PhawngPui Tlang - Blue Mountain National Park

Once a upon a time there lived a King of the  ghosts called Sangau close to  Phawngpui Tlang (Blue Mountain). Across a few hills, in Cheriang lived another king. The King of Ghosts  had a worthy son and the King of Cherian a lovely daughter and they were soon married to each other. The marriage witnessed the exchange of some splendid gifts and the most prided among them were - the gift of a Pine Tree from the bride's home  and a pair of Hollock Gibbons from the King of Ghosts to the forests of Cherian.The area where the lone pine stood is called Farpak (single Pine) and today it has multiplied to a plenty while the Hollocks that roam the forests of Cheriang are the original gift of Sangau - they sadly did not breed. Thats one of the stories associated with the highest peak in Mizoram- Blue Mountain.

Today , Blue Mountain is a National Park , Sangau  a 1000 household strong village close to it, Cheriang is the name of a hill in Burma.

The story provided for a fascinating beginning to this long awaited visit to Blue Mountain. Finally, we were at the Sangau tourist lodge , splendidly located on a hilltop towards one end of the massive Sangau. Cheural right behind and the hills of Burma ahead. The lodge offers an almost clear unobstructed view of the hills around. The place is magical on clear nights , with a generous display of stars at night  and the mornings sureal with a bed of clouds stretching between the hills. Nimesh is often tempted to attempt a walk through these!

Happy with the Sangau experience I didn't dwell much on what  Phawngpui would bring with it. At 2100mts it is double the height of Saiha and the wind was already freezing the marrow in my bones! The bounty that Blue Mountain revealed itself to be was not something I had anticipated.

Sample this- A Grassland , Cliffs and a densely wooded forest with a zealous bamboo, rhododendron and orchid sprinkling. All this when we didn't even get to the peak!  

We were generously accompanied to Farpak by the DFO and his team. We drove down to Thaltlang from Sangau and further some distance  into the National Park and walked from there on to Farpak, around it and back.

On our return , we were with the president of the Blue Mountain Guides Association. Quite the expert hunter in his earlier days , he gave up following an injury and joined the forest departments initiatives towards conservation and tourism. He assisted many a researcher on their studies here and seemed to enjoy speaking of his experiences and we were a keen audience.

Walking through Farpak my timid heart skipped a beat when a noisy Bamboo Partridge took of on a panic flight about 3 feet from where we were. And uniquely , while tossing my head around to catch sight of the avian plentitude , i realized that the birds here were a lot less weary of our presence. In most other forests I walked with Nimesh and colleagues , the birds would take to a panic filled flight at the slightest indication of our presence. Were we so inclined we probably could have brought back some decent images of them too. But the designated photographer for the trip (yours truly) kept busy in reminding herself to close her gaping jaw , to even think of attempting this feat. Talk of Gorals, Serrows and the many pheasants was interesting , but we were out at the wrong time in the day to be able to see them.We spent some leisurely hours walking and watching the birds that were around. Infact ,we were leisurely enough to get our companion worried about getting back to Thaltlang in time to get a ride back to Sangau. All the worry of getting back on time was worth it as we watched a Chestnut Bellied Rock Thrush respond to another one (we couldn't see this) from its perch! Also worth mention was a swooping flight of a Black Eagle. We could identify  close to 17 different kinds of birds and had we some more time , there would have been many more.We spent the latter part of our downhill walk in a scrambling frenzy to get to Thaltlang before sunset. 

During our drive back from Thaltlang , the headlights of our pick up revealed a Grey Night Jar sitting on the road! That was the first time i'd seen one a perfect closure to the visit.  

The forest rest house at  Farpak is currently closed , but plans for building a new one along with developing home-stay facilities at Thaltlang are underway. That would definitely help in making the most of a trip to Phawngpui. When its done , hopefully we'll come back for a visit and this time get to the alluring peak itself.

