the clouds to the hills

the clouds to the hills
Somewhere in Imphal

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Making of ECHE by Imphal Talkies N The Howlers

On November 2nd I reached Imphal. It was also the day the festival "Festival of Justice, Hope and Peace" started. It was a festival to celebrate the spirit of Irom Sharmila, a Lady who has been fasting for last ten years protesting against Armed Forces Special Powers Act(AFSPA). The festival consisted of many programmes like plays, discussion on AFSPA, Music concerts, Bike Rally,etc. I attended the inaugural day of the festival in which could see some fantastic folk music instruments like flutes and gigantic size drum. Two men in traditional clothes were playing
the drum and the flute welcoming the chief guest.

Before i reached imphal i was informed that my band Imphal Talkies N the Howlers can perform on 5th November along with TAPTA, the greatest music band of Manipur, as part of the festival. So when i was in Delhi i already wrote a meiteilon song called "Eche (Sister)" . it didn't take me more than two days to write the song as i have written few English poems on her.

I met Sachin, lead guitarist in my band, to work out the song with his guitar parts after two days of my arrival. We jammed everyday at Sachin's room with two acoustic guitars and one harmonica around my neck. we prepared three songs for the concert Lai Haraoba, Eche and Qutub Minar. We haven't recorded any of these songs before. SO it was quite hard to arrange the music in such short time for the concert. But Sachin came up with many ideas which i found quite surprisingly interesting. Soon the 5th November arrived, and we were practicing in in his room for one last time. Then sachin's phone rang. It was Vinod, a violinist and a very close friend,
telling sachin he met a road accident. His voice was shaking. He wanted us to come at the accident spot. So Sachin and i leaving everything we drove off his car to Chingemeirong. When we called again he was already at JN hosptal.
We went there and found him lying, cursing the bikers who hitted him from behind with such speed that his NV Vespa ran double times faster than the speed he was riding.

We convinced Vinod to get few injection as the nurse advised us. he was refusing but at the end
he agreed.
The concert would be starting at 4pm. and we were in the hospital till 3.30pm. We drove off from the hospital with Vinod on back seat. and Sachin dropped me at my place. we planned to meet at BOAT which is the concert venue.
I had my lunch as i was starving since morning. while eating a friend called me up and told me that i am invited for dinner at Professor Lokendra Arambam's place. I told her i have a concert
i can not come. Then she said the concert has been canceled.

I was shocked to hear the news. How on earth i didn't know of this?? at least the organisers should  have informed me. Then i straight called up Oinam Doren who is a friend with many organisers.
He told me the concert might take place. Then i rushed to the venue. and found six/seven gypsy cars of Manipuri Commandos. They were commanding to pull down the banners and to rush off from the venue. Actually i didnt know why they stopped the concert. then I called up Sachin and informed about the news. He said fine in a very sad tone.

Some said the reason why the concert was banned was due to the public meeting that held at the same venue. As many said the speakers in the meeting were outrageous about issues of various things ranging from Sharmila's itself to whereabout of Meghen, the chairman of UNLF, who was arrested in Bangladesh.
Some said the art and culture department gave permit of the venue only till 2pm.

I was pissed off with whatever the reason it was because it was a big day for my band. we were about to perform for the first time in Imphal and that too in a festival where many activists from across the country have come to celebrate the spirit of Irom Sharmla.
That night i called up Sachin and insisted him to record the song. Soon we hit shallow river studio with no money to record the song 'ECHE'. The studio was having a very busy schedule as many rock bands have already booked it. In between i felt ill for few days too in which i celebrated my birthday on my sick bed. but we finally finished the recording one day before i left for Delhi.

And How i wished to perform this song in front of Eche Sharmila?? It remained a dream.

Here is a video of the song Eche made by Basanta Rajkumar who is more than a brother to us.
Thank You Tamo Basanta for everything

 A note that the band sent out with mp3 file of the song to many people across the globe:
The world calls her the Iron Lady acknowledging her undying spirit.
Her steadfast fast-unto death, undertaken for more than ten years, to
repeal the Armed Forces (Special) Powers Act from the soil of Manipur has received international attention. They say there is no room for killing and violence in a truly democratic country. Indeed, they say, there is no room for suppression and oppression in a truly liberated country. However, the Indian State refuses to repeal the same Act in the name of “law” and “order”. Instead, she’s been declared as a proclaimed offender and a criminal numero uno, forced-fed and imprisoned in a high security prison.

Human rights continue to be violated. Lives continue to be taken away. And mournful wails of widows and orphans reverberate in the valley and hills of Manipur. 

