Monday, August 4, 2008

Kelchawngi

Translated by Dr. Margaret L. Pachuau

Once upon a time there lived a little girl called Kelchawngi. One day her parents were about to set off for the jhoom and her mother instructed her, “You must cook some pumpkin for dinner.” Kelchawngi queried, “Cook my sister for dinner?” But her mother thought that she was only fooling around and so she went to the jhoom without bothering to clarify to Kelchawngi.*

However it turned out that Kelchawngi had actually thought that her mother had asked her to cook her sister. So she obediently killed her younger sister while her parents were at the jhoom and cooked her for the evening meal.

Late in the evening her parents came home from the jhoom and as they entered the house they asked her, “Where is your younger sister?”
Kelchawngi was too frightened to tell them the truth so she mumbled, “She has gone to take a look at our neighbour’s gayal.”

After a long while, as her sister did not show signs of returning her mother asked her yet again, “Where is your sister?”
Kelchawngi replied, “She has gone to fetch water.”
Later she said, “She has gone to fetch some firewood.”and much later, “She is doing something some chores,” and so the excuses went on.
Even after the last of the jhoom workers returned there was no sign of her sister and by then her parents were very worried.

At length her parents said, “All right then, serve us the pumpkin you have cooked.’’ Kelchawngi did so and she began doling out her sister’s head and arms. Her parents were aghast, “Is this not your sister’s head? And are these not your sister’s limbs?” And they began chiding her. But she retorted, “Of course not…these are remnants of the head of the animal slain by my grandfather…remnants of the limbs of the meat slain by my grandfather.” After a while her parents realized that Kelchawngi had indeed cooked her sister and they were enraged.

One day her parents placed Kelchawngi atop the roof in order to dry some tobacco and they refused to take her down even after she had finished the task. Kelchawngi then cried, “Mother, take me down…father, take me down!” But they did not relent and declared, “This is your punishment for cooking your sister.” And they refused to lower her down.

Later Kelchawngi in despair looked up to the skies and implored,
Pu Van¹, please lower your string of ropes
that I may climb atop the heavens.”

Immediately Pu Vana lowered his string of ropes and Kelchawngi caught hold of them and went up to dwell in the heavens.

Pu Vana bedecked her with the very best of garments and ornaments.He gave her the choicest necklaces, bangles and apparel. Attired in these Kelchawngi once again clambered atop the roof of her house. As she lowered herself upon the roof her armlets and trinklets made a great sound.

Her parents called out,“Who is that atop the roof?” and she replied, “It is I, Kelchawngi, the daughter you have rejected.” At that her parents cried out, “O…we do want you,come, we shall lower you down.” And saying this, her parents rushed out of the house.

But alas…Kelchawngi no longer wanted to stay with her parents. She refused to be lowered down to the house and instead she went up to the sky once more and legend has it that she spent the rest of her life in great comfort up in the heavens.



¹The God of the heavens

* Note: The Mizo for pumpkin is mai and a younger sibling is nau.

5 comments:

Almost Unreal said...

Though I cannot come up with a better suggestion but the reason why Kelchawngi cooked her sister is somehow lost here. Her mother called and told her to cook 'mai' while she thought it was 'nau'.

And I could never understand why Pu Vana took Kelchawngi, after she killed and cooked her sister..lol

maggie said...

Kindly re-read the first few lines of the same text for a more coherent interpretation on the nuances related to 'mai' and 'nau'.

Sincerely

Margaret L.Pachuau

illusionaire said...

Wowwww! I didn't know the great Pi Margaret Pachuau herself replies to the comments of her posts! I am extremely honored to meet you here Ma'am! Just saw your reply to Pi Mesjay's comment at Chepahakhata post too.

Since you are open to discussion, I must say I just love this particular story. Brings back so many memories of my childhood days.

My only query is this.

You've used the word "jhoom" (also "jhum"). Since this is an English translation, isn't "jhoom" Hinglish? or rather a term used in NE only?

And I really didn't get what you meant by "went to the Jhoom"... because as far as I know Jhoom is a shifting cultivation which can be any vegetation and crop. I feel it is too general a term to be used. What is the word used in the Mizo version, as I have forgotten completely... :-(

I have read many of your translations thanx to J, and I look forward to more.

Warm regards,
Kima.

Mojo Jojo said...

Very interesting. But I failed to get the moral of the story...

Storyteller said...

Well mojo, the most memorable and oft-quoted part of this story is the horrifying part where the mother tells the girl, "Kelchawng, mai lo chhum rawh" (Kelchawng, cook some pumpkin for dinner) and she answers "Nau a?" (Sister for dinner?) and actually goes ahead and does that. Was she slightly hard of hearing? Or did she have some latent murderous inclinations? Hard to tell from the sketchily drawn figures of folklore..