TODAY -

The Dream Kangleipak: Book Review
Author: Marjing Mayanglambam

James Oinam *

 Cover Illustration of 'The Dream Kangleipak' by  Ningthemchamayum Bungobi
Cover Illustration of 'The Dream Kangleipak' by Ningthemchamayum Bungobi



Title: The Dream Kangleipak ("Manglangi Kangleipak")
Author: Marjing Mayanglambam
Publisher: Self-published
Year of Publication: 2021
Cover Illustration: Ningthemchamayum Bungobi

"Numidang waigina matam da (In the time of dusk)
Numitna chingya thaanglakpa (When the sun touches the mountain)
Chinggi Meina da tamyathel (The fire of the mountains touches the valley)
Tamgi Meina da khongmeinem (The fire of the valleys is short)
Chinggi pamel na ningthibi (The beautiful trees of the mountains)
Tamgi pamel na napungbi (The closely growing trees of the valleys)
Sambi manja pamuba (My dear beloved)
Thanglen chenglou na ubara (Is he seen?)
Manja gi kaidong (The way of my beloved)
Manja kaidong fhamdabu takpiyuda (Please tell me the way of my beloved)"

The book under review is a work of fiction highly influenced by the history and culture of Manipur. Kangleipak is one of the ancient names of the present state of Manipur. Although many names have been "invented" for this story, anyone with fair knowledge of the culture and history of Manipur will be able to link them with what they stand for in reality. Many names and incidents from the history of Manipur have been retained with little, if any, variation.

The book is a fast-paced short story weaving a tragic love story of a monarch and the political history of her kingdom set in the period from the 1930s to 1950s. The story begins with the birth of a princess, Nongshabi, who sits on the throne in a patriarchal constitutional monarchy out of necessity, namely, lack of a male heir.

The author is very clear about the reform needed to break away from patriarchy as granting voting rights to women and appointing women to high offices are specifically mentioned when Nongshabi sits on the throne. Her ascension is assisted by the regent Mapu Ebungo. Perhaps, he is personification of an ideal ruler according to the author.

Love for one's motherland is an overarching theme of this story. Queen Nongshabi signing merger agreement to save her childhood love in Shillong at gunpoint binds together the tragic end of sovereignty of her kingdom and her love as despite doing whatever she can they were not united, and she commits suicide.

Kangleipak comes under the dominion of Ashdia, which had plotted a coup in Kangleipak with the help Swangma.

Swangma is likely inspired by Myanmar—7 years devastating conflict against Swangma and battle for possession of Kabao valley are mentioned in its context. However, the Ahom kingdom is portrayed as a friendly neighbor. The Ahoms used to rule the present state of Assam.

This short story had the potential to flesh out to an average novel. For example, the story of prince Sanajaoba being revived from near death while fighting the Swangma using black magic is covered in one or two pages only. Similarly, political agent of Ashdia plotting to marry Nongshabi's elder sister could also have been elaborated.

Overall, the storyline and plot are good, but the passages are weak in creating strong images in the reader's mind. Sentences are simple and coherent and easy to follow, but unfortunately not powerful and gripping.

The author seems gifted when it comes to poetry (see above poem quoted from the book). Quite a few classical Manipuri words are included with their translations in the footnote to make the text nostalgic.

Some of them are wangamlon (princess), ithoubi (grandmother), phirangee (red fabric [of the royals]), tengtharol (art of weeping), kumjingbee (sarong worn by brave women), aseiba (singer), elomi (my love), etc.

I think most of them are formal terms popular in palace rather than among the common folks. Translation of phirangee as red fabric is doubtful. It is a popular Hindi term for "foreigners" (used for Britishers). However, it could be a case of misunderstanding back then.


* James Oinam wrote this book review for e-pao.net
The writer can be contacted at jamesoinam(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on November 21 2022.



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