Wan Phai Ban Pynbha Biang


Sa shi sien, la kha biang ia me, la kynmaw ieid biang namar ba ki wah ki la rngat bad ki miet, kjam. Mynta ki sla ki la iap bad ki lum, syllen. La dei ka por wad jingkyrmen biang. Kumta hi ha ki sngi kha. Man u snem u wan noh ha PB, bad ki briew kim klet ban wan mane ia u. Ki wan dem ha me uba sympat ia ki nongkhayi; ha iew.

Ki thrang ban iohi ia ka jingwan arsien jong me. Kumno men wan? Kum ka eriong bad leilieh? Kum ka wait bad sum? Kum u jumai bad ding? Ne kum ka Pyrem bad ki sla jyrngam? Kum ka Erbatemon bad um pjah? Kum ka Jingkmen bad ki kot thymmai?

Wan, wan ban pynbha biang. Tangba lada me wan, kyrsiew shwa, kum ia u Lazarus, ia kito ki ba shah thang im ha ki por iakhih ki sengbhalang. Kyrsiew ia baroh kiba shah thombor tang namarba ki pher na ngi. Kyrsiew ia kito kiba pynrit mynsiem ha khmat kiba heh, kumjuh kiba shah bein tang namarba kim mane ia me. Kyrsiew khamtam ia ki dohnud maw jong ki nongbud jong me. Pynum ia u thah uba sop ia ki mynsiem jong ki.

Wan, wan ban pynbha biang. Ai biang ha ka Elaka Sutnga bad Elaka Narpuh ia ki tyllong um ba khuid, kibym ai jingpang ia kiba dih ne sum ha ki. Kumjuh ha Byrnihat bad Nongtalang.

Lada me wan ban pynbha shisha, pynbha ia kine ki khlur rit bad ophisar kiba shong ha khmat iingmane. Pyni ka dur shisha jong me ha ki. Ba me kham ia jan bad ki nongkhrong ban ia ki saipan, ba me shong bad ki nongdiekwai, ba mem pat ju poi sha Times Square, ba mem shym beh ia ka burom ne spah hapor ba me dang im ha pyrthei.

Lada me wan shisha, wan biang na trep na sem mrad; wan biang kum u nongpynim jong ka shnong ka thaw; u nongpyrsad mynsiem ia ka imlang sahlang; wan biang kum u nongpyllait im ia ki mraw.

Tabula Rasa

Or, Sensations I Can Never Relive Again Because The Initial Impressions Have Faded)

Coming home on a half day and it’s raining outside. Throwing my uniform about and running into the blankets from under whose safe warmth I could watch cartoons. Listening to raindrops hit my tin roof and nodding off.

Yellow sunlight falling on the wall of a government colony house, with a dust road running along side it. Motes floating and colliding in the summer heat of Assam. My cousin’s beautiful face peeking over the top.

Bathing with my siblings and fighting for a spot in front of the fire. Spitting at it to hear the sizzle and being scolded for it. Forced to apply the sticky glycerin and scolded for trying to drink it. Feeling my PJs warm my winter skin. Fighting with my siblings over the videogame console.

Sitting in the church basement ensconced in the thick bright red jacket, which mama bought for me from Bangladesh. The other kids smell of bidis and make faces at me. Sinking further into the material.

The glow of winter night fires in the family room. Memories of wood and coal like smoke. Poking the flames incessantly to command gas out of stone like a blowtorch. Everyone crowding the fireplace. The cats enjoy the embers.

CHATTRI, LAL BAHADUR (Indian Labourer) Indian Labour Corps; 56th (Khasi) Indian Labour Coy. Date of Death: 06/05/1918 Service No: 1828 D.1

In death, you become Khasi: a wildman, a man of the grass, a person who dug down deep and strove to scratch out life one day at a time, a royal. That’s what a Khasi was, wasn’t it?
You knew those ways, that’s why they called you one.

When you fell flat onto that cold French earth-
Not the France of Cannes and Paris but bleak brutal battle-
The Khas in you struggled inside, wanting to live on;
When your eyes shut -your body heavy with lead, your lungs failing -you took a fistful of foreign earth.
The British called you Khasi because they didn’t know what else to call you (or perhaps didn’t care).

