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.

What Mawlai Does Not Have

(For Ampareen)

No Chanel with gutkha smell, no models beside garbage piles, no need for roundabouts, regrettable busts, traffic lights or traffic cops.

No CRPF (syiar pi) goons for our insecurity, for midnight threats and slaps, for moral policing, for bribe taking and eve eyeing, no AK, lathi or Hindi fence.

We’ve got problems but we’re not trying to hide them under tar, cement or steel. You can always turn away if you drive past. We cut the stuff out in the open, display it on hooks: you decide what parts you want.

Community i.e. Head| Freedom i.e. Heart| Fight i.e. Liver

Back To Mother’s

I come back from Jowai with a gold ring on my finger- I’ve never ever had one before- and I think about its weight, workmanship, its symbolic importance before society. I walk down the same roads as I have done a thousand times before and something is very different about them now. But they aren’t, I know. It is just a layer, a new skin that has refracted the sights coming into me. I am going to my mother’s house- first time after my wedding- and I hail a cab going to Polo. I had always, in earlier years, avoided that route because a part of me believed that the Bazaar was only ever the haunt of decrepit dkhars and dark-eyed CRPF thugs. My shiny gold ring makes me think about them again. Onwards, onwards then to my mother’s home! Sharing an auto to Mawlai; its seats soaked in bidi smoke and sweat, its occupants swearing and intoxicated, boxed in like fish.

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.


How I waited all November for December to come.
How we struggled through that last exam with
Early morning revision and numb hands and cold faces –
Shivering but knowing that it would be over soon enough –
How we trained ourselves to hope back then.
Then, time to bring out the tops and strings and dares;
Time to roll about in dirt until cheeks cracked and

Noses ran when the sun was out; and if not, we crammed
Around the fireplace waiting for the small flame to ignite the coals and wood.

And we played dar-dar among the woods of the adjoining Juniorate – hiding in the strangest nooks.
We crowed at the sun like Lost Boys, we danced in a ring like Lost Boys –
Though we had no idea who they were nor were we boys only.

Nor was it always easy – winter – the neighbourhood
Always reminded me which family I belonged to.
I resented it bitterly but there I was –
Khasi stuck in my throat, wearing clean clothes everyday –
But when the games were in motion, we forgot all about that.
Under earth and leaves, I was like everyone else by the end of the day.

When they turned 16, some discovered cigarettes, sex and beer.
I didn’t – it frightened me then – winter – waiting for friends to go home.
And in the neighbourhood, no one was playing dar-dar anymore.