KAPIL ARAMBAM • In Pursuit of Freedom •

Family Time! The Arambam Triumvirate

I never like the old folks, especially if they are a family member. Talking to them is like inviting ourselves to a grand lecture of preaching stuffs, whatever it means. However, I have been influenced by so many of them. A few uncles and aunts have always been the role models. I was particularly in awe, in my growing up days, listening to the tales and tribulations of one of my uncles, who was so spoiled yet he achieved what he had aspired for. Others set the benchmark of accomplishment in life high. Now what I would do in my life is left; and I’ve no idea where I’ll be ten years down the line, leave alone what the old folks have been successful in life. I’m glad, though, there are people in the family who keep motivating us. This post is a simple tribute to three of the deceased Arambam torchbearers: my grandfather, Ibungotomcha, his half brother Dorendrajit and the latter’s son, Somorendro—all of them are public figures. May their soul rest in extreme contentment and may the living uncles and aunts guide us through every leikai and leirak of awareness, as always and their guidance keeps accentuating the meaning of our lives.

ARAMBAM IBUNGOTOMCHA (1902–2000)     A former Durbar member and the first Finance Minister of pre-merger Manipur. A brilliant student in his school and college days, Ibungotomcha held many positions under King Churachand and King Bodhchandra. During World War II, he was a member of the Air Force Precaution Organisation and was also a member of the State Law Codification Committee. He left politics after the merger of Manipur into the union of India and not even his eldest son knows the reason why he took that step. He was also a founder member of DM College, Imphal College and many other prestigious educational institutes in Manipur.

ARAMBAM DORENDRAJIT (1907–1944)         A poet, playwright and stage actor who was amongst the pioneers that shaped modern Manipuri literature, Dorendrajit was a graduate with honours in Sanskrit from Calcutta University. He was a school teacher by profession. He was a profound lover of his native language and a literary master of the 20th century—even if he was unable to distinguish between the Hindu hegemony and the desperation of making our identity as authentic as it can be. In his epic poem, Kangsabada, he made new experiments in language by blending Manipuri and Sanskrit. He was greatly influenced by Shakespeare and Kalidasa.  He was an editor of the first Manipuri monthly journal Lalit Manjuri Patrika and a publisher of Tarun Manipur, a weekly journal that was published during the Thirties and Forties. For his contribution to Manipuri literature, the state literary society honoured him with the title of Kabiratna posthumously in 1948. Some of his remarkable works include Moirang Thoibi, Bhagyachandra and another epic, Subhadra Haran.

Note: Arambam Dorendrajit is the father of two of Manipuris’ most distinguished personalities, Arambam Somorendro, whose brief is inserted below and Arambam Lokendro, a public intellectual, a theatre director and a former university professor, who divide his time, to mention a few, between taking the role of an advisor as a senior citizen, making films, redefining creative arts, advising civil society organisations on pressing socio-political issues and taking performing arts into newer levels consistently.   

ARAMBAM SOMORENDRO (1935–2000)     A dramatist, writer and revolutionary, Somorendro postgraduated in political science from Pune University. Some of his acclaimed works have been made into films. The first Manipuri film, Matamgi Manipur, is also based on one of his writings. Some of his notable plays include Judge Sahebki Imung, Karbar, Leipaaklei, Meerang, Dasa, Yenningthagi Isei, Tirtha Yatra and Nong Tarakle. He was among the new breed of playwrights who incorporated social issues and political problems critically in literary works and awarded the Manipuri Sahitya Akademi Award in 1995 for his drama, Leipaaklei. Somorendro was a founder general-secretary of Manipur’s oldest rebel organisation, the United National Liberation Front that was formed in 1964. He considered political consciousness of the mass should be prioritised rather than launching an armed struggle. This reason of ideological difference has been alleged to be the motive behind his assassination by unidentified gunmen during a public lecture in 2010. (PS: Nobody would even know if it was a handiwork of the state terror force. He came over-ground in 1975 and one of the radical factions, Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup, had already been formed around a decade earlier to his death).

