By Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih


Like Shelley with his “blithe spirit”
I have often tried to understand
this man who is named Kynpham.

How should I describe myself?

A son of a crab, since I fail to suffer
my mother’s temper, who, living in my
house, treats me as one of her tenants.

An abusive husband, since I decline to be
tamed in a matrilineal arrangement.
A devoted husband, since beautiful women
are intimidating and no one knows
I seek even now, the woman, who if found,
would be the ruin of my life.

A wicked neighbour, since I object to a toilet
being built against my compound wall and bark
at window-breaking locality boys.

A felonious councillor, since I attend the village
dorbar1 without a moustache. A guilty bystander,
since I make myself small as a mouse, even when
riffraff and drunks are drowning out all reason.

A bad relation, since I dislike
clan meetings and spurn playing
mother against aunt
brother against brother.

An ‘evil’ administrator, since I forbid
the staff to come at noon
and depart just after noon.

A Vice-Chancellor’s chamcha,2 since I chance
to be a Public Relations Officer and the academia
cannot tell between personal and official.

A recalcitrant Indian, since I am buried
too deep in my tribal roots and refuse to be
swept away by the Main Stream. A mutinous
Indian, since I protest to army occupation,
uranium mining, influx and saffronisation.3

A counterfeit scholar, since I write
only poetry, working in a university.

A small-time poet, since I cannot class myself
a small-town writer, since this town judges books
by the weight and writers by their age.

A retrograde, since I want trees on the hills,
birds in the woods, fishes in the streams.
A heathen, since I believe in sacred groves.
An atheist, since I am not a Christian.
A heretic, since I believe in the humanity
of my conscience.

An enemy of the human race, since I believe
in animal rights and birth control. An advancer of the
Malthusian theory, since I wish to include weapons
of mass destruction in the list of natural calamities.

A hopeless believer, since I know not what
is to be done with all that I believe. A hypocrite,
since I pursue private dreams and like a dog,
nod with the head and shake with the tail to everything.

I shall describe myself as that supreme diplomat:
“I am who I am” and that is the ultimate enigma.

1 Khasi village council. Traditionally, drunks and men without a moustache are not allowed to participate. 2a yes-man. 3An attempt to apply fundamentalist Hindu principles to important national policies.