Stories of the past: Recalling our ancestors in Chansa Makan’s Living Ghosts and Other Uncanny Stories.

Living Ghosts and Other Uncanny Stories

It is just recently that the written literature came into existence in the Tangkhul Naga community. Before the onset of the written literature, the Tangkhul Naga community thrived on the art of oral storytelling. Oral tradition, since time immemorial, has been a part of the Tangkhul Naga. Be it knowledge, folktales, folk songs, folk dances or history, the ancestors ardently passed down these to their children through oral tradition. As a child, I remember sitting around the fireplace with my siblings listening to our grandparents narrating to us stories, folktales and legends. Since folktales were passed down to us orally, there was nothing or less about written stories where I could call my own . Therefore, I grew up reading literature of the west. Chansa Makan’s book comes in such a time when we are looking for our identities— something to belong to. Our ancestors have left us but a part of their love for oral storytelling will remain through this book.

“He couldn’t believe his eyes for he saw that the beautiful woman’s feet were not touching the ground.”

Living Ghosts and Other Uncanny Stories (2020) is a semi-fiction book by Chansa Makan. This book is a collection of folktales, legends and real life stories interlaced with eerie and chilling narratives. It has seven uncanny stories where one of them is a series. Chansa Makan is an Imphal-born Tangkhul Naga author from Ukhrul, Manipur.

Ever heard of living ghosts or met one yet? Makan’s debut book Living Ghosts and Other Uncanny Stories is drawn from strange stories he had heard from his mother or told by people he knows. Tales of living ghosts takes centre stage in the temper of the stories. Kazeiram Kazang, Zingtai Mansingla and Mi Khangayei are some of the stories in this book. The series of Kashong Philava stories also forms a spotlight in this book.

Accounts about Kazeiram, Kokto, Mi Khangayei and Rai Kaphung are stories, which are not foreign to a Tangkhul Naga. Stories about the wrath of Kokto or the mysterious chronicles that surrounds the netherworld are something that a Tangkhul Naga grew up listening to. Growing up, I see elders talking about Rai and Mi khangayei in hushed tones. These things are not to be spoken of unreservedly in public. In most scenarios, these are ambivalent cases yet one is required not to dig deeper for meaning, for these things are believed to be unfavourable to the society. On the other hand, eerie tales about Kashong Philava would make me shudder in fear. Stories pertaining to the nature of the Philava where she starts looking for lovers amongst the mortals after the death of her lover Kashong Sei are peculiar. Whoever meets the Philava either dies in a mysterious condition or gets sick. And the quintessential Tangkhul Naga folktale Zingtai Mansingla’s story is a treat. In my younger years, I remember being so fascinated with the story of Mansingla and her dexterous weaving ability. But i would be horror-stricken if stories about living ghosts surfaces and would avoid talking about living ghosts at night.

“The seizure like phenomenon started occurring frequently. Prayers and different local medicines had no effect on him. Sometimes he would wake up in the middle of the night and start talking and smiling as if somebody was visiting him.”

What makes Makan’s book uncommon is that it defies the normal and succeeds in boldly portraying the non-accepting facets of the society.  This book brings out the meaning in keeping the history of the community alive. In a community where written literature is scarce, this book is a great addition to the stack of written literature that is slowly building up.

If you love reading frightening and ghosts stories this is the book for you. This book has just the right amount of hair-raising and spine-chilling mood. Some stories are intriguing and riveting, some would give you that petrifying feeling, some would make you ponder on the possible causes of these strange stories. Wholly, this book is exciting and it keeps you hooked till the last page. I would recommend this book if you are searching for lost stories of the past. This book is a must-read. This is a book with an eerie concept and sometimes it sounds unreal. A student dies after spending a night in a haunted house. The cause of his death? Well, you know who! Whether the ghost took him or did he suffer a cardiac arrest? Science or ghost? Well, it is up to you. Read this book and come to your own judgement. Happy reading folks!