P.S - The highlight of my trip was when we were looking at the valley below from a viewpoint and someone exclaimed- hornbills - did you see them?  I instinctively looked up (!!) and on realizing my folly trained my gaze to the valley- two wreathed hornbills ,  pale white spots, gliding across the valley  . An aerial view of Hornbills- thats something I'll remember for years to come!
For more details wait for Nimesh to update his blog 

A Mara Chief's legacy

A friend took us to her home last month . Her Grandfather and his brother were chiefs of some villages in Saiha. Their home to me was like a mini museum full of musical instruments, baskets , and urns and jars passed through generations. Just putting up some images from there. Thanks to Jeniffer and her family for having us over.  For more information on the significance of these pieces read The Lakher's N.E Perry , thats what uncle (Jeniffer's father) recommends too!

New Life , Vijay Dan Detha - Review

I first read Vijay Dan Detha’s work earlier this year. While looking up some information on Charandas Chor I came across The Crafty Thief. Habib Tanvir’s Play- Charandas Chor is based on a folk tale from Rajasthan. The story was originally  narrated to him by Vijay Dan Detha. More on this in a previous post.
New Life is a compilation of some of his work, translated and edited by Mridul Bhasin, Kailash Kabeer and Vandana R Singh.  I understand that the skeleton for each story is drawn from folktales and the characters and experiences have been fleshed out and provided added dimensions by the author.
What has made this a compelling read for me is the depiction of  inner reflections of the women in the narrative. Their overriding themes are relationships and patriarchy in its various forms. All female protagonists are shown to have a strong inner voice that leads them to view their relationships with spouses and lovers with critical depth. They arrive at almost a feminist vantage point in viewing social life. The reflections woven through the narrative lead the reader to the conflict at the core of the protagonist. However reflections of male characters are absent and their decisions and actions seemed to be all similar to each others i.e revolving around retaining control and establishing superiority.
Some stories
Slough has a particularly unpredictable ending. A Gujjar husband expects his wife to humour the overtures of a Thakur.  Laachi (the wife) is dejected and hopes to restore her lost adoring faith in her husband by presenting him with ample opportunities to doubt intentions of a fellow villager towards her. The Gujjar fails to pass any of these tests and trials and Laachi’s disillusionment increases. Bottling this frustration Laachi finds her answers when she accidentally chances upon a Cobra shedding its skin. 
In many of these stories you run through multiple characters and sequences before being able to fathom who really the centre of the story telling is. The Crow’s Way is one such lengthy (but very readable) story. Starting with the lives and diet preferences of crows in Rajasthan and the swans in Mansarovar , the story leads to a rich Seths son and eventually his wife. Some tragic events follow and finally the wife is thrown out of the house and after some more tragedy ends up with a courtesan. The courtesans wisdom of the worlds ways sounds palpable to the woman and eventually she stays on. The woman's initial confusions on taking up this trade , her ambivalence towards the gentle and wise courtesan and eventual choice is portrayed through some interesting discussions and thoughts.
The story to watch out for however in New Life. Women’s sexuality is a beautifully discussed and though I‘ve heard that many oral traditions bear the evidence of acceptance of same sex love the story New Life is the first I‘ve read. However this love is found only in the midst of some trickery and malpractice which seems to be a pre cursor to acceptance of same sex love among many people to date. The text provides jubilant descriptions of the companionship and sexuality of two girls who were married to each other, their carefree union and the acceptance they find with the chieftain of ghosts. One of them does seek to be a man and convinces the other into asking for this boon off the ghost. The joy however vanishes from their union as with the male body comes the struggle for establishing ownership and superiority, which she realizes and decides to discard. And yes the girls live happily ever after. I loved this story- It was long winding but worth the time.

