15 August 2008, Northeast India


By Robin S Ngangom

Having lost it
How could I celebrate my independence
Though I’ve sewn flags on cockeyed schooldays?
Margins are superfluous in the big centre’s book
Although memory is not silent and speaks up at times.

Now the periphery (of which I’m also a guilty part)
Is scrawling a unique history on delusive margins,
Mischievous like a collage by brawling painters.
Once lebensraum has sunk to pogroms
The periphery can murder too
And then deal peace cards on the table
Or hoist a nation’s flag in driving rain.
On the continuum of farce
It doesn’t matter if we’re moving forward or backward
Or if a government is serving rats on its menu.
The morning passes with a prime minister orating
From the ramparts of a fort,
“Make the borders irrelevant,” he said a year ago.
It never occurred to him to disguise himself and ask
The man on the street about his unhappiness.

On the road outside shut down by insurgents
Aimless now in its bafflement
Trees and lamps are breathing fog and a light rain.
This day passes between surfing for news of theoutside world,
Statistics of farmers committing suicide on the weaverbelt
And the poor waiting for paper to translate into bread
After discovering that a law has been enacted for them
Which finds all of them culpable for shaming thenation.
And fifty years of discrimination festering in theperiphery
With another anniversary of murder and disappearances.

I’ve been told that I live on the edge
By intellectuals who also teach me
The history and politics of far away countries.
I have to take their word on faith, being so unread.
I don’t know if I’m shallow with little inner life.

I try not to book a flat in the city of the sky
But meditate brokenly on love and its players
Although it gave me a terrible fright the other day.
I merely silenced her shame with my mouth
And remain a freeloader of passion from its web.


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