of a heavenly journey

a translation of a manipuri poem laireibak ta koiruba written by akhu chingangbam in september 2009
the original poem was sourced from his blog nungshi hidak (

one hindu apsara who fled to the yulin cave in china just before the chinese lobbyists express their disapproval—citing the examples of north korea and iran—of india from joining the global ringmasters of the nuclear suppliers’ group (india got a sort of consolation by joining the missile technology control regime a day after the refusal to get the nsg membership)
/ image from wikimedia commons

one day the police stopped me at minuthong*
they frisked me, my body and my bag
they found nothing but they took me away
yeah, they took me away on their vehicle

i asked: ‘where are you taking me to?’
and i added: ‘it’s been long i had rode on a vehicle
i’m feeling dizzy’

one of the cops screamed:
‘keep quiet, you bad breath!’

i told him:
‘yeah i must be smelling foul
it’s been long i’ve been a mute
for i was born in this land of mutes

‘but i can speak now
i can see it now
an apparent final day of my life'

another cop barked:
‘blindfold him!’

then the vehicle screeched and stopped
i requested: ‘what, pray tell, have i done?’
the third cop was considerate:
‘i’m high right now on booze and pills
but you don’t look like a local
you are dark
you are ugly
smelly armpit, scraggy beard
and see that broken zipper of your pant
—is that where you hide your guns?
and why are you bald at such a young age?*
do you think too much...?
don’t think too much...
never think too much...never...’

before i could hear the sentence completely
i was kicked out unexpectedly
and i was tumbling, falling,
face down by the roadside
i smelt the mud
i never knew that the mud would smell so good
it must be the real smell of the earth

lifeless i was then
i was brought to the riverside crematorium
the secretary of the leikai singel marup*
Usham Tomal, he directed the local youngsters
‘don’t waste the firewood
and this boy called akhu was such a disgrace
roast him just fine and toss the body into the river’

when my body was up in flames
my soul sniffled
and i heard my mother wailing:
‘my boy, he told me
he wanted to eat hawai-mana-kangsoi*
he asked me to prepare it’

and some people were glad to see me dead
and some were jabbing at my lifeless burning body
with the funeral bamboo poles

i cannot stomach it anymore and i soared, up in the sky
and soon i saw a hindu god
somewhere around the stratosphere

he told me in manipuri*:
‘hey fella, one minute,
you are entering the land of god
buckle up, you’ll be meeting the gods
do you speak sanskrit or hindi?
the gods speak sanskrit
the gods speak hindi as well’

‘i speak hindi, at least
that much that i can survive’

‘then go’

before leaving, politely i asked:
‘how do you speak manipuri so well?’

and he answered:
‘boy, these days
i have come across so many dead manipuris
i have met a meelal* member as well
all of them have been in countless sit-in protests
over here—i have to learn it’

i grinned
and soon i soared again
towards the land of god

lo, here’s the land of god
repleted with cloud-like smoke
and smoke-like clouds
like those i had seen on television

and there they are: the number of gods,
the god who sits on a lotus
the god who sleeps with a cobra
the gods addicted with sex
and there he is

our ebudhou pakhangba* with an obc* post
i wanted to know what post he holds

he said:
‘it’s embarrassing in front of others
don’t ask’

in the land of god amongst the dead
the majority was the meitei people
there was a good number of farmers too
those from chhattisgarh who had committed suicide

nonetheless the meitei dead people smelt more foul
they must have wasted too much time at the mortuary

in the land of god they were into sit-in protests
old wise people once said that habits always remains a bit
and there, our people they were protesting
condemning their death
expressing, resisting against death

those who love mary jane circled mahadeva*
he is called impure and he has been asked to sit
farther from others

his friends who share
the hobby of immortal intercourse
they lingered around durga* and lakshmi*
and those who love bollywood
his friends who share
the hobby of immortal intercourse
they were all going gaga over one apsara* and her dance

over the days, over the weeks i endured
then one day i attended to brahma* the king of god

he had called for me and he said:
‘why are you an atheist?
you are now in the land of god
there’s no place for an atheist here
you cannot be a non-believer
until you believe us
you have to be in the service of the gods’

before i knew it
just above the hole on my forehead
that’s where a bullet once drilled through
brahma smeared a sandalwood chandon* mark

and i got the second live-and-death-changing kick
before i knew it there i was
at the middle of a porch of the govinda temple
and i have been here since then

and that’s what i do today
toll the bell at the govinda in the name of god
but i still don’t believe in god

if people can survive just by declaring this disbelief
it would have been wonderful; hare kṛiṣhṇa!

- concluded

translation squares

minuthong: a bridge over the river imphal
young and bald: baldness is traditionally considered as a sign of deep thinkers
leikai singel marup: a locality-level’s regular contribution of money that are used as donation to help the family of a dead person in that locality
hawai-mana-kangsoi: a boiled vegetable dish prepared with fermented fish and herbs
manipuri: a language primarily spoken in the province of manipur and neighbouring areas; often called as meiteilon much to the ‘delight’ of many other ethnic groups reside in this province
meelal: meitei eyek irol loina sinlon; a group of meitei revivalists
ebudhou pakhangba: a mythical hybrid dear to the Meitei community
obc: other backward class; a constitutional segregated group of people who are entitled to several privileges and benefits under the constitution of india
mahadeva: literally the great god; equally revered and despised; one amongst the 33 crore gods and goddesses of Hinduism; in mainland india, more popularly known as shiva aka maheshvar aka shambhu aka hara aka pinakadhrik
durga: the mother goddess of hinduism
lakshmi: the hindu goddess of wealth, fortune and prosperity
apsara: one of the supernatural females in hinduism, known for her beauty and dance; according to the nāṭya sāstra, an ancient hindu text on performing arts, altogether there are twenty-six apsaras
brahma: the supreme god in hindusim who created the universe
chandon: a sandalwood paste usually adorned on one’s forehead; having cultural and religious significance



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