Shuddhashar: What is it that you strive to explore and convey through your poetry?
Saratchand Thiyam: In my poems, I always wanted to explore the inner beauty and peace loving nature of human life. And sometimes I felt deeply saddened to see the contemporary world filled with hatred, the sick mind, selfish nature, greed and ever hungry nature for political power, misunderstanding between different ethnic communities. Through my poems, I would like to convey that we are under the same sun and we share the same water to sustain life. The earth is becoming a global village. Life is too short to ponder over the hard realities and problems being faced by all of us. So instead of creating more problems, I would like the people of the world to open their heart and mind and embrace the new world of friendship and love.
Shuddhashar: How do you interpret the present world, and how have current events spurred you to write?
Saratchand Thiyam: The present world is filled with chaos and everything is tangled into the vortex of political conspiracies and endless greed. Gradually the capitalist economy is devouring the essence of human life and beauty of nature. I cannot stay silent witnessing the anarchy engulfing the globe. The endless armed conflict between ethnic minorities of the world and state force, the struggle for freedom and search for the meaning of democracy, the innocent victims living in the armed conflict states around the world and especially in the Indian state of Manipur spurred me to write on themes related with such issues and unsolved political dialogues.
Shuddhashar: What literary pieces – poetry, fiction or non-fiction – and writers have informed and inspired your own writing? How have they done so?
Saratchand Thiyam: I loved the poetries of Jayanta Mahaprata, the Indian poet and poetries of Pablo Neruda. I also got inspired by the poetries of Laishram Samarendra, a modern Manipuri poet who used powerful words through his satirical expression. Manipuri fiction writers like Nongthombam Kunjamohun, Khaidem Pramodini and M.K. Binodini’s writing also inspired me to take up travel writing. Their writings are filled with the love for their motherland and has universal in its appeal.
Shuddhashar: In what way do your personal identity and experiences shape your poetry?
Saratchand Thiyam: I published my first book of poetry when I was just 19 years old and the book is dedicated to my loving grandmother Thiyam Lairikmacha, a vendor of banana in Khwairamband Keithel, one of the biggest women’s market run only by women folk of the state of Manipur in India. Since college days, I got the opportunity to mingle with many writers of the state of Manipur and followed the footsteps of many renowned writers. The experienced I had since college days working among the writers community, the community work and my love for sports and other social welfare activities had inspired me to write poems, travel writing and also as a sports columnist.
Shuddhashar: How do you use structure, language and grammar to accentuate the message of your poetry? Do you subscribe to conventions or break them?
Saratchand Thiyam: I used language that are easily understandable and sometimes with alliterative lines to convey my thought and ideas more easily to the readers. In fact, language is the prime element of thought and vision in poetry. It can carry the soul of the poetry. Sometimes archaic Manipuri language
Shuddhashar: What is your opinion about the conflicts and solidarities between political poetry and the literary and artistic values of poetry?
Saratchand Thiyam: I think poetry connects to the heart and mind of the people and the audience if the themes and subject are truly related with the affairs of human life. When things are messed up in political environment and people suffered because of lack of vision and sacrifice on the side of the so called leaders of the people, the conflicts got triggered and many unsolved political issues emerges. And being a poet, I cannot remain as a silent spectator. So, I forcefully used words that can influence the thought process of the audience and readers to convey and rectify the mistakes in the society. It is very true that sometimes there are conflicts between political poetry and artistic value of poetry but I think it is interrelated. I used words that can give the poetic essence and at the same time convey a message delineating the contemporary society.
Shuddhashar: Does your poetry transcend national boundaries? Does it appeal to different nationalities or linguistic groups?
Saratchand Thiyam: Like other poets, I too feel the sufferings and sorrows of the people in war torn states, the life of those victims of terrorist attacks, the untold stories of the people in the armed conflict states. When I write about Africa, about the sufferings of the people of Kashmir and on themes for universal peace and friendship, I think it transcend the national boundaries. Because a poet like me always long to create universal brotherhood and spread the umbrella of peace across nations and religions. I think my poetries appeal to different nationalities and linguistic groups because it has universal appeal. Some of my poems got translated into Bangla and got published in Bangladesh. Many of poems have been translated into English and even in Hindi. I’m happy to say that some of poems also got translated into other languages of the states in India.
