The Land Is Not Laid Out On Paper

A friend once wondered why it is that tribal areas always seemed to have so much mineral wealth and, because of that, exploitation.
Maybe because the plains-people chased us away, maybe we were forced to flee to the forests and mountains; maybe, having exhausted all their resources, they look this way for more, look to us again.
Maybe ours has never been a glorious history of conquest and attack but of evasion and defense.


For the engineer, the land is laid out on paper. For him, it must be dealt with and overcome but to me traversing each ravine is a triumph of human will and a brief moment of glory over the earth – which they can now, so easily trample under, in their JCB. Our ancestors knew these mountains as protector and giver. Stone was stone, unaffected by fire or machete – now, no match for dynamite, the ancient fortresses are coming down. Each seemingly insignificant boulder and rock had memories. Maybe not the great tales for tourists you’ve heard but precious, so precious for a community, village or family.


A “strange” world of rain and heat weathered shops along muddy paths, no, paths of mud is more correct. Paint hangs on lazily to its last corners of wooden doors and windows. Through this marketplace you will see Reang women with their beautiful, distinctive jewellery and metal totems, you will see non-tribal men inside shops – “The tribals don’t own anything, they have to sit outside”, says my guide from the Tripuri tribe. He’s probably right. I wonder how much worse off they’d be if “development” came.

A “clean” world where there are no bottles to prick shoeless feet and mud is smeared all over the legs because you’re in a marketplace not a shopping mall. It might contain illnesses, then again it might not – that’s how things are. Dirt is not dirty here. It is lining along their houses, filling the cracks up between bamboo and a smooth floor to walk on. Dirt is not covered up, disguised or taken to be anything other than dirt.

“It’s only kinky the first time” proclaims a tee-shirt on a boy who cycles past me.

The Murder of Bisheshwar Das

(In light of the fact that people with Right Wing sensibility are sharing my work, I want to make it known that I am against the Saffron/BJP or Jihadist or Republican Weltanschauung )

I had eaten a few times in your little shop, while waiting for a friend. It smelt, like all “chai dukans”, of sickly grease and day-old “ras”. Bits from customers’ tables littered the floor and any health inspector would say it was a breeding ground for vermin. Like all “chai dukans” it was at its best in the morning, especially winters. Everything fresh, relatively cleaner and the morning cold matched the warmth of the tea. It was a feeling one looked forward to and I am sure the “kids” at Sankardev would say the same. I wonder what will happen to it now that you are no longer around.

I will not apologize for my community because these people do not represent my community. My community, as it is today, does not represent “my” community.

A community that is blind to the pain of others, that keeps its ears sealed and mouths shut, and worse, brains blunt.

A community of “Christians” that worship at the temple of Corporate Excess.

A community without a spirit or past, a community of Sunday suits and alcoholic deaths.

A community of equals, except when a woman speaks up and then she must “shutthefuckup”.

A community that does business with Fascists over the coal-mines and cement plants of Jaintia Hills.

A community where class and caste does not exist, except if you’re poor or if you suddenly take off the shades.

My community is not this mess. It is not what Khasis or Dkhars say it is in interviews, articles, blogs, books, poems. It is a community open to change and dynamic but self steering, solid in traditions but not immutable.

Bah Das, whose samosas filled stomachs, and whose very existence provoked thought. On communalism, poverty, multi-culturalism, immigration- you know, the current stuff. In your own way, you brought richness – infusing “foreign” thoughts and words into our own – as it’s always been. What will happen now that you are no longer around?

To Rahul Saikia

It is a starry night in autumn. I’m at that hill where we used to drink at in that place we all referred to as Nongrah, though it’s not really called that, I’ve found out. You remember the place, right? The one that overlooks the huge NEIGRIHMS hospital, down below. The entire hill is now drawn up and has been sold off plot by plot. I don’t know, Saikia, I get so scared when I think of land as packages up for sale. I know everyone needs it but why can’t everyone have it? Why must the dream of a home, a neighbourhood, a view be so expensive?

“That piece was bought by that director, that over there is disputed, the people who bought that are so wealthy”
Remember we could walk all over the hill and it was no surprise to spy other friends, in the distance, drinking with girls? We would make fun over our own lack of talent then and our paucity, our inability (or was it unwillingness) to play that game.

“The going rate is a thousand rupees per square foot”
Imagine how much fun we could have had for that amount! It was all down the gullet, nothing saved at all. That is what they call immaturity. But honestly the mature people scare me. The professionals, officers and businessmen who’ve bought this lovely hill scare me. I’m scared that I will hate them and I don’t want to hate them.

Even in our own lifetime, I have known a land which was boundless and I could go anywhere and eat wild raspberries off bushes, I could run through my neighbours’ yard and it was alright. But maybe that is just a Romantic view of the world, my neighbours now have a huge gate and I seldom talk to them except for promises of re-acquaintance. I will, though, this coming season.

