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



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