KAPIL ARAMBAM • In Pursuit of Freedom •


Since boredom advances and boredom is the root of all evil, no wonder, then, that the world goes backwards, that evil spreads. This can be traced back to the very beginning of the world. The gods were bored; therefore they created human beings.
Søren Kierkegaard

The believers have so many things to say believe. I’m also a believer, but not in a traditional sense for I believe in the nonexistence of gods. I wish only goddesses exist. Yes, these are things a man says when he got nothing to do. So, better make some graphics.

Silent Chaos

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Martin Niemöller

Ibobi and his gang always talk of life as perfectly normal in the state. Even the ringmaster—the governor earlier this year—remarked, ‘The state police have been able to keep the law and order situation under control while maintaining public orders despite working in an extremely sensitive security environment.’ The chief minister added, ironically, the AFSPA will be repealed when the law and order situation is under control. Still, everything is fine, according to them, despite the record number of bomb blasts, murders, extortion cases and our collective decadence from bad to the worst. As always, multiple tragedies have made us mere zombies, delighting ourselves in orgies from the never-ending festivals and other private indulgences. Regardless of this free-willed madness, it is impossible to unhinge the currents of our time.

The most recent insanities are those of extralegal ban of some schools in the valley by student organisations. Whether it is justifiable, supportable or inevitable is another story but the effects are not something we would see in a sane society, neither extralegal does not mean it is more legal. It has even become a cliché that the mass suffers from selective amnesia—read protesting against the state and army but ignoring those destruction caused by the armed rebels and other frontal organisations. Some of us would say that the rebels have declared war against the state and they are in any case, out of the ambit of the law of the land. This is entirely different when it is the agencies of the state, which enjoys the privilege of legal powers and has the strength to label the existing condition as a mere law and order problem. This is despite the fact that they are already going all out with terror tactics, no less than those of war times, to subdue the people in the name of counterinsurgency ops and hence the protests.      

Would you support the banning of school? The answer is ambiguous as always the things are in the state. As a society there is supposed to be some sanity—but are we so dumb to even have a consensus. Many of us like to believe that we are suffering from selective amnesia. This mainly concerns with the view that people always protested against the state but remained mute when the perpetrators are non-state actors. First, it makes complete sense, though ironically, because the state has the impunity from its legal bearing unlike the other parties, read the armed rebels. Second, we are not suffering from selective amnesia but are expressing the sickly syndromes of a silent generation. This is most evident in our periodical sociopolitical outbursts.

If you do not believe it, who has spoken out against the daylight robbery of government officials? The latest is from the department of art and culture, whose director is allegedly waist-deep in swindling and shitty black money looted from the state exchequer. Alternatively, who has protested the recent highhandedness of the Assam Rifles morons in Tamenglong, where these legal gunmen brutally assaulted the people but not before making some ridiculous comments about declaring war? The madness is no different from screaming in silence. At the end of the day, the state has AFSPA and thousands of servile foot soldiers, while the parallel government has thousands of unwritten rules. We are ever crushed between the deep shit and the hassle.

Of course, the sporadic street demonstrations and sit-in protests are exceptions. And if we take a step back, we can see many of these grievances are directed against both the state and non-state actors. Check those placards with the bloody coconuts and bananas around. If we have to compete with the government over hopelessness, we might draw a tie—maybe, a penalty shootout is all we need. The silence is just deafening. On one hand, the student organisations—which are deaf and dumb on fake teacher appointments and unscrupulous teachers who are hell bent on career advancement using fake degrees—could simply ban a school or two. However on the other, and what is worse is that never has been the government of the day spoken out against this kind of insanity. Whether they speak or not, it clearly shows their motives and incompetence. No wonder the rule of law is no different from that of a jungle’s out here. Who has ever felt safe that there is a legal protector in place? Any natives will admit the police and army are creating more fear psychosis than doing what they are paid for.

