About the poet-
Thangjam Ibopishak Singh is among the leading and most popular poets of the Northeast of India. Based in Imphal, he writes in Manipuri, the language of the indigenous Meitei community. He has published six volumes of poetry, three of which earned him some of the most prestigious awards in the state.
This poem is a series of dreams occurring in the poet’s minds. These dreams do not appear in a consistent manner, but is a random collection of ideas. Images are generated in the dream and all the images and ideas creates a chaotic atmosphere that depicts the poet’s mind. He is awake and asleep at the same time. The dream that he sees during this unconscious state is the subject matter of the poem.
The poem starts with two questions. The poet’s uncle asks him a question. He asks the poet how many bushels of paddy he had stored for the season. Without replying to this question, the poet asks his friend another question. He asks how many kilos of poetry he has written that month. The paddy is being compared to poetry. Both are the means of survival for their producers. They write and then tear up the pages being unsatisfied. Then the poet refers to a cashier who counts old one rupee notes. The notes are rotten, filled with mould, yet the cashier keeps om counting them. After one hour, two minutes and fifteen seconds, he finish counting the notes. After finishing count, he washes up his hands with dettol, and starts eating the money. This is an ironic reference to greed and materialistic mindset of people.
In the next section, the poet discuss the imagery of leaves now. The poet says that leaves do not move without a blowing wind. Then he says that leaves never move, even if rains or winds, when the tree is bare. The poet refers leaves to poetry and the wind to poetic inspiration. The bare tree refers to the chaotic society which can provide him with no inspiration, and hence he couldn’t produce poetry.
In the third section, the poet says that one can easily understand one’s intentions from his speech. And if someone doesn’t speak, then one can read his thoughts from his eyes. That is why, to hide his thoughts, the poet wears dark glasses. He fears that his glasses could read his eyes, so he chooses to close his eyes. He also adds that a person closes his eyes when he is either in the lockup or in a sacred temple. These two are contrasting places. The poet means that in today’s society one would be safe only when one closes his eyes, i.e. ignores all the problems of the society. But it is funny because one closes eyes only if he’s a criminal, or a devotee. Then the poet says that he has never seen fishes fly, but he has seen ducks float on the water. Here he offers a contrast between reality and imagination. The poet tries to mock the hollowness of religion. Religion often talks about imaginary things like that of fishes flying. If the poet try to oppose this, the people point fingers at him, so the poet accepts that his view is wrong. What the society wants him to be, cannot be done. He would follow his own ideals, instead of blindly believing in religion.
In the fourth section, the poet again asks a question by comparing two things. He asks what is more fragrant, the sound of guns or the scent of flowers. The statement is ironical, because the sound of guns cannot be smelled. But, the poet answers this doubt in the next lines, when he says that the sounds of guns lies on the nose and the odour of flowers lie on the tips of the flowers. Similarly, blind men see colours through voices. Here, the poet makes this contrast between war and peace. For men blind in power, the sound of guns and violence is much more pleasant than the smell of flowers. Next, the poet presents an image of different things- a love letter, a horoscope, a radio, and many more. The poet sees a love letter alongside his grandfather’s horoscope. Then he sees a pair of his son’s tweezers along with his mother’s old radio. He also sees ten bottles of rum flying in the air, and an old bra of his grandmother. The poet immediately sees an image of a pair of Lingams, which is a mockery at religion. His image of a bra with the holy lingam representing Lord Shiva talks much about his beliefs on religion. The poet continues seeing weird pictures. He sees a bird carrying a bunch of keys in its beak, a whistle, two butterflies, and a cake of soap, and Shakespearen sonnets. The poet asks if anything is left in the list, and the readers can add theirs. Then the poet presents a weird imagery. He sees an egg sinking slowly, piercing his teenage daughter’s hairless head; her two ears lazily move as if nothing has happened. All these images are random and unrelated. This gives us an idea about the poet’s stormy mind, which is full of many visuals.
In the last section, the poet says that one day, he climbed up a rich man’s bathroom looking for a peepul tree. He adds that he likes peepul trees so much that he would like to see every citizen of Imphal walking with a peepul tree on their heads. After entering the bathroom, the poet surprisingly found his wife there in a leaning position. Half of her body turned into a peepul tree. But our poet was not surprised or worried. He refers to the film ‘Chelluvi’ by Girish Karnard. In that film, a girl turned into a flowering tree. Like Chelluvi, the poet’s wife also now turned into a peepul tree. But now the poet asks a question. After finding his wife in another man’s bathroom, he couldn’t accept her. And so, from now on, how could he claim that he liked peepul trees, because his wife turned into one.
By reading the poem, we might have found difficulty in relating the events occurring in the poet’s dream. But if we observe closely, the lines are all inter-connected and do have meaning. It seems that the poet’s mind is disturbed because of the troublesome political scenario of his home state. He has lost his faith on religion. The cruelty and destruction he has seen, might have cause his mind jumbled up.
The poem is written in free verse style. The poet used the stream of consciousness technique. There is no definite rhyming scheme. A lot of literary devices have been used, like metaphor, satire, irony, imagery etc.