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Heirang Leirang in the Write Direction

Heirang leirang, a Manipuri phrase, means a bunch of flowers and fruits, their assortment. But it connotes more expression than its meaning so roughly translated above.

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heirang heɪrɑːŋ  a bunch of fruits  
leirang leɪrɑːŋ a bunch of flowers
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Especially in writing, heirang and leirang fuse well as a fruitful and flowery term, uttering a sense of tenderness. We usually equate it with a romantic worldview and with a prior clarification that it is devoid of any sexist comment, that heirang leirang has an effeminate overtone with plenty of rooms for unfavourable judgment; because both of these connotations, unfortunately in our present socio-political order, are so contrasting to the harsh reality.

Roses are red, bullets are grey and blood is crimson
To put it bluntly, in a room full of noise and smoke, a glass of hard drink weighs much, much more than your refined, gentle and dignified demeanour. So when there are too many killings and murders and bomb blasts and looting, the smell of heirang leirang — howsoever it is pleasant and desirable — is lost amidst the terrible mess.

Our state has been in a deep political crisis and armed conflict for the last five decades. Insurgency, ethnic confrontation and rampant corruption are some of the manifestations, however, what is troubling is the exaggeration for the taste of heirang leirang, which we can see so apparent in our collective life, accentuated with helplessness, carelessness and sheer cynicism. Let no self-righteousness be there beneath the most aromatic fruits and flowers, but we are in an intense conflict within ourselves and outside.

Khwairakpam Chaoba, Hijam Anganghal, Lamabam Kamal and other legends took up the daunting task of rescuing Manipuri literature a little less than a century ago. However, romanticism, morality and ethics marked their works in a very heirang-leirang way, not to exclude the overt influence of Sanskrit and Hinduism. (Now we are anglicised..?) These would have been the currents of their times, today the existing milieu is in a sharply different space and location. Unsurprisingly, we have seen the works from Thangjam Ibopishak, Shri Biren and others that show which position we are in today.    

'Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools of thought contend.' — Mao Tse-Tung

A George Orwell quote always reminds us of the grim situation indirectly: “This is a political age. War, Fascism, concentration camps, atomic bombs, etc., are what we write about, even when we do not name them openly. We cannot help this. When you are on a sinking ship, your thoughts will be about sinking ships.” The most beautifully arranged heirang leirang is nought beneath our sinking ships.

Orange, pineapple, mango, marigold, china rose, lotus and the several orchids are ideally the wonderful things we would love to care about, but all along what we have been exposed to are the colours of blood in several hues, tinctured by fractured nationalism and personal interests, and the taste of bullets and bombs that we are forcibly fed. On one hand is the smell of heirang leirang diminished to a public-toilet olfactory perception and let ourselves carried away with that smell on the other.

Fortunately the bottom line is clear: Smell what you touch and touch what you smell. There is not much room for decency but again, ironically, a sense of how we see ourselves rather than smell, some years down the line would only teach us how to appreciate the things. No translation should alter or diminish the meaning, whether it is heirang or leirang.


A bunch of bougainvillea captured from Manung Kangjeibung, Kangla (Imphal)

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Related Pieces: 

- On Flowers and Their Surroundings
- Howling for a Radical Literary Landscape

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