…when prime minister manmohan visits shillong…


just heard the news of prime minister manmohan singh’s planned visit to meghalaya, and remembered one of my favourite poems. by kynpham sing nongkynrih, it speaks of another visit by another prime minister, yet seems to ring very true even today. to twist the arm of tennyson’s brook, prime ministers may come and prime ministers may go, but the hills go on for ever.

bah kynpham’s writing has been described (aptly i thought) as “provide(ing) an acerbic take on contemporary life in the Northeast”, but it has also been pointed out that “he returns constantly to the idea of roots – sometimes couched in the figure of a mother, sometimes as land or language itself.” [taken from trisha gupta’s piece in tehelka]. writing in a matriarchal society, he has also courted controversy for his infamous “blasphemous lines for mother”. read that and other poems here.

the english translation (by the poet) is reproduced in full in this post, go here to see it in the original khasi language. or here for a newspaper review of an anthology of poems from the north east.

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WHEN THE PRIME MINISTER VISITS SHILLONG
THE BAMBOOS WATCH IN SILENCE

When Prime Minister Gujral
planned a visit to the city
bamboos sprang up from pavements
like a welcoming committee.

But when he came, he was
only the strident sounds of sirens
like warnings in war-time bombings.

The bamboos watched in silence.

He came with twin objectives
a mission for peace and progress.
But he was a rumbling in the clouds
a prattle in the air.

And some say he came
homing in like a missile
and left flying like an arrow.

In between?

Some say he dropped
like a falling star
and was sighted by a few
disgruntled leaders.

He came like a threat
and scam-stained ministers
were in a cold sweat.
But he left like a defused bomb.

They wondered
what he could have seen
of the land
what of the people
he could have learnt
when he came
like the snapping of fingers.

They wondered
and sought answers
like little children.

Only the bamboos watched in silence
too used to the antics of men.

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