Some of the triumvirate’s work available online:

1 A Life of Poverty is a Life of Misery, a translation of Lairaba Awabagi Punsini 

2 Chaikhre Ngasi Nangi Labukta (translated by Arambam Sophia)

3 Kangsabad, from Arambam Dorendrajit Ki Apunba Khorjei Kangsabad Part 1.
Courtesy: DLI (http://www.dli.ernet.in:8080/dlix/)

Hospital Blues


The last place I would go in this world is a hospital
The disinfectants remind me of all things bad
Unwanted death and sudden disappearance and agony
All the worried faces, all the sweat and rush
Except for those who have given in to lie like a log
Metal beds that is found nowhere
But in this miserable haven of grand infliction
Drips of inverted IV bags and bottles and IV lines
Dextrose and flows of nothingness
White and slightly yellowed bed sheets and their wrong sense of hope
As if illnesses and diseases will tender meanings to a life

Yet the drippiness is a privilege for the rich
Local priests are too glad to receive bags of black money
As if, again, charity is their birthright
While it is a matter of life and death for everybody
And the hospital don’t care who’s who
But a little goodwill and lots of money
No matter you are a pilot or a parrot

It’s entirely not welcoming
Unless, of course, you got a pile in the ass
Or you got shot in whichever part of your body
Hospitals belong to the death
Medical progress is a conspiracy
The sick, the weak and the death have with experts
All across Ukraine and Russia and China

The man who smuggle heroin has built a mansion
The health-conscious man was hit by a speeding truck
It’s a disaster for the death to cease in a morgue
He wouldn’t even know where he is
Because he is dead! Gods are redundant here.


Now the home is inching towards
Its aspiration seems to be charmed
Like local institutes of medical sciences
It does for the sick, the weak and the death    
Like the rare mortals’ visit to hospitals
I visit home only during times of malady
Conscience smitten, nostalgic in certain listlessness
In the same breath, return back, draw the world blue
And if that is enough
I love to label it as the grand annual fest
Maybe we can call it anything—disinfectants?

Life’s a phenyl cleaning off the overlapping disasters
It’s the doctors’ visit to count the number of living days
It’s as bland as the kanghou from the hospital canteen
It’s the illegible, insignificant text and information
Minuscule lines, disregarded terms and conditions

Its obituary has been written a long time ago
Maybe that’s why we don’t mind killing each other
Maybe other folks have got a lot of reasons
The only thing left are thoughts about home:
Goosebumps and familiar tales and missed festivals
And family occasions and a chance to smile
But everything reeks of disinfectants now
And it’s gotten into the memories as well
Yet I have lost my way to home
Irony and tragedy have climaxed in comedy.


FROM THE ARCHIVE: Hospital Haiku

of a problem child

i got zing with a sting to think about aging
mother, please break open my  head
you will see three donkeys standing in there

i cannot deal with people
they say one thing & do another
& father, worry not how i go around these ways

it makes me good, going around, doing the stuffs
i have no expectation & that makes me lesser crazy
i can also tell apart all the bad things that might happen to me too

like i’m negative—i can’t bribe the government to shut schools
that’s the privilege of responsible adults only
but you can pay me so that i finish my last month’s homework

let me be as aloof as the moon
it’s okay: my plan is to be a star
with no talent tho’, i aim to be the star of fart

i want to start, be the lead of my story—
get me out from these cameo roles of others’ tales
—in implicit & unconscious ways, like old & wise folks preach

i’m tired of home; i want to go to noney or moreh
i want to buy the chinese xbox–ps4 hybrid
do expect my demand letter in an hour or two

if you want me back, buy me
two mountains of marijuana somewhere in saikul
schools are for thujerks—to hell with them   

i’m afraid of helloi; i feel the waves of delusion
i see them in my dreams
why don’t the police just kill them?

maybe all we need is the third world war
i don’t know the reason why
maybe it will decide who will be left whom i can talk to

but it’s not really the talking affair i’m into
i only want to be a nice boy
drink banana shake every morning & yell ‘fuck’ five times

i came home late last night
i was studying with my friends
please don’t look at me with your suspicious eyes

i’d love to go around the town
but there’s nobody to save us during the day
if you can, provide me protection, only night’s will also do

then i felt like praying
begging, demanding, lying for all the shits & stuffs
the joke’s on god, & mother, on you as well 

now i feel nothing
it’s just too painful
is living a kinda mandatory matter?

but i’ll not die
i got a thousand things to shit on
i don’t even care about how i end my rant here

86 Wacky Ways to Say ‘Strange’

graphic, design, vocabulary, word, play, minimalism

Here’s the list!

Play Fair

Design notes:
In my hometown there are too highly acclaimed thespians: Ratan Thiyam (1948–) and Heisnam Kanhailal (1941–). The former is more popular for obvious reasons: his ideals are shaped by a pan-India approach and highly influenced by narratives and trends prevalent in mainland parts of the country. He was born in Nabadwip in West Bengal to a Manipuri family. Sample some of his plays: Chakravyuha, Andha Yug, Uttar Priyadarshi, Karanabharam and Ritusamharam.