Pages- 126

Publishers- Bluerose Publishers (2020)

You can buy the paperback here https://amzn.to/2BEbYfd

You can buy the e-book here https://amzn.to/3855ZMG

Franny and Zooey by J.D Salinger

Jerome David Salinger was an influential 20th-century American writer. Salinger writes primarily of young people and adolescents on the brink of adulthood who experience a crisis or breakdown as they realize they cannot be themselves and enter the social world. Salinger belonged to the post World War 2 writers where the question of existentialism is prominent in the literature of 1940s and 1950s.

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Much of Salinger’s work concerns the Glass family, especially the effect of Seymour’s (eldest sibling) suicide on the rest of the members.

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Franny and Zooey is a two part novella which were published independently as short stories before they were clubbed as a novella. In most of Salinger’s short stories the Glass family forms the basis. Likewise, in Franny and Zooey we see the stories of two of the Glass siblings — Franny, 20 and Zooey , 25.

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This novella tells the story of Franny’s  breakdown and her discussion about it with her brother, Zooey. There are not much action happening in both the stories. In Franny the scene takes place in an eastern college town during a football weekend where Franny is dining with her boyfriend Lane. Lane sophisticated and privileged ivy league world, with its money and opportunity, but a world without soul or imagination. Whereas Franny is an unusual and gifted young woman, sickened by the conventional people, ideas, and classes she endures day after day. She longs to meet someone real she can respect. 

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She is upset at her own intolerance for others but cannot respect those who pretend to have talent or authority when they do not. She is struggling to stay true to herself, a goal that isolates her, when she also wants love and connection. People like Lane lack authenticity. They do not live any truth but mouth what they have been taught. 

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Franny is attached to a book called The Way of a Pilgrim which teaches a technique for Christian mysticism, repetition of the Jesus prayer until one feels united with God. Franny holds on to this prayer to get her through her crisis. When she finally tries to share with Lane what she is going through, he belittles it, or reduces it to a psychological problem, because he has no framework for dealing with such matters. Franny is looking for a deeper love and meaning in her life. Lane offers her weekend sex and a certain companionship but little understanding of her deeper needs.

As Franny struggles with her breakdown her brother Zooey helps her overcome it.

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As the short story progresses, Salinger emphasises that family is always there to help—an alternative to an empty life. Zooey begins with Zooey reading a letter to him by his brother Buddy. The letter and Buddy’s description of how Franny and Zooey were raised sheds light on Franny’s current spiritual crisis. Zooey, it appears, had taken the education seriously and continued in some form of meditation. He is described by Buddy as having a permanent benign and happy expression, the true source of his handsomeness. It is implied by Buddy that Zooey attained some degree of success with his spiritual quest. He is happy and adjusted. Franny, however, as the youngest, seems to have been left on her own, and now, confronted with the ugliness of the world, she only remembers the ideals she was taught by her brothers. She tries a spiritual technique she finds in a book but has no teacher. Feeling desperate and stuck, she has a breakdown.

Interestingly, Zooey received this crucial letter when he was about Franny’s age. Buddy helped Zooey over the hump into adulthood, and now Franny needs help. Zooey is the one who will give it to her.

This book is an interesting read ! Typical American literature book.

You can buy the paperback here https://amzn.to/2BGTWZW

The Courage to be Disliked by Fumitake Koga and Ichiro Kishimi

“The courage to be happy also includes the courage to be disliked. When you have gained that courage, your interpersonal relationships will all at once change into things of lightness.”

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The Courage to be Disliked is a sprawling Japanese analysis of the work of 19th-century psychologist Alfred Adler, who established that happiness lies in the hands of each human individual and does not depend on past traumas. This book is written by Fumitake Koga and Ichiro Kishimi. .

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The book tells the story of an unhappy young man, who visits a philosopher on the outskirts of his city. Over the course of five conversations, the teacher helps him take control of his own life and happiness.

