KAPIL ARAMBAM • In Pursuit of Freedom •

The Song of the Children

A translation of Thangjam Ibopishak’s Angang-gi Eesei, which was originally published in the collection Drópadi, in Nov 2010

Mother, mother, give me some bullets
Let me play; let me play with them as marbles
My friend Subol is here, Mangal is here, so is Santi
Nando’s son Kanhai is also here
—Give me some bullets
Let me practise how precise I can shoot;
How my friends and I can precisely shoot

Mother, mother, give me a hand grenade
Let me play with it as a football
Please, let me kick it, tackle it, dribble it with my friends
My friend Subol is here, Nityai is also here, so is Madhusudhan
Yaifaba is here and so is Chinglemba.

Mother, if I made a revolver out of my pen
—From its barrel, on the rear side of your head
If your hair is knotted and I finish the maths assignment
If I wrote the answers on my father’s chest
With the front side of the AK47
If I wrote with the blood as the ink
Will you will like an insane person?
—As you fold your eyes in surprise
My father would really be so delighted.

Mother, have been these body-less heads on sale in the market?
In lieu of, or, just like those bottle gourds and tomatoes and chayotes
Ah! those gourds and chayotes and luffas
All these heaps of taros and aroids
All these layers of dry chillies and the fresh chillies
Do all these of these come out from different organs of our bodies?

Were they collected from the streets and the fields?
Are there layers of blood—
On the skins of the tomatoes and the vegetables?
Are the prices reasonable in the Ima Kiethel today?
Are the prices of the chillies and the rice and the spices and the oils
—The same as the price of a human being?

Mother, mother, don’t rush—truth be told
It’s just as the tenderness of the lotus
Pay heed to the path you are treading on
But again: what are the affordable items on sale today?
—Please see; watch and go by the road that takes you home
 Mother, mother, don’t rush
Your lotus-like feet can get diseases
Slow down and go by the rules
Do slowdown and look up once in a while
The streets are filled with bullets and cartridges
See the most sophisticated silver-laden cartridges
Piled up into a wall of pride

Go, go, my friend, go Subol; go away Syam
All of you must leave
Let’s just bring these conflicts to an end
Go, go, my friend, go Subol; go away Syam
Let’s finish this festival of war
I’m fed up of the game
And the day is getting darker this evening
Your mothers are calling for you,
Go, buddy, go!

Nihilism 101

A Brief Introduction to Nihilism

All things are subject to interpretation whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.
Friedrich Nietzsche

2061: A Future Summon

I’d hope to see the day
Despite my lungs’ obsession with smoke
I’d want to put them on a pedestal though
Like justifying they are mimicking
The never-ending funeral pyres in the town
Out of these several inflictions I’d also wish
Today is the good time as any
But a hope has always been in flames
Gladly, even more than a million Zippos in flame
Of a time favourable to happiness and happier people
Of a life apt for calling a life and livelier milieu
Of so many things
So many things that now
The beginning is unknown of
Still — of so many things that we know
We know: it is of things like peace
Or more like love, and more happiness

But away from the dreams, in real
Only questions, aplenty, are packed like ngâri
Like, whether the army should be still protecting democracy
Like, whether my life, uprooted, should still be swaying like a lily
It would be suicidal in the bleakness of the present
To see only the destroyers
To go by the currently ticking clocks
Life is the future.

An Open Letter to the Coordinating Body of Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee Manipur

Dear Ma’ams,

It is time to play with your grandchildren, laze and lounge in your home having work for half a lifetime and reflect on the successes and failures of the past. But it is quite commendable that the old-timers like you have been taking an active role in addressing socio-political issues, particularly on the ‘growing need for protection of Meitei/Meetei under the Constitution of India’. However, in the brouhaha, you are missing some fundamental points that can prove foolhardy for you if you overlook it or are too much committed to the cause that you see nothing but your prized demands.

For such an unbending commitment, it is no surprise that you have stocked up some generic responses to any argument against those who are sceptical about the inclusion of the Meiteis in a ‘privileged’ class. Anyway, today, we have some facts and you need not argue and considering your vast experience from professional and personal lives, you can see that these are indeed true.