Very pointed discussions on a woman’s sexuality finds space in To each his own morality. The queen and the royal bards wife find themselves putting up with philandering  husbands, who seem to believe along with the rest of the court that staying monogamous is exceptionally difficult for men and natural for women. The women in question wonder in private about this and their angst is further heightened when they find themselves attracted to other men. Questions on whether this is acceptable rock the individual and the royal court and eventually with some drama the queen installs her lover as king and the bards wives lover as minister. What adds a punch to the ending is the fact that on coronation the new king finds himself thinking like the old. He loses trust in the queen who was not faithfull to her husband and the husband who is now a throneless and kingdom less king starts seeing the wisdom in his wife. Power as an ally to patriarchy? In the story the stable’s groom was loving and tender with the queen while he was just an untouchable while the King once debased finds that he can see the queens wisdom. In New Life ,  Beeja a girl child is brought up as boy and on his marriage he/she realizes the deceit. Beeja accepts her womanhood and Beeja and Teeja live in love and are happy. However , when she is granted the boon of becoming a man -  things change. In The crows way – The woman finds love and understanding from a courtesan (again someone living on the fringe). It made me think volumes on the times that these tales might have belonged to , Vijay Dan Detha's interpretation and reading of them and of course , the resonance in todays life.

However I will not try to cut up and dissect the stories any further. Many might find the book out-datedly feminist ( I hear feminism is outdated now? less fashionable?) , don't pay heed. Read it and figure out for yourself.  Ending this post with something from the book

–One of  Beeja’s thoughts when she wakes up to realize that she’s been granted her boon and is now a man.
It would not do if one is afraid of one’s own facial hair. The pride and pleasure of having a mustache lies in intimidating others!

Ngengpui in a Dug Out II- Some Images

For a post on the trip itself- Visit the previous post
The road in the campus of  Lawngtlai Wildlife Division - A baby flying squirrel seems to have tumbled from one of these trees, much to the delight of the people on campus. The mother was around and the two were united soon , hearing the delightful descriptions itself was a treat. 

Ngengpui Guest House - A great place to stay at - apart from the treasure that the campus itself is a highlight is  the forest and a small  bazaar being just a hop skip and jump away. 

Ngengpui River- Surreal on a winter misty morning- just enough water for our trip

Sanga- Leading the Dugout , Niam is rowing at the rear end . Enthusiastic and informative guides on our trip 

Sambar the Dugout- Brunch Break

Ngengpui in a Dug Out I

Massive , Large , Generous , Awe-Inspiring , Humbling, Wise , Ageing, Giving , Secure , at Peace

The trees were too large for me to hug and so much in awe of them i was that I didn't even contemplate trying as I will not attempt either to string a passage together of the words that come to mind when I recall what I felt. I decide to just give you some  words and this image instead of forcibly trying to compose a psalm.
At the edge of Khawmawi (Dist Lawngtlai) on the banks of the river Ngengpui, snuggled and comfortable between these mammoth trees is  the Ngengpui Wildlife Sanctuary's Rest House. Multiple calls of birds reach out as you enter its gates and i squinted  against the golden sun to catch a glimpse of the plenty frolicking around. Like these trees, the birdlife around seems to know that its safe within these boundaries , for while the village settlement offered only few well hidden treasures, trees in the campus I understand played host to a large flock of oriental pied hornbills! These trees were unfortunately not in fruit currently and the Hornbills had moved on to some other haunt.  I’m left constructing for myself the feel of what would have been the case had I actually seen them. Of course, I’m sure I’m not in even close.

Left largely un tampered, the space lends the feel of being well within the sanctuary,  while you aren't even half a kilometer away from the Khawmawi bazaar.An office building and a few staff quarters is all that is concrete apart from the rest house itself.  The highlight of the space is of course the balcony of sorts , just the kind of place you'd want to return to after a walk in the sanctuary or a dug out ride like us.

We seem to be pre -destined to see Ngengpui from the river itself. On our last trip to the Bungtlang beat , we found ourselves camping on the river bed and walking on it through the day.  We got caught up in a storm of sorts last time and couldn't explore at leisure but this trip seemed to have the blessings of the rain gods! A long monsoon spell ensured that there was just enough water left in Ngengpui for us to venture out with the dugout.