She’s the one and only person who defies the might of the Indian state.She is truly the embodiment of the triumph of the human spirit and the icon of peace and human rights.

The band thanks Basanta Rajkumar, Homen Thangjam ,Dingo Heikham, Ringo Pebam, Chitra Ahanthem Doren Oinam , Sumitra Thoidingjam, Shallow River Studio Team, RK Jame, Bona Meisnam, Momo Kangabam, Nirun Thongbam, Onil Kshetrimayumand Anjulika Thingnam, Paonam Thoibi.
for their valuable supports, encouragement, etc.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

In search of the Oak Tree

I reached Imphal sometime in early May 2009 just after Burning Voices was formed . I was restless to interview those forgotten poets of Manipur; forgotten by our generation, forgotten by this blood thirsty Land Manipur.My restlessness died with professor Islamudin's assasination at Manipur University. But I have known poetry for years and the comfort it gives me when im down.
Few days after everything boiled down as usual I hit Manipur Sahitya Parishad’s office which is at Paona Bazaar with my friend Sachin. The first book I grabbed from their office was Shri Biren’s first collection of poetry called Tollaba Shadugi Wakhal.” I have heard of Shri Biren but never read a poem by him. I bought many books out of my stupid excitation; yes I was stupid to buy these books in the eyes of many friends who have roamed around the world and speak good English and who have admired French literature.
The maximum cost of a book was 100 rupees. Thangjam Ibopishak’s latest “Shrimati Tomcha Babu” was also bought on the day. That night I read Shri Biren’s poetry book from cover to cover till dawn. I was thrilled and dumbfounded. I never thought someone in 1960s in Manipur could be so radical. Few days after I hit Rajesh Book Store, from there I bought Shri Biren’s first book on the criticism of Manipur Literature. Shri Biren's poetry was hard-hitting and powerful but as a critic he surpassed all expectations. I read the first few chapters of the book inside my mosquito net with a candle. And I felt enlightened in that powerless night of Imphal. I never knew someone could be so thoughtful and productive. I was not aware, that everything that happened in our literature happened in this short duration of one century.

Some days after, I called up and met Sudhir Naoroibam at his Pokanapham Office (He won Sahitya Akademi Award in 2004 for his short story book Lei-E Khara Punshi Khara).He advised me on how to start meeting poets and informed us about a seminar organized by Manipur Sahitya Parishad on the life of a great poet and writer Shri Nilabir Shastri Sharma. After meeting Tamo Sudhir, I and Sachin went straight to Manipur Sahitya Parishad and registerd ourselves so that we can attend the Seminar.

The seminar was held at Kangla Hall. On the day of seminar I met poet Sharatchand Thiyam, we had a small conversation. From him I bought Robin S Ngangom’s poetry collection Desire of Roots There was also a small book fair. Sharatchand asked me and my friends to come for his book release function at MDU for his travelogue Nungshibi Bangladesh and I eventually went to the function. I met tamo Suhdir again on the day. He gave me a copy of short film Joseph Ki Macha which is based on his short story with the same title.

Shri Biren influenced many of his junior poets. Reading his poetry collection Tollaba Shadugi Wakhal I think no one can escape from his words. The poems that struck me right were “Ei Laiming Loude” and “Amamba Mapei Mapei”. Still as Thangjam Ibopishak was the one through whom I get interested in Manipuri poem, the first thing in my mind was to interview him.

One after noon I left Sachin at Hemchandra’s recording studio(we were recording a song of Imphal Talkies called “In the Fight”). And I headed for Ibopishak’s home. I did not know his home address. But I found it easily at Wangei Thangjam Leikai. I was stupid to look out for an oak tree which Ibopishak often mentioned in his poems. It must have existed only in his poems or it must have been chopped down long ago.

He was sitting on a mat at Mangol, writing something, probably he was writing a poem.I told him about our Burning Voices, and my interest in interviewing him. I told him we would like to know about the times of “Shingnaba” particularly. Shingnaba is a poetry anthology in two volumes by Ranjit. W, Thangajam Ibopishak and Yumlembam Ibomcha published in 1974. He said, “To know about those times you must interview Shri Biren first.”

So on a bright sunny day of Imphal I went to Shri Biren’s Place at Uripok Achom Leikai on 29th May with a friend Sumitra Thodingjam (who is a member of Burning Voices).Shri Biren’s house was a small and simple with tin roof. He was sitting at a corner of his mangol reading Sharatchand Thiyam’s “Nungshibi Bangladesh”. The book was released few days back and Shri Biren was reading the last pages. He has been a patient of Parkinson for last forty years. His body was lean. His hands were shaken.