Both of them are politically engaged, doubtlessly, but their approaches belong to the earlier generations. In fact, Kanhailal (Draupadi, Kabuui-Keioiba, Karna, Laigi Machasinga, Memoirs of Africa, Migi Sharang, Pebet and Tamnalai) is so rooted, with his focus on native folklores and folktales that he is lesser popular than Thiyam—albeit nobody dare questions their philosophies about this art form. Kanhailal’s plays have purer titles in our native language, Meeteilon, but he is the founder of Kalakshetra Manipur. The name! 

They belong to the same school: the Theatre of Roots, which can be traced back to India of the 1960s. This school was an experiment for a few mainland artists, who were caught in the Indian supposedly past glories and the then recently found independence—as in a manner of India-versus-the-west—which necessitated a new style, particularly of going back to the roots. Kanhailal has rephrased the term; he called it the Theatre of the Earth and has dived deep to recover the folk narratives, of course, with great success.  

The theatre, as seen from these two Manipuri big shots, is no different from contemporary local scenes in music and films that emphasise mostly on aestheticism, though there might be exceptions.

This post is a collection of a few ass-kicking plays in English from both sides of the world. Most of these have a common theme: morality. Because human being is the supreme moral animal! What I had intended was to list only political plays in this post but I could hardly find any well-known play—maybe it’s just my sheer ignorance that I could find only a couple of them like Mother Courage.

A reason why there is a dearth of political plays, I have found from numerous sources, is the inability of the theatre to bring any societal change though it does raise the collective consciousness level. Then there are reasons attributed to fundamentalism and escapism, particularly in India. The trend of political plays picked up only during the first quarter of the 20th century. Besides political plays are in an infant stage when compared to other genres. In these post-colonial days, the equation of using art as political statements has also changed tremendously. Finally, Internet has killed the traditional stars! This is most conspicuous in debates around the death or rebirth of another traditional media: the newspapers.

PS: Oh and in my hometown, morality is measured by the warmness of condoms found by moral police during raids in seedy fast-food stalls. All the world’s a stage and all the men and women are a protagonist in their own ways in the town.

Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes
Main themes
-    Gay and nudity
-    AIDS
-    Discrimination

Avenue Q*

-    Racism
-    Drugs and homosexuality
-    Internet pornography

Children’s Hour, The

-    Sexuality taboos
-    Lesbianism
-    Sexual and social mores

Corpus Christi

-    Jesus and Apostles
-    Homosexuality, faith and love
-    Anti-religion

Doll’s House, A

-    The institution of family and marriage
-    Morality and decency
-    Gender issues

Emperor Jones, The

-    Realism: art not for art’s sake
-    Criticism of post-colonialism
-    Race and oppression

-    Anti-Vietnam War movement
-    Hippie counter culture and sexual revolution
-    Racial integration, sexuality and political rebellion

Importance of Being Earnest, The
-    Social farce
-    Homosexuality
-    Alternative lifestyle


-    Anti-war comedy
-    Power and sex
-    Anti-government

Mrs. Warren’s Profession
-    Prostitution
-    Hypocrisy
-    Social criticism

Mother Courage and Her Children

-    Horrors, aversion and dogs of war
-    Violence
-    Anti-war

Oedipus Rex
-    Incest and matricide
-    Suicide
-    Anti-societal norms

Other Shore, The
-    Individuality
-    Chinese cultural revolution
-    Personal v/s collective v/s political


-    Theatre of the absurd
-    Anti-conformity
-    Resistance against totalitarian governments

Spring’s Awakening: A Children’s Tragedy

-    Social satire
-    Teenage angst / Coming of age
-    Sexuality: puberty, rape, homosexuality and abortion

Streetcar Named Desire, A

-    Promiscuity
-    Violence
-    Sexual mores

Stuff Happens
-    Iraq war
-    Contemporary history
-    American hegemony

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

-    Debauchery and infidelity
-    Foul language, sexual innuendos
-    Critique of social mores and conventions

* Musical

Of Sit-in Protests

I can see the thousands of people
Divided into groups of twenty to fifty,
Men, women and children
Workers, actors and more kids in school uniform
Politicians, pensioners, activists and professionals
Bomb-scared folks and terrorised masses
Looted individuals and loafers and loungers,
One and all, in mourning dresses
In each corner of the street and the commons.
The roads are landmarked with tragic stories
Of murders and kidnaps
Of threats and useless government,
Each sit-in protest tells tales
Of murders, kidnaps, threats and misery.

