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Tales of Darkness and Light

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Soso Tham

13. Ka Aïom Ksiar–Season of Gold

Texte intégral

1Should one wish to compare Ki Sngi Barim U Hynñiew Trep to a musical form, the polyphonic fugue would perhaps be its closest relative. In keeping with the poet’s own longings and ultimate hope for a new world, it is the soaring melody of hope that is sustained throughout. At the same time Soso Tham’s understanding of the frailty of human nature repeatedly introduces passages of anger, hopelessness and sombre reflection. The presence of these varied themes consequently preempts a positive finale. Soso Tham understands that the eternal lesson which Life and Nature hold for us is that the battle between light and darkness, hope and despair, life and death will always be fought — and we can either be worthy combatants or sidle down the path of least resistance.

2Soso Tham wrote Ki Sngi Barim U Hynñiew Trep for his people and this exposition has been and will always be the poet speaking, exhorting and even pleading with his people. Nowhere is this made more clear than in the closing verses. He harks back to the shared myth of inherited beginnings and legends, to the presence of hope and joy and to the two moral pillars supporting the fabric of Khasi society — Truth and Justice. His pride in his homeland never wanes, but apprehension and doubt are never silenced. That which he has tried to reclaim and rebuild is still under threat: “Uncertain the journey of our people, our land”.

3However, his own belief in the homeland that has long cradled him, and the messages of renewal evident in Nature, reassert their force and thus reawaken hope and optimism. He ends with a collective prayer of thanksgiving, a renewing of vows and a vision of joyous abandon before making a natural transition to the end of his own earthly journey and his arrival in the House of God where he will first seek out his beloved mother — i Mei — the acknowledged heart beating at the centre of the Khasi world. It is only appropriate that, after this man’s long journey in search of the resurrection and of enlightenment transcending time and doubt, that he should finally look for the one being to whom he owes the breath of life, to whom he was once joined by a life-giving cord — his mother. This is the quiet end towards which Ki Sngi Barim U Hynñiew Trep moves. The poet’s quest has come full circle — in his end is his beginning.

Season Of Gold

When in midnight black the land was wrapped
Truth was slow to reveal herself
Seven springs then journeyed down
From their waters man could drink
Slow slow the flooding of the light
As the Name of God was revealed to us

From among the Sixteen who dwelt above
Seven came to live below
To reveal the light of Holy Truths
Obscured by dust from new-formed worlds,
To emblazon the brow of “monkey, langur”
Give tongue and speech to tree and stone

Who lives and does not know of them
Eternal the light that is shed by their names
In the blaze of the sun or deep in her shadow
So we who come after shall never forget
That from the dawn of time unto its end
We are the children of the
Hynñiew Trep

To you I give thanks, O Land of Mine
Land where silver rivers flow
Land where blooms the
Amirphor
Whose vivid tones can never fade
Golden Flower from within whose depths
The heart receives and overflows

Multitudes teemed under heaven’s high vault
Across the land one tongue was heard
A homeland bound by one belief
Traditional colours displayed with pride
Commemoration observance celebration profound
Incomparable the rituals of our native land

Thus lived all those who have gone before
Whose laws were built on sacred writ
Though constant the threat from tiger and
Thlen
Undefeated their souls, undiminished their hope.
But today we live in other times
Uncertain the journey of our people, our land

High on the hills, deep in the shade
When alone we walk refreshed becalmed
Tell me why O Land of mine
Why does unease disquiet my heart?
When all around I look to see
Why do I feel the ache of tears?