We introduced ourselves and tell him about our forum in Delhi. And so he started telling us about the “Age of renaissance”. In further he told us about how Dr.Kamal was disowned by Maharaj Churachand. Kamal was not allowed to see even his sick father until Kamal offered Athenpot to Maharaj Churachand. From the story we learn that Khaiwrakpam Chaoba was too a topper in Bengali in college among Bengalis. He further told us how he considered Elangbam Nilakanta as a father of Modern Manipuri Poetry, and how he was attacked by others in seminars for not considering Hijam Irabot as the father.
He showed us picture of Kabi Kirtan that he organized at his place. He said it is a way of showing respect to Anganghal, Kamal and Chaoba.

And the rain poured on his tin roof with its sound, we shifted our sitting place to his small drawing room. When we asked him about Shingnaba, he stood up from his chair and got the book. It was a thin old book. He threaded both the volumes with a jute rope. I could read a poem called “Houjik Shihoubasina fei” by W Ranjit while sumitra was listening to him. He later showed us many old collections of poems, there was one book titled “Atoppa Khonjel” published by Naharol Sahitya Premi Samiti edited by Ibopishak and Ibomcha. We were offered tea made by her daughter. Shri Biren took his pills for the Parkinson. He still wrote in these last forty years, never stopped. He said, “People would think that I am exaggerating but I think I will die the moment I stop writing.” And indeed he is still writing poems, he read his new work on ‘Panthoibi Khonkul’ and said this is an example of Iconoclasm as he changed the plot of the old folklore.

He read us one of his new poem called “Ei Mafam Keida Chatloi, Manipur” with his shaky voice. The poem reflects his patriotic sense, yet his way of telling ‘how much he feels for Manipur’ is very different from other poets. His wanting to grow in the soil of Manipur is vividly seen in the poem. One greatness of the poem is that he was successful in portraying his adventurous mind by referring to the significance of words like “Koukha Kathum”, “Ningthi turel”, “Sangari gi ke ke ke” etc. We were amazed listening to him. Due to Parkinson his hands shook, his legs could not rest for five second, but the power and energy in his words were like mountains felling on our head. We were pleased to share that rainy day at his place listening to him. Further he told us how he protested in school days at Jonhnostone School when teachers were missing for class. He founded Naharol Sahitya Peremi Samiti with friend and poet Padam Kumar. He gave us a vision of that time. He narrated us how he met R.K Madhubir at DM college cycle-shed. He talked about Pacha meitei. He said Pacha used to read Khalil Gibran and Virginia woolf. He believed Pacha’s poems are better than his novels.

About his own work he said “Many critics and poets have called me euro-centric as I read lots of French literature particularly on ‘absurdity’ but I don’t mind. I will never speak on behalf of my works, my work itself should speak of itself, once I have written them then my duty is over”

And finally he advised us on how we must try to lift our Manipuri literature. He was disappointed with the fact that there are very few students at Manipur University to study our own literature. He asked us about the activities of Burning Voices. At the end we requested him to allow us to shoot some video clips of such discussion, so we fixed a date and visit him again. When we came out of the room, his courtyard was flooded; we had to hold our shoes in hands and walked till his gate with my Activa.

In the morning of 3rd June, we interviewed Yumlembam Ibomcha sitting in front of his half built brick house . Ibomcha won Sahitya Akedami award in 1992 for his collection of short stories “Numitti Asum Thengjillakli.” Ibomcha like his friend and poet Ibopishak too started writing very early.

In his short stories he experimented with certain abstract ideas by confusing the reader’s mind with wife and mother. When we asked him about such abstract ideas he said he wanted to experiment. He said “I see there is a motherly love in every girl or women” and he wanted to explore that through his stories. Most of his stories deal with realities. There was no such story which escapes from the turmoil. He picked up the issues of rise of insurgency in Manipur and drug abused in early eighties. His observation of the village lives and daily wagers are co clear and detail that the reader would have a visual scene. Ibomcha is the only poets that follows Irabot’s step when it comes to struggle of Peasants but his is a struggle of peasants in a landscape where civilization/globalisation is growing leaving no space for peasants. His poems spoke for the peasants. Some of his best stories revolve around lives of Keithel fambi. He told us he was inspired by Lamshang Keithel

He further gave us a scene of Manipur in 70s where many political outfits were emerged. He revealed us some secret that happened post “shingnaba.” He narrated,” It was the time R.K Dorendro was the chief Minister, the government was ready to arrest us for ‘Shingnaba’, but Oja Nilakanta had saved us saying to the government “Don’t arrest them and they will get famous.””
We asked him “Do you fear for what you write or do you sometime hesitate when you want to write depicting the reality in Imphal?”
He answered “I really don’t have any fear; I will just face the consequences”
But we found out that there are poets and writers who fear to write what they feel. It is obvious to feel fear in place like Manipur where often journalists get killed.

