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From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 6, Issue 36, Dated September 12, 2009
CULTURE & SOCIETY  
literature

‘Writers Can’t Change Anything’

Manipuri poet Yumlembam Ibomcha, 60, is wary of sudden claims of influence for the region’s literature

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WITH LARGE GAPS of silence, Yumlembam Ibomcha is one of those writers who hold more purview than publication notches. A first collection of Meitei poetry in 1973 (Manipur Sahitya Kala Akademi Award) and a 1991 short story collection (Sahitya Akademi Award), followed by a second book of poems in 1992; this year, he was awarded the Sahitya Akademi Translation Award for his translation of UR Ananthamurthy’s novel Samskara.

“How could we live as whelps/ among these dogs, foxes and monkeys?/ I will turn into a strong and big tiger.” The people’s suffering at the hands of the State and the insurgency politicised his generation to an urgent pitch: “Is being shot by a gun as silky as the caress/ Of a young woman’s hand!/ How happy I am being shot/ This bullet shooting into my mouth/ Is also a mellow grape.” Older now, he pays more attention to feelings than the outer social world. “Earlier, great writers like Valmiki guided the minds of people. But the small writers today, I and my fellow writers of this age, can’t change anything.”

He’s realistic about the levels of excitement in in the region’s literature. While some writers have been picked up by mainstream publishers, there is still not much that’s translated into English. “The big problem is knowing each other even though we’re neighbours,” he says. “What’s this!/ What’s happening?/ From my throat only emitted/ a ‘miaow, miaow’ like a cat.”

GAURAV JAIN

From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 6, Issue 36, Dated September 12, 2009
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