Our hills were our guardians in the past
Who will keep us from harm in days to come?
A down-coursing river is gathering force
A leaden-cloud mass is brooding ahead
But as it was then so tomorrow can be
If again for our homeland together we band

Breathe through us, O wind that blows
Once more that longing “to live for our land”
So once again the heavens will clear
And once again the stars we’ll see
The Star of Night becomes the Star of Light
And the Moon once more will rise for us

We share the same sun, same water and wind
In what way then are we different from others?
Sorrow, grief, laughter, joy
It is the same language we all speak
And as we toil to reach the summit
Those down below are human too

From furrows of paddy and beds of millet
A meal we’ll provide for the destitute
Phreit
In numbers we’ll grow, become a discernible throng
With Justice and Truth enshrined in our midst
The sky will brighten to a peerless blue
Heralding the coming of a Golden Age

  • 1 A Khasi tale explaining the eyes on the tail of the Peacock who once upon a time lived in the sky w (...)
  • 2 The Surma, now in Bangladesh. Here it is compared to a necklace of solid silver.
  • 3 Rivers in the Khasi and Jaiñtia Hills.
  • 4 The Khasi word “lad” means both path, or road, as well as opportunity. As translating the phrase “K (...)
  • 5 Both the Mole and the Owl participate in a dance described in the legend of the Sacred Cave where t (...)

The Peacock will dance when the Sun returns1
And she will bathe in the Rupatylli
2
O Rivers Rilang, Umiam and Kupli
3
Sweet songs in you will move inspire
Land of Nine Roads, pathways of promise
4
Where the Mole will strum, the Owl will dance
5

  • 6 Precious, treasured, related to the Persian word Asharfi, a gold coin issued by Persian Kings and t (...)
  • 7 Ri” here means land or homeland so “Ri Khasi Ri Pnar” means the land or homeland of the Khasis and (...)

In the Asorphi now forgotten gone6
Fires survive continue to burn
For the sake of our beloved
Ri Khasi Ri Pnar7
O Lord to whom this world belongs
Together we’ll plough, thresh and build
Ascend from thatch to soaring peaks

  • 8 Shillong Peak. Kyllang and Symper, see p. 47, n. 11.
  • 9 Where is [my] mother (i Mei)? Though the poet does not use the pronoun “my”, the honorific “i” befo (...)

From brink of waterfalls to verge of deep pools
In a place unknown I find myself
O Lum Shillong, Kyllang, Symper8
From you O Land could I ever take flight?
And when I reach the House of God
Of them I will ask —
hangno i Mei?9

Listen to an audio recording of the poem at
https://doi.org/​10.11647/​OBP.0137.25

Notes

1 A Khasi tale explaining the eyes on the tail of the Peacock who once upon a time lived in the sky with his wife the Sun. But one day as he looked down on the earth below he saw a golden-haired maiden with whom he instantly fell in love. He flew down only to discover that he had been captivated by a field of golden mustard. The foolish peacock was left heartbroken and realised he was doomed to live on earth forever. From that time onwards each morning the peacock danced at sunrise to greet his wife whose tears would fall on his outspread tail and became the eyes on the peacock’s tail.

2 The Surma, now in Bangladesh. Here it is compared to a necklace of solid silver.

3 Rivers in the Khasi and Jaiñtia Hills.

4 The Khasi word “lad” means both path, or road, as well as opportunity. As translating the phrase “Khyndai lad” as “Nine Roads” would not reflect the latter I added “pathways of promise” in order to better convey the full meaning of the original word.

5 Both the Mole and the Owl participate in a dance described in the legend of the Sacred Cave where the Sun hid her light to punish living creatures for casting doubt on her relationship with her brother the Moon.

6 Precious, treasured, related to the Persian word Asharfi, a gold coin issued by Persian Kings and the Mughals.

7 Ri” here means land or homeland so “Ri Khasi Ri Pnar” means the land or homeland of the Khasis and the Pnar. Interestingly “ri” also means to take care, to tend carefully, to preserve.

8 Shillong Peak. Kyllang and Symper, see p. 47, n. 11.

9 Where is [my] mother (i Mei)? Though the poet does not use the pronoun “my”, the honorific “i” before “Mei” (Mother) immediately indicates to the Khasi reader that the speaker is referring to his mother (as explained at the beginning of this section, the use of “i” before “Mei” conveys the reverential love Khasi daughters and sons feel for their mother).

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