Monday, November 6, 2023

The State Library – Rosalynd Lallawmsangi


Last night I looked up suicide hotlines
But I didn't call any
Instead I stared at the wall
While I scratched and choked myself in my delirium;
The very previous day I tried to drown.
And last night I fell asleep (in the nude)
Before I could take off my earphones.
I took them off at midnight.

Today I visited the state library–
The same one I've been trying to visit for over a year.
To my family, I was going to college as usual
And to my college friends, I was sick at home.

Nobody knew me in the library,
And I knew nobody.
I worked on my assignment (tomorrow is its deadline)
And put my phone on 'Do Not Disturb.’

My best friend texted me a few 3,500 kilometres away
And asked if I was doing okay;
It's funny how he always knows when I'm not.

I texted back.
We talked about life
(Ours and our other friends').
I read.
I wrote.

It was the most peace I'd had in a long while
Even though I got quite hungry by the end
Since I hadn't eaten for hours.

I know I shouldn't make it a habit –
It won't do me any good,
And I have responsibilities on my shoulders
And a 'life' I have to go back to.

But tonight I haven't looked up suicide hotlines
So I guess the library did me some good.

Rosalynd Lallawmsangi, 19,  is a promising young Mizo writer in English. She is presently an English Literature college student, and has already made a name for herself in collegiate literary circles, winning prizes both in poetry and short story writing competitions. We wish her a wonderful writing future.

Saturday, July 22, 2023

Ka Miaw: Adaptation of a Khasi Folktale - Lalramengmawia Khenglawt


(Part I is an imaginative narrative of how humans and cats came to live together)

Have you ever wondered how we came to live with cats? The smallest ones at least? How did they become our pets? When hath their jungle abode they ceased?

I should wager, on whatever measly stores I have left – that cats came to live with us when we first discovered agriculture. Somewhere probably very long ago, people might have had no television and were bored; and having not yet invented a brick wall to stare at, would resort to the vast expanse around them. But with paint not yet concocted, they would watch others do things equivalent to the aforementioned drying.

One person might have chanced upon a grain seed sprouting. In between clubbing Gork down by the creek and hunting gazelles, he might have passed by this sproutling over and over, watching it grow till it ripened and even more grain-bunched about it. Having discovered fire already, he would have been able to cook this grain and while lying down after enjoying his rudimentary porridge, he might have pondered upon the pros and cons of the hunter-gatherer life. He might have thought that maybe, he had gotten a bit old, and perhaps it was time that humanity settled down. What is true of man is true of mankind. But how and where? Here was the where. He only needed to tame his surroundings. Finally, he might have thought to himself, “Hmm, I shall invent civilisation!”

And thus, the beast-slaying lance was bent and reshaped into a sickle; so that weeds may not hinder the year's yield. Man always changes things to suit him. He might have cut down some long trees and re-arranged them ever so carefully, so as to let neither prowling beast nor howling wind in. He would need a place to store his treasure of grain, of course. He would build it. And from somewhere deep deep in the jungle surrounding, he might have heard a faint meow. And closer it comes, all the while lowering in volume. Suddenly, a squeak! Man's storehouse brought along with it an infestation of vermin, which brought along with it a peculiar apex predator.

Mouth to ear, sound to mind. And then, eye to eye.

Cautious as its kind, the man takes to the cover of darkness. The cat sees all in the darkness. The cat is timid – as if acknowledging that it is intruding. The man has not been used to the idea of home as of yet. This was the first time he tried living the territorial life. That very night, having secured his food for the foreseeable future, and having a basic shelter to keep him from all that wants to harm him, and having a warm body to snuggle with, he might have thought that he had all that he needed in life. And he would be right.