Translated from Manipuri language: Robin S Ngangom
Smiling teak trees stand
in the green hills
their necks dipping and rising.
Children holding a letter each
with their hands firmly
run among the dense teak trees
their feet shoeless
and their clothes scanty.
What’s been written pressed by pencil stubs,
is in that now completely filled scrap of paper
mother mother mother
many words that spell “mother”.
The teaks that grow shoulder to shoulder
play, by opening those letters
as if in a game of rugby
chasing, and wresting the letters
from the hands of the children.
The children lament
the children are anxious
the children weep
for their mothers’ letters they want to be delivered
for their letters’ message they’d like to be read.
Clutching their stomachs
they’ve come running quite far on these hill track,
starving, they are quite tired among these teaks
but those letters with unknown destinations
have not faded
or fallen from the children’s hands.
They are famished and malnourished
as they have not eaten for long,
their breath is laboured
as they have been running for long,
but their hands are still raised high,
they see their mothers in their eyes.
The teak trees which have read the letters
look compassionately at the little children
whose legs are now crossed together
while uttering the word “mother” on their lips
and clutching the letters with unknown destinations.
For the Dead
After creating bad blood between themselves
Mustering support, taking sides
They choose their ranks, provoking each other
They wage war
Hate each other to the hilt.
After killing one another
They learn to love finally.
They tend the wounded
Feed tasty dishes to prisoners of war.
Many cities many countries
Are reduced to cinders in a minute.
Then for the dead, gardens are created
Every season flowers are showered on them.
The wide cracks on parched earth
Where many feet sank
Where many feet were broken.
Children running toward us
With kites flying
Fell into the cracks.
Vultures crows scattered
When they heard their crying voices.
Little grown-up girls
Keep on tearing the clothes they wear
And eat them up with relish.
At the aeroplanes overhead
They look up with yearning
Those who can’t move save their necks
Clutching their stomachs
Rows upon rows of enduring men
Wait for the dropping
Of either bombs or food packages.
Plucking their own ears and
Continuously chewing them
Stand in clusters
Around the cracks.
Many squeamish tongues
In countless numbers
Are torn and flung
Upon Africa’s vast surface.
The cracks will be filled up
Stone statue waited every day
For my return.
Whenever I return
I am guarded protected all around
By night’s darkness.
Accosting that stone statue
I stood near it. I told it I have returned.
I tried to close those eyelids
Which had forgotten to close
Gazing at me always.
The night’s darkness gave hints.
I’ve left that stone statue alone
So that it’ll wait for
My return from another trip.
Till today one hasn’t heard any hypnotic voice rising
when a gun is thrummed calmly and gently by index fingers.
Like one demented, smitten by a melody,
no one has ever been transfixed
except lifeless bodies lying around unconcerned.
The tens of thousands of bullets appearing
from the strumming of one index finger
heap layer upon layer on Charon’s boat-the dead.
If these guns were entrusted to Orpheus’ hand
will the innocent ones journey to Hades’ side?
On the silently standing hill’s broad forehead
Grinds in play the forehead of clouds
Bending down from the sky.
The hill remains asleep though.
Boys and girls of the hill world
Are eating a picnic meal at the foothill
Embracing the loud songs of a tape recorder.
One the hilltop’s broad helipad
When the helicopter lands roaring
The girls of the hill world who were bathing
Ran for their homes
The hill remains asleep though.
Boys who wear chains made out of thread
Are playing hill-climbing.
The hill world’s mothers stand
Holding torches throughout the night
Facing the glaring lights of the power station.
The hill remains asleep though.
Disabled Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Afraid of going near
They left after presenting
A paper swan each to Sadako
Standing at the Peace Park
Running and springing
One after the other
Invited them or not
The elongated Great Wall
Has been conquered
By the journeyers
The journeyers in turn
Have been subdued
By the sun and moon
Trudging without words
The loud voices of bombs and cannons
Bullets sprayed by the thousands
For you is your pulse beating
Spreading all over your body.
Kargil you are indeed fortunate
Your sons leaping out bravely
Are trying to keep your your heart beating
So that you will not sleep on death’s bed.
These sharp bayonets
Marching with their tips pointed up
For you are your eye’s lashes
Indicating that you are alive.
The roads that reach you
Although covered by thick piles of snow
When sunlight pours down
Will turn into white pigeons beating wings.