Stray Birds of Spring Yaoshang Greetings

K Radhakumar *

Yaoshang festival at Wangkhei Tokpam leikai & Singjamei area , Imphal :: 16 March 2014
Yaoshang festival at Wangkhei Tokpam leikai & Singjamei area , Imphal in March 2014 :: Pix - Shanker Khangembam

Children love colours. They also love sweets and toys. Yaoshang brings colours, sweets and toys. Children cannot wait for Yaoshang to come. Any festival like Christmas or Id ul-Fitr, for that matter. Children are simply happy, and it appears that real happiness lies in waiting for Yaoshang. In retrospect, I think children are happier in waiting than the event itself.

If we talk about happiness, can we ignore the talk about the beautiful! And for some people, goodness cannot be left behind. It is the trinity of values satyam sivam sundaram.

A lunar month may be defined as the time between one new moon and the next. The cycle takes 29 1/2 days on average. The moon is a new moon when it looks like a crescent at the start of its cycle. It becomes larger and larger, and soon reaches the time when only half of it, called the half-moon, can be seen from the earth. The cycle continues and it becomes still larger and when it appears as a full circle in the sky, then it is called a full moon.

Beyond it, the moon will become smaller and smaller till it appears as a crescent. Which shape of the moon is more beautiful than the other two is the full moon more beautiful than the crescent moon or the half-moon? The poet says none of the above. And the poets would have choudabi ka chand or the moon just before mellowing into a full moon. Why is it so?

Once I asked my daddy why people say choudabi ka chand is more beautiful than the full moon. Daddy explained choudabi ka chand is about to reach its peak and is still inching towards it. It is not on the verge of decline. There is hope in the air. We are conscious of the approaching climax. The full moon is at the peak of its cycle, and that it will become smaller and smaller is apparent in its expression. One is growth full of life and positive values like the period of growth from childhood to manhood.

The other is the period of decline like the decline from manhood to old age. Yes, the other is the negative force that leads one to decay and death. This is how daddy tried to explain my curiosity and as a child, I was more than satisfied.

This year I will see if the choudabi ka chand is more beautiful than the purnima of the Manipuri month of Lamda. It is from the full moon of Lamda that we will start celebrating Yaoshang.

I say real happiness lies in waiting for Yaoshang. And the blood, toil and sweat of the journey towards the goal is more beautiful than the goal itself. The word 'waiting' brings back Beckett's play, Waiting for Godot. His protagonists seem to be searching for an external reality. However, they seem to find an absurd world, which is completely ridiculous and insensible. This world cannot be logically described or interpreted.

The central theme of the play appears to be waiting, just waiting , for Godot by two bums. And Godot never appears in the play. What the two bums wait for in the play is not known inspite of numerous explanations and interpretations. My own interpretation is that waiting is life itself. Life is waiting, and real happiness lies in waiting.

But in real life, especially with age, one is not happy. Why? Why because one does no longer know what one is waiting for or who one is waiting for. Is it a person? Or a thing? Tragedy is in the mixing up of the two. If the two are not clearly segregated, if the object of one's heart's desire is not clearly defined, one ends in tragedy. Beckett says, 'Godot is life aimless, but always with an element of hope.'

Perfection, they say, is a flying goal. One small step a day towards the flying goal that is all. It is an idealized reality. Never ask for God to appear before you in flesh and blood. Your eyes may not be prepared to see Him.

The sight may blind you; His voice may deafen you. Who knows you may simply be dumbfounded.

Yaoshang which is yet to come the Yaoshang of imagination, of colours and of romance in the air! And the real Yaoshang overeating, indigestion and sudden heavy rainfall with strong winds when no thabal chongba is possible. Curse or no curse of naughty teenage boys and girls, bad weather may wash out the entire festive mood. To the poet, what is Yarrow is but a bare river. Let us re-read a few lines from Wordworth's Yarrow Unvisited.

What's Yarrow but a river bare,
That glides the dark hills under?
There are a thousand such elsewhere
As worthy of your wonder.
The unvisited Yarrow has its own charms. And the poet expresses this in unforgettable lines:
Be Yarrow stream unseen, unknown!
It must, or we shall rue it:
We have a vision of our own;
Ah! Why should we undo it?
The treasured dreams of times long past,
We'll keep them, winsome Marrow!
For when we'er there, although 'tis fair
'T will be another Yarrow!

What happens when the Yarrow is visited? When the Yarrow is visited, the poet sings a different tune. Here are a few lines from the poet's Yarrow Visited:
AND is this Yarrow? This the stream
Of which my fancy cherish'd
So faithfully, a waking dream,
An image that hath perish'd?

It is interesting to listen to the poet when he sings of Yarrow unvisited. It is another facet of the river when the Yarrow is visited and therefore, another song. And what does the poet see when the Yarrow river is revisited? When the Yarrow is visited, the poet sees 'but not by sight alone'. When the river is re-visited:
Such looks of love and honour
As thy own Yarrow gave to me
When first I gazed upon her;
Beheld what I had feared to see,
Unwilling to surrender
Dreams treasured up from early days,
The holy and the tender.
... ...

Flow on forever, Yarrow Stream!
Fulfil thy pensive duty,
Well pleased that future Bards should chant
For simple hearts thy beauty;
To dream-light dear while yet unseen,
Dear to the common sunshine,
And dearer still, as now I feel,
To memory's shadowy moonshine!

My prayer is to find happiness in waiting for Yaoshang and also in real Yaoshang. Let me find happiness and beauty in the Yaoshang of imagination and also in the Yaoshang as a real and concrete festival. Let me also know what my Godot is. Godot as a person and Godot as a thing well, the two do not go hand in hand in life. No mixing-up, please.

'A woman either loves or hates, there is no third course,' so goes a Latin saying.

* K Radhakumar wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao
This article was posted on March 05, 2015.

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