(Part II is the actual adaption of the Khasi story)

Ka Miaw lived in the jungle with her brother, the tiger. Her brother was the king of the jungle. And unlike some other 'king of the jungle', he actually lives in the jungle. The tiger was boastful and vain. He was also mighty and skilled in battle. With agility unbecoming of his massive girth, he would dash through the thicket and bring a swift end to whatever poor thing that may catch his eye that day. A tiger in a jungle is indeed a marvellous sight! All striped up and camped atop a boulder or a tree, he would greedily gobble up all his gatherings; leaving nothing for his kith and kin.

Like every good housekeeper, Ka Miaw would daily check the pantry for food stores. Deplored was she when she saw that all was empty! She felt it was upon her to keep up the good name of the family and so, thought to herself to go hunting. Nightly, she would venture, so as to hide the shame of her family's poverty from daylight's mockery.

Ka Miaw was formidable in her own right and within her own weight class. While her brother was loud of mouth, she always listened carefully. In the thicket, she would keep an ear out for crickets or whatever vermin she may make mincemeat of. Thus, flanked by the moonlight and only needing it, she kept up the dignity of the house.

Now it so happened once, that the tiger should catch a wandering illness. A great distress! The jungle folks came in regularly to pay a visit to their ailing chief. According to custom, it was the duty of the eldest daughter to start the hookah for the guests. But due to his haste and lack of civility, the unruly tiger roared at his sister to prepare a smoke immediately. Ashamed and abashed, Ka Miaw lied that there was no fire in the house. Incensed, the tiger ordered her to set out for the abode of humans to fetch fire.

If might makes right in the jungle, Ka Miaw could only hope that the settlement ahead would have different standards. The humans were very tall, so much so that she forgot the greatness of her lineage and crept like a thief in the night. There was so much movement about and mirth floating around that Ka Miaw felt alienated at first. But like all cats, she was taken in by curiousity. She had many lives to spare, after all.

The source of the great crescendo proved to be a bunch of children entrenched in their frolicking. They seemed to be playing. Something instinctive in Ka Miaw told her so. Play is so very vital for a thing to grow up and live as much as could be lived. It is a wonder that it is as of yet to be considered a thing to be pursued and had. When the children caught a glimpse of the bedazzled Ka Miaw, they took her before her instincts kicked in and told her to run for the hills! They stroked her fur gently and they said many things in tolerable tones that made her purr endlessly. What she would give to know what they were saying!

Then a booming roar from the jungle reminded her of her task. Her brother had always been harsh of hand and his uncomfortable disposition did not prevent him from seeking out his sister in anger. Taking a whiff from the king's hookah was considered to be a very high honour and all the guests were eagerly anticipating for the opportunity to indulge in such a luxury. After waiting patiently for a long time, they had become impatient and left. This set the tiger off on a mighty rage.

Ka Miaw quickly snatched a piece of ember and set out for home. Her brother met her on the way. When they finally came across one another, the tiger met her with one harsh slap after another. Thus was the first recorded case of domestic violence in animal history! Ka Miaw dropped the ember at her brother's feet, which distracted him for the tiny bit of moment that she needed to escape. She quickly made her way back to the human settlement where she found the children fractically looking for her. As she was showered with pettings, she resolved to being their pet in exchange for clearing their settlement of vermin. She happily accepted to do the thing she had always been doing; only now for people who loved her wholeheartedly.

Lalramengmawia Khenglawt who came up with this exquisitely written piece finished his MA in English Literature from Mizoram University and was leader of the Literature Club in his time there. He is an art journalist at Web Studio 8, a website he started up with a good friend. He also does translation works occasionally and worked as an editor at In Lehkha (a local publishing house) for a while. He presently teaches English Literature at Noah's Foundation School in Aizawl.

We may also safely assume he's quite a cat person.



Sunday, June 18, 2023

Dear Benny - Cherrie Lalnunziri Chhangte

Dear Benny,

In the two decades that I have looked for you
In the crevices of people’s conversations,
The waves of laughter washing over silken attires,
Between the delicate weaves of myth and history,
Even in the curious song-wail-chant of your nation,
You remained elusive.

