Finding his safe haven

By Willie Gordon Suting

Paul Lyngdoh, the UDP senior leader and former KSU activist, has another side that was, for a long time, overshadowed by the astute politician in him. After years in hibernation, Lyngdoh is returning to poetry, his “safe haven”.
The former MLA’s bilingual poetry collection A Return to Poetry is forthcoming this September. Written on local issues with keen sensitivity, the book is a result of Lyngdoh’s writings over two and a half decades.
Lyngdoh’s love and concern for his land, its people and culture can be felt in the way he commentates. He does not put his views as absolutes, but makes the reader think deeply. A range of issues like inter-community marriage, loss of tribal identity, racism and harm on the environment recur in his poems.
A key example is Domiasiat: July 1992 where Lyngdoh describes uranium mining “as alien feet scramble for a foothold/on your lucre-laden soil/ scooping every bit of it for sale”.
Domiasiat (currently Kylleng Phendengsohiong Mawthabah Uranium Mining Project) is the place where uranium explorations were carried out. The explorations have affected the environment in and around the place, locals and pressure groups had claimed.
Lyngdoh describes the greed of people to capitalise on resources.
In Here In Our Land he describes the “dizzying search for quick riches/ every inch of our blood soaked soil/ is reckoned in terms of its yield”.
Lyngdoh also points out the differential feeling Khasis and other northeasterners experience in relation with mainland India. He feels there is misconception and typifying due to lack of empathy.
To Whom It May Concern talks about this: “If only you could, for a moment/ see the world through our eyes/ feel it with our hearts/ share our history, folktales, myths/ you would have little reason to spurn, scorn or shun us!”
There are also some issues revisited in history. Lyngdoh takes the reader back in Sohra, November 1993, occasioned by the shocking incident of police firing outside the Sohra Police Station on November 4, 1993, on a peaceful gathering of village youths and elders. He says “Today, years later/ you cry in agony/ as professed guardians of the law/ snuffed out a young life/ innocent/ and men in search of justice/ fell to their hostile bullets/ like huts to your April storms”.
Lyngdoh feels his poetry are devoid of complexity and concealment. “Poetry doesn’t have to be a mathematical problem or riddle to be solved. Poetry has to be felt,” he says.
There are wonderful descriptions of the atmospheric beauty of the Khasi Hills. A land blessed with waterfalls and rolling hills, the poet paints an image of virginal beauty.
In Umiam, he writes: “I recall days I spent revelling on your lap/ of countless romances spawned by your slender hands/ as lovers clutch each other in fiery passion”.
Dance of Democracy has portraits or monologues of a politician, voter, bureaucrat, business tycoon, militants and priest.
Rife with self-depreciating and aserbic tone, the series of poems are about pain and anguish each of the characters experience.
In The Newspaper Boy, Lyngdoh similarly immerses himself in another person’s shoes: “During troubled days when freedom is rationed/ in curfew-free hours/ he claimed all eyes/ as he mechanically gave out the latest death toll”.
Lyngdoh shared these poems with Sunday Shillong.
The crystal clear quality of the poems emerge from the poet’s heart. “I write the poetry of feeling with a rootedness in the soil of my birth,” he adds.
Lyngdoh internalised lives and felt experiences in politics and social life. “The title of the collection hints that when the world gets too much with me, poetry is a safe haven with curative effects”.
With influences ranging from Pablo Neruda, Jayanta Mahapatra and Iranian poetry, Lyngdoh commenting on the jaitbynriew says, “There is still reason for optimism. It is very important for us to remember our roots as a jaitbynriew.”
The poetry collection A Return to Poetry will be published by Ri Khasi book Stall.
Lyngdoh has his way with words but what is missing is an art of making subjects less intelligible. He possesses an eye for line construction but an alteration in frequency of messages would have given more interpretive space.

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