They all look the same, I guess, they said. Hand them medals, sort up a small parade, send them some money: celebrate the death of their sons at Iewduh; call it bravery, call it valour.

I wonder what Lal Bahadur was really like. In a uniform, he must have looked like everyone else in the corp. He must have ‘attentioned’ or ‘stood at ease’ like everybody else.
He must have made some Khasi friends:
Facing death together, sharing stories about a home they shared in the hills of Assam, bracing together under a foreign hand, marching under a foreign scepter:
All problems must have seemed foreign back then.

Lal Bahadur, what sort of place was this when you were alive? What were the people like? What funny stories did the tavern spill out into the home? What forces drove people apart then and chained them?

Been a hundred years now, I wonder if he knows:
That there are no wild nor free men anymore; no people of the grass, no Khas.

Lal Bahadur Chattri, Khasi

Ha jingiap ki kam Khasi ia me:
Namar ha ka jingiap dam lut khait kito kiba pynpher ia ngi –
Kawei ka met ka iasyriem bad kawei pat, ki dak ba ngi ioh nangne nangthe kim don jingmut shuh;
Kam don shuh kata ka Pyrkhat Pyrdain kaban pynshai, kam don shuh ka Rukom kynnoh ktien shnong kaban sakhi.
Ngi kam ia me – uba na kiwei – kum u jong ngi:
Namar ngi ia tur lang, ia tyllun lang bad ia iap lang:
Tmang ka iing, ka sem, ki khun ki kti.

Me jah jlang – jngai na iing, sha ri nongwei – lem bad ki para Khas:
Ki para nongbylla, ki nongkit sahep, nongtihsurok ia ki atiar thma,
Ki nongtbeh dongmusa ha ki por ba iong ngain ka bneng:
Ym don jingiapher kyrdan, ym don ba tam, ym don ba duna;
Haba ia kyllon ia kyllon lang, haba ia thiah, ia thiah lang –
Jngai na iing, sha ri nongwei.

Comrades, In Dark Times

What we have, dear friends, is poetry. Only we can use it. We haven’t guns nor knives, bombs nor tanks; no flags to flaunt nor conch to blow;

When the close minded and hate-filled attempt it, it sounds so forced. That is because they are not really free; they are bound still, anchored still, still fearful of change, still clinging to ruin:

For if they were free they would know Poetry. They would lose all their scales and shed away their old skins to gain soft but powerful wings. To fan minds, raise gales. To soar, to soar.

On Legal Migration

(Appeared in Shillong Times, Aug 22, 2014)

Our homegrown bigotry is so deep, so pervasive that we sometimes need reminding just how ingrained and tough-rooted it really is. Our situation is, of course, unique. We are simultaneously: minority and majority. We derive the ‘benefits’ of both in equal measure. We make use of minority safeguards, which are constitutionally recognized, and which are indeed vital to the survival (and empowerment) of the small. Yet our attitudes towards other races/communities, especially the poor, is as casteist as of the most orthodox acolytes of the largest castes. Though we have, in a manner of speaking, achieved (debatable of course!) what other tribals all over the country are seeking to achieve: ruling for themselves; we continue to oppress in turn, the minorities within our own minority community.

Our situation makes it very hard to paint things in black and white. Perhaps it would be more fruitful to seek out the grey areas, the shades that are not so simple to discern. Hatred has blinded us to anything other than a commonplace brutality and a (so-called) necessary violence to maintain our supremacy over other peoples. Though we might control the political reins, it is still not enough and we continue to impose our chauvinism and fists on the ones who cower; they MUST cower before us else they get burnt alive. It is a rather tragic and comedic part in which slave at times becomes master, master in turn slave. Of course, we cannot brand our entire community with such an iron. It is also one with much heart, openness and flexibility, though many a time one is hard-pressed to find these.

