Thursday, December 11, 2014

Poems - Lalsangliani Ralte


“A whore,” “a woman of loose character”
they call her.
“No moral,” “no conscience,” “no shame”
they say of her.

They cast discerning glances her way;
Heavily made-up face, blood red lipstick
A mini-skirt that mothers would forbid their daughters wear
A deep neckline that displayed too much bosom
A cheap cigarette placed between her sensuous lips.

They see enough to send her to hell
Hungry to condemn, eager to collect the stones
That would be hurled at her.

They fail, however, to notice
How her eyes were always lowered
Her voice was so meek it was just a whisper
Her prayers were said in the most secret of places.

Had they taken the time to listen
Had they taken the time to really look
They might have heard her muffled screams of terror
They might have seen
The look of fear and pain in her eyes
Her struggles in vain, to escape
From the malicious grasp of him
Who is forcing himself upon her
A child not yet thirteen, a child not yet nubile
A child whose earnest pleadings for him to stop
Were turned a deaf ear to.

In their haste to lead her to her Calvary
They do not remember of her
How she once was a child full of innocence and dreams.



There I was, trying to write you a poem. You, who have been my muse for so long. I sat at my desk by the window, from where I can see the starlit night so beautiful. I remembered how you would sit beside me, silent, so you would not disturb me as I write.

I tried to write my first line, tried to put my feelings into words. I wanted to tell you in verse, how I found myself, through you. You, who have been so precious; my air, my water, my sun.

My hands shook as I wrote your name. I had meant your name to be the first word of my poem, my poem for you. The profoundest of thoughts in my mind, I but failed, to put in verse. I could not write beyond your name.

That was last night. Here I am this morning, at the same desk. It is seven, and I have just finished my red tea. I wish you were here. We would have been so happy, so satisfied.

Now, I have to put this letter on your grave, with a red rose.

PS: I still have a little black flag on the window.

Lalsangliani Ralte lives in Aizawl, is a student of English literature, and an avid football fan. She loves poetry and hopes to have her works published someday.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Put Away – Zualteii Poonte

(For Zokunga [Pu Muma], 1925 – 1966)

The dreaded rapping on the door after dark
Just a little talk with him outside we want
The wanted gets up, steps out the house
Be back soon, you all go to sleep
But he never does.
Sometimes if they're lucky
they find the body a short distance down the road.
More often deep in the jungle they find it
in a shallow grave
sometimes marked, sometimes not.

My mother's brother's body was never found,
He disappeared without trace,
wiped off the face of the earth,
not a limb, not a nail, not a hair left to claim.
Almost half a century on,
still no one to come forward and say
Here, those are pearls that were his eyes

Nothing for the left behind,
parents, brothers, sisters, wife,
his brood of nine young children.
Just the incomprehensible, unceasing uncertainty
of questions never answered.


The title is a literal translation of the MNF terminology “dah tha/ dah that,” an insidious euphemism meaning killed/murdered/exterminated.

¹There were unverified reports later that my uncle had been shot dead at Tlawng river by insurgents who were later killed in turn by soldiers of the Indian Army.

Since one of my original intentions for this blog was to provide material for research scholars, I add here a short bio of my uncle written by a cousin who happens to be the son of my mother's other brother. I also believe it's time Zokunga's story was told for all the world to know.

: My grandfather Zalawra married my grandmother Lalnemi at 3 in the evening on May the 14th, 1923 at Aijal Chapel or what is now called Mission Veng Church.

Their first child, Zokunga was born on the 19th February, 1925 at Mission Veng.  Like other children, he attended school and went on to matriculate. After serving in a clerical position at the Assam Rifles for some time, he started work at the District Council office and reached the position of UDC. At the District Council, he worked for a considerable period of time with Pu Laldenga with whom he was good friends.  They formed the Liars’ Club where they would amuse themselves by telling good, clean jokes.  Around this time, irregularities with the Council money were discovered and Zokunga was suspended from work.  By the time the Insurgency started however, he had already been reinstated at work.

