Every winter vacation we’d go to Wahrit.
It was a thriving village where I once burnt the village market after I had quenched my boyish craving for a ‘Ma-kyllain.
The winter holidays were too short for a full village adventure and the mischievous deeds were continued in small episodes stretched (out) through many winters.
Here in Mawlai I am clad in the infamous garb of a Maram.
“Go back to your Wild West Khasi Hills, you son of a maram”, the customary reprimand of my father’s kin, the original inhabitants of Mawlai.
This place is not my own.
Those who love me call me a ‘sahbiej’ and those who feel threatened, by my poor presence, suspect my love.
The truth is, 39 years of living in Mawlai has made me a pucca maram.
I will never be able to return to the market.
My burning desire left no ashes
For the hill where the market once stood now shoulders the Government’s unhealthy health center and my playground is now a parking lot for the marwari’s dalals.
My people pray that they may fall sick only on a Friday.
The wise Doctor from civilized Shillong comes on a Friday only.
Do they miss my grandfather, a quack, an ignorant man who showed them patience, and the ‘Tiew Lily in his garden when they broke a leg?
A pacifist in church matters but a disciple of the Khasi world view,
He was always there for them.
May God give me the strength to return to my own place, poor and violent and sickly it may be.
May my dead forefathers plead for my case – a dwelling in my own remote, savage place.
Maram: resident of West Khasi Hills District of Meghalaya. Owing to the backwardness of the district, the word Maram has been used derogatorily to mean an individual from the West Khasi Hills who is socially backward and therefore a savage rustic.
Mawlai : A locality of Shillong considered a rustic outpost by the Shillong elite
Sahbiej: a distortion of the word ‘savage’. Within the context of the poem ‘Sah’ means to remain stagnant without progress and ‘biej’ means fool or foolish or backward.
Makyllain: a kind of cigarette prepared by the smoker himself using a particular paper and finely chopped tobacco. This is quite popular among the people of West Khasi Hills since it is cheap and easily prepared. The word Makyllain is now used to describe a rustic from West Khasi Hills.
‘Tiew: short for Syntiew meaning flower. The ‘Tiew Lily is usually used by practitioners of herbal medicine to help people when they break a leg or bone.