপদা
শুমখি অচীকপনা নিংথমগি অরুম্বা ফৈজূপ য়োম,
ঙংদুবীদুনা ঈশৈ নঙ ঐনা তাদবা৷
খঙবিদ, করিশু থোক্নদবগুম ঐখোয়গা৷

My House a Few Steps from Life

My House a Few Steps from Life

The rain paints the city on the windswept street
where leaves from forgotten places
desperately scoop up memories fading out into the past,
those memories I once tore off my hair to get rid of,
things that turn out what I am made of.
How far can you get away from life?
You just stretch it only like a bodycon.

From a distance, life is silent like an unread poem,
all its noise a frozen tale trapped in a magic ball.

The wind says nothing—it just blows the dust
off the dusty park bench I wake up on
to bring forgotten dust from other parts of the city.
You see there is a time in life that wombs you
so perfectly with nothing beyond it that
the keys on the piano repeat on the few same notes
and nothing crosses the landscape
to become a memory, and you—
a beautiful, sad painting in tawny sunset.

It all turns golden at sunset before it’s all dark.