TODAY -

The Stemmed Flow

Nongthongbam Kunjamohon Singh *



Badarpur Junction. Looking around to check for any familiar faces was proving futile. It was better to get hold of a seat, so I got into a second class compartment. No one else had entered. I spread the hold-all on the long bench and sat down. Bored after looking at the melee of passengers milling around, I opened the copy of 'Hindustan Standard' that I had bought from 'Wheeler'.

Just as I was about to read the main headline, I heard the loud cries of 'chai garam, chai garam' intruding upon my ears. A head thrust inside from the open window continued, 'Cha lage Babu, garam samosa' (Need tea Babu, hot samosa?). My tempers frayed but there was nothing I could do about it, except to turn away my face after saying 'Na'.

Turning my face to the newspaper, I saw the headline in bold, 'China attacks India yet again, troops converge near the Mac Mohan line'. I hardly got beyond the first line before it started again, 'Paan, cigarette. Babu, paan cigarette lage' (Paan, cigarette. Babu, do you need paan, cigarette?). This time, I said 'na' with just a hint of anger. I decided that this time, I would not bother at all. I would not turn up my face from the newspaper. Even without looking up, I was aware of people getting up and down around me. It was none of my business. Let them do what they had to. After all, I did not have to worry about my seat. The news was getting interesting: 'China ignores Colombo proposal'.

'Oh! It's our Oja!' I was startled. It was the voice of a woman that I had not heard in my ears for a long time. I turned my face from the newspaper and saw her face that had the hint of a smile. The features had changed a bit but I could recognize her well. She kept the child she had in her lap on to the bench and bent down to pay her obeisance.

The handsome bespectacled man by her side folded his hands to greet me. Though I did not know him, I assumed him to be her husband. But he could be some other relative too! To clear my doubt, I asked, "Bina, he is…". Bina kept smiling shyly.

So, they were indeed a couple. They made a good match. Bina did not lack in beauty after all. Her husband spread the hold-all on the long bench before me. They sat down, keeping their child between them. The child was beautiful too and one never tired of looking. If only my Jiten had been alive…

I must have been lost in my thoughts while looking at the child intently when Bina treaded upon the world I was in, "Oja, it has been a long time. Where are you headed?"

True, it had been a long time. It would be about five years now. We had not met since the year I married and she passed her matriculation examinations.

"I am going to Shillong. What about you?"

"Digboi. We had gone home for the holidays."

Then it struck me. Bina's father had mentioned one day that her husband had a job at Digboi.

The train started. The child remained transfixed on the world he saw unfolding around him. People who had come to see off or receive their loved ones remained behind waving their hands as the train moved on. If some had tears while bidding good-bye, a few did so with a smile. The junction slowly faded away from sight. In the sky above, the stars twinkled brightly. The child turned his face towards us; perhaps he was afraid of darkness.

"Come, sit with me," I said leading him to where I was sitting. He had no inhibitions. Bending slightly, I hugged him close and asked him, "What is your name?"

"Master Dilip Singh."

"Good! Good!" I hugged him just a bit more. "And what is your father's name?"

"Shri Ranjit Singh"

"Oh! How nice!"

Just then, the noise of the train crossing a bridge made it impossible to hear anything else. When the bridge crossing got over, Dilip's father got up and said, "My apologies but I am going up. Please continue. I am dying to sleep. I had not been able to sleep yesterday too."

He promptly went up without paying any heed to my suggestion that we talk a bit more. With him gone, I did not continue with the conversation. Bina remained seated looking at something in the darkness outside without batting an eye. What was she looking at: Was it the course of bitter sweet memories that she was confronted with now? Along with her, I suddenly reached a long forgotten cornerstone of my life that I had long left behind.

I had no idea how long I remained brooding. Bina's question made me wake up instantly, "How is Inamma doing?"

The child was no longer with me. He was sleeping next to his mother. I had no idea when his mother had taken him.

I answered as quickly as I could, "It's been two years since she left me for another world."

After a silent pause, she asked again, "What about the boy?"

"He followed his mother. It's been a year now."

I had not turned towards her all this while but I looked at her direction when I answered her questions. As I answered the last question, she made a sound. I looked at her and saw tears falling from her eyes. That was Bina. This was her true nature. She never could stay unaffected whenever she heard about other people's woes. I knew it now: she was sorry for me. She could see clearly how I would be living my life without anyone to look out for me. She knew her teacher did not care much about the world around him.

I was a teacher then. Since the salary was not much, I took up tuitions. My classes were well appreciated and there was no dearth of students who came home for tuitions. Bina came for the classes along with her friend Ibemhal. They were to appear for their matriculation examinations and were diligent in their studies. The smile never left her face despite the distance of more than a mile that she took to come for her classes. She never missed her classes, even on the days that Ibemhal did not turn up.

