...after Salvatore Quasimodo ...
Palem Apokpi, mother who gave birth to me,
to be a man how I hated leaving home
ten years ago. Now these hills
have grown on me.
But I’m still your painfully shy son
with a ravenous appetite,
the boy who lost many teeth after
emptying your larder. And
I am also your dreamy-eyed lad
who gave you difficult times
during his schooldays, romancing
every girl he wanted, even
when he still wore half-pants.
You told your children that
money and time do not grow on trees, and
I could never learn to keep up with them.
It isn’t that I’ve forgotten
what you’ve come to mean to me
though I abandoned much and left
so little of myself for others
to remember me.
I know how you work your fingers to the bone
as all mothers do, for unmarried sons,
ageing husband and liberated daughters-in-law.
Worried about us, for a long time
your lips couldn’t burgeon in a smile,
lines have furrowed your face and
first signs of snow are on your hair.
Today, as on every day you must have risen
with temple bells before cockcrow, swept
the floors and after the sacred bath
cooked for the remainder of us. I can see you
returning every dusk from the bazaar,
your head laden with baskets.
Must you end toiling forever?
I’m sorry Palem.
I’ve inherited nothing
of your stable ways or culinary skills.
Forgive me, for all your dreams
of peace during your remnant days
I turned out to be a small man
with small dreams, living a small life.
Who is this Nagangom writing for his mother reminding us of the mother of D.H. Lawrence and Maxim Gorki, but in a different way, making a portrait like a painter? Nagangom is the man and poet from the Northeast of India, a professor of English who has taught at NEHU, Shillong and who hails from Manipur and Meitie is his mother-tongue. To know the poet is to know the history of the English departments of the universities of the Northeast of India, beginning from Gauhati University. To know the poet is to know his society, culture, ethos, surroundings, locale and the context of deliberation. Where was he born? Where did he get his schooling from? All these things get automatically referred to in this poem of autobiographical slant. A writer who was born in Imphal, studied at St. Edmund’s College and NEHU here relates to the story of his life, how he did his schooling from, got placed at Shillong finally. This is the story of life how it materializes it here.
The poet is sorry as for being displaced and distanced from. The poet is sorry for the things not inherited. Her stable ways and culinary skills he has not acquired. This is the reason for which he seeks pardon for, asks her to forgive it all taking them all as the small things. A small man he could not rise above this. A small man he will remain small engrossed in his small things. But definitely was she a good heart and he could not get even a bit of. Had he, it would have been otherwise. Now he feels it and ruminates over. Had she not impelled her, he would not have moved out of and as a result of that he got the education from. What he is it is but a result of that. What a lover boy had he been! Even from a teenage age he used to dream of dating and friendship. But how ungrateful are we that forget we the throes of the bearing mother so often. But the Shakespearean stages of life, how to forget it?
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players,
They have their exits and entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
Then, the whining schoolboy with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden, and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice
In fair round belly, with good capon lin'd,
With eyes severe, and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws, and modern instances,
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose, and pouch on side,
His youthful hose well sav'd, a world too wide,
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again towards childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.
– William Shakespeare in Seven Ages of Man
A poem for his mother, this is a remembrance as well as a memoir of how a boy grows up, comes to be man, takes up a job, marries and settles and then forgets it all which is but common in life, but apart from it he has taken out some time to give to motherly thoughts and ideas, going down the memory lanes, peeping into the past with the bonds shared and lived and re-lived. It commemorates the virtues of his mother as well as tells of his bonding. The birth pangs of a mother none but only she knows, but the sons and daughters remember it not with the growing time, this is the thing deliberation. How do we move away from? We have lost the sense. How had we been? What are we now? The changing conditions and situations of life misplace us and we take to it otherwise diverting from.
With the tolling of the bells, the tinkling of, she arises in the morning, sweeps the floor, takes the sacred bath and starts for her duties after the prayer and this is her routine work carrying out for so long and nothing has deterred her from. At dusk she returns from the bazaar doing the marketing for, with a basketful of daily commodity, cereals and vegetables.
She used to tell money and time do not grow on trees and the same he feels it not how she had been aware of time consciousness, what it earning meant to her, the keeping of assets or laboring to make it. She did as had been for want of. She could feel it the value of time and money in life as these came to not in a handy way.
There is some emotional touch as well as one’s ruination over what one has actually, what he ought to have and what he did and did not, the volume of done weighing down before the undone. What the response to gratitude? As man cannot return sympathy and service so is the tale of attachment. But this is human life, here man changes with time and everything comes to naught. Who goes after the values? What one has done one forgets it, remembers it not so is here too in this mother-son connection. None has come to know, feel how she keeps laboring for the family. Her load the other members cannot feel it. She has to serve many a being, her ageing husband, liberated daughters-in-law and the unmarried sons. Her work she goes on doing without any complaint. Her duty she goes on carrying out sincerely and that very sincerity we lack it even after being placed in life. Can we not acquire the bits of that?
Can the poem be singled out as a Mother’s Day poem? Paying tributes to her, he pays to his motherland and mother-tongue as well. To read the poem is to be lifted to Manipur and Manipuri society, culture and ethos. Especially the hills hang heavy over them, the exotic flora and fauna, the bamboo huts and unique life-styles. While reading the poem, the mind goes to Assam, Nagaland, Tripura, Sikkim, Arunachal, Mizoram and so on stretching to those hilly tracts and domains and its beyond. We seek to know, how is life, how is society there, how their ethos, manners and ethics? How their attire, social custom and tongue? To read him is to think of dwellings, schools and colleges and the roadways.