Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Lockdown Poetry - Doris Zualteii


From the start,

The gamut of information

Bubbled and burst.

And simultaneously,

Fear and hope alternated.

(Acceptance sometimes

made an appearance)

But mostly, we are learning..

Then relearning

About this strange new virus

That refuses to stick to prototype,

To obey its classification, to be slotted and subdued to submission.

It evades and changes behaviour

Seemingly slowly, but continuously.

An article here, supports a theory

An article there, dismisses the theory.

An obvious contact tests negative,

A distant passerby gets positive.

A strange virus, that begot this strange rhyme.



'We were born to die'

What a crass definition

That deserves an angry denial,

At the least, a parting dirty look.

But being alive only ascertains

That yes, we are most surely

Likely to die. Someday, not soon

Maybe, but someday, definitely.

And the certainty of death

Is what makes life precious.

And it makes the living so alive

And the leaving, so difficult

And the left, forever bereft.



I'd like to travel, she said.

She had dreams of Paris and New York.

I promised her, someday.

He loved weekends,

How he could simply stay home

Or visit family or a favourite hangout.

Now she doesn't speak of travelling,

And he prays for school to start. Every night.

It breaks my heart.

I've travelled, though not far.

And the smallest, will she ever

Be confined to Home, no school,

Not... ever?

6 months, and it feels

Paralytic, a lifelong diagnosis,

With a terrible prognosis.



I have lost my vocabulary.

It was misplaced somewhere between my phone

And the television.

I struggle for words,

Synonyms that would deliver.

But i have to settle for words that convey

Half the meaning, with half the impact.

I have to read, again.


As distressful and trying these pandemic times have been, it has also created circumstances and opportunities for people to do things they don't normally have time for. Such as our featured writer here.

Doris Zualteii is a medical doctor, a pathologist to be precise, at the Mizoram State Cancer Institute. When she's not busy at work, her three young children and a medico husband keep her extremely busy at home.  The last couple of months, however, have helped her birth these very personal reflections in poetry - something she hasn't done for several years. We'd love to see more creative output from her so do keep writing, doc!

Monday, November 2, 2020

Winter's Prelude - Somte Ralte

                                                  Distant mountains wrapped in lavender clouds

Standing resilient against nature’s ravages;

Beneath the vastness of the bluest skies

Lulled by gurgling streamlets;

Your stories are the whispers of the wind

Fabled by monotonous whistles of the valleys.


Beyond your running chains, you are nought-

Succumbed by perilous lines of orderly governance,

Undone by new stories that validate

The fallacy of an apathetic century’s rule.

Amidst the struggle for rightful heirdom, you remain

An enigmatic mass of spiralling mounds


Gazing long at the unbreakable silence,

While your sides plummet and your cores tremble,

You convene with the maddening skies

To bring all things to their causal pass;

While we wary in our earthly commotion

Seeking for an assurance of normalcy,


Some wounds are yet to heal,

Some truths are yet to surface;

And I wonder, standing on this windy hillock

Bathed in your evening’s endearing hues:

Will your stories ever be the whispers of my mouth,

Or your fables, the monotonous lines of my verse?



Somte Ralte, a writer whose works have been featured on the blog a couple of times before, was awarded a Ph.D. in English literature last year, published a collection of poetry in October also last year, and has just started working at a college in Bangalore. This particular piece, she says, is her "response to the present ramri buai situation (the escalation of hostilities between Mizoram and Assam over the boundary dispute).  It's disheartening to see how things are unfolding till date towards the border-issue, and more so at our apparent disengagement from the issue."

Friday, April 17, 2020

Untitled - Lalnunsanga Ralte

While drowning he cries her name
She does not reply
Repeatedly, as the waters engulf him
He cries and cries
But his love does not reply
Then suddenly he smiles
For he knows he must be dreaming
For she does not reply.

The more honoured the departed
The deeper the grave
That's the way of my people
When you buried your stillborn, grandfather,
You said you could not dig so deep alone
But you placed a huge rock as a headstone
That will last a lifetime not lived
And among a different people
They struggled to understand why
You always dug so furiously
Next time I sit by your grave
I will think of all you've taken with you
To an eternal sleeping
I will bring all that is left to me still living
And I will wonder
Which one of us is dreaming.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Beautiful Woman - Lalsangliani Ralte

Beautiful woman,

It torments me deep inside to know that I cannot call you by your name because people would then know of the secret that has been gnawing at your heart for so long. It breaks my heart that yours is a story of a six year old girl violated by a man when he should have been protecting her instead.