She always brought the pick of the Leihao flower along with her. Even if she had none to offer to my Indomcha, she always had a Leihao for me. My aunt often said in jest, "How caring she is of her Oja! She always ensures her Oja gets one!" Hearing this, Bina would lower her face shyly with a slight smile. Whenever I chided her for lagging behind in her studies, her tears would flow.

One day, my aunt started the topic of my marriage prospects to which I said, "How will I find a woman? I must be the most unfortunate man ever. No woman has come forth to say she loves me."

My aunt retorted, "Why would women not love you? You do not lack in looks. But will a woman ever admit her feelings first? She would express it by gesture and attitude. It is you who has failed to recognize this. You are a simpleton, oblivious of what is around you."

I did not realize the truth behind Indomcha's words then. Six months later, when the fallen leaves of autumn were swept off in the frenzied cries of the spring cuckoo, it brought a new beginning to my life as well. All my students came over to share their happiness on the day. But for whatever reason, Bina was not present. It struck me then that there might have been some truth in my aunt's words.

I did not realize when I fell asleep. I woke up with a start when the train jerked as it reached some station. When I opened my eyes, I found a shawl covering my body. It surprised me no end for I had not covered myself. The shawl was not mine, either. But I knew who would have covered me up. She would have surely have done this to ward off the cold from her Oja. She was awake. "Here, it's no longer cold," I said, handing back the shawl. Dilip's father too climbed down.

In between small talk and freshening up, we did not notice the train having reached Lumding. Since we had to change trains we stepped down, taking our belongings. Keeping our things in the waiting room, all of us went to the railway restaurant. As I was about to pay for the food, Bina said with just a hint of anger, "Oja! How can you?" And just as suddenly as a flood drying up, she said gently with a smile, "I am no longer the student who could not stand up for herself. I run a household now. Will I not have this privilege of serving you during this chance meeting after a span of five years?

I had to give in quietly.

Soon, we reached the down train. Twenty minutes later, the whistle started to go off. All three of them walked me off till the platform. I took out a five rupee note and handed it to Bina's son. When Bina animatedly tried to say something, she stopped when I said, "Silent! You cannot say anything."

Once the salutations were over, I climbed on the train, which began to start off slowly. Soon, the distance grew and the three of them: mother, father and son remained behind waving at me. After a while, just as the train took a slight bend, I saw in a blur Bina's hands which had been waving at me, wiping the tears away from her eyes with the ends of her innaphi.

(1963)

Glossary:
Oja: Honorific title for Teacher
Indomcha: Aunt
Leihao: a flower given pride of place in worship (Magnolia champaca)
Innaphi: upper garment worn by women


* Nongthongbam Kunjamohon Singh wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao
This is translated from Manipuri by Chitra Ahanthem
This article was posted on December 24, 2014.


* Comments posted by users in this discussion thread and other parts of this site are opinions of the individuals posting them (whose user ID is displayed alongside) and not the views of e-pao.net. We strongly recommend that users exercise responsibility, sensitivity and caution over language while writing your opinions which will be seen and read by other users. Please read a complete Guideline on using comments on this website.