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By referring to Adler’s work, the book fills a gap in our current pop psychology conversation. It provides a useful, level-headed approach to living a happy and fulfilled life.

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Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit

“We have an abundance of rape and violence against women in this country and on this Earth, though it’s almost never treated as a civil rights or human rights issue, or a crisis, or even a pattern. Violence doesn’t have a race, a class, a religion, or a nationality, but it does have a gender.”

“mansplainer” is a “man compelled to explain or give an opinion about everything—especially to a woman. He speaks, often patronizingly, even if he does not know what he’s talking about or even if it is none of his business.”

Rebecca Solnit is a writer, historian and activist. In her book ‘Men Explain Things to Me’— a collection essays, Solnit addresses gender politics, gender-based violence and global violence which continues to affect the society. This book talks about the silencing of women, ideas that men purposely belief that that no matter what a woman says, a man always knows better. She writes about men who wrongly assume they know things and wrongly assume women don’t. Rebecca Solnit takes on what often goes wrong in conversations between men and women. 

These essays also serves as a reply to anti-feminists, who believe that feminists hate men, exaggerate the statistics on sexual and domestic violence, and to those who believe that global gender equality has been achieved. In this book Solnit portrays feminism as “together”. 

She writes, Women’s liberation has often been portrayed as a movement intent on encroaching upon or taking power and privilege away from men, as though in some dismal zero-sum game, only one gender at a time could be free and powerful. However, we are free together or slaves together. Surely, the mindset of those who think they need to win, to dominate, to punish, to reign supreme, must be terrible and far from free. And giving up this unachievable pursuit would be liberatory.”

Men Explain Things to Me is about gender roles, but more importantly, it is about the unequal distribution of power. Solnit’s discussions of rape culture, marriage, inequality, gender-based violence statistics etc represents that we need feminism more now than ever before.

“Young women needed to know that being belittled wasn’t the result of their own secret failings; it was the boring old gender wars. He thought that being patronized was an experience a woman chooses to, or could choose not to have–and so the fault was all mine” writes Solnit.

Solnit argues this silencing of women has dangerous consequences: many of the problems that plague society have, in large part, arisen and continue to take place because of the very inability to listen to what women have to say.

Over the centuries, women have been rebuked and pressed into silence. Men have much more control over a silent woman who doesn’t threaten his status quo. Women who have been abused know that they face penalty, disbelief and even violence for reporting that they’d been sexually abuse or even to the point of depiction as sluts or delusional. 

Solnit further articulates that the women of first world countries are fortunate to have laws and society behind them in seeking full equality with men. However, in regions like the Middle East, parts of Asia and in developing nations, women virtually have no rights – no right to be heard or educated or to even show their faces.The first essay explores men silencing women. It begins with Solnit recounting a conversation with “Mr. Very Important” in which he asks her about her writing, only to talk over her and lecture her about a book that, it turns out, she actually wrote. She uses this to explore the way traditional gender roles inculcate men to believe that they are automatically better informed than women and have a right to speak over them. Examining how this works to silence women and drown out their voices, Solnit links this to wider patterns of repression, violence, and abuse.

The second essay explores violence against women, providing a variety of statistics that demonstrate the scale of rape, domestic violence, and other abuse in the U.S. and throughout the world. She observes that the vast majority of this violence is committed by men but that this pattern of gendered abuse is rarely recognized or discussed. From this, she concludes that tackling violence against women will require us to properly recognize the way gender roles and masculinity help perpetuate abuse.

The third essay continues to explore violence against women, focusing on the alleged sexual assault of Nafissatou Diallo, an African immigrant working as a hotel maid, by Dominique Strauss-Kahn, then director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). She uses this encounter to explore the roles of gender, power, and privilege in enabling men to commit violence against women. She also draws symbolic parallels between Strauss-Kahn’s alleged actions and neo-colonial violence enacted by Western institutions like the IMF.

