by Robin S Ngangom
Sometimes, through no fault of its own, a neighbourhood picks up a bad reputation. If you happen to visit it on a singularly uneventful day, you will find it roofed with a blue sky, and dark-green pines and bamboos stooping to kiss its dusty road. And although it is true that love was made in all its wintry houses and its dead have been buried in its unruffled graveyard, you would never guess how it earned such a vague hatred from outsiders. Perhaps one night, acting on a tip-off, a party of nervous paramilitary men shot a couple of teenage militants to rags at the gate of one of its unfortunate houses. What is truly ironic is the fact that the revolutionaries do not hail from this neighbourhood, they merely happened to be there during an ill-timed party. It is also entirely possible that a few men and women desperate to find witches and warlocks in an increasingly faithless age, forged themselves into medieval instruments and burnt down a house which looked a little eerie in moonlight and killed a strange old man and his wife.
It has been called names- a hideout, for instance- they say the scars on its walls are bullet marks really. You would be advised not to court its women because the area grows dangerous after sunset. But such neighbourhoods continue to grow as if nurtured by misgiving.
Robin S Ngangom is one of the major Indian poets writing in English today. He is based in Shillong and also writes in Meitei.