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The Land of the Half-Humans by Thangjam Ibopishak Singh Summary

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.

Read the poem

Summary

This poem is picked up from the book  “Anthology of Contemporary Poetry from the Northeast”. In this poem, the poet presents the socio-political scene of his homeland, i.e. Manipur. Since a long time, Manipur has been dominated by insurgent groups, who fight against the ruling government. Thus, peace in the state has disappeared under such tensions. In the poem, the poet demonstrates about a land where people lived with only their heads for six months of a year; and the other six months with only their bodies. He asks if anyone has ever seen such a strange land anywhere. No one has seen such a land anywhere, but the poet did. He has not just seen that land, but also visited it. For six months, these people can only talk and eat because they don’t have the bodies to do other work. In the next six months they suffer like Bhima and Shakuni from Mahabharata, with only their bodies. The amount of food that their heads have eaten in the last six months is now causing their bodies to excrete. The heads only talk, drink and eat , while the bodies do a lot of work, labour, shitting. They work so much that the bodies become tired and thin.
Then, the speaker asks a question, if women also live in that strange land. Then he answers the same. He says that women reside in the land the same way men do, with half bodies. They have long hair like normal women, they are big, tall, plump, and well balanced. They wear clothes below their waist. According to their custom, they are not allowed to hide their bodies with clothes. They have a lot of sex when they live with their bodies for six months, because they couldn’t for the next six months. Since they do not have heads during these months, they can’t judge each other’s personalities. They just meet to have sex. The women then give birth to babies through their mouths during the next six months. So, along with talking and eating, the mouths of women can also give birth. Women are given with the unique power of creation. Their mouths have no teeth, because it would be painful for their child.

Next, the poet describes the appearance of the heads of these half humans. These heads can walk. Their two broad, fan-like ears help them to fly, like birds. Their language can be understood by us, they use normal language to speak. When they speak, a certain sound is generated from their mouths with a foul smell, like that of a fart. Such a land is always in the news, talked about by everyone. The moon shines in the night, and the sun shines at the afternoon, just like on our normal land. In that land, there is no poverty, scarcity of food. Some men in this land even surpass the God of wealth, Kuber. The money they had earned by working hard during the other six months is all spent on food during these six months. Just like a normal land, there are political rights of the people. They have even formed a democratic government, which works with absolute success. An election is held every five years. But the people of this land have no names. Nameless government representatives rule these nameless people. They do not name because they can’t decide which part of their bodies they should name- whether their heads or their bodies. In the last line of the poem, the poet again repeats that such a land is always in the news. It is predicted that the poet has depicted the North Eastern states, especially his native land to the land of the half humans. The half-humans represent the insurgents who create tension and violence in these states.

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