So I contented myself in the remembering -
Two young girls clutching their bellies
Filled to bursting with laughter
At Laitumkhrah, at Nongthymai,
Where in the windowless, dark space of the tiny room you rented,
You introduced me to strange smells and tastes and people
of a place you called home.

I came to that place, you know,
It felt like revisiting an old, familiar place
In a world where we can no longer hide our smallest mis/deeds,
Nobody I asked knew you.
Like the clean, artistic strokes of your lettering
You left no smudges behind.

Tonight, I have finally found you.
Your elusiveness was not by design – not yours;
I piece together your story:

“Nagaland was not for me,” you said,
All these years it had represented you to me.
You spoke of your greying hair,
The suffocating heat,
Your beautiful children,
Your sister’s appetite,
You told me to be greedy
To live a life you never would.
You briefly showed me your old fire and called him “caveman”
until we giggled like old times.
But he came home, and you abruptly left me
Holding on to a faded picture of two fresh-eyed girls
Laughter ready to bubble over at a moment’s notice,
Curious about the future.

I found you,
And I felt I lost you again.

Dr. Cherrie Lalnunziri Chhangte has made major changes in her life since the last time we posted her works here. She now lives in the US of A with her husband and two lovely daughters. She, however, remains devoted to literature and fortunately for Mizo writing in English, continues to write top-notch poetry and prose. 

Sunday, June 12, 2022

The Names of Gods and other poems - rdp ralte


The Names Of Gods

on your walls are gods i do not worship
but when you pray
i see we pray for the same things

rain for our fields
sun for our flowers
deliverance from our sins

so does it matter
if you pray with your palms facing heaven
or if i pray with them joined tight close

when you shake my hand and i shake yours
do i ask for the name of your god
or you, mine

between my prayer and yours
must we argue
which one rises and which one falls

when we are only men
of equal faith and different beliefs
travelling myriad roads converging to one soil

and however different the names
of our creator is
you and i are one believer

and the form and shape and name
of religion is many, but faith is faith
and i hope your prayers are answered

                            ~ ~ ~

Six Letter Drink

i change my mind every two hours, three on a wednesday
my favourite colour goes from red to green like a road signal
and i prefer tea to coffee because the first time i was made
to spell the word coffee
it went something like K-O-F-I
it didn't sound funny to me that i spelled out something
the way it was pronounced
but i can still hear the giggling crowd
who were too kind to laugh out loud at the child who
couldn't understand things just by looking at the sound.

so at the height of three foot tall
i saw nothing was ever the way it seemed
and i learned without being taught
that i had to be careful and cautious with the C
and i knew without being told that if i didn't want
to feel so small
i could prefer tea to coffee because hopefully
i wouldn't mess up with a three letter drink.

or i could pretend to love chemistry just to prove
that i knew it doesn't spell with a K
or i could go back and realize sooner that everything
becomes something else when you look closer
and prepared myself to be mispronounced and misspelled
but nothing could change the fact that i had to go
by the book
or else i would no longer be the smartest kid in class
and people would wonder what went wrong.

follow your heart, they said, but don't go too far
not as far as to rewrite the rules of K and C
follow your dreams, they said, but keep track of the
economy and dream accordingly
they praised my paintings on the weekend but on
all the other days
they reminded me that by the height of five foot three
i should be a doctor with a C. Because that is what
success sounds like.

so at the height of four foot something
i traded colour pencils for a book of instructions and formulae
and i sold my dreams with all their wings
and bought a degree and starbucks coffee
but trust me, they smelt like the common sense i lost
and the freedom i had never known.

so at what height of something foot tall
will i grow out of a confusion so small
and understand the seven letters that make all
the difference between Coffee and Kofi
and it really was just a small dislocation of the jaws
so couldn't you have let me, just for once, bend that small law
and hear me spell the way i understand......for god's sake i
was three foot shy. that was my cup of kofi
and you ruined it for me.

now i am five foot nothing and you call me deformed
because i refuse to conform with your C.