But first things first, we needed to have tea and make some sort of brunch arrangement and this seemed to be no problem as the forest guard had predicted. Hotel Din Din was more than happy to do it. So , at five in the morning  after some refreshing morning tea and a packed brunch from the hotel we were ready to be on the move. A word about Hotel Din Din – its possibly the cleanest and one of the more enterprising hotels/teas stalls we’ve visited. The woman who runs its is a powerhouse of energy with a chubby baby sleeping soundlessly on her back while she cooks , instructs and spares more than a minute to converse with the customers. As discussed on the previous eve, she was ready for us with 5 in the morning with tea and puris and a lunch waiting to packed. The rest of Khawmawi including the roosters seemed to be still asleep.

Sanga , Niam  and the two of us , set out quited excitedly for the dugout ride , the first mist covered sight of the river made me feel we might be a bit too early for the birds but I was wrong and thrilled to be so. Anticipation was high with our companions too , they kept speculating on what we might come across and what they had previously seen while on a dug out patrol. Like on the road, wagtails seemed to know the bends of the river and ....well, were hell bent on leading us through with their dippy flight!

Through the trip , this convoy duty was taken over by a Great Bittern, a Black Crowned Night Heron , a Spotted Forktail and some more. What startled us out of our silence was the noisy scramble and flight of Jungle Fowls. So startled were we as they raised alarm and flew across the river , i feared that we would manage to topple the dugout!
Watching quite peacefully  from the sidelines were White Throated Kingfishers and we did catch sight of the Brown Winged Kingfisher too. On the sidelines again was the activity of a lone Malayan Giant Squirrel , guided by Niam  i could spot it scuttle around its tree. For more on what we saw ,  wait for Nimesh to update his blog.

We got off for a bit and walked along a smaller river meeting Ngengpui inside the forest.  Wild banana growing along the banks and most of us bent over looking for tracks. We didn't venture out too far in as our  growling stomachs were scaring of much of the life around. But the Greater Racket Tail Drongo would not have us leave till we had seen it. It called till we were able to spot it, danced around on the pretext on grabbing insects and having got our attention and its ego satiated it left just as we were pleading for more! Tease.I found my self muttering.
Lunch was lavish- some resourcefully wrapped beans, eggs, rice and chicken. We ate silently against the sounds of the river. Post lunch we crouched around the field guides to confirm what we had seen. A bit thrilled about this part  cause I seemed to be getting a little better with my observations. That just means that I'm able tell the difference between a woodpecker and a Kingfisher, well maybe a little better than that :)

Talking to Sanga and Niam was quite a treat. They were disappointed that we weren't able to see any mammals apart from the Malayan Giant Squirrel and a the shadow of a Palm Civet.They repeatedly pointed out some tracks and suggested that we move further downstream in the hope of sighting something bada! Speaking of which it seems that while ago a new elephant has made its presence felt in Ngengpui , coming in from the neighbouring Mara district , they were of the opinion that it had given quite a fright to the resident four and that these four had changed their hang out for the time being! I don't have a clue about how elephants behave , but I quite enjoyed how this bit was narrated to us. Also , the honest fear with which Sanga told us of how he had fled from his path when he realized an elephant was somewhere ahead made me  happy not to have encountered them.

We returned to Hotel Din Din ( I love this name- we have a kid in the neighbourhood who is called the same and we adore him too) around noon. Sanga and Niam  should have been dog tired with all the rowing , pushing and pulling they were required to do. The water became a lil too shallow in places and the dug out needed to be dragged off those patches. Nimesh jumped off to help whenever he was quick enough but I wasn't quick enough most of the time. That left me sitting in the middle of the dugout feeling every inch ganpati like, wondering if i tick them off they might chose visarjan as an option!! Jokes aside... they did have to put in quite an effort and I'm embaressed and grateful. I enjoyed thumbing the fieldguides with them looking for a particular 3foot long animal which seems to have made the logs in th campus its home. We didn't find it , maybe next time. I sure do hope there is one.