LATEST IN E-PAO.NET
  • Kang Khichri chaba @Kwakeithel : Gallery
  • Plastic Surgery Day @RIMS : Gallery
  • Kang Chingba @Keishampat : Gallery
  • Human rights of women in our society
  • AFSPA Gesture and Better Alternative
  • Leisure :: Poem
  • Restore Life After Burns : Plastic Surgery
  • IM accuses AR of 'cold-blooded murder'
  • Konung Kang Chingba #1 : Gallery
  • Dont waste searching for word/phrases
  • Hill People & Merger of Manipur
  • Manipur State Constitution Act 1947 #5
  • U-Mangra for biofuel for economic devpt
  • Painting competition on environment
  • Condemn Moreh terror attack
  • Climbing Shirui Hills, Ukhrul #3 : Gallery
  • Ichangthoubi, Thotmungchan :: eMing
  • Kang Chingba - Rath Yatra : Book
  • Why the impasse at Manipur University
  • Condolence Message for Tamenglong
  • Maharaj parleys Bizando
  • Opt for fruit/vegetable beauty product
  • DG Assam Rifles meets Governor
  • Recreation - a Serious Business
  • Tuilha Kolt waterfall @Kpi #1 : Gallery
  • Eyek Tamba :: Learn Manipuri script
  • Lamjing Meira Ningsing Numit #2 : Gallery
  • Who Created the Border Pillar Conflict ?
  • EEVFAM amidst Numbness and Noise
  • Special Olympics Unified Cup 2018
  • Path for youth's bright future
  • Addressing core issues
  • Students Vs Centre's man : MU
  • Thangjam Manorama Anniversary: Gallery
  • A reflection on POCSO Act, 2012
  • Naga Peace Process :: News Timeline
  • Fear :: Poem
  • War veterans laboured to clean compound
  • Free Career Counselling Program
  • NEFIS writes to University bodies
  • Sit-in-Protest Against House Search
  • 50th World Population Day celebrated
  • Something worrying
  • Congress : 2 days session too short
  • Jadugi Chei :: Funga Wari
  • Tribal protest for MU normalcy : Gallery
  • Framework Agreement: What is it ?
  • Some cairns from the way: Artist's retake #2
  • Cry of a Dying River # 36 :: Poem
  • Overview on Manipur University imbroglio
  • Tribal Students memo to HRD on MU
  • India-Vietnam Film Show 2018 at Delhi
  • Why the CM is helpless ?
  • No end in sight to MU crisis
  • Indo-Myanmar Pillar 81 @Kwatha #1: Gallery
  • Global Bamboo Congress @Beijing : Gallery
  • Manipur State Constitution Act 1947 #4
  • Kamesh Salam : Speaker at BARC, Beijing
  • Career in Cooperatives
  • Nagaland CM's speech at NEC
  • NPF Rejoinder to JD (U) of July 9
  • The Killing Fields - 2013-18 : News Timeline
  • Unfair Game
  • Expecting documentary proof from villagers
  • Lamjing Meira Ningsing Numit #1 : Gallery
  • Woken Youth Clubs in season of World Cup
  • Converting tourism potential into reality
  • Let me live in your heart :: Poem
  • D-Jent.... Djentleman... Anyone ?
  • Socialism or destruction of humanity ?
  • Inner Line Permit (ILP) Demand :: Timeline
  • Demand action against KSO activists
  • 3 Manipur girls in BCCI U-19 squad
  • Rights meet on bill outcome
  • Naga integration will be democratic..
  • Ichangi Laidhi #3 :: eRang
  • Modernizing Manipur University Library
  • In the grip of nothingness :: Poem
  • Password protection - I
  • Congenital Heart Defect operated
  • Hill area bandh relaxed temporarily
  • State & central govt must stop conflict
  • Cohesion is sports
  • Explain 'devious purpose'
  • Willong Khullen, Maram #2 : Gallery
  • Manipur merger agreement 1947
  • Wari Jalsa at New Delhi
  • Congress grass menace in North-East
  • M A Thomas National Human Rights Award
  • What does worry do to us ?
  • Is Manipur a part of India ?
  • Rumours of child lifters : Dangerous
  • List of MLA (Jan 2018) #3 : Gallery
  • Forest Rights Act 2006 -context of Manipur
  • Supreme Court Hearing on EEVFAM case
  • Cry of a Dying River - 35 :: Poem
  • Terirama Th. met South Korea's first lady
  • Securing security cameras: invisible eye
  • Rejoinder to Nagaland CM's statement
  • Meitei Mayek - are the scales tipped now
  • Patronising non-locals : Nail the insiders
  • UNC oppose indefinite Manipur bandh
  • Tribal University @ Senapati : Gallery
  • Rally to remove MU VC #2 : Gallery
  • Some cairns from the way: Artist's retake #1
  • Manipur State Constitution Act 1947 #3
  • UN experts on 'fake encounter' killings
  • Nagaland CM Rio statement on July 4
  • Condemns inhuman eviction by Govt
  • Trainees Certificate of RPL at Kamrup
  • Minor reunited with mother after 26 days
  • Non-Operative Closure of "hole in the heart"
  • We are for the people, for the society
  • Over 30 days : Centre sleeps, MU 'burns'
  • Thokchom Brindashabi Devi :: Profile
  • Kshetri-bengoon Eviction Protest : Gallery
  • Successive pay commissions: It's impact