                                   ~ ~ ~ 

my mother prays when she wants to curse
and my father jokes when he wants to fall apart
and their daughter writes a poem
every time she excruciatingly despises life

                         ~ ~ ~

in the culture of my father
praise is a flood
that drowns a man in his death bed
and flowers are language
most earnestly spoken at funerals

                             ~ ~ ~

rdp ralte (Rodingpuii) published her first collection of poetry called "Secondhand Scars" in 2019.  On the 11th June 2022, she released her second collection titled "Guest of Eden." The four poems here come from the new book. 

It is such a pleasure having an addition to the still very small body of work that is Mizo writing in English.

                                          Cover art: Lalnunsangi Khiangte (rivca)


Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Songs & Poems - Jeremy Zobiaka (JBa)



In time
I shall find
peace sublime
of a kind that won’t melt

When the night
and the shadows
and the sight
of tomorrows
fade away.

Now I’m here
and I shelter
my fear
in laughter
and song.

I’ll bide
my time
till the tide
carries me


Queen of the Universe

Hate to leave you now
you gave me so much joy
A thousand years of loneliness
is crammed inside my brain
And you
shall remain in the twilight of my vision
and the universe will sing
and babies
in crazy crayon cradles
will sing in harmony
for you.

Undertaker, make me
as pretty as you can
A million times I’ll pay you
in stardust and moonglow
Don’t be sad ‘cause I’m dead
And you
shall remain in the twilight of my vision,
and the universe will sing
and babies
in crazy crayon cradles
will sing in harmony
for you.

Far beyond the future,
I’ll save a place for you
‘cause no one can replace you
and no one else will do.
I’ll form
a constellation and you shall be the Queen.
Queen of the universe
and the universe will sing
and babies
in crazy crayon cradles
will sing in harmony
for you.


Transparent Sea

You make me think
of forbidden things,
of hidden desires,
undying fires,
and deep down yearnings
that need releasing.

So come with me
to the transparent sea
There’s only me on the transparent sea
(that's right, baby)
So come with me
to the transparent sea
Come share with me
My transparent sea.

I’d like to take you
without a crew
on a  sailing ship
We’d make a trip
around the world
and let love unfold.

A thousand nights
of sweet delights
we’d share together
maybe forever
and let all reason
blow with the wind.
(20. 5. 1979)


Do It Again

Every day the past grows dimmer
Dreams of yesterday fill the mind
and the future makes you shiver
Creeping up to you from behind
and the nights of neon glory
get you thinking about the same old story
Desperation gets you to do it again
You find a reason to do it again.

And you race towards the glitter
Screening fantasies in your head
Soon you will find the taste is bitter
But you’ve got to carry on or you’re dead
when you reach the end of the line
But desperation gets you to do it again
You find yourself a reason to do it again.

When everything is over
You’re back to where it started
You dream of friends and lovers
and desperation gets you to do it again
You find yourself a reason and do it again.


Endless Journey

is a never-ending road
The carpet in the middle
keeps leading me on.
I see a rainbow in the horizon
it never seems to fade
And the wind whispers softly
of a long dead serenade.

is an engine
a thousand years old.
Friends are so far away
Lovers dead and gone.
Roses by the roadside
turn their faces away
as the beams of sunset
turn to pieces of gold.

is a million miles away.
Even the fastest horses
won’t ever get me there.
But to stop is an aimless notion
For the carpet in the middle
of the road and my emotions
won’t set me free.
And this lonely endless journey
will last an eternity.
(5.3 1984)


One in Jesus

Crossed the night
Driving free
On highway fifty three
Morning light
came at four
with pedals to the floor.

Thirty nine souls
heading for home
one in the body of Jesus
Happy to be
Servants of God
one in the Church of God.

Dear Father
which art in heaven
Hallowed be thy name
Thy kingdom come
Thy will be done
On earth as it is heaven.

Weeping sky
Through the day
I close my eyes to pray
Cool and dry
Through the door
To highway fifty four.
to the hill
At the wheel was Buffalo Bill
Praise the Lord
We’re still alive
on highway fifty four!

