Songs of Raengdailu by Achingliu Kamei is a collection of poems that celebrates the natural beauty of North East India. Kamei abundantly uses vivid imagery and lyrical language to capture the essence of the region’s landscapes, flora, and fauna with a deep sense of passion, empathy, and reverence. Through her evocative verses, she transports readers to enchanting realms, where the vibrant colours, fragrant blossoms, and mystical creatures come alive, inviting us to immerse ourselves in the harmonious symphony of nature. Though the collection comes with a caveat as Kamei urges us not only to experience the richness of nature but also to recognize its deep connections with the lives of those who inhabit these hills. One good example is ‘Song of Inrah’, where Kamei writes:
The sound of the reeds and
The rustle of bamboo leaves joined
This one is for my people
To sing their stories.
In Kamei’s poetry, there are several parallels that emerge, enriching the thematic and symbolic depth of her collection. One notable parallel is the juxtaposition of nature and human existence. Kamei deftly weaves together the beauty of the natural world with the complexities of human emotions and experiences, creating a harmonious interplay between the two. Like in ‘Puangbiu Puang’, Kamei finds a striking parallel between the ‘Laughter of the young girls’ and ‘soft breeze’. Through this poem, Kamei’s deliberate effort is also to throw a spotlight on women’s challenging daily routine:
Under the warm summer sun
Flits about the red dragonfly
Hunting for puangbiu puang
On the first day of Chakan,
Laughter of the young girls, soft as breeze
They cross paths with the flowers.
Paungbiu puang sways in remembrance
The hard life of a woman.
Another parallel lies in the exploration of the past and present. Kamei delves into ancestral memories and traditions, drawing connections between the historical roots of the region and the contemporary lives of its inhabitants. This parallel emphasizes the continuity of culture and the significance of preserving heritage amidst the ever-changing world. For example, in ‘An Eye of Blue Sky’, Kamei talks about:
Lifting the wistful hearts of women,
Filling them with songs of forgotten memories
and later dives into reflective thoughts:
Dreaming of horizons forbidden
Baring their hearts skyward
Their songs and dreams never weary
Never put to rest.
‘An Eye of Blue Sky’ thus elevates the yearning hearts of women, imbuing them with melodies of forgotten reminiscences amidst mundane destinies. They dream of forbidden horizons, baring their souls to the sky, where their songs and aspirations endure tirelessly, never ceasing, never laid to rest.
In ‘Crave it Out and Bury it Under the Flame Tree’, Achingliu Kamei underlines the importance of stirring emotions and human attachments that resurface whenever the remains of our loved ones collide with us:
Her headstone looking peaceful
But this morning he found out yet again
One talon of pain still clawed at his heart.
In ‘Kacha-Khau, The Mighty Silvery Cliff’, she portrays the Khacha-Khaou cliff as a mighty and majestic entity, standing tall with a silvery sheen that commands respect and represents an unconquered peak. Kamei’s admiration and desire to be near the cliff conveys a sense of reverence and longing for the serenity and magnificence it embodies:
The peak never scaled, holds a mystery
The silvery sheen inviting awe and respect
So inspiring like the aged
Both the vain and brave dreamed of scaling the top
Never in the history of the land
The majestic cliff was conquered
Fame and power await atop the cliff.
Additionally, Kamei’s poetry often juxtaposes light and darkness, unveiling the contrasting aspects of life. She examines themes of growth and decay, love and deception, illuminating the duality that exists within the human condition and the natural world. Through these parallels, Kamei invites readers to contemplate the intricate balance between opposing forces. Moreover, Kamei explores the parallels between the physical and the metaphysical. She intertwines tangible elements such as mountains, rivers, and forests with abstract concepts like memories, emotions, and aspirations.
Femininity at core
Songs of Raengdailu is also a mesmerizing exploration of North East India’s beauty, emphasizing the pivotal role of its women. The poems portray the resilience and contributions of its women folks. This poetic journey makes readers appreciate the power and significance of their stories. One fine example lies in the opening poem ‘Puangbiu Puang’ where “The hard life of a women” is depicted showering “recognition and love”. In ‘Digging Potato on Grandma’s Field’, readers find the projection of women not only as frontliners but also as the backbone of the overall social fabric:
I was digging sweet potato on my grandmother’s field
Tender tiny hands severing tender roots
“You got to be careful on them small roots.”
“Grandma, you see I’m digging out sweet potatoes for us.”
The river runs on.
Interestingly in Kamei’s poetry, nature’s objects often take on the form of a woman. Mountains become nurturing mothers, rivers embody grace and strength, and forests mirror fertility and growth. By personifying nature this way, Kamei highlights the profound bond between femininity and the natural world.
Throughout the collection, Kamei presents women as central figures in the narratives she weaves. Whether it be the women tending to their gardens, gathering food for their families, or nurturing their communities, their presence is celebrated and acknowledged. For example, in ‘Just a Woman’, Kamei beautifully sums up a woman’s role and pensive thoughts she often overwhelm her:
I am just a woman
My womb holds humanity
Symbolism, imagery and motifs
Songs of Raengdailu is rich in symbolism, vivid imagery, and recurring motifs that enhance the depth and meaning of her work. Throughout the poems, nature serves as a potent symbol, representing both the beauty and resilience of life. Mountains, rivers, and forests symbolize strength, nourishment, and vitality, while flowers and wildlife embody fragility, growth, and interconnectedness.
Water imagery parallelly runs through, representing fluidity, transformation, and renewal. Whether it be rivers flowing, rain falling, or dewdrops glistening, water powerfully serves as a metaphor for change and emotional depth, reflecting the ebb and flow of human experiences in North East.
Another recurring motif is the exploration of ancestral roots and cultural heritage. Through references to traditions, rituals, and ancestral memories, Kamei delves into the interconnectedness of the past and present, highlighting the importance of preserving one’s roots amidst a rapidly changing world.
Overall, Kamei’s poetry through these literary devices, invokes readers to delve into the layers of her verses, unraveling the hidden depths of human emotions, the intricate beauty of nature, and the enduring power of cultural heritage in North East.
Categories: Books Reviews, Essay, Poetry
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