KAPIL ARAMBAM • In Pursuit of Freedom •

July Alteration 1.0: Of Man and War

This is a translation of Laishram Samarendra’s Mi Amasoong Laan from the anthology Laishram Samarendragi Apunba Lairik (2012). The poem was originally included in Wakchinggi Kabita, which was published in 1999. 

The men gathered and buried the gods
God is always the reason behind wars, they say,
In Egypt and Israel and Africa and Bosnia
For the sake of getting rid of the cacophony of gods and wars
The British chanted the name of Jesus Christ
And they fought against the Germans
The Germans recited the name of Jesus Christ
And they fought against the British
With Ram on their lips the Hindus opposed the Muslims
With Muhammad on their lips the Muslims resisted the Hindus
The gods had been useless, it was accepted
The gods be damned; the gods be dead for good
Deng Xiaoping and Mao Tse-tung and Ayatollah Khomeini     
Everybody’s agreed: God is the cause of all the wars

Soon the supreme leader emerged
The wisest amongst the wise
And soon he became a god
Another wisest amongst the wise emerged
And soon he became a god too
Again the new wisest soul emerged
He became a god as well
Ah! Men cannot live without gods
Men cannot live without wars
In the name of the new gods
The wars resumed

July Alteration 2.0: Kerosene

This is a translation of Laishram Samarendra’s Tersing from the anthology Laishram Samarendragi Apunba Lairik (2012). The poem was originally included in Wakchinggi Kabita, which was published in 1999.

My dear brother
Since the other day I’ve been coming here
Running hither and thither
Just for kerosene—for just two litres!

And in my kitchen I got no firewood
And I got no money to buy the firewood

For these two litres of kerosene
The local dealer has intervened
Before we come to fetch the oil on Monday
We have to fill up a form on Saturday
If it runs out of stock
We have to come on the 5th, next month, another Saturday
And we have to fill up the form again
And on Monday, the 7th
Before 7 o’clock
We can get the kerosene, he says,
I have considered doing away completely with this deal
But here the kerosene a litre is only eight rupees
In Gouransing’s shop it is ten.

Footnote: The government of India has a grand scheme of food security system called the Public Distribution System, or simply PDS for the poor and the marginalised. The Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution (www.fcamin.nic.in) and the state (provincial) governments handle the management of subsidised food and non-food items that mostly include wheat, rice, sugar and kerosene. The government-owned Food Corporation of India maintains the PDS while local dealers, through public distribution shops or ration shops, deal in the direct distribution of these items. The entire system is infested with corruption.

July Alteration 3.0: No Time

This is a translation of Laishram Samarendra’s Matam Leite from the anthology Laishram Samarendragi Apunba Lairik (2012). The poem was originally included in Wakchinggi Kabita, which was published in 1999. 

i got to make haste
i got no time to waste
i had left home in a hurry

now i got to return quickly
my home might disappear before i reach there
my wife, my children—my family might disappear

my whole village might disappear
become just like an unclaimed incinerated cadaver
    they might as well be there
    my folks &
    my family

this little amount of rice am i carrying
i want to feed my children
and am i making haste
i got to rush & outrace myself
i got to reach home promptly

but did you hear any gunshots?
did you listen to any wailing?
did you see any lifeless body—taken away?

i got no time & i’m leaving for the day
i got no time at all


Tweeter Stalker
Some of the Latest Tweets from My Favourite Tweeple

And I can say 100%ly, some people will be more offended with these juvenile tweets than the debauchery that the so-called elected representatives are indulging in. I would be very much happy to ignore them.

The Essential Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) was a German philosopher who challenged the foundations of Christianity and traditional morality. He was interested in the enhancement of individual and cultural health, and believed in life, creativity, power, and the realities of the world we live in, rather than those situated in a world beyond. Central to his philosophy is the idea of life-affirmation, which involves an honest questioning of all doctrines that drain life's expansive energies, however socially prevalent those views might be. Often referred to as one of the first existentialist philosophers along with Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855), Nietzsche’s revitalizing philosophy has inspired leading figures in all walks of cultural life, including dancers, poets, novelists, painters, psychologists, philosophers, sociologists and social revolutionaries.

—Wicks, Robert, Friedrich Nietzsche, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2014/entries/nietzsche/.

An Open Letter to AMMIK

Very respected Apunba Manipur Matam Ishei Kanglup, in the name of holy traditions of the land, I’m sending you my deepest regards.

I hope you are doing well and I believe I’m not disturbing you in your daily raga recital. The last time I heard about you was when you insisted the government to declare Sana Leibak Manipur as the state anthem just after the demise of the legendary Bachaspatimayum Jayentakumar Sharma who penned the song. Unfortunately the authority is indifferent as always but lesser than that of the people, who are assured that this song would only evoke the false pride in you. That’s another story.

