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

How to Enter a New Year - Ben Zongte

To begin a new year, you must first be empty.
So when you enter, your feet will be light.
Then, you must plant your feet, on the soil where the Chrysanthemum once flourished.
Allow yourself to marvel there — at the thought
that come autumn, they will flower again.

This is how you draw fresh hope. That while your dreams from last year slowly decay, there are new ones buried beneath the ground.
And come autumn, they will all be yours.

Ben Zongte is a writer who has been featured here a number of times before. In this new poem here, his trademark elegance of style and thought has a cadence that is both dignified and stately.