My mother is a woman with ten tongues
That is why she raves incessantly
Unmindful whether it’s day or night!
I run from home to bazaar
Muddle-headed on lanes and streets
Like an owner-less dog;
When I returned she fumed again
“Offspring of sin why don’t you die
At least other children die by swallowing poison”,
I became so angry my blood boiled,
From my heart my pulse bounced in and out.

At the dead of night
Coming near, mother caressed me lovingly.
To my mouth, burnt with hunger and thirst
She fed her fingers by breaking them off,
Tears rolling down her eyes.
My hunger appeased,
Mother grew thinner day by day,
Over bones only her skin tautened.

Come morning as the sun
Strikes the middle of the veranda
I lie on turning and tossing
Toying with daydreams uselessly;
Mother came near my bed,
Eyes glowering, ten tongues flickering.
From a soprano’s height she poured down
“You sinner’s offspring of a sleepy head!
Feeding you my bones have been eaten away,
The stuffed granary at my father’s has melted;
Other children die just like that
But you are never included in this year’s epidemic”.
I rushed in and kicked my mother in the chest,
I stamped on her forehead repeatedly,
Then I cursed myself
Why was I born to this witch?

When night turned dark as pitch
Burning with anger I devoured mother,
Turning into a meat-eating beast.
I crunched her hands and legs,
I chewed up mother’s head
To rid my own hunger!

When I woke up
I searched my mother again
I couldn’t find her in any room of the house.
The courtyard, the backyard, around the garden
I searched her over and over.

She couldn’t be found.
In a desolate world
When I saw my little sister and brothers
Lying inert on bare earth
Mother’s picture glowed with colour of gold
On the faces of the tender children.
My mislaid mind returned slowly
Like a bird to its little nest;
Calling my mother I wept and wept.

When I woke up in the morning the rooster crowed.
Sunlight sprayed out from a hole in the roof.
Unbelievably I found mother again
Hand on hip, standing askew, she blared before my bed
“Sinner’s offspring, seasonal invalid, are you dead?
If you’re not dead yet, let me look at you”.
This time I didn’t feel angry at all,
Covering my face I laughed instead.


Translated by Robin S Ngangom 

Featured image Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1 by James McNeill Whistler



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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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