Our oldest enemies or adversaries seem to be the people of the Sylhet Plains. But is it so easy to say this? Often at times we disregard our rather close and cozy relationships with these people. Why then do we hate them today with such venom? Quite often the geopolitics of our own backyards are filtered to us through the lens of so-called experts. We do not ask the class interests, the personal biases and political agendas of these people. The intricacies are rolled over and a simplistic, urbane narrative is presented to us as truth. We fear the assimilations, and possible, obliterations of our own distinctive identities as a “hill people”. Who says we are “hill people”? Maybe we were a “ravine people”, a “slope people” or “people living in the foothills”? We are “hill people” and therefore diametrically opposed to “plainspeople”; but what about the areas in between hills and plains? For a long period of time, this was where the life of our people was built upon and thrived in. Yet the experts and ‘babus’ tell us otherwise based on shoddy and questionable assumptions, most of which is drawn from Colonial gibberish.

Today outsiders who do not even belong to this region, who do not have sensitivity towards the North East, who share no historical ties like us and the Bangladeshis, seek to tell us that the Sylhetis are foreigners and anti nationals, terrorists and land grabbers. This is the distinction they create to justify their own landgrabbing and militarization of the region. They call these people “foreigners” based on a border which some white man helped draw on a piece of paper! If we look at history, Delhi is a far more foreign place to us than the nearby plains. Indeed this mentality is foreign and recent. It is nationalism without past or context, a dumbed-down version which can be called to use at any time, for the convenience of our dearest political people. I do not mean to say there are no “illegal” immigrants but I want us to question the politics of “legal” migration more incisively.

“Illegals” have no rights, guns or resistance so they present an easy target; their only weapon is quantity, it seems. They are seen as something sub-human: a horde that travels to favourable lands, lays babies and overwhelms through reproductive might. We call them the ‘freeloaders’ (“poiei”) and celebrate them being beaten up and chased around like goats. Do we dare do the same with the “legal migrants” who come with armaments and take up entire mountains as campsite? Do we dare question why we have so many men with guns in our backyards? We do not; for we somehow have convinced ourselves they are here for our own protection. It is interesting to note – in 1972 the year Meghalaya was formed, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) was amended to include this state within its purview. The irony is obvious. So too is the lack of trust in such a move. The same is true for “legals” who come to develop our apparent backwardness. They can occupy large acres of land seemingly leased but in reality it is as good as a sale deed. They are not “poiei” because they bring us small trinkets like the white men who ruled over us less than a hundred years ago. Tomorrow if a Bangladeshi industrialist comes to “develop”, will we see him/her as a “poiei”? I hardly think so. “Poiei” is for poor people, rich people deserve better names.

What we must demand today is something no pressure group has raised so far, to my knowledge. Not with sustained effort anyway. We must demand the retraction of the military apparatuses from our walks of life. Some might say that I am being an idealist, such people take the world as it is. But true Progressive vision starts with just that – a vision; something to aim for, to work towards. Why can’t we emulate the countries of the world which have disbanded or reduced the strength of their militaries? Are we still so filled with hate and fear? Is it not ourselves that we fear and hate? Let us acknowledge the truth of military occupation; that we are surrounded by armed force and that violence breeds violence. Is it not a tenet the Mahatma would stand for?


“Where have all the flowers gone?

Long time passing …

Oh, when will they ever learn?

Oh, when will they ever learn?   (Pete Seeger)

Another Damn God Poem

We who kill because we have seen the face of God, who claim a name for God, who dress up for God, walk and talk for God, get angry for God, retribute for God, make photos, shells to house God, study for God, defend God.

-My God: no one else can have you-

Tell me, are you my God or theirs? Cause if you’re mine, you’re not theirs and if you’re theirs, you’re definitely, not mine!
I love you and I need to hold you and possess you cause you’re mine mine, all mine!
No one can have you, no FUCKING one, can have you!
You’re my god !

Spend our whole life trying to be God, sorry, like God. Praising all the great and good our God has brought into this world. We don’t see the pain cause that wasn’t because of our God, must be some other god that did that. It could have been a Lucifer, Ravana, Thlen, could have been a faggot god, an anti national god, a chinky god yeah must be one of those fuckers.

But those arseholes are always there and their God is not great and mighty like ours. Our god has ten arms, can see through girls’ panties, fart radioactive shit out of his ass, suns are his boogers. Blah blah blah amen blah blah

We have not betrayed our God
We stand and murder for him
We celebrate him with bloodshed
We torture for our faith
We understand him better through screams

We love you-
Jesus God,
Muhammad God,
Rama God,
Buddha God-
All that we do, we do with love.