He further told us on how Ranjit W, Ibopishak and himself came to the idea of Shingnaba.
It was in early 70s, one of Ibopishak’ poem was censored by naharol sahitya samiti premi from its journal Wakhal for ibopishak’s outspokenness, Ibopishak’s hayingkhongyambi was already a shock to our conservative literary society.
So this very incident led to Shingnaba.
We heard of the poems as a real Shingnaba to Manipur society which was morally deteriorating with corruption in every direction.
And such an important book is not available in any of the book stores in Manipur. Many books that we want are not available and till today we are searching for those books, we believed a fraction of our lives has been left not opened. We couldn’t find any books of Laishram Samarendra, Shri Biren’s poetry collection “Mapal Naidabasida Ei(Won sahitya Akdemi award in 1990?)” and “Masina Imphal gi warini”
Even if the books are available it will be at Rajesh Book Store and Manipuri Sahitya Parishad only. No other book shops sell our own literature. There are only very few publishers and none of them are interested in re publishing old books as there are many other new writers or many books to be published. Writers Forum Manipur apart from its activities it also publishes books. Writers contribute 300rs monthly and after years they will be published.

Luckily I could grab a book called “Canchi Seireng” which contents a volume of poems starting from Hijam Anganghal to Yumlembam Ibomcha and many others. The book was published by Manipur University.
There we found some famous poems of Laishram Samrendra like “Mamamgleikai Thambal Shatle”
Samarendra’s collection of poetry book with the same title won him Sahitya Akademi award in early seventies.
We found some poems of Hijam Irabot too which we believed is from his poetry collection “Imagi Puja”
This was written sometime in 1940s when he was in prison in Shylet.

Such is our literature that we can’t find and read, yet they are ours. Every bit of our history blooms in their poems. Still today, Burning Voices is searching for that history. Sometimes it blooms at Rajesh Book Store beneath the layers of dust behind the well crafted building of Governor of Manipur.

The most surprising thing about Yumlembam Ibomcha is, he didn’t even have a single copy of his own poems or books. We requested him if we could buy a copy of his poetry books, but he said he didn’t have. He asked us to go to Poknapham Press which is at Paona bazaar, opposite to Usha Cinema hall.
With one hour interview we left Ibomcha’s place with our promise to give him our poems that members of Burning Voices write. Someday later I could dig out Ibomcha’s “Rajkumari Amasung Uchek Machasing” from Poknpham Press after visiting two times. The book is Ibomcha’s second poetry collection.

Again on 9th June, we interviewed Shri Biren with the help of a friend, Deepak, who shot the video clips on the day. On the day, Shri Biren told us more about women writers and their evolution till today. The moment we started interview it was started raining again. Shri Biren swallowing his daily dose of pill he started telling us about his personal lives. He became a lecture of Manipuri at DM College in 1965, he was selected as lecturer just after his B.A. His post was earlier the post of R.K Surendrajit and I.R. Babu He told us “teacher who teaches Manipuri gets no respect from students because they speak the language and they think they can write and read whatever the writer is saying. So I was ready to face such students reading lots of English literature and others. In the classroom, students of my age were there (laughed)”

He revealed that his poem “Tangkhul Hui” was first published in DM college magazine when he was a student sometime in early 1960s.
On the day got a chance to read my poem to him, I read my poem “Meitei Nongsha” and “loiba naidaba amamba”
It was a scarry moment for me yet so happy that such giant literary figure was listening to me read my own poems. He interrupted me when I read the word “taringei (listening)” , and said it should be “Yengingei(Watching).” Indeed I was writing “Yengingei” on my note book but as I was nervous I read it as “taringei”

At the end he said he wants to have a poetry reading session with our Burning Voices. We promised him that next time we will all come to him armed with our poems and to present it to him.
And the day ended there. The summer stopped there to continue again with series of their poems and interview next year. But Our desire to interview Thagjam Ibopishak remained unfulfilled. But it was Ibopishak’s poems that open the eyes. Yes! What we read was translated poems by tanslated by Robin S. Ngangom. We saw here, that If the poems were not translated we would have never heard of Ibopishak or Biren till today. And this shows that we are shamefully unaware of our own literature. And above this we couldn’t find a single book of poem by Laishram Samarendra. Not only our lives are being taken away by sophisticated bullets, literature of our lives are being left unprinted. For the bullets we can blame many authorities. And whom we blame for the literature?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Review of “Manipur Sahitya da Nupeegee Khonjen: An anthology of Women’s writing(20th century) in Manipuri”, Ed. Memchoubi, Sahitya Akademi, 2003. Price: Rs. 100