  • Research Support @ R-Square Design
  • leingakki thouwong - state terrorism
  • Rebuttal: Interview of Ranju Singh
  • Different forces pulling Manipur : Lim
  • Pakhangba Cheng Hongba #3 : Gallery
  • Some ideas for prevention of flood
  • Satisfaction :: Poem
  • Supreme Court hearing on EEVFAM - 2 July
  • Dark lips .. causes and care
  • Training on Handloom Weaver at Hojai
  • CME on 'Congenital Heart Diseases'
  • Nagaland CM should make his stand clear
  • 2019 LS polls : BJP on the offensive
  • Great June Uprising @Kekrupat #4 : Gallery
  • Naga American conference in California
  • Life of an army officer's daughter
  • The Winter Blues :: Poem
  • 16th Mega Miss North East
  • NDPP on Naga integration
  • Allegations against VC holds no ground
  • Rally to remove MU VC #1 : Gallery
  • July Calendar for Year 2018 :: Tools
  • A Washed-Out Summer Vacation in MU
  • Manipur State Constitution Act 1947 #2
  • My short interaction with Penna Donna
  • 9th Men Mega Mister North East
  • Memo submitted to Kiren Rijiju
  • India- no interest to protect its boundary
  • Idea of who is a citizen of the land
  • Poumai Purul Hiimai Paoki #3 : Gallery
  • Dr Thingnam Kishan Memorial : Gallery
  • Black sheep in movement for ILPS #3
  • Our Common Crisis: What are We to Do #2
  • Jackichand Singh signs for FC Goa
  • No co-operation to MU VC
  • Nagaland CM contradicting himself : NPF
  • Career Guidance Workshop at Ukhrul
  • The tales of a forgotten University
  • Pulling at idea of Manipur : Lim, ATC
  • Climbing Shirui Hills, Ukhrul #2 : Gallery
  • Moirangthem Arup: 90 Km Marathon, Africa
  • Pitfalls on land acquisition for Mapithel Dam
  • Chinese dominance in 21st century
  • Caring for the elderly
  • IIT-G's Technothlon prelims at UAE
  • Mass Rally from Manipur University
  • Nagaland CM releases book by teenager
  • Why trying to dictate media time & again
  • MU, border pillar, Citizenship Bill
  • Oinam Dilip's Painting Exhibition
  • Intl Day Against Drug Abuse : Gallery
  • The Manipur Merger Agreement 1949
  • A road to Mandalay
  • Keeping up: medical diagnostics tech
  • The mother of all preventive strategies
  • Relief camps for Flood affected families
  • The dark side of Indian democracy
  • From three time CM to Oppn leader
  • Khumang Pokpa Haraoba #1 : Gallery
  • Enduring Theatre of Guerrilla War
  • Intl Day in Support of Victims of Torture
  • Impact of trade & floods on economy
  • Imparting training as profession #2
  • Najmaji's flood fixing formula
  • History of Yoga
  • Intl Day against Drug Abuse
  • Politicising MU issue: by whom ?
  • Effective ban on plastics needed
  • Thaunaphaba Marup :: Funga Wari
  • Naga Nationalism & Naga Integration
  • Manipur State Constitution Act 1947 #1
  • If I were :: Poem
  • Is football an anathema to the Indians ?
  • Miss, Mister North East contestants
  • MU Imbroglio: Power games now
  • MU crisis : Centre must act fast
  • Great June Uprising @Kekrupat #3 : Gallery
  • Lamka's Dark Light House
  • Our Common Crisis: What are We to Do #1
  • Cry of a Dying River -34 : Poem
  • Textile industry in Manipur
  • Blood Donation Camp at New Delhi
  • Rahmani Program of Excellence
  • Mova Cave, Hungpung, Ukhrul #1 : Gallery
  • Expanding Economy Beckons :: Speech
  • Before trains arrive, must read
  • Impact of the Shirui Lily festival
  • Securing Wi-Fi: Negating doorstep threat
  • Blood donation drive in North East
  • Expecting changes in dealing SoO
  • Scourge of drug trafficking
  • Tribal Cultural Festival #2 : Gallery
  • Letter to JS-MHRD from MUTA
  • JS-MHRD did not meet with MUTA
  • Great June Uprising @Kekrupat #2 : Gallery
  • Yoga Day: Celebrating Your Health
  • Chak-hao - black gold of Manipur
  • In response to the culture of shaming
  • 3rd Documentor Imphal
  • General Thangal Eco Park : Gallery
  • Deadline of 5 days time set : MU crisis
  • Garlic Festival @Ukhrul #4 :: Gallery
  • Flood in Imphal [14 June] #3 : Gallery
  • Dzuko valley #4 :: 360 Panorama View
  • Phumdigi Tantha : Dance Drama : Gallery
  • Manglandasu Nang - OST :: e-pao Radio
  • Laitonjam Rajnikanta : Profile
  • Amuktang-Ga Haikho #1 : eRang
  • Kang Tournament @ Yaiskul : Gallery
  • HSLC 208 Exam Toppers : Gallery
  • HSLC 2018 :: Toppers Listing
  • HSLC 2018 :: Check Result
  • HSLC :: Statistical/Subject Topper
  • HSLC 2018 :: External
  • Aerial view from Chingmeirong : Gallery
  • Front Page Photo 2018 #2: Gallery
  • Class XII Exam Toppers : Gallery
  • Temples of Manipur : Gallery
  • Recipients of Akademi Awards for 2014
  • Old Manipuri Movie #1 :: eRang Classic
  • SPONSORED ADS