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The Land of Ghost

A translation of Thangjam Ibopishak’s prose poem Bhootki Leibak, which was originally published in the collection Lamjel, in July 2015




One morning came a man—big round eyes and pointed nose and bearded and tall and big; he came to my house and introduced himself: ‘I’m Laughing Buddha; it’s a code name and I have come here with instructions from my superiors.’
And I asked him: ‘Do they tell you to bring me to them? Or are you simply planting a bomb inside my house? Or are you simply going to kill me?
Abruptly he replied: ‘No, no. I’m not those kinds who kidnap, who kill and who demand ransom; I’m not at all related to them. It’s just a simple command. Let me tell you. Before the photos of the prime minister of Britain Mr David Cameron, the president of the US Barack Obama and the president of China Hu Jintao you should prostrate and pray.’
I was surprised: ‘But why? I do it only to my wife for... Bah! I worship nobody but my mother and have I never done it to anybody; besides I have no photos of these three men you have mentioned and neither I believe those will available in the kiosks near Kangjeibung.’
He replied: ‘No, it’s mandatory. You must have them. Search everywhere you can but you cannot say those are not available. And why you should prostrate and pray, I’ll tell later.’
‘Please continue.’
‘After paying regards to these three photos you are going to become a vulture.’
‘Whoa! Excuse me. I’m becoming a vulture?’
 ‘Yes, it is; you are. You are becoming a vulture. Like those in folk tales in which humans become animals and birds and snakes and insects and mosquitoes. And with the needs and demands we have, you are going to become a vulture albeit you will come back as a human being.’ He continued, ‘After you become a vulture you have to fly beyond the Indian subcontinent, up to a mountain afar. That place is what we call the land of ghosts.’
‘Please continue. Yours is nothing less than those stories of English films, those of ghosts and devils.’
He was annoyed: ‘Don’t laugh. It’s a serious matter. It’s not like that of the Tales of Arabian Nights for the sake of entertainment. In that land of the mountain, you will see a large banyan and in one of its lowest branches you will find recently decapitated heads; nine of them, seven male’s, two female’s. You will see the blood dribbling. Go, fly away.’
I felt nauseous listening to this man. I wanted to throw up! Spit!
‘In the forest of that land of mountain you will turn into a human again. Use an ink drop to draw the dribbling blood and fill it in a fountain pen. With that pen you are going to compose an ode for the land.
‘Is that all?’ I appealed.
‘No. One more condition. You cannot use a American-made Parker, a German Montblanc, a Chinese King Sung or Wing Sung or a Japanese Pilot—none of the foreign-made pens. It must be an Indian-made Doric or Champion or Artex fountain pen. It can be also those quills branded with Mahatma, Nonviolence or Lord. Write with a local pen, brother. Use a local pen.’
And the honourable bearded man disappeared.
Now what should be the name of the poem? Akashnistan? Balunistan?


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