Some Wacky Things about Cows


Extracted from a forthcoming Novel by the leading Khasi Author

… Magdalene laughed herself silly at her own story. She was quite resilient, I thought, unlike Donald, who still seemed subdued and downcast. He had never punched a man on the face before and that disturbed him so much that he couldn’t really participate in what we were talking. Noticing this, Bah Kynsai said, “Hey Don, perk up, man! No need to think about it. If he had said those things to me, na, I would have done worse things”.

“Don, Don, listen to this story”, Raji suddenly said. We thought he had gone to sleep, for he was lying on his back and keeping quiet for some time. But now he sat up and said, “These guys have been talking about literal translation, no, but now you listen to this …”

Raji talked about how English-medium schools in Shillong do not allow students to speak in their mother tongue. When teachers catch anyone speaking in his own language they would shout: “English, English”.

One day a teacher caught a Khasi boy speaking in Khasi. Irritated, she immediately admonished him, “You, speak in English only”.

The boy said, “Yes, Ma’am”.

The teacher then asked him his name: “What’s your name?”

The boy thought for a while and said, “Gang Rape”.

The teacher became very angry and scolded him, “Are you joking, boy?”

Scared a little, the boy replied, “No, Ma’am, my name is Batborlang, but you asked me to speak in English only so I translated that as Gang Rape: Batbor means Rape and Lang means Gang”.

When the entire class burst out laughing, the teacher cried out in alarm, “No, no, no, that’s not the translation for your name. Don’t translate it literally, your name means Together We Will Hold Power … you understand?”

Raji ended his story rather abruptly, and laughing out loud, said, “Laugh Don, laugh, ha, ha, ha”.

Donald, as the rest of us, laughed at the story, but Bah Kynsai said, “You don’t sound so drunk anymore, were you really drunk before?”

“It’s very sad”, Raji said, “I’m becoming sober a little”.

Reacting to Raji’s story, Bah Sukher said, “But that was only a boy, no Raji. He may be excused for saying something like that. Kit and I have seen something written by a professor and a so-called expert on Khasi culture … Show, show that piece we got from the Directorate of Arts and Culture magazine … Here it is … Listen, ‘Once there was an old woman and an orphan in the Jaiñtia Hills District, her parents died when she was at a tender age. She lived with her maternal uncle along with his wife and helped them attending the cattle when they were busy in agriculture. She lived a village life full of simplicity. Her house was just at the outskirt of River Syntu Ksiar. She had three cows to her possession inherited from her grandmother and these cows made her earn her livelihood till she grew into a young beautiful lady. As she loved those cows and treated them as human beings, the girl used to call them by their respective name. The first male cow she named ‘U Sah’, to the second cow who was also a male she named it ‘U Neh’ and to a female cow she named it ‘Ka Rom’. The old woman …’ There, that’s it. What do you think? Should someone, proclaimed as an expert by the Arts and Culture Department, use words like male cow and female cow?”

Evening laughed aloud and said, “It’s not only that part which is funny, Bah Sukher, the whole thing is written like an essay by a Class IV student, ha, ha, ha”.

Bah Kynsai said, “I have heard about this, but this is the first time I have seen it with my own eyes. Reminds me of an essay I had to correct once. In certain government offices, na, peons have to undergo a departmental exam to be promoted to the rank of lower division assistant, LDA. After such an exam I was asked to correct the papers, huh, and one of the questions required them to write an essay on the cow. One of the peons began the essay by saying, ‘The cow is the wife of the bull …’ Don’t laugh, na liah. You know what I think? I think that peon was better than this professor, tdir, at least he knew a cow is female and a bull is male, na”.

“But is this true about the professor writing male cow and female cow, Bah Sukher? What’s his name?” Hamkom asked.

“No names, we agreed on that”, Bah Kynsai said. “We are talking about issues, na, we are not gossiping. We can use names also, no doubt, but only when the issues are not controversial”.

“But if you want to know the name you can check out the magazine for yourself”, Bah Kit said. “It’s stupidly called ‘Khasi, Jaintia and Garo Folklores’. Read it, you’ll know everything”.

Then Raji added, “True, true, very much true, Ham. I have a copy of the magazine with me at home. And you know what, the Directorate of Arts and Culture and the State Government have been routinely giving literary awards to such people, including this professor”.

“Did he really win a literary award or what?” Hamkom asked incredulously.

“Of course! And very recently too!” Raji confirmed and then added, “It’s not a he”.

“As I said na, here they award people not their works”, Bah Kynsai stated.

“What about you Ap, have you been awarded by them too?” Hamkom asked.

“Till now I haven’t written an essay like a Class IV student, you see”, I replied. “Once I do it, I’m sure I’ll be rewarded for it too”.

“Well said, Ap, well said”, Magdalene laughed. “Uff, these government people are too much!”

“But are all the state literary awardees as bad as all that?” Hamkom wanted to know.

“No, no”, I replied quickly. “There are some who do deserve the awards, but there are many more, too many more, who would put the entire community to shame if their works are translated to other languages”.

“Because of their crappy quality?” Hamkom asked again.

“Exactly!” Raji answered for me.







































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Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih is one the most important contemporary writers from Meghalaya. He writes poems, short fiction and drama in Khasi and English. He has a total of 13 publications in Khasi. His collections of poetry in English include "Moments", "The Sieve" (Writers Workshop), "The Yearning of Seeds" and Time's Barter: Haiku and Senryu" (HarperCollins). He is the author of "Around the Hearth: Khasi Legends" (Penguin) and the co-editor of "Dancing Earth: An Anthology of Poetry from North-East India" (Penguin). His poetry has been widely published in national and international journals. His awards include the first Veer Shankar Shah-Raghunath Shah National Award for literature (Madhya Pradesh, 2008) and the first North-East Poetry Award (Tripura, 2004). He also received a Fellowship for Outstanding Artists from the Government of India (2000). Kynpham teaches literature at the North-Eastern Hill University, Shillong, India.

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