Away there, the sleek and glittering train slides
Between the Longtorai hill and Gandrui hillock
In it’s journey to the city.
The earth trembles under the feet, in deep forest.
The posts for the sentries had been curved from the hills.
They move in files along the steel road
With gun hanging from their shoulders.
From the back porch of the *gairing, looking to that side
Words of Awal master from down-hill village come to mind —
“ Don’t worry my old man,
I shall take you some day by this train to Agartala.
Consulting a famous doctor
You will become perfectly fit.”
Yes, the master is a little highbrow, but has a good heart;
Drenched in sweat, with parched throat
When he comes to the hill
He speaks a lot —
O ! That railway train ?
It’s home is far away at the centre of the country.
Our country is so big, so wide !
Down from the Himalayas,
To Andaman and Nicobar across the waves ;
From Manipur in the east, via Gaya, Kashi, Vrindavan,
Crossing the capital, farther away in the Arabian sea
Sets the sun of our land.
My chest expands at these words, I feel elated.
I don’t understand everything that master says.
I know a little bit of Dangaima Dangaipha fragmented tale,
I know the hills and caves, the spring and brooks ;
Running by Tsangpo, Dihang and the deep forest of the Red river,
I know ups and down, both the sides of Ningthi Barak Raima Saima,
And the people and clans by them.
I know their strife and unions, love and separations.
The insignificant homes like crab-shells,
The tortoise back-shaped jhum, the toiling lots.
Their love, emotions, joys and sufferings,
The life in which lives the fairy tales,
Here the forest is vibrant with life, Sky is bright.
Here the earth, the water, the body and the heart
are all so loving;
The childhood story heard years back is still fresh in mind —
As our sun moves everyday to the other end of the country,
In the same way once the Pandavas came from that part
Surviving from the fire of *Jatugriha, to our Heramba land.
Early in the morning the five brothers would go out for noisy hunting.
Mother Kunti would sit waiting with boiling empty pot before her.
The earth and water, the body and the mind are very simple here.
In waves of emotions, shutting her eyes to the future
The daughter of our hills, Hidimba
Gets confined in the embrace of the mighty Bheem.
But Bheem, you left your new love behind
Even before the new year’s return !
Who else had a heart hard as stone !
Fie to you ! oh ! Powerful Bheem,
O, descendant of the wind god Marut,
How many fresh flowers have dried up
In the desolate jhum in your expectation !
How many brooks have sprung up full of tears !
We are like that innocently simple
We have not learnt much to hide in our way of life
It is open, full of toys, jubilations,
Songs and dances – at time Garia, at other time Mamita
Lots of guests come clapping, in gaudy dress!
There are salivating tongues all around, watery desires.
The poor one becomes pauper in celebrating the festivals.
This Gandrui hachuk known as land of Buisurai
Has lost it’s earth, water, fruit and flower, even the chirp of birds !
In the shade of rubber plantations, between the hillocks
Runs the sleek train, the earth trembles !
Bunches of wires flood the iron road with electric light.
The quarters of the sentries are brightly lit.
Here darkness happily searches for it’s consort in our village life.
In the hope of a morsel of rice, one gulp of water,
In the tour of half-starvation and fast
Laxmi’s husband has sold out his child,
Afterwards he has entered deep forest.
With rains comes his Excellency Mr. Mosquito, comes shivering fever.
With drought the funeral fire spreads it’s smoke
with cholera and diarrhea.
The train crawls, hands wave, and the road side is littered with –
Stale bread, empty bottles, half-eaten fruits, polythene,
Torn-cloth, papers and useless things.
At times I feel to shout, renting the air –
O, you train, do not heap this forest and land with garbage.
You go with your beauty, You take away the electric lights,
This iron road is for your long journey.
Go please silently, stop waving hands.
I also shall change my porch to the east.
But I did not say anything, I did not speak
And kept the words buried in my mind –
Awal master will come with a ticket of the railway train for me
He has said.
*Gairing = A house on stilt
*Jatugriha = The Mahabharata story of inflammable house made for assassination
of the Pandavas.
Translation : Prof. Saroj Chaudhuri
Chandrakanta Murasingh (b. 1957), writes in Kokborok. He is one of the best known
poets from the North-East and has published seven collections of Kokborok poetry.
Recipient of Sahitya Akademi Bhasha Samman, Rabindra Puraskar and True Legend
of the North-East by Telegraph Group.