Wah Umkhrah | In Flood

Flow, river, flow
Your rage isn’t over yet
Flow because you’ve always flowed
Flow because it’s you
Flow by the bucketful, by the mug
By the drop
Come together and flow

Trample the bridges and levees
That stand in your way
Smash the tyrannical dams
That want to trap and use you
Swallow up the pride of men

Flow, river and carry the plastic bags,
Chemicals, faeces and dirt
Of this town
Spit out idols onto your banks
Let men know that you are forever
That Time and weather feed you

Show men the trickling erosion
Of your tongues that lap at cement foundations
Show us the might of that patience
Which carves out canyons from solid rock

Swiftly run, like your brothers and sisters
Like Godavari, Narmada, Tsangpo
Cut down temples, towns and high tensions
Deposit refuse and rot on backyards
Remind us you’re a God.

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.


There is the dump where the chicken bits would rot in the open air. Nearby, a wine shop and a wall where men line up to piss into the drain. Across the road, the women stand, waiting for cars, in front of the butchers’ shops. For some reason, I hated this place as a child, inheriting bias for the squalor and the smells. I always said it was a place for mutants because of the old woman whose back was so crooked she walked with her face downwards. She frightened me in her white sari then – which now is pure and poor in the mind, now a symbol of resilience. Polo was also where I saw the man in tattered clothes with one enlarged ear lobe that hung like an earring on the side of his face. He was always coughing and I would make a face whenever I saw him, unable to stomach the sight. I do not see him anymore. Here too, I would see the woman with the asymmetrical face, her left side slightly drooping. I do not see these people anymore and I want to, now. Now I think about them and, of course, I think about myself then. Then, I wanted to see Polo mowed down and yes, they have tried so many times to do that. Polo, after all, is unsightly and lumbering and diseased and its people pollute the river that runs alongside the length of it. Yet somehow the crazy people, the poor rag-pickers, the broken men and the bad women manage to roil every time under the boot. Every time the debris crumbles into a familiar position, these people find their place again; every year there is flooding and the moment it subsides they are out again- just a matter of shoveling out the slime, I suppose. Polo seems to have a place for everyone in the way a Church is supposed to be.