My camera battery died too soon. I assumed it must have enough power left on it after the rock shooting on Friday and I was wrong. I had to take these shots on my tablet, which I have almost never done earlier.
Sajay Wangkhem, a Poknapham reporter, at a literary event on 16 January 2017. He photographs other people, but he does not have even a passport photograph of his own. Yea, a couple of selfies.
Poet and playwright Srilekhak (left) is experimental in his art. Sparing and deliberating in speaking, parsimonious in praise, what come out of his mouth when he speaks are like sentences from a book of literary criticism. Almost blind since the late 1990s, how he struggles to write is drama in real life. His printing press, Times Printers, (closed in 1999 due to his dwindling eyesight) at Kakching market contributed greatly to the spread of literary movements the effects of which could be felt in the rise of literary movements in non-Imphal circles across the entire valley of the state. My translations of his two poetry collections will soon see the light of day.
Poet, novelist, short story writer and philosopher Dr. Rajendra Pukhrambam (middle), I would say, is an author of several unwritten books. He is not a textual and academic type, but the words that come out of his mouth are heavy with deep wisdom. Kind and compassionate, understanding and helpful, soft-spoken and reassuring, encouraging and enlightening (without making you feel being on the receiving end of knowledge), Rajendra is one of the best human beings I have ever seen, known or heard of. Reading his literary works is calming like what you feel in saying a prayer. The experience his works gives to the reader is deep and cannot be laid threadbare by analysis and criticism. Mysticism forms a large part of his world–literary and the day-to-day. Unlike as is the case with most thoughtful people, there does not seem to be a significant difference between the world of his thought and the life he actually lives.
Usham Nirjitkumar (right) is a singer. I am not sure if he is a poet as well. I took this photograph at a literary event. 16 January 2017. I have yet to know about him.
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.
4 January 2017. After I had avoided humans, particularly those who are by default called friends in every sphere of my life for a very long time, Preety Jankeepersand and I met, had tea and paratha at Brahmaputra and walked for long in many secluded areas in the JNU campus. Preety, a kind and self-conscious girl from Mauritius, has been a friend of mine who has been helping me when and where no other person would actually give a damn. Most friendships demand mutual investment and that reciprocity needs to be simultaneous lest the friendship expires. Preety has proved a different person–in her characteristic combination of quiet and frankness, and affection and aloofness, she would repeatedly and patiently get through my silent irresponsive solitude and do a few things to help me (calling me sometimes, writing to me often with some important information I need to act on) before she leaves quietly. She knew without somebody helping me I would not do certain things despite the consequences. Not many people would be so generous as her at least to a person like me–so aloof, so unpenetrably silent and incommunicable. I would ever remain indebted to her. So happily.
That afternoon we talked about a lot of things. Life in general. Plans for future–what we wanted to do in life, after the linguistic course. I had my camera with me too–I told her I wanted to take a few photographs of her. To remember her by. The easier way.
I had photographed her before too. This evening was calmer and quieter and we were more relaxed. But unfortunately, when we arrived at this particular place–a beautiful one, one we would unlikely visit on any other day–the sun had already set and I had to turn the ISO up and lower the shutter speed. Far beyond I would normally go for. (We did not plan to come here–some beautiful peacocks attracted our attention and we followed a couple of them which we saw and we ended up here.)
Though I wished we got to this place earlier, she was so cool and beautiful in her blue shirt and jeans in that twilight. We agreed we would come to this place again. Earlier. We have not yet gone there again.
I took six or seven photographs there. She was calmly beautiful in all of them. In her quiet and cute beaming beauty. Now the course has ended and she will go back to her country and I will muddle through following my dream. In difficulty. The time has come for me to publish the few photographs I have taken of her. Here are two of them. Up above. I will add the other photographs too here. And various versions of the same photographs too.
I will remember this friend of mine. Ever in my life. Clearly. Without a cloud.
In full bloom. One of the few physical parts of JNU (New Delhi) I like.
The linguistic course I took up at the JNU (New Delhi) has finally ended. It did not eat my daily hours up but it kept hanging over my consciousness for the last two years and the things I had kept on hold had piled up all around me. Now I have to go back to my life–life has called me back and I have to answer. I have consciously lived a crazy life like a kid for two years. That was fun. Well now, that has come to an end. I will be busy doing what I love. For the rest of my life. Mostly quietly.
Knowing fully well that I may not have any reason to come to this place again after all my formalities are done with here in one month or so, I sensed last afternoon that it is probably the last JNU spring that I will see and I felt I should photograph this part of JNU. Almost a bower-like formation.
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:
A scholar listening to a poet reading at a pre-lunch reading session of English Literature Circle, Manipur University on 24 January 2017.