For the authority, if the government ever speaks out, it is mostly about funds and grants from New Delhi that run the province. A few days ago, the Economic Times reported: ‘Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi expressed concern over cut in funds allocated to the North Eastern Council by more than Rs 190 crore.’ He further whined: ‘Special category states lose out on normal central assistance, special central assistance, special plan assistance on which the NE states and Manipur in particular, heavily depend on the meet the fiscal deficit and finance state matching share.’

If we talk about Ibobi, we cannot help but mention the pitiable condition of the civil society. Like a naughty kid who is so used to beating and scolding from his parents that he longer care about it, the civil society has become so used to the collective degradation, so much so that it has become resistant to the tragedies, except in some selective cases—and yes, it is not selective amnesia. If at all it acts, most of the responses are reactive and knee jerk that only add insults to the injury. Some of the proactive measures are taken in obscure corners like the university teachers, with their trademark wooden expressions, and they are self-satisfied inside their classrooms. Frontal organisations are just happy preaching about the great land and the great people.

We have lost our collective strength; and the only force we have from time to time seems to be in building more decadence all around. In any event, there are the gracious presence of ‘learned’ intellectuals, academicians, this-and-that activist, civil society representatives and leaders, religious heads, student leaders and so on but the condition is too clear to see. From the top to the bottom of the society, it is a dog-eat-dog world. The government has no control over the territory and we can see it from yesteryears onwards. It is a herculean task, if not impossible, for the administrators to make any collective decisions. Public services are only as good as nonexistent. The list goes on endlessly.

‘The silence depressed me,’ Sylvia Plath wrote in the Bell Jar. She added, ‘It wasn’t the silence of silence.  It was my own silence.’ Sometimes our defeatist, pessimistic and fatalistic outlook makes it probable that some day we will have a sort of Pol Pot personality to clear off the mess. The Indian democracy is already down the drain with the massive militarisation of the region and the futilities of the regular elections. In this bleak condition, a bit of some more proactive measures will count a lot, along with the building of an active civil society and an informed public sphere would not be a bad idea.


Net Neutrality: Save the Internet

Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day; teach that person to use the Internet and they won't bother you for weeks. —ANONYMOUS

On March 27 last, The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) released the convoluted  Consultation Paper On Regulatory Framework For Over-the-top (OTT) Services (http://www.trai.gov.in/WriteReaddata/ConsultationPaper/Document/OTT-CP-27032015.pdf), which is precisely a plan to build walls on the Internet to satisfy the corporate greeds. As of today, April 14, news report indicates over 150,000 e-mails and e-petitions have been sent to TRAI and the Union Ministry for Communication and Information Technology.

Do Take a minute off and respond to TRAI here: www.savetheinternet.in

Read The World Is Watching Our Net Neutrality Debate, So Let’s Get It Right on Wired and a list of related articles on MediaNama. A basic guide to net neutrality is illustrated below: 

The Internet is full. Go away!

Chaaikhre Ngasi Nangi Loubukta

Arambam Somorendra’s Chaaikhre Ngasi Nangi Loubukta (originally written in 1989) translated by Arambam Sophia (April 2015)

Today on your fields is strewn
The blood of your sons
To merge with your soil
That it may be nourished
For seasons forthcoming
O green phige-clad Mother
O beloved Manipur!

Smoke shrouds
Your sky
Ceaselessly rising
From the pyres of your sons
Smoke shrouds
Your sky,
Blown asunder
By the unfettered wind
It spreads
All over your sky

To pour forth as rain
In every corner
Of your hills and valleys
The seeds of the past
Now slumbering
Shall be awakened afresh,
New sprouts shall spring up
On your vast fields and fallow lands.

One day at dawn
In the sun’s crimson rays
Your old faded clothes
Shall be changed anew
Your favoured ritual attire
Shall be sprinkled
With golden hue.


Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

A three-day long festival of music and arts with a view to respect, honour and protect the environment, Where Have All the Flowers Gone? has been the first of its kind in Manipur. This is the second edition. This year, the venue is at the Santhei Natural Park, Andro in Imphal East. This festival is inspired by music and environmental activism of the late American folk singer Pete Seeger who passed away in January 2014. This will be his 96th birth anniversary and we wish to commemorate the day by carrying out activities dear to his heart and fundamental to the survival of our environment. Starting from May Day i.e 1st May there will be tree plantation drives in various places of Imphal and Andro.