Memchoubi, a poet and a critic who emerged in mid nineteen eighties could effortlessly map the whole evolution of women writers. Existence of women writings in Manipur is hardly 50 years old. In the Introduction section, Memchoubi’s mapping of women writers starts from what Amaibis sing or speak which is an old tradition weaved with the celebration of local deities. She sees such songs or words as oral literature, though this thought has not been brought out by her alone, it is nevertheless refreshing to look at women’s writing in the context that includes oral literature as a base.
The book has covered almost all women writers starting from Thoibi Devi, M.K. Binodini and Khaidem Pramodini, (more popularly known as the three pillars of Manipuri women’s writing), to very contemporary ones like Ningombam Sunita. One can see from the book that these women writers have tried their hands on all possible form of writings ranging from novels, travelogues, short stories to plays and poems. The novel part consists of some section of Binodini’s much acclaimed “Bor Saheb Ongbi Sanatombi”. Among the short stories that could be stated as exemplary is Ningombam Sunita’s, “Khongji Makhol”. No wonder her first collection also entitled “Khongji Makhol” published in 1997 won the Sahiya Akdemi Award in 2001. The story is a simple tale of a widow mother and her son Sanathoiba, but what is astounding is how Sunita tells the story. The story is very contemporary with respect to violence in Manipur. Thus this story which could be one amongst many other written in the same backdrop is elevated by the writer to an urge and angst of what human being over the years seeks at the same time questioning the space which has drove one to such angst. “I don’t want war but my pen always tries to write of it” (p. 78) clearly depicts the conflict in the narrator’s mind which got woven in the story itself. When reality is hard to digest, one write, while some write to tell a story, some write to urge one to look at the reality from its roots. Sunita belongs to the latter group of writers. And the line furthermore shows why most Manipuri poets and writers are obsessed with themes like violence. One could therefore see Sunita’s “Khongji Makhol” as story of a writer who has conflicts in her own mind after seeing blood soaked Manipur and that has unconsciously crept into the story of a widowed mother and her son.
Another from the anthology is that of Haobam Chanu Satybati. Her short story “Izat” portrays women of Manipuri society who are exploited both in the domestica as well as societal sphere. The story through a seeming glamorization of a woman’s ability to save her family from poverty brings out the realities of women in patriarchal Manipuri society. The strength of the women to stand for their families economically and otherwise through focused upon in the story, their status in the family and society was not critically dwelt upon. Thus it seems that the writers haven’t questioned herself about such issues in our society even if she sees women being exploited by society.
The poetry section could be said to be best part of the book. One cannot ignore Moirangthem Borkanya’s “Kobi Chamfut”. The lines from the poem vividly describe the burning Wainam and could smolder the readers’ mind. The poem here is about frustrations of a housewife whose life is confined inside kitchen. In her poem “Sister Meera” she reflects her own daily life of being a nurse. Memchoubi’s poems are in defiance against the patriarchal Manipuri society. Her poems like “Nongthangleima” and “Punbiranu Sanagi Yotlhingna” are path breaking. Memchoubi is a poet emerged in 1980s with Lancheba Meitei, Sharatchand Thiyam, Hemchandra, etc as her contemporaries and together formed the Aseilup group. The uniqueness of this group lies in their continuous effort to create poems out of folklores, culture, heritage and traditions. Memchoubi’s “Nongthagleima”, “Androgi Mei”, “Sandrembi Cheisra” are few examples of her being a nativist to be mentioned from the book.
Ningombam Satybati is another poet who finds mention in this book. She is a poet starkly different from the others in the book as shown by her deep concern for the people in the hill and her usage of dialect of the hill people. She laments over the struggle of hill people to survive. She writes in the simplest language with a very unique touch, everyday things like biscuits Krackjack, Good day, etc find their places in her poetry. One can here think on the possibility of translating such dialect into English or any other Indian Language just as Manipuri literature needs to be translated in other languages just to find its own place in the literary world. Sarcasm is again an integral part of her writings. In ‘Atumba Hill’ she shows how those educated ones take advantage of the ones who are uneducated and simple. The poem with such theme and sarcasm reminds one of poet Laishram Samarendra. Surprisingly in “Eigi Emadi Masak Fajei” she turn away from her simple way of writing and makes the poem a romantic one, her versatility thus cannot be ignored.
From the book one can see despite its existence of only 50 years, women’s writing in Manipur has developed enough to be noticed, read and engaged with. Memchoubi did a fair amount of research to compile the books by gathering poems, short stories and other works not only from published books but from journals and newspapers. The book is a must-read for those interested in Manipuri Literature
Memchoubi won national Sahitya Akademi Award in 2009 for her poetry book ‘Idu Ningthou’