When the Insurgency movement started in March 1966, people in general were equally afraid of the Indian army soldiers and MNF volunteers.  Under curfew restrictions, people lived in fear  as living conditions became more difficult and the repressive mood of the Insurgency grew stronger. On the 10th of July, 1966, Zokunga went to South Hlimen to pay his condolences to someone who had died, and he never returned.  He was abducted on the way by insurgents who believed him to be an informer. On hearing the news, his wife Lianchhungi set out to look for her husband but word apparently spread quickly:  “His wife is also coming this way, make sure she’s kidnapped too.”  From Mel thum, she fled back home.  Zokunga was never seen again, and on April the 16th, 1967, it was confirmed that he had been “dah that.” On the same day, close friends and family had a thlan thut (memorial service) in his name at his own house.

Also around this time, my mother’s younger sister Lallianpuii’s husband Lalsailova Sailo, previously employed by the Royal Air Force and Indian Air Force, and later at an oil company in Calcutta, would regularly visit his wife and children in Aizawl. While staying at his mother-in-law’s house at Dinthar Veng, he was summoned out of the house  by MNF volunteers who accused him of being a spy for the Indian government. He too was “dah that” and his body never recovered to this day. 

Translated from the article “Ka Pu Lungkham” by Zokailiana Khiangte published in the book Thih Hnua Thusawi: Zalawra leh Lalnemi, Hriatrengna Lungphun, 2013.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Squall - Aduhi Chawngthu

A gust of wind blew from nowhere, making schoolgirls hold on to their skirts and young ladies to their hair. Dark clouds rolled about in the sky, and the air suddenly felt colder and somewhat sinister. It was twilight, the sun had set but darkness had not yet set in, there was an eerie glow in the air. “This is the scene where the vampires would sit up in their coffins and walk up the dungeon steps,” Pi Parteii thought to herself. Why had she seen that movie with Charlie last night? It was so unlike her, staying up until eleven watching a movie, that too on a Sunday night. She looked around the bus stop, everyone looked so grim and serious, and they all seemed to be running. Running from something, vampires perhaps? “Stop it, Parte,” she told herself, “There’s no such things as vampires.”

The bus came, and it was jam-packed. If it was any other day she would have waited for the next one, but today she was in a hurry. Cecilia and Zotea were coming to dinner, and she was worried about the cooking. She had put the boys in charge, but something was bound to go wrong, it always did. She had hoped to go home early today but it turned out to be the busiest day she’d had in a long time. She climbed inside the bus. It was even worse inside than it looked from the outside. It was so crowded she had to stand near the door. The air smelled of cigarette smoke and sweat. The two women sitting next to her were talking loudly. The young man standing beside her had earphones plugged into his ears, he must have turned the volume to the fullest; she could hear the music coming out through the earphones.

“And then he called me and asked me to go back, but I said if you want me back come and fetch me, and you know he wouldn’t dare set foot inside my parents' house, so I guess I'm not going back,” the woman sitting beside the window said.

“That’s the spirit. You are much better off without him. And you look... happier,” her friend said.

“You know what, now I'm officially a nuthlawi, a divorcee,” the first woman said, and they broke into giggles.

There was a loud bang of thunder, the wind grew fiercer, and it was rapidly getting dark. Pi Parteii reached inside her bag, felt around it, and found she didn’t have her umbrella with her. Wonderful. Now she would have to call one of her sons to meet her at the bus stop with an umbrella. Well, it hadn’t started raining yet; if this bus went a little faster she could make it before the rain came. 

“Why does it always rain every time I am away from home?” an old woman said, “I hope that daughter-in-law of mine remembers to take in the washing.”

The conductor, a short plump man with paan stained teeth, squeezed himself between the passengers. Pi Parteii took out a ten-rupee note and gave it to him, “Kulikawn,” she said.