Thanks Pu Tlana for helping us do this!

Listing what Nimesh and I saw on this trip
Black Crowned Night Heron , Black Drongo, Blue Bearded Bea Eater, Brown Winged Kingfisher, Emrald Dove , Great Bittern , Greater Racket Tailed Drongo , Red Jungle Fowl , Rose Ringed Parakeet, Shikra ,Spotted Forktail, White Throated Kingfisher , White Wagtail , Yellow Wagtail
Common Palm Civet and Malayan Giant Squirrel 

P.S  Kestrels we've seen gliding above our home in Saiha and finally we got some time to see them perched in Peace. our drives through this trip were filled with such sightings of these and we Finally saw the Lesser Kestrel nice and proper instead of just hearing its calls!! I'm more than content. For more on Kestrel Sightings visit Nimesh's Post

Its Bazaar Day in Saiha

I keep telling myself , I'll put up this post when I click better images. Unfortunately time's running out and i decided to just put up what I have and keep updating as an when. Saturday Bazaar finally graces my blog!

I have no clue what these are, I'm warned of how sour they are but am drawn to them by virtue of their warm color

Garlic from Lunglei
Tomatoes from Silchar, Assam and Shantawk (excuse my spelling ) from Saiha.

Cabbage and Yam-

Local Sugarcane

Ginger- Local and with a skin so soft that it peels when you wash the mud of it!  
Beans- local again and sold in pre measured bundles like pretty much all other vegetables here.

Bananna Flower- Local and available quite regularly. 

The plentiful greens! Tasted many and clueless about the rest 

The smaller catch is from the Kaladan which flows through Kawlchaw about 35 Km from Saiha.

The larger ones have traveled over 3000 km all the way from Andhra Pradesh
If you cannot make it to the market. The veggies come to you! Often women go door to door with a basket full of greens

And in case it is the basket that your heart desires, well that too you might find on a Bazaar day (Saturdays)!

Wrap up the trip with some ice cream, or better still watch the toddlers wolf them down!

Nono , The Snow Leopard -Pranav Trivedi and Maya Ramaswamy

I was helping Nimesh organize his cupboard yesterday when I came across this book and my curiosity was piqued. I've been reading books that could have children in mind as the readers and found myself enjoying them thoroughly, while my neighbour on his way to work throws suspicious glances at this 30 year old engrossed in an illustrated book!  

Nono, the snow leopard follows a language and style that departs from my last read of a book for children , The Myna from The Peacock Garden. And of course it would, and one among the many reasons would be the fact that  there is a very clear intent behind the book apart from trying to be an entertaining read or a demonstration of story telling .  The Snow Leopard Trust , speaks of the book as the A touching and educational story about a biologist's struggle to conserve the endangered snow leopard in a human-dominated environment.  However, my reading of it has lead me to see it differently. The charecter of the biologist rightly occupies the sidelines. On the fore along with the snow leopard is the journey of individuals in the landscape. A few who are part of the initiative to conserve the snow leopard and other's who are grappling with the growing currency of conservation and the changes in lifestyle it calls for.

Through Dorje, who follows and studies the radio collared snow leopards, one meets a variety of characters. Namgyal  , Lama and Lobsang to name a few. His journeys also introduces to the reader the snow covered landscape and the life thriving in it. His reservations about Namgyal , their confrontations and subsequent discussions remind me of the trips  within Mizoram that I’ve been part of. How does someone local speak against a long standing practice such as hunting? What are his conflicts and roadblocks? How do his peers see him?