Where Have All the Flowers Gone? will also have painting competition for school students, performances, photo exhibition by Wildlife and Habitat Protection Society (WAHPS) and art fair that consists of art installation work, painting exhibition, etc. Indian singer/songwriter Susmit Bose, who has been a friend of late Pete Seeger, will spearhead the musical evening.

For details, check the Facebook page of the event:  Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

Down & Out: Beat Generation 101

WAHOUDOK  I stumbled across the Beat Generation around five years ago. The realisation of Hobessian life being solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short drove me to seek for some meaning, despite my thoughts being overwritten by nihilistic whims repeatedly. Growing up in awe of romanticists like John Keats, William Wordsworth, Khwairakpam Chaoba and others in high school was one thing but it was totally another to relate to the things social, political and economic and shits, happening around us.

Simply put, it was making me disillusioned in a hometown whose description of a society can be summed up alliteratively in blood, bombs and bullets. Now the high school stuffs are gone and I even have a term, ‘heiraang-leiraang lit’ (Heiraang Leiraang in the Write Direction, Nov 2010), to label these poets and their verses of sweetness and softness.

Do not accuse me of defection! I do like a Lamabam Kamal or a Dylan Thomas work now and then. However, in the beatniks, at least I have seen, if not a solution that there is clearly a missing link between our aspirations and lived experiences.

In the same breath, I would admit that I do not believe in hero-worshipping. Life is not fair but there are sane explanations from the wiser people about our living conditions. Finally, I have also met from my hometown some great folks who share a liking for the sort of Beat Generation works in parts and who share the same ideas about the way of life as a whole.

Beat it!

Courtesy: The images of the three beatniks are graphically stencilised from their Wikimedia Commons' original photos
ginsberg: Materialscientist commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Materialscientist
burroughs: Kobac commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Kobac
kerouac: Scewing commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Scewing

Contemporary online hangout joints:
All Things Allen Ginsberg allenginsberg.org
Beat Studies Association www.beatstudies.org
The Allen Ginsberg Project / A Ginsberg Blog ginsbergblog.blogspot.com
The Beat Generation in a Scholastic Analysis / Beat Museum http://www.beatmuseum.org/images/The%20Beat%20Generation%20In%20A%20Scholastic%20Analysis.pdf

A Review Article: Chronicle of the Beat Generation by George Hitchcock / Marxists Internet Archive https://www.marxists.org/history/etol/newspape/amersocialist/amersoc_5801-b.htm
Beating Rhetoric: Rhetorical Theory in the Beat Generation by Stephen M Llano / University of Pittsburgh http://d-scholarship.pitt.edu/10209/
Missing Beats: Marginalised Women of the Beat Generation by Jessica Marie Farrugia / The Artifice http://the-artifice.com/beat-generation-women/
Beat, Beatnik, or Diet Beat: The Choice of a New Generation by Mitchell J. Smith / Nideffer’s blog

Information for the posters from:
Literary Kicks / Intellectual Curiosities and Provocations www.litkicks.com
A Brief Guide to the Beat Poets / Academy of American Poets www.poets.org/poetsorg/text/brief-guide-beat-poets
Drive, He Wrote by Louis Menand / The New Yorker www.newyorker.com/magazine/2007/10/01/drive-he-wrote
Beat Generation / Wikipedia en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beat_Generation
Beat Generation Literary Criticism / Project Muse muse.jhu.edu