Monkey Poems

Hanuman is a JCB carrying away mountain wealth.
What did the tribals have to say to that? History can’t remember.
Another outsider, eying benefits, cuts the minerals out for the factories.
We did not know about the War or Empire-building.

They smile at you through TV screens and you’re not supposed to hate them because they’re just mischievous monkey-men;
It is their way- licking lips, thrusting pelvises, hooting- ape-dance.
In many cultures, the world over, the Monkey King is still up to his tricks,
In the quiet by-lanes, abandoned industrial estates, ordinary houses, parks, inside moving cars and buses.

Who Do You Fear?

Who do you fear? The rich and powerful club, or the poor people with only a day’s wages in their pockets? People eye Muslims and Churches say yes yes yes. Churches have officers, politicians, businessmen inside. The same people who on a daily basis meet RSS, BJP, VHP men and say sir sir sir.
Who do you fear? “Bangladeshis” on the streets selling shoes, dolls, handkerchiefs, toys, mirrors, chana or “Indians” signing contracts that take away land, minerals, water, people. Do you fear the muezzin’s call or Modi’s? Do you fear the grip of “foreign” or “Indian” terror?
Who do you fear? Vikash and Vincent, sitting in Marriot Sheraton, sipping on Chivas Regal, talking about development or Bahhep and Boy, Mawlai toughs, enforcing a blockade with a slingshot? Do you fear men in suits and boots, or the ones with no shoes?

Ki Por Khynnah Ha Mawlai

Mynshwa, ha ki por ba nga dang rit, nga kynmaw ba ki paraklas ha ka skul jong nga, kaba ha Laitumkhrah, ki shait kren bein bha ia ka Mawlai. Ki ju ong ba ki nong Mawlai ki dang biej, ki dang sah ha ka jingdum bad ki dang sahdien. Tangba mynta pat ynda nga pyrkhat bha ia kito ki ‘tien sin jong ki, kito ki ktien kiba pynmong; kito ki juh ki ktien ki kylla long kiba kor bad ki wanshat ha ka jingmut jong nga ia ka dor jong ka jinglong jong u nongMawlai.

Ha ki por khynnah, nga kynmaw ba bun ki nongsor  ki bein ia u nong Mawlai ba u long u nongkyndong ha bun ki liang. Ha Shillong, ka Mawlai ka dei shnong  kaba pdiang sbun ia ki paradoh para snam  kiba wan na ki thain bapher bad khamtam eh na ka thain Sepngi jong ka Ri, kiba wan sha sor Shillong ban trei ban bylla bad ban pynheh pynsan ia la ki khun ki kti. Kumta kane ka jingsngew kohnioh jong ki nongsor ia u nong Mawlai ka pyni de ia ka jingwit jong ki ia kiba wan na nongkyndong. Haduh mynta ka dang don katta ka jingkynthoh u nongkyndong, u Maram, u War, u Bhoi bad peit I bein ia ki. Hapdeng ka jingshah ibein  ka don ka mynsiem  sngew sarong ban shah khot u nong Mawlai, kaba haduh mynta ruh ka dang don hynrei nga I kumba ka nang duh bor man ka sngi. Kito ki jing ong ba u nongMawlai u dei uba nud, uba pyneh beit  ki long de ki ba pynkynmaw ha ngi ia ka jinglong tynrai jong ngi ba ngim dei ki briew kiba suk ka jingim .  Haduh mynta dang don kiba  ngeit ia kane – ba ki nong Mawlai ki dei ki paia kiba bah ia ka Ri bad Jaidbynriew.

Ha ki por ba nga dang rit, nga shait shu peit napoh iing, ia la ki paralok kiba leit rung sha khlaw ban siat sim ne leit tong doh na wahduid. I mei im ju shah ia nga ban leit lang namar ba i tieng ioh jia eiei. Nga sngewthuh hi ia ka jingartatien jong i, hynrei balei ba ki kmie ki kpa jong kitto kiwei pat para khynnah kim sheptieng ? Ka daw ka lah ban long namarba ki kmie ki kpa jong kitto kiwei pat ki khynnah ki ju mlien ban rung khlaw . Kumta ka khlaw ha ki kam long nongwei ne ba  kan dei kaei kaei kaba kin tieng bad kiar, kumba ka long ia ki nongsor.  Ia kiba na nongkyndong,  ka long pynban kum ka madan lehkai ha kaba ma ki, lem bad ki khun jong ki, ki lah ban  pyndonkam  da jingsngew heh mynsiem bad ka jingsngewshngain. Kane ka leit ‘kaikhlaw ka pynshlur ia ki khynnah bad lehse ka dei kane ka jingmlien kaba pynmih ia ki swar ba satar jong ka Jaidbynriew.

