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“Should we undress these graves”: Review of Tarun Bhartiya’s Unaddressed postcards from Khasi-Jaintia Hills, 2021

Drawing from the picture postcards tradition, Tarun Bhartiya’s Unaddressed Postcards from Khasi-Jaintia Hills (2021) is a rich tapestry of texts and images. The juxtaposition of black and white images works on the trope of timelessness, a colonial construction of tribes as people without/outside of time, residing in a so-called mythical times and yet every text-image is a palimpsest —the present is always present as a way to see the sepia tinted past in a better light. To comment on Unaddressed postcards as a whole is difficult as the array of visuals is astounding. The images juxtapose many layers of encounters and intimacies — Gwalia, Khasi, India that are framed through the genre of picture postcards.   

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Reclaiming Time with Aribam Syam Sharma’s Imagi Ningthem and Ishanou

This year’s March did not begin right. The familiar incongruous blend of Yaosang and board exams was tinged with the growing fear of a disease that was almost visible at the horizon. Till then, it had mostly existed in news reports and memes featuring Mexican beer and aeroplanes with masks. I went out to see a concert on the fourth day of Yaosang. Later, after shaking hands with someone I was meeting for the first time, I cleaned my hands with a sanitiser. That night, I read a status update on Facebook that roundly abused the fools celebrating the festival in groups and crowds.  There were no reported victims yet. People were still flying in with only a thermal scan waiting to check if they were infected. All shops were open. We discussed the disease unhappily, but not with that massive shadow of fear and suspicion that would soon take hold once the lockdown was imposed, and the first victim identified.

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The Emas, the Reader and the Prelude

Teresa Rehman, The Mothers of Manipur, Zubaan, 2017, Rs 325, pp. 153

The cover of the book depicting the naked emas, is quite illustrative of what it will discuss. The nude protest as the critical event marked as an exemplary moment is so familiar a reading. What lies behind that image are human lives. The book is premised on the many different aspects of discussions, negotiations and the differences vís-a-vís the mode of protest that the women’s collectives decide to take up. The book unsettles the belief of some, that feminism is a linear trajectory of one brave / radical moment to the other – one nupilan (which means women’s war in Manipuri) to the other as if a linear trajectory, but rather it is accumulative of a series of anxieties, insomnias, and negotiations. The preface sets out the premise of the book.

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Reading Easterine Kire’s Son of the Thundercloud

Son of the Thundercloud. Easterine Kire. New Delhi: Speaking Tiger Books, 2016.

Easterine Kire’s latest novella, Son of the Thundercloud, is a fascinating narrative in the mould of low fantasy. In blending Naga myth of creation with the redemption story of Christ, Kire inaugurates the beginning of a new era of literary experimentation in Naga literature in English.

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Dan Lheimei Chaang by Meiphunlung Thaimei

Dan Lheimei Chaang. Meiphunlung Thaimei. 1987.

Meiphunlung Thaimei’s Dan Lheimei Chaang (or in more standardized Rongmei Dan Reimei Chaang ) published in 1987 is a political drama set in the tumultuous years spanning from the 1950s to the mid ‘70s. It tells the story of the Zeliangrong people’s introduction to the first wave of Naga Nationalist Movement. It assumes the voice of the lesser known participants; the forgotten and the nameless foot soldiers who sacrificed their lives in a political movement that would later take divergent courses in the next half a century.

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Lamjel by Thangjam Ibopishak

Lamjel (Race). Thangjam Ibopishak. Imphal: Irungbam Publications, 2015.

Thangjam Ibopishak’s latest collection of poems is primarily about his evolving as a poet. Forty six years after his arrival in the Manipuri poetry scene, Lamjel (Race) delves into the link between poet, poetry and its journey. This link, as a defining theme of his eleventh book (written between 2012-2015), unfolds in the form of odes to people who have shaped his artistic sensitivity, through the metaphor of sailing, and not insignificantly, the looming spectre of death. Other themes include his worship of nature mainly inspired by a sense of atheism, and the frank appreciation of the female form.

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