If this is January
January is the slow, quiet time of year
when we sit back and relax
after the rush of the Christmas season
and bask in the sun, warming our backs
and eating sweet oranges.
Not a time when crime explodes in our faces:
when young men go missing
and their bloated, blackened corpses are found
and skinny young dark men arrested
and charged nine long days later¹.
When carnage runs wild, free as blood
as crazed men burst into houses
and slash you to death with
a butcher’s knife,
when in a family of six,
five coffins are lined up
the next day².
And on the streets and social media,
church-going people bay
for vengeance and retribution
and taking the law into their own hands.
If this is January
slow, quiet January
I dread what summer will bring.
¹ On the night of the 31st December 2014, a young man was reported missing with his two-wheeler. After wide searches by the YMA, his dead body was found eight days later. The next evening, his vehicle was found and its supposed owner admitted to the theft and killing.
² Around 7.30 pm of the 9th January 2015, a family of six were confronted in their own home by a knife-wielding man. Five died instantly in the horrific assault that rocked Mizoram. The assailant was believed to be on meth.
(For Zokunga [Pu Muma], 1925 – 1966)
The dreaded rapping on the door after dark
Just a little talk with him outside we want
The wanted gets up, steps out the house
Be back soon, you all go to sleep
But he never does.
Sometimes if they’re lucky
they find the body a short distance down the road.
More often deep in the jungle they find it
in a shallow grave
sometimes marked, sometimes not.
My mother’s brother’s body was never found,
He disappeared without trace,
wiped off the face of the earth,
not a limb, not a nail, not a hair left to claim.
Almost half a century on,
still no one to come forward and say
Here, those are pearls that were his eyes.¹
Nothing for the left behind,
parents, brothers, sisters, wife,
his brood of nine young children.
Just the incomprehensible, unceasing uncertainty
of questions never answered.
The title is a literal translation of the MNF terminology “dah tha/dah that,” an insidious euphemism meaning killed/murdered/exterminated.
¹There were unverified reports later that my uncle had been shot dead at Tlawng river by insurgents who were later killed in turn by soldiers of the Indian Army.
Zualteii (A. Hmangaihzuali) Poonte is an Associate Professor of English at Govt. Aizawl College. She has been floating the blog mizowritinginenglish.com since 2007 to promote writings in English by Mizo writers.