Jeremy Zobiaka, or JB, as he was better known, is legendary as Mizoram’s most iconic rock music performer. As an influential early figure in contemporary Mizo pop culture, I believe it necessary here to establish his place in history.

Life and Music: Born on the 18th April 1953,  JB received a solid school education at Dr. Graham’s Homes in Kalimpong where he picked up a fluency in English that was to give him a distinct edge later in life. He then began studying medicine in Ahmednagar as his family wanted but, as he later put it in a letter to an old school friend, “the Flower Children had reached India and the Hippie movement had started. I got caught up in the initial love and drugs culture of the movement and my studies were shot to pieces.” He continues, “I was lucky. I came back to Shillong, converted to Arts classes, swallowed my remaining pills and switched over to drinks.”  

In 1972, he joined a local band the Young Generation and jumped headlong into the rock and roll scene in Aizawl which was just starting out. It was an especially good time for the Mizo rock music scene because in the early to mid-70s, government authorities were very keen to divert the attention of young people away from the ongoing insurgency movement of the Mizo National Front which had started in the mid-60s and lured many young men into going underground. In an all-out effort to woo the younger generation, in December 1975 the Mizoram government organized a Winter Festival whose main attraction was a Beat and Music Contest. The event was taken up by the Information and Publicity department, fronted by the indefatigable Pu R.L. Thanzawna who shared a wonderful rapport with young people. And in as much as was possible in those pre-social media, pre-television days, the Beat Contest was extensively hyped in the double-sided, one-paged print media. It was at this event that JB with his rock star stage presence, gifted voice, long hair and imposing height, really exploded into celebrityhood as he and his new band Creation Flame rocked the young milling crowd with Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog,” The Who’s “See Me, Feel Me” etc. A star was born, the likes not seen or heard since in these parts.

Besides his passion for music, JB had good writing skills as well, writing and singing his own songs with his later bands, Crimson Dust, Exodus, Otto Band, JB & Friends etc. After several years of hard living in the way of all rock bands, and subsequently plagued by health issues, JB found God and salvation in 1991.  The experience led him to write twenty three deeply personal gospel songs in English and seven in Mizo. He recorded a number of these songs in a studio album titled Salvation to Everyone which is both a blessing and something of a bane, because it is the only audio documentation available today of his singing voice, and something of a bane because most 30 to 40 somethings today remember him as a mellow gospel singer with his easy listening, country-inflected English songs while the older generation remembers him as a rock performer par excellence who enthralled Northeast audiences with rock standards like Satisfaction, Honky Tonk Women etc.

On the 16th August 1999, this multi-talented man passed away at the young age of 46.

Songs and Poetry: JB is featured on this blog thanks to his song writing skills. In 2000, his wife Pi Ngurthankhumi published his songs in a book called JBa Damlai Sulhnu (Selected Songs & Sketches) with 151 songs, 14 in Mizo and the rest in English. I am deeply thankful to her for graciously presenting me with a copy of the book and would love to see the book reprinted as many people have expressed interest in getting hold of it.

What blew my mind as I began reading it is the realization that JB started writing his songs and poetry in 1969 which effectively makes him one of the, if not the, earliest Mizo writers in English. His writing career spanned 28 years (1969 to 1997) and while the melodies of some of these compositions are perhaps now forgotten, it must be noted that JB essentially wrote them as songs, composing them with his guitar which he always had by his bedside. His wife speaks of how he would sometimes wake from deep sleep in the middle of the night, reach for the pen and paper tucked under his pillow, and write. His writings seem effortless and come straight from the heart. I have included six song poems here in chronological order and hope they evoke an interest among the younger generation in re-discovering this authentic homegrown cultural icon.


Some YouTube links -
1. Glory to the Father - JBa
2. Salvation to Everyone - JBa
3. Free at Last - JBa
4. Transparent Sea - Daphne London
5. Interview with Pi Nguri
6. Queen of the Universe - F. Sanglura