Bananas and dried coconuts and apples weep for humanity
The squeezed bananas on the mud dish reek of bad memories,
The unopened coconut add more nightmares
The rotten apples only multiply the tragedies
Of cursed lives and equally cursed people,
The layer of uncooked rice below, cushions
More impending cursed lives and people
It seems so, in each gathering at first glance
Toona leaves adorn the mud pot like it will help
Like in how the priests would denounce the devils,
The illumination comes only from the lighted candles
Even in broad daylight we have lost our sight,
Darkness in daylight, light-less in the night, so fight
This is our war cry.

In red and black with unreadable texts
On torn placards and soiled festoons poked for the wind
Each cohort screams for justice and fairness:
Release the abducted person—dash-dash-dash
Criticise—dash-dash-dash—for the tragedy
Stop hurling grenades into civilian areas
Stop killing the innocent folks
Stop this and stop that
Pay arrears; or tolerate cease-work strikes
Ignore not; or face dire consequences;
—The fabrics on the festoons have become tears
So humiliated are the fruits and nuts
While a new set of disasters is peeping from the horizon
Openly through the holes of our lives.

PS: We get only what we beg for, not always though. Across the world, it is only in my neighbourhood that we have to protest for the most basic needs. The good news is that we are so used to it, and regardless of the severity or insignificance of a case, we are ever ready with the coconuts, bananas, toona leaves and all, to occupy a space to protest pathetically in each leikai or leirak, depending on the expected number of people and sit in, while those who are responsible are lost in their debauchery as always.

Repost: A poem from Sep 2012

Puff, Powder, Power, People & Puke

At the mountains of marijuana
The military plays hide and seek with the guerrilla
In the hills of heroin, the poppy fields bloom
Like Mao's a thousand flowers but in gloom;

A thousand of marijuana joints march
A million of skin the heroin shots parch
Atop the mountains and the hills' circus
The theatre curtain is so obvious

As the blood-stained curtain spreads slowly in the valley,
So clearly too, does each on their own. The absurdity.

Eternal Lovebirds

Design notes:
  • Star-crossed lovers from classic literature, folklore/folktales, myths, paintings, films and popular cultures from across the world
  • Thirty-five pairs of couples who took PDA to a new high. Everybody knows about them, what they were up to and how their emotions and sentiments for each other destroy their lives.  
  •  The most common words across the world are Ma and Pa or the variants of these two terms. Globally, another similarity is in the stories of lovers, who in the most tragic ways, lost their lives, sacrificed everything, stayed apart not for hostility but for the sake of love and so on. 
  • I could not find any African story, except for the unconfirmed Kintu and Nambi, the Ugandan tale. Other missing continents include Australia and South America. I believe Africa and South America must have more stories of this sort. For Australia, Foster’s beer and kangaroos don’t make a good love story and they seem to have left all the stories to their European siblings.


Lovebirds featured above:

a      Abélard & Héloïse (French)
b      Bonnie & Clyde (English/American)
c      Deirdre & Naoise (Irish)
d      Khamba Thoibi (Manipuri)
e      Heer Ranjha (Punjabi)
f      Helena & Paris (Greek)
g      Hellelil & Hildebrand (Irish)
h      Khun Phaen Wanthong (Thai)
i      Kinnara & Kinnari (Shan/Khmer)
j      Layla Majnun (Persian)
k      Liang Zhu (Old Chinese)
l      Muna Madan (Nepali)
m     Odysseus & Penelope (Greek)
n      Paolo & Francesca (English/British)
o      Pocahontas & John Smith (English/American)
p      Pyramus & Thisbe (Latin)
q      Romeo & Juliet (English/British)
r      Salim & Anarkali (Urdu)
s      Sassui Punnhun (Sindhi)
t      Scarlett O’Hara & Rhett Butler (English/American)
u      Lancelot & Guinevere (Welsh)
v      Tristan & Iseult (French/Cletic)
w      Tum Teav (Khmer)
x      Zhinü Niulang (Old Chinese)

 And the story goes on...


Anakin Skywalker & Padmé Amidala (English/American)
Cleopatra & Antony (Greek/Roman)
Kintu & Nambi (Swahili)
Yusuf & Zulaikha (Persian/Urdu)

Khamba Thoibi is the most popular tale of love but we have more Manipuri lovebirds:


Henjunaha & Leima Lairuklembi
Kadeng Thangjahanba & Tonu Laijinglembi
Khuyol Haoba & Yaithing Konu
Panthoibi & Nongpok Ningthou
Phouoibi & Akongjamba
Ura Naha Khongjomba & Pidonnu
Wanglen Pungdingheiba & Sappa Chanu Silheibi

- Concluded.

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