Thursday, November 8, 2012

Lament of the Scorned

I am your Jezebel,
The curse you spit out
Along with the blood red
Juice of betel that
Oozes from corners
Of lips that formerly
Caressed, cajoled, captivated
With truths uttered unawares
By the same lips
Now denied.
I am Delilah,
Your downfall.
I am your drug,
Your shame,
Your reluctant high.
I am the discarded,
The one you stone
With relief
Some guilt.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Notes From a Plane.

I have seen it coming,
This day - the day I would miss my flight.
More and more frequently
I put off leaving for the airport
To the last possible minute.
My last three trips
Saw me in a mad rush
With taxi drivers coaxing
Their vehicles to run like race cars
On the obstacle courses of Aizawl roads.
Packing is a challenge I loathe;
Once upon a time, good boyfriends
Undertook that task for me.
Now I pack for myself,
Usually half an hour before I leave,
Haphazardly throwing in clothes
And hoping for the best.
Most times I forget something vital;
The last time I left a city,
I left my heart behind.
Airport food and airplane food
Are abhorrent, overpriced,
But I eat them anyway,
Because I rush out without having had time for a proper meal. My reluctance to plan my schedule properly is perhaps symptomatic of some inner repulsion at the thought of leaving another place yet another time. I love travelling to different places, meeting different people, soaking in different cultures. It is the journeys I hate.The International Terminal at Kolkata had mosquitoes: I was devoured by these bloodsucking insects as I waited. Oh, and I was on an international flight despite my not going anywhere abroad, because apparently, GoAir is an international flight.

Besides, I know by now what awaits me. The unimaginative decor of airport lounges, people staring at you for want of anything better to do, particularly lecherous guys who have no compunctions staring at you even when they're sitting right beside you, total strangers wanting to know where you're from, where you're going, and what you're doing there. Even as I write this, I caught the dude sitting behind me desperately peering through the crack between the seats, trying to read what I am writing. I stared him down. Small victory.

And this lady, sitting in the aisle seat- with, thankfully, an empty seat between us- this abominable woman has been belching every few minutes in the loudest, most disgusting way imaginable. Poetry is no longer possible. Believe me, a loud, deep, long belch will kill poetic inclinations any time. And her prodigious bulk prevents me from even attempting to get out of my seat to get at my stuff in the overhead compartment.

The Captain has at last announced that we are beginning our descent into Delhi. Yayyy!The overly conscientious flight attendant has suggested to us, over the PA system, that we should save whatever we have been working on before switching off our laptops. Seriously?!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A Poem

This one is for two poet-friends, who read this and thought I should put it in my blog for easy access. So here goes:

And now, it is time
To write you a poem;
The one that you wanted,
The one that scared me,
The one that mourns
The passing of you,
You, who have been my poetry.

When they analyzed it nursing endless cups of tea in an authentic little Khasi jadoh stall, while simultaneously murdering many pieces of kwai in the recesses of their mouths, it sounded a lot more philosophical and 'deeper' than it probably does to you, dear reader. Among the phrases flung about were, "the paradox of the situation", "the chicken and the egg question", "circularity", etc. They should probably come here and explain.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Teachers' Day

I refuse to be cynical about Teachers' Day. So here is me wishing a happy Teachers' Day to -

Miss Mabel, my class teacher when I was in classes 2 and 3, who wore tailored pencil skirts that reached to just below her knees and always put her hair up in a loose bun that never came undone. Boy, was she pretty. She was sweet, dedicated, and never got angry, but always managed to have perfect discipline inside her classroom. That woman had class. Most importantly for me, she gave me certificates for things like "cleanliness" and good marks; when I topped the class at the final class 3 exams, she presented to me a hardbound copy of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, out of her own pocket. She hooked me on Victorian fiction for life. What an amazing lady - I hope she's been blessed, wherever she is.

Miss Helen, the statuesque Hindi teacher who spoke her own unique brand of Mizo.When none of us displayed the slightest interest in learning Hindi, she was able to motivate us. If none of us were very fluent in Hindi, it was our fault, not hers. If nothing else, we all wrote flawless Devanagari script, beautiful, precise, and neat. Not that we understood half of what we wrote.

Sr. Christita at Mary Mount school, who made me go back to school after I had decided to 'drop out' in class 7 because of the school bully. I refused to attend school for an entire month, but she made numerous trips to my home, talking to me, my parents, cajoling, hugging, and finally persuading me to return with the assurance that the bully would be dealt with. Last I heard, he was in prison for some juvenile crime, but that's another story.

The Revd. Presley Lyngdoh. Princi, as he was fondly called. What a character. Always formal, always polite, always scary. A stickler for decorum. Sir Wasan Elwin, son of celebrated anthropologist Verrier Elwin, whose razor-sharp mind always delighted, terrified, and instructed.

Miss Tuni Gill at St. Mary's College, who made us stage Pygmallion, or more precisely, My Fair Lady. I managed to hide in the wings (literally) but her enthusiasm was contagious. Miss Dincola, who played the piano and spoke English with an impeccable British intonation.

Prof. Esther Syiem, who always treats students with courtesy and respect. She shows that being a teacher isn't all about scaring people and imposing rules. Always refined, always down-to-earth. She is also a little absentminded. She once told somebody that she had two children, two lovely girls, when the third child tugged at her hand and whispered, "but Mei (mother), you have THREE! You forgot me." She hopes her poor son will not be traumatized for life by that event.

