About the Author:
Esther Syiem teaches in the Department of English at the North-Eastern Hill University, Shillong. Her publications include two volumes of poetry: Oral Scriptings and of follies and frailties of wit and wisdom, both published by Writers Workshop, India. She also writes in Khasi and has published a play entitled Ka Nam. Her book, The Oral Discourse in Khasi Folk Narrative is an important resource for understanding Khasi culture. Ka Jingϊamareh Kob ki Wah, is her retelling of a Khasi folktale that she has also translated into English, The Race of the Rivers. She is a member of the PLSI’s National Editorial Collective, founded by Professor Ganesh Devy, a grass-roots initiative to document the languages of India, and is the editor of the Meghalaya volume: People’s Linguistic Survey of India, Vol 19, Part II, The Languages of Meghalaya. She has also co-edited the Khasi translation of the book. Syiem is founder member of the Shillong Forum for English Studies.
To the Rest of India from Another Indian
No wars were fought on grounds
in Kurukshetra and Lanka;
ours were in camouflage
up the stony tracks of the antelope
down impossible ravines and
through impassable jungles.
We’ve no temples,
none to be purified
with litanies and
incense to leaven
crimes of the night.
No one river too sacred
to purify impurities;
none of our gods
bear god-names like yours.
But if you should
twist your tongues around ours
as we learnt to twist ours around yours,
you’ll get a taste of
Earth-gods and sky-deities
nymphs and elfin-dwarves
that winnow souls and scale bamboo leaves
rinsed intestines in running streams.
Icons that died for a love
that endorsed a freedom
uninhibited as our wild mountain herbs.
Lum Shyllong and Sajar Nangli
and how we swallowed our written script,
stones that eat and rivers that fly,
talking tigers and tiger-men.
An itchy monster itching to be scratched;
a rebellious stag pounding for freedom
and the inconsolable dirge of a mother.
Is Nam still alive?
And the tiger and the toad?
Are our sibling mountain gods
still at war with each other?
And our translucent caves let me tell you,
that rig our underground worlds,
stitch in the ancestor
who sanctified the speaking tongue.
Would you then, even care to enter, tongue-twistingly,
into the spoils of our speaking-wealth?
To the Rest of India from Another Indian / 9
Bordar Narrations – I / 11
Bordar Narrations – II (Up-river Narration) / 14
Bordar Narrations – III (Down-river Narration) / 17
Who Rules the Roost? / 19
The Portentous Crowing / 21
My Barefoot Muse / 22
Bahduh’s Fire / 25
The Aura of the Oral: The Written Ascendant – I / 28
The Aura of the Oral: The Oral Resistant – II / 30
She Speaks to Fire / 33
When the Bamboo Talked / 35
The Claim / 37
Bhoice of de Dispossessed / 39
Welcome to Jaiñtia Hills! / 40
Challenging Father’s Words / 43
The Catch in the Wind: About Grandmothers / 46
May You Learn / 49
To My Children / 51
Choir Practice Those October Evenings / 52
Autumn 1991 / 53
China 2014 / 54
From Shanghai to Old Calcutta / 56
Hu Wei / 58
Hai Yen / 59
Letter to My Govarmen / 60
The Great Indian Reservation / 63
Help Me Kong: NEHU Road (2008) / 64
“Shashi-Niloy”: The No-Longer House / 66
In the Clinic / 69
To Ma Ganesh Narayan Devy (Founder, Mentor, PLSI) / 70
U Sier Lapalang: A Trilogy / 73