Bird of Peace & Self Portrait

Translated by Robin Ngangom

Bird of Peace

Two zero zero six seven zero
Don’t want rice, don’t want lentils
Don’t want clothes
Hello-hello – are you listening, please?
Don’t want firewood, don’t want oil
No need for electricity.
Now light is the cheapest in this land
Everyone’s mouth lights up!

What do you want – Hello?
Do you want money, do you want gold?
Can you put out lights with rupees, hello?

We want the bird of peace
A bird which carries peace in its beak.

O did you say the shanti-bird
Or the ashanti-bird?

Not ashanti, it’s om shanti;
The ekta-bird, the shanti-bird

The bird of peace will arrive
The shanti-bird and the ekta-bird are the same;
They are Siamese twins
Belly and belly joined together
Face and face stuck together.
From Kashmir after crossing Punjab
Through Assam via Nagaland
To reach Manipur
It was sent days ago after packing.
Belly and belly joined together
Face and face stuck together;
Cut carefully, just don’t injure the beak!



Unable to sleep, late at night
While I was tossing and turning
On my bed of thorns,
I heard a voice in the distance broadcasting on a mike—
Hello hello hello,
An elderly man past sixty named Thangjam Ibopishak
Hasn’t returned after he left home last evening.
He has been nursing a disorder from which
He can’t recall his own face name and address.
He’s bald; sporting thick glasses
He drifts about raising his face, looking at the sky.
He doesn’t wear sacred beads or a sacred thread,
No signs on him that he professes any religion.
His mouth reels off the most amazing obscenities;
He insults people when angry; insults anyone even when he’s happy.
He cannot help himself when he sees a bank;
invariably freezes in front of every bank.
If anyone finds him, please hand him over to family members
Or to the nearest police station.

Is what I’m hearing real?
Is this dream or reality, am I having a nightmare?
Is the one they’re searching not I
Am I, lying here on a bed, missing?
Am I a senile, diseased man
Who can’t remember his own face name and address?
Am I not me? Whom shall I ask to find out?


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Thangjam Ibopishak Written by:

Thangjam Ibopishak is among the leading Manipuri poets. Based in Imphal, he has published six volumes of poetry, three of which earned him some of the most prestigious awards in the state including the Manipur State Kala Akademi Award in 1986, the Jamini Sunder Guha Gold Medal in 1989, the First Jananeta Irabot Award in 1997 and the Ashangbam Minaketan Memorial Award in 2005. Ibopishak also won the Sahitya Akademi Award for poetry in 1997.

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