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 ||



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