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A Dream Talk & Other Poems— Usham Rojio

Jul 7, 2023 | Poetry | 0 comments

TRANSLATED FROM THE MANIPURI BY THE POET

a dream talk usham rojio

Image Used for Representation

 
A DREAM -TALK

Thinking of writing a poem
I went to the keithel of words
incessantly searching for new words
in the market, keithel, dukaan
the new words have not arrived yet
they said it will surely arrive
in a day or two
in the market, keithel, dukaan

Some say,
in the pretext of blockade
the Marwari businessmen
have not released it.
Some say,
in the National Highway
the police siphai
have pulled down the beautiful words.
Those who do blockades
seem to have started writing poems.
They are also involved
in the business of words.  
A poor warakki kabi
go about looking for words.

Last Sunday, I went
to the second-hand market
looking for cheap words
coming from Korea,
Japan, America, China,
from Europe
Even the second-hand words
were so expensive,
I could hardly afford to buy
The slightly low-priced Bengali,
Sanskrit, Hindi
often used by many poets
have become quite worn out.

A few days ago
a man was killed,
ran over by a truck of words.
The grief of his wife and children —
I have no words to express.

Two-three tankers of words arrived
Being fought over by various parties and ministers,
there was none left of us poets.
Thekedar Engineers are pursuing a project
to construct a flyover of words
Part-time teachers, I hear,
are selling words to regularize their jobs.
I don’t know, everyone says a lot of things.
But I haven’t found words yet,
I go about looking, without ceasing.

I hear a man who plucked a difficult word
had encountered the spirit of the sacred groves .
The sweet red words from Kashmir
turned out to be smeared with blood
and had to be thrown away.

In the small hours of the night
I went looking for words
under the streetlamp
in Khwairamband Bazaar
Instead, I picked a packet of Bandar bidi
with eighteen sticks.
While resting at Ganga-dhaba
I smoked those bidis
thinking where else to look for words
I stood up abruptly
“I have to look for words.”
Smoking the bidi, I went looking for words
in the cold winter midnight
crossing Alu gali
I saw some coolies warming themselves
by firing carton boxes that brought words.
Their stories – bundles of words
I heard slightly.
They said they were happy in this land.

After a while they went to sleep,
on their thelas
on the potpham
in the corners,
in their respective places
Smiling happily
I too joined them, in an empty corner
I drifted to sleep, and dreamt a horrible dream—
A few gun totting men
“Aren’t you the one going around, looking for words”
Saying this, they chased me
I ran fast crossing lanes, villages
I ran till I reach Lahore ,
I ran through Rajasthan ,
I ran in the crowded Delhi
Chandni Chowk
It looked like a Hindi film,
I ran through the lanes of Kolkata ,
I reached Agartala , I reached Dhaka ,
They caught me in a deserted place,
They took me in a louri, pressed (gun) on my head
Thang…! a sound!
I woke up abruptly
The others had woken too
My heart was beating against my chest
A coolie said,
“Bhaiya, it is the sound of a gun,
it seems near”
I made a firm decision
to stop looking for words;
such dream-talks and ramblings
should be poems instead.
Why can’t these be poems,
for us who can’t afford to buy words?


A THIEF

A thief
Supported by hundred thieves
Followed by thousand thieves
Worshipped him as God
by lakhs and crores of thieves.


THE REAL FRIENDS

Amongst the flowers
I am alone
With my pen and paper
Lifting up my pen
I ask the full moon
To write with me
Her reflection and mine.
My empty shadow is
not happy
Talking to the moon.
But never says a word
Against me
In such times of solitariness
I keep these two
For company –
The moon & my empty shadow.
We three chat for a while
Reassuring that
I must be happy
I sit and sing
With the balmy moon
My empty shadow
Listens to our song
When I dance,
My empty shadow joins me
The moon watches us—
Friends I can always count on.
These days
We frequently meet
Under the milky way.


BULLDOZING NATURE

This king of mountains
Through the jewelled land
Once, never loosed sight
Of its greenness
The Creator concentrated all
On its numinous and beautiful.
Northern and southern Slopes,
Dividing Dawn from the Dark.
The layered clouds
heaved the mountain chest
Homing birds and deer,
what a beautiful sight it was!
We bulldozed everything
Wolves snarl
I brood on our wars
Thinking of
Sleepless mountains
Relentless Heaven and Earth,
Powerless!!!
Are Landslides, Floods
Signs of Nature
Longing for death?


RAIN

A thin rain
Bathed in dawn light
Hear the falling sound
From the leaves
Splash the soil.
O’ Wind! That blows the cloud.
What a beauty!

Memory!
the leaking roof
Taap….taap
I hear the water drops fall
Mother trying to mend it
Father, gone to party
Those black and white days
Deepened
This rain can be cruel.


NOTES

  1. Keithel:  A small local market is called keithel
  2. Market and keithel are similar words, but Manipuri has such reduplication of words with similar meanings. They are called lexical reduplication.
  3.  Dukaan: Grocery shop
  4.  Another lexical duplication of police and siphai (police)
  5.  Warakki literally means bamboo-grove. Warakki kabi (bamboo-grove poet) is somewhat like bathroom singer, a homegrown poet.
  6. Thekedar: Contractors
  7. Ganga-dhaba: A food vendor in JNU, Delhi.
  8. Gali: A street in Imphal
  9. Thelas: Handcarts
  10. Potpham: Makeshift vendors
  11. Louri: A terrace line in paddy fields, where it serve as a dyke as well as a path for farmers

Also, read Two Hindi Poems by Gagan Gill, translated from the Hindi by Moulinath Goswami, and published in the Antonym:

Two Hindi Poems— Gagan Gill


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Usham Rojio

Usham Rojio

Dr. Usham Rojio currently teaches at the Department of English, Visva-Bharati University, Santiniketan. He writes both in Manipuri and English. He is a theatre scholar and practitioner. He completed his PhD in Theatre & Performance Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He had worked closely with Heisnam Kanhailal and Heisnam Sabitri. He is also the co-author of Heisnam Sabitri: The Way Of The Thamoi.

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