Tuesday, August 15, 2017

National Anthem - Lalsangliani Ralte


I don’t remember the first time 
I heard the national anthem
nor the first time I learnt to sing
“Jana Gana Mana”at the top of my voice.
It must have been in one of the schools I went to
for my formal education, for mark sheets, for certificates,
for documents I have now learnt to laminate
(to avoid tear and wear)
because I know they are as important, if not more,
as the beat of my heart during job interviews.


“…. Adhināyaka jaya hē, Bhārata-Bhāgya-Vidhātā
Pañjāba Sindha Gujarāta Marāṭhā, Drāviḍa Utkala Baṅga
Vindhya Himācala Yamunā Gaṅgā, Ucchala Jaladhi Taraṅga
Tava śubha nāmē jāgē, Tava śubha āśiṣa māgē,
Gāhē tava jayagāthā….”

I don’t keep count
of the number of times I have sung the national anthem
duly standing in attention
but it can’t be less than the number of anniversaries
India has celebrated its Independence day.
Yet my tongue refuses to caress the words of the anthem
with ease and eloquence
and fumbles, instead, through the lines
like my fingers did
the first time they learnt to type on a computer keyboard.

You see, every word in the national anthem
is a challenge to my tribal tongue
that is more used to a slightly altered version
of the English alphabet than it is
to the Devanagari script.
It must be of no surprise to you then
that the meanings of the words, and the lines
are as evasive to me,
as the colours of the rainbow are
to my colour blind eyes.

So when you get confused about my identity
and where I am from, the God I worship,
the way I dress, the way I look and behave,
and the lores that lure me,
remember that I am just as confused
for I am alleging my loyalty to a country
through an anthem
that has to be explained to me
for me to understand
what it means.


“….Jana-Gaṇa-Maṅgala-Dāyaka jaya hē, Bhārata-Bhāgya-Vidhātā,
Jaya hē, jaya hē, jaya hē, jaya jaya jaya jaya hē.”




Lalsangliani Ralte speaks for every Mizo, and possibly every Northeast Indian, in this poem about linguistic and socio-cultural differences, while at the same time affirming allegiance and loyalty to the mother country.  I have deliberately chosen to post this on the 71st anniversary of India's Independence Day.


Thank you, Sangliani, for being our voice.