Also, I would acknowledge all those who taught outside the classroom, too numerous to mention. The good and the bad. Life gives you these little lessons through people that cross your path. The ones that love, the ones that leave, the ones that provide strength and support, the ones that make you stronger by their absence. I have laughed, cried, yelled, ranted, waxed eloquent, pondered, raged... and through it all I have learnt. And I still learn. Thank you, teachers; thank you, Life.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Grammar Police!

One of the necessary evils of being a teacher is checking exam and test papers. Not my favorite part of the job, it is something that I have been compelled to do ever since I volunteered to help in a school while awaiting my own exam results whilst in college. As a teacher of English, over the years,I have seen student's papers that have had grammatical errors bordering on various degrees of the horrific, scandalous, hilarious, and frankly irritating. Here are some common mistakes which have persistently been committed by students:

1. 'Their' and 'There' and sometimes, even 'They're'. Also 'its' and 'it's'.

2. Using a phrase such as "He was one of the most famous writer of the age".

3. Combining two words - "infact", "inorder", "alot", etc.

4. Confusing like-sounding words - the latest paper I checked kept saying "imagery" for "imaginary"!

5. Unnecessary use of the apostrophe. "She always keep's her room tidy."

6. The invention of new words. Here's one in the current batch of papers:"Honey, wife of Nick also told lies as being impregnant before she marries Nick." Someone else has also written "leaved".

7. Misspelling of words: Examples from said batch : "revange", "commentable", "thingking","twarted","transcents", "metaphore", "intrigacies".

8. Using text message lingo. Examples "U r" for 'you are', "2" for 'to' and so on.

One of my students consistently submits papers that are very entertaining. Recently, she has described a protagonist of a novel as a "chick magnet" and another character as belonging to the "biological department". Other students have written of characters who have "illusioned themselves", while yet another writes of how "the author also uses this hole in his structure of the novel." Don't ask.

My obsession with the correct usage of the grammar has often given me a guilt-trip, especially when I remind myself that nobody here is a native speaker of the language. Having said that, I did feel a little less guilty after stumbling across hilarious pages such as this and this . This also makes sure that you are reminded of the mistakes you make. I'd recommend checking them out.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Letter to Lyova

Lyova, wherever you are,
I want you to know
I have finally mustered up
My faltering courage to use
This handmade, woven notebook
That you pressed into my hands,
Urging me to fill it with words.

The little doll that tsunami-victims made
Still stays pinned on the cover,
Although the pin is now rusted.
"Tsunamika" is her name.
I wonder how long her creator
Struggled to concieve of such a
Witty play on words.

I wonder if she had writer's block.
Did she, like I, suddenly feel her words unworthy?
Did panic grip her every time her fingers held a pen?
Did every painful, labored word
Feel like it drew blood?

Lion-philosopher, did you know
The enormity of the burden
You left in my hands
When you left this notebook behind?

It is strange that after all is over,
When images of sitting on floors of dusty coaches,
Curd-rice, balmy monsoon evenings,
Jewish temples, Adorno and Heidegger,
Nuns severe in habits of gray
Have started to blur like pictures
Of trees taken from speeding trains,

This notebook remains,
Eloquently silent,
At times accusatory,
At others comforting.
Finally I have taken it up
Because I owe it to the gift,
And I owe it to myself,
And I wanted you to know that, Lyova.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Dying Alone

The news that greeted me when I logged on to facebook today was that my maternal cousin, Reem-a had died in a car accident in the early hours of the morning. Probably because I stayed the night alone in my apartment, my family had not informed me of this, and thus it was that I was confronted with the news via the status update of one of my other cousins. Anyhow, this is often the case with me – I am always the last to hear of any news in the family, births, deaths, marriages, and the assorted calamities and celebrations in between.

I was not particularly close to Reem-a since we hardly meet anymore, and he was a bit of what we Mizos like to call a ‘cowboy’ – a bit on the wild side, although he was a lot of fun, with a terrific sense of humor. When I imagine him in my mind’s eye, I see him grinning from ear to ear. That was the kind of person he was. The youngest of a large family of six other siblings, he was doted upon by his brothers, sisters and parents. He lost his mother, my aunt, a few years ago, which must have been especially hard on him. I like to think of him now being hugged into his mother’s warm embrace. Although I have not been able to attend his funeral, which is in Lunglei, I can imagine the waves of shock and grief that must be coursing through his near and dear ones right now. Rest in peace, brother. Sorrounded by his family and friends, he has left this world.

Mizos have this fear that we will have nobody to mourn us when we die. I’ve been thinking about it, and I guess that for many of us regardless of race, culture, or environment, dying alone may be one of the biggest fears that we have. Not that you can die with anyone, but not to have anyone to feel a sense of loss, of bereavement, seems an empty existence. To many, that may sound illogical. After all, once you’re six feet underground, what would it matter whether you had mourners or not? And yet, such is human nature. We want people to feel something when we leave this world.

That is why, we love and love and love again no matter how many disappointments life deals us. People are fickle, people are callous, people are unpredictable, people hurt us. And yet, we leave ourselves open to new experiences, willingly make ourselves vulnerable in the hope of finding someone to fill that gap. That persistent need to be loved. Our determination that we will be loved, just as we have loved. How brave we are, how strong the human spirit! Here are a few words that Native American writer, Louise Erdrich has penned in her novel, The Native Drum:
Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, of left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself that you tasted as many as you could.