Shingnaba of 1974

Three Young poets in their mid twenties published an anthology of their poems entitled “Shingnaba” in 1974. They published two volumes of this anthology in the month of September and October. It was a time when Manipuri literature was representing realities of a morally deteriorated Manipur leaving behind the romanticised writings of Hiajm Anganghal, Khwairakpam Chaoba, Dr. LamabamKamal, etc. There is such power in literature that the  truth and reality of Manipuri society ignited long back in late nineteen forties by E. Nilakanta actually rose in full force with Shri Biren’s poetry in early sixties. Shri Biren inspired the younger generation of poets during this time. Thangjam Ibopishak and Yumlembam Ibomcha were two young poets who were very much influenced by Shri Biren. Thangjam Ibopishak  shocked the entire literary society with his poem “Hayingkhongyambi” in 1968. The poem was published in “Wakhal”, a journal by Naharol Sahitya Premi Samiti (NSPS) and it was the first volume that NSPS published. The poem questioned the beliefs of many Manipuri vaishnavites which was never questioned before.
The three poets who published the anthology “Shingnaba” were none other than Thangjam Ibopishak, Yumlembam Ibomcha and W. Ranjit. But the question arises : why did they publish an independent anthology when they were registered members of Literary organization like Manipur Sahitya Parishad and NSPS?.
It was because the literary society was not yet ready for the adicalism of these young poets. “Wakhal” apparently had censored some poems of Thangjam Ibopishak in late sixties(His poem “Apaiba Thawai” was censored too from his first poetry collection entitled “Apaiba Thawai.” But the name of the book remained unchanged. In the latest edition of the book Ibopishak published the poem thanking B.S. Rajkumar for helping him in publishing the new edition). So by publishing “Shingnaba’ not only the three poets challenged Manipuri Society but the literary circle too.
But today in 21st century they admit they were very impulsive about everything ,and that often led them to the side of fanaticism of Manipuri culture, tradition and roots. But they addressed certain important issues in their poems for example about the rise of insurgency and corruption of government official, the hardship of Bihari workers, Marwaris businessmen, etc.
Post Shingnaba:
N. Tombi, a well known literary critic, found the anthologies as an outburst of a drunken generation in the dead of a night, and said such poems cannot be called a new literature or new art. It proves that the entire literary circle was shocked with such publications. Shri Biren too was critcised for his poem “Amamba Mapei (A Pile of darkness)” in which he abused people of Imphal for just letting things go and seeing without reactions. The poem was an outburst too based on real life incident when Shri Biren witnessed a lifeless naked body of a woman near Kanglapat in early sixties. The information was disclosed to Burning Voices in an interview.
The three poets of Shingnaba were ordered to be arrested by the Government of Manipur, because of their writings.Yumlembam Ibomcha disclosed to BV,” It was the time RK Dorendro was the CM for the first time, “The goverment had orders to arrest three of us. But Oja Nilakanta saved us saying that “Dont arrest them, they will get more famous…hahaha.”

