Reminiscences and Longing (after Nguyen Quang Thieu)

317

 By Robin S Ngangom

“The yellow mustard’s in bloom
Krishna’s got a wife
Radha has given birth to a child
Krishna is starving.”

Once again it is the season that smells of Yaosang.
The yellow mustard departs, peas ripen, and
Boys revisiting the year, steal from vegetable patches at night
For Yaosang’s neighbourhood feast.

We cursed the Brahmin priest when he refused to bring the god
To our reed and straw hut on the riverbank
Ready to be razed to mark the new season.

As the months warmed up to her
My grandmother pulled out, one by one,
From the caches in her sunny room
Dry sweetmeat she brought from her endless pilgrimages.
In winter, she could only give me wizened fruits
That looked like her fingers.

And then the courtyard plays, the touring cinemas,
The khongjom parba phaibok, arrived in droves,
Growing in clamour as a boy’s nights grew very late
And he didn’t know that his father had gone looking for him.

For the boy, though, in the twinkling festive nights
Every girl was a fairy or a goddess
Smelling of lotuses and dreams.
And having abandoned his grandmother

While chasing his kite he felt guilty
And went to her now “dark and mouldy” room.
He found her tied with a rope to her bedpost and
Hobbling around her bed. She said,
“I’m mad now, don’t come near me.”

The boy ran onto the street behind his house.
But while running on the street he did not realise that
He was growing taller with patches of hair under his arms and belly
As the life of the streets claimed him.
It could be his blooming heart
Or his wet dreams, he mustered up courage to ask a girl out
After writing fifteen perfumed letters
And they went cycling past the returning mustard fields on riverbanks,
Past his almost happy boyhood.

So many years he waited in vain for them to return
The pen a shakpa, the laiharaoba, the chalees of kang,
The half-remembered pass khelas.
But they’ve disappeared in the folds of his reveries
Like the fairies and the goddesses.

One day in his middle years
They all returned suddenly as spectacle
Watched eagerly by wives and boys
Before they became victims
Of the killers who have stepped out
Of the courtyard plays and created widows
And made boys disappear into endlessly waiting days.

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