The very arduous treks that Dorje has to undertake, also introduces the readers to the life around, wild and otherwise. Names of some animals , birds  and plants along with some others are explained crisply in the glossary. I get a feel that some terms like foraging instead of plain looking for food is used intentionally. Probably to serve as an initiation for the 8 year olds and above (the stated audience for the book) to some of the terminology around. I'm not an eight year old or anywhere close , but I'd say the sprinkling of such terms is tender and non threatening.  Additionally, and if I might add essentially , what also gains prominence in the book are conversations between Dorje and Lobsang , a 12 year old boy. The kid moves around with Dorje for a few days in the tracking process. But the occasions where Dorje launches of into sermons on conservation are thankfully absent. The tendency for nutty adults seems to be preaching and where such interactions lead is usually to a resounding snore from the audience. But , the interactions as traced in this charming little book are in the form of discussions and observations, questions and answers shared during a journey. Infact, i'm reminded of a favorite line often thrown by a Lecturer in my college days All that is taught is not caught and all thats caught is not taught. 

I'm just a little better off than ignorant on  landscapes like these, and have just about read a bit here and there about the snow leopard in particular. However, its surprising to see how easily the illustrations transform this cat as the ghostly presence it is often described as. Pleasantly enough , through the narration and illustrations other birds and animals get their space. 

There are many more facets to this book that i found interesting but this post has gained quite a length already. The  labour put into this book  is evident and without being familiar with the people involved or the work  one can almost hear some of the  discussions that might have preceded the inclusion of certain events in the narrative and thankfully nothing I read in the book seems to have crept in by accident or without a conscious thought and that makes my experience of reading this worthwhile.

As usual, I'd think books like this one would make for a good read for children and adults.  

The Scoop Wallah - Justine Hardy , Review

This book was not easy for me to read. A very annoying account of Justine Hardy's time as a journalist in India , residing  with erstwhile royalty, chauffeured around in her personal Auto Rickshaw, travelling to Assam, listening to the Dalai Lama, peeking into the NGO sector etc etc . Most characters  in the book seem like caricatures and the constant reference to Kiplings journey is again.......annoying. Of course , Justine finds it hard to be happy anywhere, she doesn't get to report on any real issues, her boss at the paper wants yoga columns from her so on and so forth. The book is stained with some terrible photographs , unpredictably cropping up  but thankfully not too many of those. 

We were terribly put off by the style of writing and my irritation probably has reached to a point where I can't seem to find the correct pitch to critique it.
.....I just barely managed to finish it and thats rare cause i seem to have some kind of self destructive commitment to books - I try to finish the ones I start (yes even those terrible terrible translations of renowned vernacular authors....I endure them to the end). This commitment has been the toughest to keep. Hmm....maybe I'm cured of the disease. 

Charandas Chor, Habib Tanvir

I've  been an audience to a fewer plays than I would have liked to , and fewer still have I read. Like all other good things in life I might have missed out on , I think the excuse for this is I didn't ever come across one or rather I didn't really think it would be as interesting as it eventually turned out to be. Well Charandas Chor , caught my attention at the Saiha District Library a couple of months ago and I said , "Well , why not!".  This would be the first time I was reading Habib Tanvir's work and I was quite looking forward to hit.

Through the nimble footed and quick witted thief we encounter multiple characters and situations infused with irony. The play makes for an entertaining read and is more visual than what what i would have expected plays in texts to read like. I can see the agile Charandas giving the slip to the huffing puffing Havaldar. I can almost hear the group chanting this and all other chants that accompany the appearance of the corrupt guru
" The baba roams the forest alone
 The sadhu roams the forest alone
Offer a Sadhu a tiger skin
Offer a clerk some dough
Offer a peon a cup of tea
Need we say anymore?
With money it is done in a jiffy
that we know for sure"

"All you have to do is just
Give the guru his due
Is it salavation you want? just
Give the guru his due
All your learning is sham till you
Give the Guru his due
and in return he will be quick to bless you--
Cash Down! - Give the Guru is due "

