Cherrie Chhangte teaches in the Department of English Mizoram University. Apart from teaching, she is also into creative writing. The Naga Republic brings a collection of her poetry
An Old-fashioned Letter
Times like this, I think of you, my unattainable
Object of desire.
Concrete towers obscure evening sunsets
Leaving me to guess what lies beyond
I rely on remembrances
of mellow twilights
And the sky’s panorama of mottled pastel hues
As day draws to a close.
The restless city lights are alive, my love.
Cars, buildings, streets, ablaze.
Once in Tanhril, on a deserted road,
My headlights went out.
You should have seen the darkness.
Pitch black. Utterly black and alive.
Here it is never dark.
We have bought blackout curtains.
We trade one thing for another,
One attachment for another.
Darkness or light, darkness or light?
And still we end up with both.
My hills are home, and yet, not home,
I imagine myself a long-lost cousin
Who is as restless as these blinking lights,
Happy to be home, but glad to leave too.
The city neither rejects nor embraces,
You simply carve out meanings for yourself
Out of the noise, the tastes, the smells,
Until everything comes back to remembering,
A return to the beginning,
One balmy evening in July.
Truths and lies, mornings and twilights,
hills and plains,
While concrete keeps blocking my view.
Darkness and light, darkness and light.
India is my country.
A piece of paper
And the whims of the powerful
Made it so.
Others did not,
Most did not have a choice.
All Indians are my brothers and sisters,
I find siblings can be very different.
I love my country, and I am proud of its rich and varied heritage.
My country is not always proud of me
And does not always remember my heritage.
I tell myself it loves me back.
I shall always strive to be worthy of it,
Although worth is measured
In terms I do not understand.
I shall give my parents, teachers and all elders respect
And treat everyone with courtesy;
Even the man who feels entitled to rape me
Or abuse my man
Because we look different.
Yes, I will answer with courtesy
Every time someone asks
If I am from China.
To my country and my people, I pledge my devotion –
For what it’s worth.
Devotion. Devotee. Devoted.
Words to chew on.
In their wellbeing and prosperity alone lies my happiness,
And in my wellbeing and prosperity alone
Lies the future of the nation.
It Is the Oldest Story
It is the oldest story in the world,
Boy meets girl meets boy,
And the frantic dance begins.
In a soulless city
A girl is raped
For having chinky eyes.
And the plot unveils itself
As new, unfamiliar faces
Play old, familiar roles.
The hunter and the hunted
All too willing to be captured.
Meanwhile, in the Capital,
A boy is killed
For having blond hair.
The twists in the tale are old;
As she eats up every line he delivers
And wrings clammy hands in agonized indecision,
He proposes to another.
Meanwhile, in Bangalore,
A boy ends his own life,
Bullied to death.
The story is told again and again,
Already worn, and always new,
A mere tale,
And much more than a tale.
A girl betrayed by her love,
People betrayed by their country,
The story is old, and remains the same.
Do not tell me that old, old story again.
My Grandmother gave birth to twelve babies
A brood of daughters interspersed here and there with boys –
Three sons surrounded by an abundance of girls,
And before the youngest, a girl, was quite grown up,
My grandmother quietly died
As if to say her life’s work was done.
Grandfather was the star of the family,
He of the strange, anti-colonial name,
Grandson of a famous warrior,
Son of a fierce father,
Heir to a rather manly legacy,
Holder of a Government job.
Her son, the eldest, fought for Independence,
Not the one for India, the one from India.
Somewhere in between was Grandmother,
Wife of a sarkar employee
Mother of an Insurgent,
Leader of a bevy of daughters,
And somewhere in between, her story got lost.
Now nobody except her daughters
Can recall how late she slept at night,
How she mollified husband and children alike,
Nor how early she awoke to feed husband and little ones,
Helped by the older girls,
And how she slipped out under the cover of darkness
To give Uncle food lovingly wrapped in plantain leaves
As much as she could spare from feeding
So many hungry mouths.
We knew her as an old woman
When she died at fifty eight;
Her forbearance kept her silent
About the many years of struggles
And the pain of cancer that devoured her
All too quickly.
In the tale of heroes,
Grandmother’s story is lost.
But those who remember her
Recall how fair her skin was,
And how, in her time,
She was the prettiest of the village maidens,
Like most grandmothers are.
You would, perhaps, have me write poems
Of bittersweet love on sun-kissed mornings,
Of how our sandalled feet splashed
Across pavements on rainy afternoons
When monsoon downpours burst
upon us in orgasmic urgency,
Brief moments of ecstasy that left us drenched,
The aftermath infinitely more permanent than the event.
Aftermaths- that is what it always crumbles to,
Like the precarious towers made of dreams
That we are so adept at building.
How I dreamt that you would be my saviour
From the neurotic web of nothingness
That ensnares me in its fatal allure!
And how you dreamt that I-
I in my fear disguised as calm –
Would embody every pristine boyhood dream you had,
Before the scarlet of betrayed hopes
Left that stain across your battered soul.
Ah, but dreams are fragile, sweetheart,
As you and I well know,
For they crumble to dust
With an untimely question,
A half-articulated doubt,
A wing clipped in mid-flight.
The house of cards you built yesterday
Could not withstand your deep soul-weary sigh.
So we stand across each other
In the debris of the aftermath,
Weighed down by the failure
Of the punchline that was never delivered,
And the climax that never came.
Yes, I think I will write poems
Of bittersweet love on sun-kissed mornings.
Lament of the Scorned
I am your Jezebel,
The curse you spit out
Along with the blood red
Juice of betel that
Oozes from corners
Of lips that formerly
Caressed, cajoled, captivated
With truths uttered unawares
By the same lips
I am Delilah,
I am your drug,
Your reluctant high.
I am the discarded,
The one you stone