Today evening at around six thirty I felt a surge of desire in me to go to my mom’s place of casting fish net where she was already gone for more than two hours this evening. I took a torch and walked out of my room without telling my father. It was a dark September evening and I was dropped there by a leikai (local) aunt. As I walked through the meadow lifting my phanek a bit I felt the grasses flirting on my thighs. A big frog jumped away from my way into the pond left of the lane in a splash. The unknown humming insects welcome me. I called my mom from a distance. She never expected her daughter who was out of the village for eight years would turn up there in the dark evening. She was happily surprised.
The mosquitoes were in a swamp. I asked my mom how she managed to hold on with the mosquitoes. She says they do not bite her. On the bank of the small canal, a small rug sack was laid and on it my mom’s arms lay so serenely… a small torch with indigo and yellow color, a small plastic bucket in which once paints were once filled, a Manipuri novel, a shawl and a few small towels. I asked my mom if there are no snakes around. She told me she knew a mantra to shoo away snakes. That was the first time I came to know that my mom too knows mantra (as all women knows secretly some mantra or the other).
I sat down beside my mom. Just beyond the canal, the expanse of a vast green field stretched and bounded by the Tiddim road and further beyond the green-black mountains silhouette against the starry sky. In the dense bushes strange noises of the night rise and fall. After how many years I was savouring the sight of glowworms glittering here and there. Few yards away in the graveyard I felt our ancestors snoring in death such peaceful sleep perhaps we envy at times. Death in that way is really beautiful.
I knew somewhere ten thousand Kilometers away in that City which made me, it must be growling, howling, whispering, beckoning, teasing and sweating from its daily wrestling. I far away from that still feel the odour of that city…I just have to close my eyes and smell deep. Scents also carry memories. Songs also carry memories. From Nambol to Imphal and in other routes of Manipur the scent prevails …familiar ones. The Nga Yonbi scent (the scent of smoked fish seller) is everywhere. Sometimes the scent of Soijin and Soibum (fermented bamboo soot) also erupts from hither and thither. From somewhere in the corner of the street the scent of fried ngari (fermented fish) erupts in rupture. This scent is an acquired scent. It would be offensive to an alien nose, I am sure our Meitei nose is perfectly evolved to trace and feel at home with this scent. This is the scent of Manipur. Thousands of Kilometer we have gone and thousand more we will go away again and again perhaps never to come back. Yet we carry with us the memories and the pang associated with these scents and songs. Once in our lifetimes we long to come back here at our home, long to recall the lost memories, the fading vision and the various graves that had grown in our absence like my grandmother’s.
In the name of god, God is killed. In the name of love, Hatred is wished for; in the name of holiness the most profane is sought. In our name they have forsaken us. This is the predicament of our lives.. this place is no exception in harbouring these eternal predicament. We are people of this world no different from others. We throb with a part of this universal predicament
But I See the Nongjabi in the west as the sun set so lazily and I felt perhaps we live for this moment. I saw the nervous stars and get myself excited for life. And I realize I live for that. And tonight my heart dancing with the glowworms felt the joy of living. And it is beautiful to be just alive without much questioning without much retrospection. Yet the beauty of this innocence is so evanescent that I did not know I felt it too.
Meanwhile my mom is getting more and more irritated with me as I keep on flashing the blue torch into the net piercing through the murky water and shooing away the tiny fish.
She is like ‘Ebemma, What are you up to? You are chasing away all the fish… go back home.’ And I was just enjoying irritating her and irritating tiny fish out there. The un- courteous mosquitoes have penetrated my phanek and bit me through my skin in spite of my waving and shooing. And I was sure I have drunk the water of seven seas and become polluted and now my mantra I remember no more to shoo away any wild from invading me. I lost my atavistic mantra at the cost of gaining another mantra of another paradigm. And the cost is too high to tell you.
And now I must go else my mom will chase me away. I came back in the dark lane with shrubs and canals on both sides. I knew I could never be back from what I felt and lost those days in the city that made me and killed me at the same time..this is a timeless predicament.
Written on 25th September 2009