Image from Tapta's Fan Blog
You have made a bolder step this time. But why would you act like the army and issue diktats? As far as we know, you are a group of contemporary singers just as your name suggests; and neither would anyone believe you are a fascist organisation. Didn’t you feel getting out of tune when you declared that Tapta cannot sing anymore simply because he is not a member of your organisation?

Probably you don’t. That’s why you have not only boycotted him but have gone ahead and made your terrifying royal promise of banning the film as well of which he is a playback singer. Perhaps the film, Keishal, under the banner of Plus Media Production, might never see the light of the day. This is considering that you can summon artistes for negotiation in rebel camps or pay the police to do what they do best: threaten the people. However, there are so many things at stake here.

Truth be told, your name must remain as it was: like a band of Nazi-inspired musicians but in a non-existential zone or wherever far from a sane society. Today, you might not mind it, you have never. You would not care that you have become the laughing stock in the whole town these days. A real musician would have produced a fine work from such humiliation but we know you are callous. Your fascist ideology—if there is any other such thing beside sheer stupidity behind your organisational workings—is only as good as your crappy tabla-harmonium music.

If there is one thing that is so typical in the world of artistes, it is their love for freedom and liberty. But clearly you have become blind and you cannot see beyond your overbearing octave. For that matter, Tapta is more popular than all of you combined, yes, he also performs better than the combination of all your rule-obsessed, cheesy singing mates. Doesn’t this give you some clue why people are calling you all sorts of names because you are blindly trampling on the people’s choice of music and professional affiliation?

Tapta is creative, independent, experimental and politically engaged—all of which you are not. We can see these issues would be too much because for you, art should be only for art’s sake. You have nothing to do with the ceaseless diktats from both the state and non-state actors, which have shoved us into a corner of collective listlessness. Simply because you are in the bandwagon now. Of course, nothing can be more important than obtaining a visharad degree from your alma mater located in faraway Agra and Gwalior or elsewhere; and yes, flaunting your power in this land of no master.   

The royal order of the AMMIK
Image: Plus Media Production

Again, Tapta is more popular than your organisation. This fact might be a source of great disturbance to your inflated ego. Why don’t you go and sing on the radio if it is not the music season in the town? There are lots of issues at hand that the people should care about. For instance, in one eastern corner of the land, in Chadong, hundreds of families have been displaced from their homes. The government’s myopic plan of building a dam has backfired though the authority is nonchalant as ever. The rhythmic patterns of violence and underdevelopment have already imprisoned us in a time warp of nothingness. In this kind of situation, your diktats and boycotts have become an unnecessary pain in the ass.

An album cover pic of the Eastern Dark
Image: Eastern Dark's Facebook page

We are grateful to you for keeping up the Manipuri language. Albeit, everybody knows your disciplined approach to learning and practising music is doing much harm than helping it. Have you watched the film Western Sankirtan? You should ask your big brother, the Film Forum Manipur, if you have not. To explain briefly, the theme of the film is about going back to our roots, but while ignoring or being too stupid to know that Sankirtan can never be a marker of our identity. It is no less different from your borrowed ragas and khayaals. And oh, your mates are tired of your adopted microtones and semitones: now they are aping the shittiest music from all over the world. I presume you like Ranbir Thouna. I like him too but I cannot tell how AR Rahman sounds so much like him. I’m kidding, I don’t like him but the mention about AR Rahman is true. (Footnote: Last year, the Forum banned six actors for not taking part in an Inner Line Permit protest. So apparently, the authoritarian madness run in the blood!)

In the last few days, metal-inspired Eastern Dark has also come out with their stories of intimidation. Incidentally like Tapta, this band is known for its socially relevant music just in case you had missed it in your self-righteous ride to conquer the music world in the stupidest ways. Pop stars from the olden days including Sanaton and Naba Volcano were the closest you can get but they are gone a long time ago. 

If copycats, alien music styles and unquestioning loyalty are the foundation of your world, you might as well boycott yourself and excuse us for some time. We know what our choice of music is and you cannot dictate what it should be. Please admit you are a fascist organisation and you are all powerful. We might be able to boost your ego and help do away with your talentless struggle, or, probably show you how it takes fans and supporters—and not primitive aggression and high-handedness —to raise an art form.

Finally, you are only strong as a group and, for your kind consideration, there is an adage: those people who cannot work outside a group or on their own, they are a nobody when they are alone. For all the talents you don’t have, it seems you are making up with your illegal dictatorial rules. Please do go to Agra and improve your skills. You might become a better singer some day. Who knows?!