It bothers my conscience to no end knowing I am a part of a society that imposes silence on victims; silence imposed through prejudices and judgments. We are taught of the dignity of silence, but what good is silence if it does not bring justice? What good is silence if a victim has to live alone with memories that haunt her every day, forcing her to live a life of shame and sense of worthlessness?

Sometimes I wonder how different things might have been for you had you spoken out against him. Perhaps you would have found freedom from the clutches of your past. But how were you supposed to know that you did not have to be silent? How were you supposed to know you were not to be touched by a grown man the way you were? How were you to know no man’s hands have the passport to travel across your body without your consent? Claiming to understand what you have been through would be an injustice to you. I was not there when you were terrorized over and over again. Nobody was there when you felt alone and frightened. Nobody was there to tell you that not all men are like him, and that you need not fear all men.

But I wish I have words that could make you accept that what he did to you does not make you all the horrible names you call yourself. You are not defined by what somebody else does to you. Your future is not destroyed; you do not have to let it be. You are not in any way a lesser woman or a human being. You are still the beautiful woman God created you to be, as pure as any woman could be. You can only be defined by the strength, wisdom and grace with which you face every new day, and for that you are a beautiful woman.

This powerful, beautifully written piece comes from this blog. It is something new in Mizo writing in English - a first person narrative voicing pain, guilt and sorrow, addressing in poetic prose an issue again not often seen in our genre. Perhaps it is a happy indicator of how Mizo writing in English is slowly coming of age.

Monday, May 13, 2019

The Cord of Life - Mafaa Hauhnar

Translated by Zualteii Poonte

“We are connected,
You and I,
By an invisible cord,
Not seen by the eye.”

The most powerful cord that holds my life together, the single strongest strand that binds life to mankind for me is literature. Often it is my only solace of refuge and rest.

Without it, I would be but a paper kite without a string, set adrift and wafted about by every breeze that blows, buffeted by unkind storms and eventually battered down.

When the silver cord that binds this body and soul (Ecclesiastes 12:6 ) is severed, I shall no longer be mortal. But the chain that binds my heart, with apologies to P.S. Chawngthu, is literature.

When the world becomes too much, and life turns ugly, when brutal waves bash me around, it is the anchor that keeps me holding on and saves me from drowning.

Riches and wealth, houses and lands, positions and privileges, power and authority – of these I have none. Like the popular song that goes, “It’s only words, and words are all I have,” my words and writings are about all that I have.

I am the kind that kicks shut opportunities opened by others. I spill more than I get into the pot, and knock down more than I get to prop up. I chop off more than I can even hope to pick up; fling away more than I can ever hope to gather.

“I am such a mess, even at my best” as the saying goes. At times that I try to shine I am frivolous, and even in my finest moments I am flippant.

That I am inept, ineffectual and incompetent I am all too aware, and need no one else to point it out. The knowledge of my own foibles and follies leave me downhearted and downcast, despondent and disconsolate. At such times when my spirits hit rock bottom, it is the rope of literature which hauls me back to sanity.

Certainly there are many points that my detractors can focus on to deprecate me. They are right when they say I am nothing and the truthfulness of it exacerbates the painful fact.

Much like the lines, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars/ but in ourselves, that we are underlings.” (William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act I, scene II), it is simply that I am so flawed. Nothing else is to blame. The only thing that I do have, my writings and poetry, I treasure deeply and will guard with my life. It is, after all, what bonds me to life.

You may know my face, perhaps you even see me often; but do you know the details of the ups and downs of my life?

Believing you know me inside out, will you be so quick to damn and condemn me?
You hear me laugh and often see me in a joyful mood, don’t you? But do you also see my tears?

When the clouds can no longer hold in the water they carry, rain falls. When the heart can no longer bear the pain within, tears fall.

Despite that, the pain I carry inside is not usually revealed in tears. Instead it is sometimes the cheerful facade I somehow project that reveals the deep sadness I feel within.

If you will accept me, take me for what I am, with all my faults. If you embrace me hoping to turn me into what you want me to be, then you are in for disappointment.

Because my weakness is often so strong, I can never really live up to your expectations or fulfil your ideals.

That I am a happy, jovial person, always laughing and keeping everyone around me in splits is how many see me, I am certain.  Perhaps even as gregarious and sociable, spreading laughter wherever I go, the life and soul of every gathering.