A long time ago we are told we led an egalitarian society and we never needed modern constitutional provisions to say that all of us are equal. Of course, time has changed and now all of you even swear by the Indian nation-state, while it is an open secret every Manipuri has a grudge against it. Anyway, inequality is a result of injustice and neglect of the state and imbalanced access to the socio-political and economical benefits. So it is pointless that an action of a dominant group—in our case, the Meiteis converting to an ST group—will solve the issues of inequality.

It is painful, already made worse by the chronic mess of our collective life, to see that experienced and respected personalities are so desperate to do anything to achieve social goals. What’s even more pathetic is the rationalisation of choices that could have been pretty cute for schoolchildren, but which are simply not expected from highly qualified army men, professors, journalists and the likes.

Nevertheless, your idea of Manipur becoming equal by including the Meiteis in the ST category shows the depth of your commitment. Maybe you are role-playing as a moron or maybe you are really a moron. It does not show a good sign of your long illustrious careers that have so far benefitted you and your families very personally. Between the personal and the political, maybe you are too old to see the things clearly. See it again that Manipur already exists as a ‘special’ province, akin to the SC/ST people, surviving on ninety percent of grant-in aids and other alms from the Union. Everybody can see what that kind of special-ness has made us; the least said the better.  

Truth be told, the primary solution lies in the renegotiation of the Merger Agreement 1949. The stand against the inclusion of the Meiteis is more about claiming our real identity and has nothing to do about elitism or arrogance. The Coordinating Body of Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee Manipur believes that the appropriation of the ST group will also benefit the Meiteis but it has been nearly seven decades and all along what we have received from the existing establishment is the ceaseless fragmentation of the idea of Manipur. Let’s not even talk about the condition of SC/ST people in other parts of the so-called country. A constitutional provision from such an establishment is hardly going to make a change and you love not to care two hoots about the historical narratives that we have as a people. Note it.

Some of the respected members of the Coordinating Body might be apprehensive about the state government taking the issue up to the union by October 2016. However, if all goes well, the union will readily accept because as long as it is gotten rid of any obstruction to its subjugation. While the members are at it, if possible, would the representatives be able to speak a word about the Merger Agreement? It is hardly improbable despite the fact that this agreement is the foundation of all the problems in the modern fragmented political entity called Manipur.

Again, some of the respected members, out of their opportunist agenda, have completely ignored the fact that self-rule is the foundation of equality and justice. On the contrary they have taken the dependency syndrome to a whole new level like true slaves. Once it was said that Manipur cannot survive without India, though it has existed for more than several millennia, and now the word on the street is that we cannot survive without the provisions of benefits made by the Government of India under certain conditions.

Your half-baked articulations on the inclusion of the Meiteis in the ST category is not surprising if we consider that those are made by members such as those superannuated army men of the Coordinating Body. For a lifetime they had only smelt the derrière of the superior army men, and now they can afford to be independent and speak their minds. However, it is quite paradoxical from those journalists and professors who have seen the political realities of the region first-hand. No wonder today, people listen to none of you or the experts. On retrospection, ‘Teak houdaba mafamda kegena yumbi sai’.

In this regard, it should be also noted that we the people are tired of the existing condition that now we are coming out in droves for protests and rallies of any kind, with the feeling that if only, if only the condition changes for good. I hope you, old-timers, would not proudly claim that a hundred thousand people took part in your hopeless rally. 

You cannot keep hoodwinking the masses by promising benefits and privileges from provisions like those provided under the categories of scheduled castes and tribes. For instance, the elected representatives have been doing it for year in and year out. In our never-ending dive into the abyss of decadence, the momentum has been enhanced by the supposedly people-friendly campaign of bracketing the Meiteis into the ST category. Leave your opportunist mindset for a while, and which we can clearly see that you have ‘come outside on a matter’, as we say in Manipuri, to denote shamelessness—and please do consider about the consequences of your incredible vision, which is as ridiculous as the promises of a politician.

You are also kindly requested to read the history of reservation policy that was planned for a specific amount of time after India became an independent, neo-colonial power and see how the conditions have gone from bad or worse in the subcontinent. Today the policy has been used as an instrument of vote bank by politicians and a tool for hate propaganda by leaders of any two groups of communities which receive the benefits and which do not. Here, I cannot help observe some people saying that you, the honourable campaign leaders, belong to the royal creamy layers and never got the privileges and that now you are fighting tooth and nail for all the missed opportunities.