Yours sincerely,
An anonymous music listener
Date: 3 July 2015
Place: Laphumakhong near Moreh

PS: Do send postcards from Agra. Don’t show off that your leader is an old-timer in the field. The general is just a piece of rotten ass with all the annoying, talentless foot soldiers.


of wail and toil, my home’s a castle
my land’s the kingdom of brothel
i’m the king of poverty
the leader of misery
amongst all, only the kanglasha has hidden its tail
for the cartons of blood and lies that i wholesale
care about nothing, see nothing and live and die for anything
no, nothing, maybe anything—and this is the song I always sing

The Flying Soul

A translation of Thangjam Ibopishak’s Meiteilon poem Apaiba Thawai from the anthology of the same name; the first edition was published in November 1969 and the second in 1997

One day
It was at the foot of the bridge at Keishampat
Amongst the cows and scattering neck-deep scraps and wastes
I saw a woman whose whole body was all covered but her face
I saw her and I was taken aback!
Her face was pale |
A few strands of hair spread on her head ||
Misery was written all over her visible flesh
Slowly she raised her frail arms and called me ||
But I ignored her
        There she was
        She had been waiting just for me | for eternity ||
And she asked me: ‘Do you know where you are going?
Do you even know your destination?’
        Vehicles and cars and buses and trucks
        And cycles and rickshaws
On the bridge those cut through || Several people moved through too
From that street skirting the bridge | the dust raged
It cut and ran along the direction of the wind ||
        My soul was like a torn and thread-less kite
        The kind that nobody cares a hoot   
Everything fused into the current of time ||

It was another day
It was after the 4pm show at a cinema
The sea of people made a wave
In the middle of a thousand different smiles
So suddenly I saw the familiar person
        Amidst the debris of the GM Hall
The dust and junk had flooded till the waist
She was gasping but she would still ask me:       
‘How do you see life?    
        Can you still smile—when was the last time you truly laugh?’
The mike from the Imphal Talkies
The musical revelry dragged me away |
And the questions sank around the wave of people ||

And one day
It was one evening at the Hotel Umesh
It was amongst tittle-tattle and prattle
        Inside the smoke-filled stall
        The dark seedy and jammed stall
I saw her again | the lady I know
                A painter’s colours that had never merged
        Those have created the her bare body ||
        And the seasonal breeze had swept away her clothes
A vapid soul she owned | she asked me:
        ‘In your disjointed life
        Are the bits and pieces of your soul helping you?’
Along with the steam from the warm tea | soon the apparition disappeared
And the sound of the morning radio
It conked the questions ||

Again another day
It was at my favourite drinking den in Paona Bazaar
I had the largest peg of my favourite booze
Meanwhile I was almost swimming ||
            What on earth!
        The bubble of kick from the booze was flooding
            I was almost floating
        Just as in I had no home and had no address ||
And I heard her intervention; I saw her immediately
            The cracked face of the lady
It was falling apart | and the colourful butterflies were sucking the nectar
        Her blackened hand waved and she demanded:
        ‘So you have reached there?
        Give me the answer!’
I was searching—my winged soul was flying around
I needed the oil to lubricate the engine of life ||
The questions there were galore
But never ever the answers were there ||

One day before long
Inside a murky room somewhere in Khuyathong
Inside the petticoat of a pretty lovely lady who worked for money
I was living my life
I was sucking the joy the littlest I had out of life ||
        In that moment I saw my nemesis again—on her ruptured thighs
        The shit-smeared flies were preying on
        And her bloated stomach was soiled with blood
The moaning lady uttered in confusing lines:
        ‘Give me the answer
        You give me the answer!
        And you have gone far up to here as well?’   

The kicks from the blood that was boiling
        Stimulated and unrestrained—I closed my eyes |
And my life it had been floating and drifting away ||
        I had no answer
        The questions had sunk too
Life was floating and drifting away ||     

(a) It is footnoted that this narrative poem was written on 21 April 1968 ||
(b) A style of using Meiteilon punctuation | a single bar for a comma and two bars for a full stop ||

Shout Loud. Aloud

A collection of random political slogans on revolution, rebellion, resistance and more

The Essential Albert Camus

Albert Camus (1913–1960), Author, journalist, playwright

Albert Camus was a French-Algerian writer best known for his absurdist works, including The Stranger (1942) and The Plague (1947). He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957.
Text: bio. www.biography.com

Leon: The Essential

Leon Trotsky 
A Marxist revolutionary and theorist, Soviet politician, and the founder and first leader of the Red Army

Leon Trotsky helped ignite the Russian Revolution of 1917, and built the Red Army afterward. He was exiled and later assassinated by Soviet agents.

Born Lev Davidovich Bronshtein on November 7, 1879, Leon Trotsky’s revolutionary activity as a young man spurred his first of several ordered exiles to Siberia. He waged Russia’s 1917 revolution alongside Vladimir Lenin. As commissar of war in the new Soviet government, he helped defeat forces opposed to Bolshevik control. As the Soviet government developed, he engaged in a power struggle against Joseph Stalin, which he lost, leading to his exile again and, eventually, his murder.

- Text: bio. www.biography.com

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