About the origins of the play. I understand that Habib Tanvir first heard this originally Rajasthani forlk tale    from Vijay Dan Detha and the final form in which it was performed in India and the world over came to be only after two years of labour . The play i understand differs from the original in the fact that that it closes with Charandas's execution and posthumus deification while the original shows his guru to be the opportunist he was in accepting the role of the king. I did read the story as translated from Vijay Dan Detha's work at and was more than surprised by the difference in tones between his work and Charandas Chor. While the plot remains largely the same, the treatment provided to the subject, so vastly different. Charandas Chor is resplendent with comic ironies and unsubtle jibes , while The Crafty Thief is mellower and reflective throughout. It didn't bother me in the least that i was reading the same story twice so to speak . but was amazed at the potential that each plot holds and how it transforms as though under the spell of the teller herself/himself.
Charandas Chor essentially  to me is about the paradoxes and contradictions of the lives we live and the esteem attributed to certain virtues, which are largely viewed in a myopic haze. Read both I'd say.

My last opportunity to do some experimental reading (if there is such a thing) was on multiple translations and now reading a folk tale and the play based on it adds to this exploration! Enriching. 

Four Corners, Multiple Translation Series

I've read books by the dozen during the last year. Fiction largely and peppered with some very interesting essays on wildlife. My experience with fiction this year especially the translated kind has been one of love and hate. The Saiha district library has quite mixed bag to its credit and I have been quite indiscriminate while borrowing books (I'm not investing any thing more than time, and if it turns out to be unbearable I can heave a sigh of relief when I return it!).  I think of this phase as binge reading.  
Its difficult for me to speak of the translated work as unfortunately English is the only language I can read at ease in and translations are the only means through which i can get a peak at the diverse styles of Indian vernacular prose. During this year while i've read some very lovely translations I've also read some terrible terrible terrible translations. Books I can barely forgive myself for completing and whose deceased authors (original authors) suffer from waves of nausea in their graves each time an unsuspecting reader picks up the translation.
However , the pleasantly translated work has made me think about the process of translation in general. I've wondered about the rules and the freedoms. Infact sometimes I've felt that a translation could possibly be almost like the making a book into a film. Its as though the very medium for conveying the story / idea has changed. The control  shifts,  the medium i.e the language changes and the person it comes from changes , a different set of rules apply,the translator is a different person with her/his own style trying to tune it to the original work, but will language cooperate? The line must be thin between interpretations and translations. What language does the translator think in? What role do his or her experiences with story telling play in the process? Many such thoughts have wandered unrestrained in mind.
In the midst of all of these reflections, in  my last visit to the library I found two books, Published by Four Corners. unfortunately I could not find their web presence to share. I understand they are Orissa based. What was fascinating about these books was that they were a part of  Four Corners Multiple Translation Series. Fakir Mohammad Senapati's , Ananta , The Widows Son (originally in Oriya) and Samresh Basu's Adab (originally in Bengali)  were each translated by three different people and presented one after the other.  
Often I've had a feeling of seeing only part of the picture when i've read some bad patch of translation elsewhere  , wishing i could read the original. Here everytime I felt something was amiss , i just took a peek at what the other translators wrote and was able to find peace! I'm sure the book is not intended to classify one translator as better than the other , but to demonstrate different interpretations and handling of the same text. I enjoyed it. Maybe you could try it.

 Meanwhile, something to chew on,  quoting from the introduction to the series...

Ordinarily, it is expected that translations should read like the original and conceal as far as possible, the fact that they are translations. In other words the translator is called upon to achieve invisibility. Deeply ingrained in the minds of generations of readers, these expectations that contribute to the erasure of the translator from the translations. As a result, one loses sight of the fact that every act of translation is a uniquely creative act of reading taking place in a concrete social and historical milieu and is a product of specific choices made by the translator in response to this milieu.................................................