My Journey of Music and Protest

It was sometime in 2007 in Delhi , Ashley Tellis, a friend, called me up and asked me to sing a few songs at a protest event at Swami Vivekananda Statue, Arts Faculty, Delhi University. The event was organised bya human rights group and they were demanding the immediate release of Dr.Binayak Sen who had been arrested by the Chattisgarh Police without giving any reason. I was broke as usual but i managed to take an autorickshaw to the protest venue. All the performers at the event were performing in hindi, they were singing songs of Safdar Hasmi and many other protest songs. I carried a few printed copies of my own poems that i had written for Dantewada after reading an editorial column of Hindustan Times. I should call it a collage of images of Dantewada rather than poetry because I had translated the imagery directly from the newspaper.
That day i sang three songs, two of my poems and Dylan's “I shall be released”. No other songs could suit the situation betterthan “I shall be released” This was how i started to sing at protest events.
These days, more than music, poetry has given me the space to express myself and my existence in this violence driven undemocratic country. Not only was i addicted to creating my own poetry, I started to search for poetry that match and reflect my hunger and anger. And then one day i stumbled upon the page of Thangjam Ibopishak's poetry collection “Apaiba Thawai.”The restlessness and anxiety in Ibopishak's early work during the late sixtieswas just like that of my generation today. What is different is - my generation is not expressive, perhaps we are timid. And the tragedy doesn't end here,many youngsters don't even realise the existence of such poets.
When it comes to my poetry and lyrics i can hardly trace the dividing line. I can always sing my poetry in my own style. Admittedly many may not like my singing style, but i have the freedom to do so.
By 2008 I had written and composed several songs and i was restless to record them. It was sort of a burning desire that i could not suppress. So in the summer, along with Sachin i recorded eight songs which collectively formed the album 'Tiddim Road'. We named ourselves “Imphal Talkies N The Howlers”. Many friends helped me in recording the songs, both financially and physically. Many thanks to them! The recording session was fun. We were nervous. The idea of playing music in a studio really frightened us. On the first of the days that we booked the recording studio we coudn't record, we were very much shaken by that dark sound proof room. But what actually scared us the most was the cost of the recording.
With every tick of the clock our bill was mounting and we were not able to play anything other than to just make the cue tracks! But finally we did it and it took us nine days to record the whole album.
Subsequently, with the help of we released the album in Delhi in February 2009.
Around this time something very tragic happened. Dr. Thingnam Kishan and his two subordinates, Rajen and Token , were murdered by the NSCN (IM). This incident left many shocked. Kishan was someone our generation looked up to for his uprightness. That uprightness cost him his life. Manipur went up in flames with protests at every nook and corner of the state. With a lot of help from Manipuri diaspora, NGOs, student organisations, Manipuris in delhi organised a candle light vigil at Jantar Mantar.
At Jamia i was pasting posters for the vigil when I received a call from a guy named Raju Athokpam saying he would like to perform a few protest songs of Tapta at the vigil. On the day of the vigil Raju and I met. We played together a few songs and my sister, Riki, sang some new songs. The vigil was successful, with many people from different communities of Manipur turning up for Da Kishan, Rajen and Token.
The last time i met Da Kishan was exactly one year ago from the month of his death. We met in Delhi and had argued over Manipuri poets. He opined, 'Manipuri poets are visionless, they can write of only blood and death, they should look forward to a future beyond this current turmoil' . I countered as i felt whatever that exist as Manipuri literature happens only in a very short span and there will be time for new crop of poets who feel the need of a new form of literature.
One night after the vigil i called up Raju to ask if he was interested in recording a song for Kishan as a tribute to the great man. He said, “lets do it”. Then we went on to record a song named “Ballad of Kishan” at some music school at North campus, which incidentally don't even have a proper recording studio. The song lacked quality. Raju played everything - bass, lead, rhythm. I was there just to boost his energy and to do the vocal part. The song was criticised by many people for my vocal being out of tune. Later i realised i was indeed very much out of tune. In my defence, we recorded the song in just one day. We took three days to compose it and we were not professionals. Our main concern was to show that we cared for Da Kishan. We would not leave any stone unturned in our effort to do so. And we felt the urge to initiate a movement despite our rather insignificant existence as amateur musicians. No Manipuri rocker had ever cared for such incidents or great men.
Thus Raju joined my bandwagon and become a member of Imphal Talkies N The Howlers. In the time that followed we found never lacked of incidents to inspire us to write new protest songs.
Soon after, the incident of July 23rd 2009 fake encounter at BT road took place. Once again me and Raju set out to record a song called “Rise” and we recorded it at the same studio. It was not even sound proof, yet we tried our best. It was 1am after midnight by the time we were done with the recording. Thanks to Dilip Oinam, Sumitra and Romina for being with us on that tiring and hectic day. Later the same night we dissolved our worries in a bottle of whiskey till the wee hours of the morning. Whatever we recorded we had to do it with money from our own pockets. We didn't care for money. And we still don't :)
