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The Artist

A translation of Ratan Thiyam’s Kalakar—the original poem in Manipuri is from his anthology Mangkhraba Sahargi Loikhraba Wari (The Concluded Tales of a Ghost Town), which was first published in June 2014



He’s the artist par excellence
He’s as always invited to every function
Admired, respected and what not
Call some people to talk
Let them discuss about his greatness
He’s the artist par excellence
The pride of the land
He belongs to this tiny land
Talk about what has become of him, etc.

With such a ‘burden’ of admiration and recognition
The artist was on his way back home
Just as he reached home he remembered
Rice and cooking oil to buy, and debts
School fees for his children, their school uniform
Their shoes and all that he needed to pay for
In the maze was the mother, in misery
—His name and recognition were getting blurred
For the loss of words it was a shock.

Once at the construction site of a big government house
I thought it was a familiar face and had approached the man
He was wearing an old and torn plastic shoe
A second-hand trousers folded up
An equally worn-out, checked khudei over his head
He was carrying a few bricks over his head
With teary narrow eyes he looked at me
He said:
I have stopped singing.

Concluded.

Note
  • khudei   a loincloth for men worn by Meitei males; it is also used as a towel or a headdress
  • Check the translation of another poem by Ratan Thiyam: On Reading


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