We went out for a drive yesterday and stopping by a Mawiong shop – for cigarettes – I saw again the once-familiar blue fluorescence, emitted by one of those bulbs that is meant to attract insects. I remembered then my father’s mosquito zapper, which shone similarly. I remembered fiddling with it after his funeral. I then became morose with these thoughts. It’s funny how the mind works. How it can leave behind the chatter and wander off into a blue aura. How it can colour memory and animate the dead. Yet it is also the thing that reminds you that none of its figments are real.
How can it do this? Teleporting me to my father’s death-bedside, while my friends drink in the car. How can it show me these things now? The image of his body in a suit – eyes shut – with some hideous cotton up his nose. It is still, seen through curtains, which I dare not part. It is still, seen in no one’s company but my own. It is an image, which has lost some of its details over the years but not its power. It still breaks my heart.
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.
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.
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.
An elder gets into the cab, hauling her heavy bag into it. I move aside, making room for her. She rummages through it and brings out coins for the fare. I’m always drawn to such old people, who still have to worry about livelihood and cannot afford to rest in old-age leisure like many others.
-Mei, phin leit shaei?
-Polo, nga sah ha Polo
And we start conversing. She tells me about her being punished by the Governor’s gardener when she and her friends used to steal sohkhlur from there as children. How they would say sorry one day and be back at it the next. She chuckles.
She goes on about her father’s house which was made of thatch in Laban and how she misses it.
As we drive past Secretariat, she expresses her amazement that all those buildings could have come up in, what was once, thick forestland. She manages to draw a map of Shillong in every sentence and I try to envision all of it in my head.
In Keating Road, a beggar man comes up to our car and asks for “tea money”. She explains to him that she has no money either in proper Hindi. As he moves sadly away to the next car, she heaves a heavy sigh, looking back at him.
I pay for her and she is so grateful it startles me. I can not help tearing up as we separate and I thank her profusely, which must have startled her in turn.
She was just telling her story.
I have come to realise that such profound warmth and empathy for fellow sufferers is not alien to the poor and as I walked through the detritus of PB- that place with its SUV driving crooks and self-indulgent brats- I could not help but tremble as I thought of that old soul, walking down Jail Road, trying to navigate home.
It is our failure and not your own.
We killed you long before your death;
We killed you with expectation of high offices, high salaries, high horses.
We drowned you in the pool of Narcissus, we suffocated you in our charnel house –
And we call this ‘cowardly’ and the ‘easy way out’ after we throttled every single dream;
Took every single idea, dropped it on its head, shattered it.
You swore a bucolic covenant, in dark holy taverns (places more honest than churches, mosques and temples), where many souls have come and gone.
It brought you to people like yourself, made you friends too; until it turned on you,
until it too started squeezing out your sanity.
And all that while, we never stopped sneering.
After this suffocation, we wanted you to forget the happiness of childhood impossibilities, the mirth of being free and wanted you to get a job, a uniform, a routine, an order –
And we call such things ‘success’ and we will never accept anything else other than this.
All souls return to the One, they say. So be it, you are there too then. You have broken none of the laws of passage, you have defied no dogma. No gates are closed to you now.
Shapoh ka bos SPTS ki rung khrui ki nongbylla, ha ka por hynniew baje mynmiet. Ki dur ki thangiong bad ithait. Ki jain ki sma syep, biri, kyiad bad ki ia phuh samrkhie hapdeng ki. Ki ia “jokes” hapdeng ki. Napoh ka bos SPTS nga iohi ia ki kong die jhur, harud surok. Ki khun ki iarap katba ki lah, wat la ki dang lung ialade kum ki jhur. Ki stad kloi ha madan, ki nang ia ki buit iew bad ki ktien khayi.
Kong, Bah, Hep dei phi ba tei ia kane ka shnong! Dei ki ksah jong phi ba pynieng ia ki paia, dei ka mynsiem jong phi ba pynim ia ka bad ka mon jong phi ba ai bor ia ka. Kane ka nongbah ka skhem ym da ki kti u sahep ne DC ne ministar, hynrei na ki jong phi.