Lastly, if you have the guts, let’s talk about the Merger Agreement. That is, again, the origin of all the problems that plague Manipur today. All the migrant issues, slaves’ sickness, beggars’ syndrome and others will be solved on their own if we sort it out. Otherwise we will always remain as slaves and beggars even if the Meiteis are eligible for selection in civil services by scoring just the pass mark.   

Regards, K—.
21 September 2016

PS: On this day in 1949, Manipur was forcibly merged into the Union of India after the representatives of the latter forced the Manipuri king to sign it.

Obituary: Oinam Ibobi (1948–2016)

Last Sunday, 18 September 2016, even in his death, our dear Oinam Ibobi made it clear that he is no god and his good soul was burnt to ashes at a crematorium by the Nambul riverbank. When the funeral was underway some of his friends whispered he will reach the place of angels and saints in his holy yet unknown reincarnation in that imaginary place located one infinite kilometre away from the Kangla Fort. Meanwhile, his family members remained silent and many of them were choking from tears and smoke from the blazing funeral pyres and the burning bodies of Mr Oinam.  

Gone, Oinam Ibobi has gone and he left behind three wives, fifteen sons, six daughters, an unknown number of grandchildren and four mistresses. Perhaps he had achieved everything that he aspired and wanted his descendants to continue the legacy but not everything can be predicted—unless of course you are those astrologers that Burmese military leaders refer to, particularly in times of trials and tribulations. Perhaps he had foreseen the next government coming in early next year and it was his intention to do away with the monkey businesses of democracy, and took the last mortal breath.

In his adolescent days, Oinam Ibobi was the mastermind behind several gangs who indulged in stealing cows and dogs from every locality in and around the Imphal valley. Then it was unfortunate that once he was caught red-handed, but that was one of the turning points in his life. For instance, he learnt he can easily get away from the confine of the law if he can manage to pay for it, with the amount depending on the whims of the police officer who’d nab him. As a sidekick of a local hoodlum, he started earning respect until he reached the age of thirty and decided to go solo. In the succeeding three decades, only his personal chartered accountant, or maybe a couple of income tax officials, can count how much he earned during the period. Death knows no money but his sons are elated that a living soul does.

As he had dictated from his deathbed, his ashes should be taken to Mao and the urn has to be hurled towards the Manipur–Nagaland border. His two sons, one wife and two mistresses have agreed to pay respect to the departed soul and carry out the last wish of their all-in-one husband, father and lover. Oinam Ibobi was a kind person as long as the relationship had nothing to do with money. Once it was rumoured that he killed one of his sons for asking money to start a drug business, but in these difficult days, let’s at least pretend that we care for the dead man.

Oinam Ibobi was a man of the earth and he was deeply rooted to his native place. The dons in Dubai would call Bollywood superstars to dance on their formers’ kids’ birthdays, but Mr Oinam would take only highly matured Manda and Bala to his apartments in New Delhi to spend time when he was bored with killing people and robbing from every available sources.

Some of the unique talents of Oinam Ibobi included his ability to fart in three different kinds of sounds in as many seconds, puke whenever or wherever he wanted, eat four yongchaak-charong at one go and tell the exact amount of money in each bundle of notes in different sizes and dimensions. His favourite hobby was to play hide and seek with all sorts of gunmen: those from India, those from the town and even those from Burma. He loved it as much as Ron Jeremy loved the American conservatives.

Oinam Ibobi was the Khun Sa of his locality, a negatively cast James Bond of the region and the Pope of the underworld. Everybody says we have to leave this world one day or the other. We are glad, and we would like to appreciate that—though he is no more—he had always led us by example. Besides the useless people, Oinam Ibobi had also leave behind two Kalashnikovs, twenty-five apartments spread all over South Asia, a truckload of Khatkhatti-made whiskeys and six suitcases of which nobody has a clue about.

Our deepest condolences. Goodbye.

