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.
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.
At Mountain Gym, Hijam Dewan Leikai, Thangmeiband, Imphal, Manipur
This black cave, the only space
carved out in the whole rock-solid world.
A black stone womb. Cold.
A single impossible hole. Blinding bright.
Time. Endless. It flows in.
Licking tongues of smoke in a shaft of light
straight as a freight train in full speed
into the jaws of the darkness.
Spiraling. The hooks of an arrow.
Never ending. It flows in. Time flows in
like from an oxygen tank. Keeping me alive.
Giving me time in this black stone womb.
Time stretched thin out to eternity.
To feel every single bite of pain
every single tear in the tissue
in the world where nothing else exists.
Nothing else. Nothing. Just live.
An immortal. A god in torment.
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.