Films on/about the Beat Generation:
Pull My Daisy (1958, short film), The Beat Generation (1959, motion picture), A Bucket of Blood (1959 motion picture), The Subterraneans (1960 motion picture), Greenwich Village Story (1961), Next Stop, Greenwich Village (1976), Heart Beat (1980 motion picture), What Happened to Kerouac? (1986 documentary), Naked Lunch (1991 motion picture), Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg (1993 documentary), Allen Ginsberg Live in London (1995 documentary), The Last Time I Committed Suicide (1997), The Source (1999 documentary), Beat (2000 motion picture), American Saint (2001 dramatic motion picture), Words of Advice: William S. Burroughs on the Road (2007), Neal Cassady (2007), Crazy Wisdom: The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics (2008 documentary), Howl (2010 motion picture), William S. Burroughs: A Man Within (2010 documentary), Magic Trip (2011 documentary), Big Sur (2012 motion picture), Corso: The Last Beat (2012 documentary), On the Road (2012 motion picture), The Beat Hotel (2012 documentary), Kill Your Darlings (2013 motion picture)

Pop Nonstop

I learnt to fly
It was before I could drive
It was before I could hardly walk
When my father kicked my ass from the rooftop.

Oh boy, fun it was in those days
Just run and play along the tilted metal roof
Those days we’d wave to the CRPF men calling them bhaiya
We’d sing Rabindranath Tagore’s national anthem by rote   
Happily, smoothly, along with our-father-in-heaven prayers
And Ganga and Jamuna had a threesome with Jesus Christ.

And the jolt! The kick in the ass!
And I fell from the roof like a sparrow
The sort of a poor drenched ’parrow, just out of a pond
Just that I was an animal, and not a bird.

And I learnt to dive before I could swim
When another day my father hurled me into our pond
Like a circus monkey lost in a dreary town
I ingested, in twenty seconds of sinking, an eternal experience
Of darkness and nothingness, outside
Of a blunt physical experience, inside;

Father, those were nothing—with today’s life, living
But you are not even here to listen to these craps.
It is no surprise how anthems and prayers imply nada now
You wouldn’t know all these craps now. You wouldn’t.

The King’s Command

I’ll close shop for translation with this last poem for the week! This is a translation of Pechimayum Kokngang’s Manipuri poem, Angambagi Yathang

The king has arrived
Our king has arrived
Arrange the contribution
Exchange the presentation
Make room for the Majesty’s leisure in the veranda
Make room, put on the cover 
Call all the beauties of the locality
Be blessed, with a royal service for the king
You, gun-slinging cops, barricade the road.  

Tonight Tomba the slave
With Leibaklei he has been as ever slavish
And they have been caught having sex—catch them,
They say it is consensual,
It is still promiscuous, catch them
Bind them and shove them inside a bag
Banish them to the land of the loi
—It is the king’s command; no one dare defy it.

In Kangpokpi, an outlander has been caught
He is a smuggler; he has been caught with contrabands
But he does show the minister’s approval paper
The policemen can only peer penetratingly
And thus the four trucks speed away
Arrest no thief—they are the minister’s foot soldiers.

A starving kid has stolen a pineapple piece
Catch! Catch the thief!
Get a thousand policemen
Catch him at any cost
Catch the devil
Tie his hands, tie his legs
Hit him in the knee
Catch the thief, thrash the devil
Try him in the court
He is a disgrace to the land
This is the king’s command
Remember this is the order of the god. 


* The loi are the outcast. In olden days, they were banished to faraway villages like Andro and Sugnu in the Imphal valley. Sugnu is mentioned in the original text but I have deleted it for translation convenience. Now, I would say, they are the most pure Meitei people, who have become a pathetic mixed breed elsewhere in the valley. Some of the pieces with the term on this blog:

The Unofficial National Anthem
On Changing the Faith http://kapilarambam.blogspot.in/2010/09/on-changing-faith.html

* Kangpokpi is a town in the Sadar Hills Autonomous District, located in northern Manipur.

Translated on 5 April 2015
From the anthology Akhannaba Manipuri Seireng
(Selected Manipuri Poems)
A collection published by Manipur Naharol Sahitya Samiti; first ed. 1975

In the Land of Half-People

This has been a weekend of translation! This prose poem is Thangjam Ibopishak’s Manipuri Mee Tangkhaigi Leibaak in English.