Ha Mawlai, phi dang ioh lad ban ri sniang ha kper, ban leit ‘kaikhlaw bad hangta ban syang doh, khar tit, tih sohpen, thung sohkhia bad kumta ter ter. Ka Mawlai ka dang shah ia ngi ba ngin im bad roi wat la ngi don tang khyndiat ka pisa ha pla. Hangno lah ban ioh kum kane ka jingim laitluid  ha Sor Shillong? Kaba kham  sngewtriem shuh shuh ban pyrkhat kalong shaphang ka jingkyrduh tasam  bad ka jingim mraw ha kane ka juk kaba lah shilliang. Kan wan sa ka New Shillong! Sa mano ban shah peit bein? Hato kita kiba thmu ban tei ia ka Sor Thymmai ki  ju pyrkhat mo ia ka jingthiang ka jingim laitluid kaba ngi la ioh teng ha Mawlai

Ym lah ban len ba ka shnong Mawlai ka dei ka shlem jong ka Shillong. Ha kitto ki ar ne lai snem, ba nga don shabar Ri,  wat la teng teng nga klet ia la ka shnong, pynban ka jinglong nong Mawlai ka sah hapoh jong nga. Nga kynshew bha ia kata ka jinglong bad nga sngewthuh mynta ba don kaei re kaei hapoh jong nga kaba khynniat ia ka dohnud bad kaba kyntu de ba ngi dei ban tur da ka jingshlur halor ki nongrim, bad ban ieng na ka bynta ka hok jong kiwei – ki rangli-ki juki, ki nongbylla sngi, ki nongtrei kynta bad kumta ter ter.

Nga bitar  haba ki nongsor ki khein poh ia ki nongkyndong. Ki sngew sarong ia la ka riam ka beit, ka jingtbit kren phareng bad ka jingnang ia ki dustur mynder, khlem da pyrkhat jylliew bha halor kine. Kaba sngew sih kadei ba kiba kham shemphang, ki pyndonkam pat ia la ki sap ban kjit snam na ki thied jong ka Jaidbynriew. Ngi kam ialade kum ki Laloo, ki Mawthoh, ki Warjri tangba ngim dei shuh ki tribal lait tang ha ka kyrteng. Bun na ngi ngi ki la klet ia la ka tynrai, ngi la klet ia ka jingmut jong ka jinglong tribal. Kane kam mut ba ngi hap leit phai biang sha ki sngi ba rim, hynrei ba ngi dei ban roi ban san ryntih lang, ban iada ia la ki shnong, ban iada ia ki paradoh parasnam na ka jingthombor. Kane kein kadei ka jinglong tribal! Ban ia tylli ha khmat ki jingeh kiba thmu ban pyndam ia ngi nangne na slakhyndew.

Ha ki por ba nga dang khynnah, nga kynmaw ba don tang khyndiat eh ki iing  kiba la ioh ban ring cable ha ki  TV bad ka iing jong ngi ka dei kawei na kita.  Namarba ka karma buh tv ha iing ka phai sha surok, nga shait hap ban pyni cartoon (phlim boit) ia ki para khynnah dong. Khnang ba kin ioh peit , nga shait hap ban da plie ia ki jingkhangiit lem bad ki pyrda ba kin iohi bha. Ki shait ia shong dngong halor ka kynroh iing jong ngi haduh ban da wan tan ki kmie ban pynsum ia ki. Wat lada ngam shim da nang pyniadei bha bad ki ha kito ki por khynnah, namarba ka jingsngew iapher kyrdan, pynban ngi dang ia don hi ka jing iaieid para khynnah.

Mynta pat, nga ima ban peit ba ki khynnah heh kyrdan kim don jingiadei eiei shuh  bad ki khynnah ba wan na ki  longiing ba duk. Nga bein ia kane ka jingsngew sarong jong nga kaba nga shait bat mynshwa bad lada ngi kwah shisha ban pynkhie im ia ka Jaidbynriew ngi hap pynpra ia ki kynroh kyrdan.

Ha kine ki sngi, I kumba ki ba duk ki la nang shah beh na Mawlai, ki poi sah sha ki ranab lum bad ki rudnong, ym ha pdeng shnong. Don ki paralok ba na sor, ki pynroh mynta ia ka Mawlai bad ki ong ade mynta ka Shnong Mawlai te ka la kham shai, tang namar ba ki la bun ki iing armala ne iing ba itynnad. Hynrei nga sngewrem, lada ka Mawlai ka kylla long ka shnong tang na ka bynta  kiba bit ba biang hangta te ka Jaidbynriew kan nym don shuh ki ‘riew shlur kiba nud ban tur. Ngi dei ban long biang ki khynnah ki bym pyrkhat ei ei shaphang kata peit  ka kyrdan, ka pisa, ka bor, ka burom bad ban ialong paralok bad baroh kiba ngi iashem.