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?