Have you ever seen the land, where for the first six months the people have no body but the heads, and for the next six, they have only the bodies but no head?

So, you haven’t seen them? But I have seen them all of them—it’s not in the folk tales, it’s not in any urban–rural legend—all over I have gone to such a place.

For six months it is their obligation for the heads without bodies to eat and speak and to kvetch—and in the next six months for the bodies without heads, to pay for and clean others’ shit; the responsibility lies on the half-bodies; while the half-heads only speak and eat and drink and eat and speak, the other merely digs and drudges and digs; for life’s about sweating all, in the land of the half-bodies.

Are there women in that land? How are their women?

One of my favourite Manipuri book covers
Bhoot Amasoong Maikhum (The Ghost and the Mask)

Women exists, so do the children, and the condition is no different, with those half-headed and half-bodied women and they have long hairs like in our land: buxom and big-hearted and blithe they live in their moon-lit land, with sarongs just below their waist; for the law of the land they are banned from expose their bodies—it is their spring in the days of the half-bodies, for there are no heads and there is no problem, for there is no need to be fussy about the opposite sexes; and thus they give birth during the months of half-heads; the babies are born when they speak and eat and drink and eat and speak; still the women are well-bred than men.

So the women have no teeth; the god has created them very well.

In the days of the half-heads, with their ears as big as that of an elephant, they flap their flanks and fly like the flamingos; and we can understand their language when they speak and they speak in a familiar human language; however, when the days of the half-bodies arrive, some non-human sound comes from the holes in their bodies and those smell obnoxious too.

Such a land is this, and it is quite famous: the sun and the moon are prompt as natural as they could be; and there is no poverty and there is only felicity and in no way there is pain or suffering; in fact, some people are too filthy rich; and for the six-month labour of the half-bodies the half-heads are spoilt and they pamper themselves like a prince.

Politics exists and the government as well exists here; democracy is consummate as the holy union of pimps and prostitutes, and the elections are prompt, one each in five years; but the people have no name in this land; and thus for the nameless citizens, the nameless rulers dominate in the land of half-people; and they cannot even decide whether they should pick out and name the half-heads or the half-bodies—ever it is uncertain for them in this famous land.  



Translated on 5 April 2015
From the anthology Bhoot Amasoong Maikhum
(The Ghost and the Mask) by Thangjam Ibopishak
The Writers’ Forum; first ed. 1994

Of the Housefly

A translation of Thangjam Ibopishak’s Manipuri poem, Hayingkhongyambi

             Creeping on the faeces-filled chamber pot
             The housefly, she figures out:

—Lord Gobinda is made of dry wood
All the artificial colours
All the man-made matters build him
How he is made out ‘is’ what he is.
Oh! Jesus!
In these days when the machine reigns
What can you do from the crucifix?
What do you want to show?

‘Truth’ is a flower made of paper
Yesterday, with the tidings of truth
It was found—all’s too bare to benefit; life and all

And the housefly, with shits still scattered all across, 
With shits sprinkled on her thorax
Charmed, for a moment she palls in a trance

The Earth’s journey has ceased
In the hellhole, they thrive
The one hundred and eight lotuses*.

        Again the wasted housefly,
        She continues:

—Yes it is
The answer to the ceaseless questions
Of this age, it is
That moment of high and intoxicated, life is. 


*This is related to a shitty Hindu belief, most closely related to the incestuous god, Krishna (/ˈkrɪʃnə/), who had as many names and wives; and subsequently, the ritual of offering the same number of flowers, not necessarily only the lotuses. In our hometown, there is also a more shitty tradition of offering and piggish indulgence of having one hundred and eight different dishes in specific rituals. My two cents: we will be a lot better off if we do away with this Krishna shit and the Ras Lila orgy.

Translated on 4 April 2015
From the anthology Apaiba Thawai
(The Wandering Soul) by Thangjam Ibopishak
Raj Publications; first ed. 1969, second ed. 1997

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