The conductor stopped, and looked at her. “Nu Parte, is it you?”

“Why, it is Sangtea. How are you?” she said.

“I'm fine. It’s been a long time, isn’t it? How are the children? They must be all grown up now.”

“Yes, they are all bigger than me now. Cecilia got married, you know.”

“Cecilia married? The last time I saw her she was about eight years old and I had to hide my tools from her.”

“So, Sangte, why are you a bus conductor? You were a very good carpenter.”

“Oh this, I am just helping out a cousin, his conductor went home and he couldn’t find anyone else.”

Pi Parteii gave him the money again. “You know where I'm going.”

Sangtea refused to take the money. "It’s all right, you are in my bus now.”

“Take it, I don’t want to feel guilty.”

“It’s okay, really,” Sangtea said.

“You know, Sangte, we are still using all the furniture you made for us.”

“That’s good.”

“You should come visit us some time.”

“Yes, I will do that,” he said, and made his way to the back of the bus.

It was raining heavily now, and people hastily closed the windows. Pi Parteii found a seat, sank down, rummaged inside her bag and took out her cell phone. It was switched off. Now that was strange, she didn’t remember switching it off. Oh, it must have been all the squeezing and crushing. She switched it on, and dialled Charlie. It rang and rang, but Charlie didn’t pick his phone. She dialled again, and listened to it ring. One, two, three… eleven, twelve rings. Still he didn’t pick it up.

She disconnected, and dialled their landline number. All she got was short beeps. Trust the phone to stop working every time it rains. She could call Christopher, but he was using his Delhi number and had asked her not to call him. “Roaming charges,” he had said. Her husband had refused to get himself a cell phone (“I can’t work these new gadgets”)

She dialed Charlie again, still no answer. She disconnected, and dialled Christopher. He answered on the first ring.


“Chris, why is Charlie not answering his phone?”

“He’s over at Zotea’s house.”

“Why is he over at Zotea’s house? I put you two in charge of the cooking. Have you done anything yet?”

“They are not coming for dinner. Pi Hlimi suddenly got worse, and everyone is gathering there,” Chris said.

“When was this? And why didn’t you call me?” Pi Parteii said.

“About twenty minutes ago. We called you a hundred times; your phone was switched off. Why did you keep it switched off anyway? “

“That’s not important. Listen, bring an umbrella and meet me at the bus stop, go now.”

“All right.”

“Where’s your father?”

“He too is at Zotea’s house.”

“Okay, now go.”

She hung up.

It was completely dark outside now, the driver had switched on the lights, and she felt like she was travelling in a night bus. The bus was almost empty, and it seemed like the rain and the wind were getting louder by the minute. Pi Parteii suddenly felt sad, sad for her poor daughter, for her son-in-law, for Pi Hlimi and the grandchildren she would never see.

“Nu Parte, it’s your stop,” the conductor said.

“Oh yes. So long then, Sangte, come see us whenever you want.”

“Will do. Goodnight then.”

She got down and looked around, but couldn’t find Christopher anywhere. She remained at the bus stop, dimly aware that she was getting wet,  but she didn’t want to step inside any of the nearby shops, didn’t feel like talking to anyone right now.

“Let me have my moment of sadness, let me be alone for just a few seconds, because in a few minutes I will again have to be the comforter.”

All around her, the rain kept falling in sheets.


Aduhi Chawngthu  is presently working in the Mizoram Civil Services. In her free time, she is a voracious reader and enjoys writing and taking pictures. She wrote this short story in August 2009 as part of an entertaining serial, chronicling contemporary urbanized Mizo society. Unfortunately the serial was never quite completed.  We hope she finds time amid her hectic career to properly finish it someday soon!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Fog - Zualteii Poonte

 And it comes again
 this fog
 stealing in silently 
 clouding over in slow degrees
 all that was crystal clear,
 like the fog in my mind does

 Photo: Dawngi Chawngthu