In November, 2009, New Socialist Initiatives observed the beginning of Tenth year of Sharmila's struggle to repeal the draconian AFSPA. They organised the event at the same Swami Vivekanda Statue, Arts Faculty DU where i had performed for Binayak Sen. Just before the performance i got a phone call from a friend from Imphal informing that one of my closest friends passed away that morning in a road accident. I didn't know how to react. All i could think of doing and did was to call my father and ask to go to see my deceased friend's parents. I cried for a few minutes in a loo as his face suddenly popped up in my mind. He used to be the one who would come to my home in the early morning and wake me up just to talk to him. I still remember the day i blacked out and collapsed on the road sitting on my Honda Activa at his Thongal after consuming a half  bottle of Old Monk. He helped me up and i waved good bye. That was how we departed. Never knew that would be the final goodbye. What surprises me is that i can't even compose a poem in his memories. I have tried but in vain.
But I had to perform that day leaving aside his memories. Because i know life is that way, im gonna meet death and me being a Manipuri, death can come easily with guns and bombs too.
I reached Arts Faculty along with Bomcha(Nila) and Sanjeev thingnam. That was the first day i peformed with Sanjeev thingnam. We sang a song called “India” , a poem I had written some months back. We performed it impromptu at the spot. The song started with the line “India, have you ever crawled down enough to smell the soil of Kashmir?” And people loved it. Arundhati Roy was present there as the main speaker of the event. And Jilangamba, a friend, insisted me to sing a Manipuri song so i sang “Lainingthou lairembigi manairensa Kumsi di Army yam lakka ni hairiye”. Even today wherever we perform i feel like singing these songs. We then performed “Home is burning” and another called “freedom” written by sanjeev.
That day after the event we were asked to peform at Miranda House. And we did perform. We added a few new songs to our repertoire, such as “Ghost of Machang Lalung”. Machang Lalung was from Assam. He spent 54 years in prison without any trial. The maximum sentence he should get was ten years in prison. He was even dumped in a mental asylum. Sometime in 2006 a few Assamese activists managed to get him released. But the tragedy was - no one remembered him in his own village, let alone other places, and he didn't recognize even his home. It is almost unimaginably tragic. When i heard his story i could not help pour out my feelings into a song.
Soon after the Miranda House program, Progressive Students Union organised an event on the same theme for Sharmila at Jawaharlal Nehru University. Imphal Talkies N the Howlers was the main performer of that evening. There, the three of us - Raju, Sanjeev and me, performed together for the first time. Raju started as a thrash/metal music fan, Sanjeev as a bluesy guy and me addicted to the likes of Dylan and Cohen. We were very different musically. What bonded us together and does till now is our shared love for original music that speaks of our bullet ridden Manipur.
This time again we included one more new song called “My heart Sick Fella”. At the event Burning Voices distributed its first poetry journal “Our Private Literature”. All the members of Burning Voices turned up on that day. And the evening was ours.
Later in early 2010 we performed the same repertoire of songs at Kirori Mal College and National School of Drama, Delhi. Where ever we performed Sharmila has been our focus. We didn't plan it but her spirit and this nation's deafness was already there in many of our songs. Through these small events i gained many valuable friends.
And in mid 2010, the spectre of the Common Wealth Games loomed like a giant monster terrifying many lives on the streets of delhi and evicting students from university hostels. But people didn't just give up easily.Many organisations protested against such injustice done to poor people and students. University Community for Democray (UCD) was one such organisation formed particularly to protest against the CWG. Many of my friends were in this organisation. I wrote a song in collaboration with Tara Basumatry on this issue, it goes like “heart shaped balloon in traffic jam, fade away as they bring their dirty games, they wanna hide the beggars from the streets, cos they are the real indians...”.
Sometime later I sang the song again at Swami Vivekananda Statue, Arts Fauclty DU. By this time i was convince that this Vivekananda Statue will be able to recognize me even if i am among the crowd of Chandni Chowk.
A few days later I attended a one day relay hunger strike accompanied by my songs, again organised by UCD. The next protest event took place at Jantar Mantar for Bhopal Gas Tragedy Victims. I went with a friend (Venus) who ended up being my mic stand. From such events i learnt an important lesson -- there is no race or religion for the suffering ones, they will always be together. And Me being someone who spent half of his school days in the streets of Imphal holding placards, shouting slogans, i know how it feels to be at the receiving end. But what comforts me is that the world seems to be dominated by the suffering ones. Just look around!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Good Read

After long time i read meiteilon books and it awakens me to write in meiteilon...the best poem i read recently is Moirangthem Borkanya's Kobi Chamfut...
And Still i haven't read Kerouac's Dharma makes me sad cos i bought d book and have been keeping it to collect dust..Damned Me

Guitar weeks

In the last two weeks..i have played guitar like mad,,very mad..
And many new tunes have been composed...and now Im seriously worried thinking what shall i do with all these i see no way to record them..i cant record them becos i have no money,,and most importantly i dont have time for recording...

Yet i have to learn how to comfort my self handling the epiphone les paul :)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A need for a camera

Life is too short for all the things i wanna do. But to start one single thing that i been dreaming i just need a digital camera.
Can someone buy me a camera???