But I spend more time on my own, a lonely man, brooding over sad and vexing thoughts that bring me to tears and cause me sleepless nights. A man who prefers solitude to company, like a ship stranded far out at sea and gently rocked by sea waves.  As lonesome as a solitary sparrow drenched in the falling rain. A man who enjoys his own company and spends time at home on his own.

I am a lone wolf. As the poet I greatly admire Rudyard Kipling once wrote, “He travels the fastest who travels alone,” which is echoed in the popular Merle Haggard song, “For he who travels fastest goes alone.” Our forefathers used to advocate following in the path of the most number of footprints but I would rather set off on my own so I can concentrate on my life’s pathway.

Intoxicated with madness,
I am in love with my sadness.

In public view and with company, I may guffaw as loudly as one stoned on weed. But since early childhood I have always chosen to shun company for my own, playing quietly by myself. Engrossed in my own imagination, I talk often to myself. Wanting to engage in serious conversation with my heart, I crave quiet time. It seems to me that it is the weak and those lacking in self-confidence who need to be constantly surrounded by other people.

As different as my fingerprints are from everyone else’s, so is my character and I have no intention of changing just to impress or appease some; I am no chameleon. I do not aim to please everyone, I am not Lengzem magazine.

I do not change my traits to force myself on others so they will accept me.

This is who and what I am, take it or leave it. Just as I have never apologised for my diabetes, I have never apologised for my character.

I have a mind separate from yours, allow me to have opinions of my own.

Were you to attempt to understand my life, you would never succeed; I myself fail to understand it.   Walt Whitman’s lines

“Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)”
describes me exactly.

Sometimes I feel like a paper kite with broken string, cast on a tree branch by the wind and hanging there aimlessly.

Not just any kite but one with eye-catching colours and made of quality paper is what I would like to be though.

One that someone walking out in the wilds catches glimpse of and happily climbs up and takes home contentedly. Repairs with great care the spine, the spreader, the cross, the tail, and reconnects with a strong, sound string.

Perhaps you are that solitary walker who finds that paper kite.

It is my dearest wish that you and I remain thus connected, with I being your source of joy and happiness.

But when the day comes that you grow weary of playing with me, take me to a wide, open hilltop on a bright, sunny day and release me into a light, cheery breeze. That is when you will break off the connection between us.

Perhaps the kind breeze will lift me onto a nearby tree branch again – to be rescued once more by someone else.

Then he will lift me up and let out the line, and I will sail the skies and dance among the clouds.  And when he wishes, he will draw me back in, and taking a quick sniff of me, will exclaim, “Ah, a scent of heaven!”

Photo credit:  Mala Pachuau & Amtea Hauhnar, with special thanks to C. Lalawmpuia Vanchiau

Translator’s Note:  I am so pleased to finally bring out this memorial tribute in the form of a translation of this soul-baring Mafaa Hauhnar piece,  the introductory essay to his last anthology of prose writings Hringnun Hrualhrui (published March 2018). The book would earn him a posthumous Book of the Year (2018) award from the Mizo Academy of Letters four months after he passed away in the early hours of December the 30th 2018 due to complications from diabetes.  

I began working on this translation shortly after Mafaa’s death but had to shelf it temporarily due to work pressures. Despite buying the book at its launch last March, I somehow never quite read the introduction. When I eventually did though, it took my breath away especially the poignancy of the paper kite analogy: Mafaa the writer, the paper kite blown around by every current of air, then nestling forgotten in the branches of a tree only to bring immense pleasure to those who take time to spend time with him, soaring high above the skies and bringing back a taste of heaven as he does time and time again to his readers.

I really got to know Mafaa in early 2015 when I was asked to work on a translation of one of his writings for an anthology (Contemporary Short Stories from Mizoram - Sahitya Akademi). We connected on Facebook and I quickly realised he had a tremendously quick mind which often reminded me of a witches’ cauldron because it always seemed to be bubbling over with some interesting thing or the other! Since unlike other Mizo writers, he also wrote in English, he became a permanent fixture at our Mizo writing in English events such as HillTalk, and assorted seminars and workshops: he was always one of our own.  And despite his boisterous, laugh-a minute reputation, I found him to be thoughtful, well-read and respectful. It surprised me though when he talked about his love of solitude, no, his preference for solitude because he always struck me as such a people person.  In this essay, he touches on all that and in hindsight, I wish I had known how  vulnerable and sensitive he had been as a person.  Rest in gentle peace, my friend.