Tarantino, Minimally

When people ask me if I went to film school I tell them, ‘no, I went to films.’
Quentin Tarantino



A Day a Week

This random collection of seven poems is from a series of DIY sessions on Adobe InDesign and page composition. See another work from the series: The SCUM Manifesto by Valerie Solanas. The copyright of all these poems belong to the respective owners. These poems from public domain sites have been reproduced here for informational purposes with no commercial motives.

a plain of thought

and then, there are these stuffs, it’s:

just a metre away for the largest lake to become a sea
just a memory away for amnesia to become the alzheimer’s
just a gunshot away for marx to become mao
and i realise the loktak is a home to a thousand gunmen
some protected by the law, some others not

just a kilometre away for north india to become the south
just a satan’s hiccup away for inferno to become the infernal
just a button, an extra, away for moreh to become thailand
and i have found your partner is an assassin
my partner a monster

just a fix away for the opium to become heroin
just a mayang away for manipur to become india
just a pellet away for indian kashmir to become pakistani kashmir
and it’s already out on the street; leave pakistan
leave afghanistan; heroin is better than india

just a boundary away from india to become burma
just a degree away for the angle to become an angel
just a bank account away for revolution to become extortion
and they say the rebels are in burma
those in the neighbourhoods are mere contractors

just a peg away for the army to become whisky
just a khul away for majorkhul to become moozzeekhul
just a percentage away for a tender to become ibobi’s property
and half of khwairamband keithel is a regulated, taxed brothel
and the other half is a whorehouse, with no revenue

just a leaf away for grass to become marijuana
just a flight away for the place of exile to become a home
just a gun away for the rebel to become a revolutionary
and it was spread by the grapevine, in the city
the actors are here looking for a good quick fuck

just an elastic away for boxers to become briefs
just a film away for bala to become kamala
just a chamber away for a revolver to become a pistol
and the politicians become a nationalist, as if we care
for the election is due next year; a heap of dung

and just a word away for my rant to become ‘a’ rage
i have decided to see the formalities like a gentleman
it is better than killing people, say, think about it standing on a peak
just as, say, a day of freedom is better than a year of slavery

The SCUM Manifesto by Valerie Solanas 1/4

I declare, as Valerie Solanas (1936–1988) would want from men: ‘I am a turd, a lowly abject turd’ yet still I like this American radical feminist, maybe because I like crazy people. Or maybe it’s her work, especially, the SCUM Manifesto with its shock value that has literally nothing for me as a man, but then again it tells you a thousand things that a thousand of conformists or a similar number of ladies and gentlemen would never be able to. It could be also her anarchist beliefs that I like her. Incidentally, she was the sole member of the Society for Cutting Up Men!

Love her or hate her, Solanas will always be remembered for her prescience as much as she is infamous for shooting Andy Warhol in 1968.

In my native tongue, Meiteilon, a turd would be a ‘thibot’ (/θeebōtt/). To re-introduce myself, I might be a ‘thibot’ or a ‘biological accident’ nonetheless a human as well, and in contrast to Solanas’ female rage, I consider men and women are the same animal; nobody is above and none below while humanism precedes gender, which is a fact that I don’t need any –ism to clarify it. All of us are animals, first, and humans, second. Orwell’s Snowball and Napoleon would say that all animals are equal and that some animals are more equal than others. But don’t be a pig and don’t be more equal. Solanas made it very clear that ‘to call a man an animal is to flatter him; he’s a machine, a walking dildo’—I do get a shock as getting it from an electric toy, but that’s a part of the deal we have here today.

An exponent of second-wave feminism, Valerie Solanas self-published the Manifesto in 1967 and released a commercial edition the next year. Historically, she was fortunate to ‘live’ the days of American counterculture: the Beat Generation had laid the foundation a decade earlier, the New Left was born, Civil Rights Movement was the order of the day, there was an exponential rise in the works of feminism, the Hippies ruled with their flower power though she despised them from a gender perspective, the birth of Cell 16, the US-based militant feminist group and so on.

Solanas died at the age of 52. Since then, she has become a subject of numerous books and articles and has been getting a never-ending list of epitaphs; one of my favourites is that she was a misfit among the misfits. No wonder, many people are still offended by this outrageous manifesto.

The SCUM Manifesto by Valerie Solanas 1/4
The SCUM Manifesto by Valerie Solanas 2/4
The SCUM Manifesto by Valerie Solanas 3/4
The SCUM Manifesto by Valerie Solanas 4/4

The text of the manifesto was collected and edited (with the British spelling style) from an online PDF uploaded by the Kunsthalle Zürich, the art exhibition centre based in Switzerland, on its website: http://kunsthallezurich.ch/de. The copyright of the text belongs to the original publisher.

The SCUM Manifesto by Valerie Solanas 2/4

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