The Man Who Never Laughs

When the lotus of their eyes eloped with him
My mother was broken-hearted.
Confirming her fears, his grandmother
Turned out an opium-eater, while he took
To drinks early and did drugs for good measure.
Always ran in that family, we only said.

He would gamble, drink away his pay,
Borrowed recklessly and mortgaged his bank passbook,
Buying rounds for his fairweather partners.
My sister would go looking for him at night,
Losing her mind steadily.

His boyhood friend the neighbourhood humourist
Once asked my nephew “Have you ever known a man
Who never laughs?”, and when his son said no,
The humourist signalled with his eyes at his father.
Seeing her plight, I told my sister,
“Sages undergo countless incarnations
To achieve that calm, that composure of his.
You’ve known him all along. Bear with him”.

On New Year’s Day they came to meet us.
He’s 75 now, said he had stomachache lately and
Showed me the ultrasonographic report of his whole abdomen.
I was shocked to find every organ of his normal.
Liver, kidneys, pancreas, even that walnut
Which troubles aged men, the libidinous prostate,
Was perfectly shaped and sized like a youth’s.
And, naturally, he said he doesn’t know how
High blood pressure feels.

Worried about his prolonged boozing,
His son-in-law once took him to a specialist.
Disgusted to find his parts normal and realizing
He has lost a patient, the specialist inscribed
In his report: Has been drinking for 52 years.
Naturally, I threw away all the pills he gave
Said the man who only smiles but never laughs.
My sister was not amused, and when we asked her
What she wants, she replied: “I want to beat someone
Into pulp”.

But the man who never laughs did eat something quietly every day.
It turned out to be a lemon. My sister said he keeps a constant supply
Of lemons under lock and key.



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Robin Ngangom Written by:

Robin Singh Ngangom was born in Imphal, Manipur. He is a bilingual poet who writes in English and Manipuri. He studied literature at St Edmund's College and the North Eastern Hill University Shillong, and teaches in the Dept. of English at NEHU. He is the Editor of New Frontiers, journal of the Northeast Writers' Forum, Guwahati, and is Nominating Editor for Manipuri for Katha Translation Awards, New Delhi. He was conferred with Katha Award for Translation in 1999. His significant publications are The Desire of Roots (2006); Time's Crossroads (1994); Words and the Silence, (1988). He is a co-editor (with Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih) of two significant anthologies of Poetry from North East India. He lives in Shillong

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