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E-Pao! Essay - About a Town

About a Town

By:- Lalsiemdik Tusing *



My home town is at the southern end of a valley, nestled snugly in the green embrace of Himalayan foothills, the hills brood over her, silent guardians to the human spectacle that takes place in her womb, and she joins in a motherly embrace; the hillmen in the mofussil, to his brethren in the valley.

It is a dusty little conurbation-at the best of times- a jolly happy place, with green hills for sentinels, a river that winds and meanders along its flanks, in June it rains, and the dust settles and the weather can be pleasant; balmy with the odors of fresh mud wafting through the streets.

We adore her, I suppose, those of us who have known her, we love her for what she is, and do not judge her harshly- for what she can never hope to become, she has been a mellow and joyful caregiver for as long as I can remember.

In the winter, when you come up from imphal, she greets you with the redolent scent of woodsmoke, and the musty smell of a thousand charcoal braziers. A misty cool wind runs through her streets; that can stir your soul with its sadness, its sense of loss for the year gone by, and you cannot, but be moved as she tells you-another year is going, going, gone-my son.

On most days, the sunlight takes its time, dying on the slopes, and the western sky is the color of amber, and an afterglow lingers long into the evening, at such times, she can be beautiful, a mistress dressed in the vital colors of the earth, and those of us in town are stilled into a joyous and happy languor, we worship her at such moments.

I miss her the most when I am farthest from her, in these hellish and brutal Indian cities, where providence has placed us to lead our lives, as unwelcome outsiders- we the eternal strangers in a strange land.

In these cities that are richer than any we posses, in the petty and wasteful walks we lead in exile, I long and yearn for her embrace-the sibilant whispers of the tall grasses on her hills, the rustle in the bamboo, the low cool breeze that comes up the river, the clangor of Church bells as day ends.

This vision of the town-of churachandpur, or lamka, with its row upon row of houses with corrugated tin roofs, has stuck forever in my mind.

For a rustic she may be, but I love her... I love her rough uncouth hands, her hearty and ruddy face, her dark and deep tresses hold recondite knowledge for me, for I know at heart that she is a good provider, a homely and honest landlady, and for this reason even if her present face has descended into the visage of a harridan, I shall always cherish and acknowledge her, for I knew her in her youth, a gay and happy thing, full of life and vivacity.

With promises to keep and dreams to live up to, she can never hope to accomplish them now and those of us who have known her are hurt in the very marrow of our souls.

These days I feel a vague, homelessness only when I am in her embrace, maybe it's the senseless and useless march of sullen faced soldiers up and down her streets, the young men dying, the burst of rifle fire on a moonless night.

We have grown up and treat her badly-ingrates that we are, we have shredded her into pieces and cast our lots, we have strung her up, to shame and exposure, on a cross of our own design, she is lost I think, she is truly lost.

She is truly lost.

But a part of me would still love to believe, to cling onto a town i have known only in little snatches. In little lovelorn bites, a little nibble during the holidays and she was wonderful to me then- but that she has wasted away is now everywhere apparent, the hills that caress her, are today a dusty brown, the verdant land is now pockmarked by hate and denuded by violence, our social fabric has been torn apart in a reckless and self-seeking age.Some part of me is dying with her as she herself is dying-forgotten, but perhaps not altogether unmourned.

There is madness in her streets, and people talk of militancy and ethnic conflict, and hate and hate and more hate. And still she struggles on, with her dying and her dead and her hapless living.

Where but in memory can i find images of the once green town, full of life, where i as a child of sixteen could walk unafraid through her streets, cocky in my youth, ignorant and innocent. Oh how long ago was that moment when young boys in her safe bosom concentrated their restless energy on ogling at nubile young girls, and not on killing each other.

May what she could have been be seared into our collective memory, so that on some dark night, when we have exhausted ourselves and murdered the humanity in us, we may still remember with forlorn eyes, how truly bereaved and bereft we are-the lost children of a town that was.

May we see ghosts then, all around us, the darkest ghosts of our futile and violent existence, and peering into the terrifying darkness may we at last mourn a town, a people, a life.

oh Churachandpur, Lamka or whatever moniker they append to thee, remember a son, for he will never forget.


Lalsiemdik Tusing writes for the first time to e-pao.net
The writer can be contacted at [email protected]
This article was webcasted on 17th and updated on 22nd January 2006.


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