Saiha District Library

I’ve not been a fan of browsing in the library through my school and college years. Especially stepping in them for the course reading list essentials! Access codes, reference numbers, classifications , library cards , due dates etc all gave me a headache. Over a period of time , I have visited very few libraries and fewer have I liked. My favorite library experience still remains, the one along with a gifts shop in the middle of market in Sarita Vihar. Last year I found myself at the BCL library and blinded by the colours , blinked thrice to confirm I really was in the library and not at an overdone  playschool! I did not have it in me to browse through the collection and the loss is probably mine. But I guess that’s that.
The absolute stillness in most of these spaces feels artificially infused. However , till I took a shine to the Saiha District Library I didn't think actively of libraries and was contended browsing through bookstores and picking up what I liked.But the rest of all that can be saved for another post. 
Saiha District Library is what claims this post today. Dwarfed by the DC complex on its side , you might not notice this building if you are new to the area. At the entrance , i'd wondered  how they managed to get hold of the location. A serene  view of the hills,elevated by a a view of Kaladan quietly sneaking through the valley below. 
Turn around to get inside the library and you  detect a scent of old books and can almost imagine yellowing  pages on dusty shelves. Well the books are not that old , yellowing yes and a tad dusty. However , all of it just adds up to your sense of adventure and you wonder what is in store.
The area is probably around 500 sq ft exclusive of the office rooms and is lined with wood cupboards, shelves and tables , all of which seem to have a bit of history clinging to them. As I recall ,the only light available is what comes through the windows and lends the space a warm appeal.
I was quickly at home here , for I didn't need to bother about access codes or classifications or even being unnaturally still. The dear man at the counter leaves me free to browse the 20 odd cupboards and arrive at my own method to deal with this madness and I believe that is the best way. For instance, the first two cupboards closest to the counter and at right angles to each other will in all possibility to contain Indian authors writing in English or translation to English from Hindi and Urdu. That bottom three shelves of a lonely looking cupboard will hold together books on Mizoram, Maraland etc, either in English or Mizo (I’m not sure whether Mara books are there on these shelves). But despite all this semi conscious classifications I could browse through any of these cupboards and be surprised by its eclectic content. 
Nimesh and I often do not need to look around for too long. There are very few users of this space and the person at the counter seems to have grown familiar with our tastes. If he's around and there happens to be some book he considers to be of our liking he promptly whips it out of hiding, smiling and saying you may like. Usually , these books relate to wildlife or Mizoram and he's right on target when he thinks we might like to leaf through them.

Intially we were permitted just two books at a time and I found myself visiting the library almost twice a week. To save myself some trouble , I did ask him if I could take more and he gracefully agreed. Our limit has been stretched to five!
Occasionally I peer into the register while he makes his entry and realise that there aren't many who came in since the last time I was there. And probably thats why the board of chinese checkers is so well maintained , it helps the staff to keep boredom at bay. 
This library and the warmth of the person we interact with has been an important part of my experience of Saiha. A bagful of books to carry home without pressures or due dates and fines has strangely made me a bit more particular about being carefull with the books, returning them and resisting the urge of swiping a good even if I know I might not find it outside. 
Thanks to Pu Simon for helping us get access to the library and for the staff at the library for making us comfortable. Maybe someday I'll figure out chinese checkers and join you for a game.

The Myna From Peacock Garden , Naiyer Masud, Review

Simply charming illustrations , to go along with this simple tale of a frail hearted father's promise to his daughter. A Hill Myna to love and to keep. 

After his wife's death, Kale Khan roams the streets of Lucknow in a haze and finally lands a job in the Royal Peacock Garden. What his daughter Falak Ara desires most is a Hill Myna and faced with the responsibility of caring for 40 such birds for the Badhshah, Kale Khan contemplates swiping one from the Badhashah many! Vivid descriptions of the garden and the kings men and the streets of Lucknow find a suitable companion in the illustrations by Premola Ghose. The simple plot unfurling so vividly keeps me hooked through the 40 odd pages of this tale by Naiyer Masud . The tale ends with some indications of more stories to come. Tell me more! I'm almost pleading.   

This little pet hill myna I saw in Chaltlang , Aizawl comes to mind as i write this note. Pretty lonely in its lovely cage , whether its in Aizawl or in Lucknow with Kale Khan.