The fourth essay examines marriage equality suggesting that those who oppose same-sex marriage are motivated by a desire to maintain traditional gender roles. She asserts that same-sex marriage, which can be seen as a marriage between equal parties, should be celebrated for the way it challenges the patriarchal organization of traditional marriage in which women have effectively been the property of men.

The fifth essay explores how women are, on a symbolic and literal level, “obliterated” (70) by many cultural practices. She examines practices such as only recording men on family trees or women taking their husbands’ names when they get marriage, asserting that this removes women from history, silencing their voices and lived experiences. She connects this to wider patterns of silencing and repression experienced by women throughout the world.

The sixth essay is a celebration of Virginia Woolf and an examination of approaches to criticism and analysis that do not seek to make the unknown known but rather subtly explore the intangible and obscure. Solnit suggests that, far from being something that we should attempt to pin down and definitively understand, the unknown or the “darkness”  should simply be explored without striving for fixed interpretation. With this understanding, she suggests that the darkness is a place of hope, filled with potential for remarkable progress and positive change.

In the final essay, Solnit looks at progress made by the feminist movement. She suggests that the most accurate measure of this is the way the movement has made irrevocable changes to cultural understandings of gender and women’s rights. Accordingly, while conservative forces may attempt to change legislation and restrict women’s rights, they cannot change the fact that the majority of people now believe that women should have these rights. As the forces released from Pandora ’s Box, these ideas and a general belief in gender equality will not go back in the box, despite the backlash of repressive forces exerted against the feminist movement and women more broadly.

21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari

Questions you cannot answer are usually far better for you than answers you cannot question.”

21 Lessons for the 21st Century is a non-fiction by Yuval Noah Harari. It’s an insightful book on how to know which things to worry about, and how much to worry about them.Each lesson befits a TedX talk. This book highlights today’s most pressing political, cultural, and economic challenges created by technology while helping us prepare for an uncertain future. A 400 pages which discusses today’s greatest challenges, most important changes, what should we pay attention to and what should we teach our kids. Harari divides the book into five parts and chooses twenty-one topics to disuss in this book— the technological challenge (part 1), the political challenge (part 2), despair and hope (part 3), truth (part 4), and resilience (part 5).

“In a world deluged by irrelevant information, clarity is power.”

With twenty-one topics, Harari makes a determined effort to deal with the future of work and education, the wide-ranging and growing influence of data collection on people’s lives, the increasingly threatening rupture around the foundation of the European Union, the conflict between secularism and religion, and a trio of existential threats: climate change, nuclear war, and artificial intelligence. I found the three chapters on Liberty, Equality and Community especially engaging. Ideas burst from every page; many of these are highly controversial so there is never a dull moment.

“It takes a lot of courage to fight biases and oppressive regimes, but it takes even greater courage to admit ignorance and venture into the unknown. Secular education teaches us that if we don’t know something, we shouldn’t be afraid of acknowledging our ignorance and looking for new evidence. Even if we think we know something, we shouldn’t be afraid of doubting our opinions and checking ourselves again. Many people are afraid of the unknown, and want clear-cut answers for every question. Fear of the unknown can paralyse us more than any tyrant. People throughout history worried that unless we put all our faith in some set of absolute answers, human society will crumble. In fact, modern history has demonstrated that a society of courageous people willing to admit ignorance and raise difficult questions is usually not just more prosperous but also more peaceful than societies in which everyone must unquestioningly accept a single answer. People afraid of losing their truth tend to be more violent than people who are used to looking at the world from several different viewpoints. Questions you cannot answer are usually far better for you than answers you cannot question.”

Harari discusses that life in 15th-century China was pretty slow, but now in the modern era the pace of change feels unstoppable. He further reiterates that religion can be bad, but has its uses. Nationalism can be bad, but has its uses. Factory farming is very, very bad. Liberalism is good, but under threat. Hunter-gathering is a more exciting lifestyle choice than farming, or working in a factory. Technological advances bring Big Ethical Questions. He argues that collective myths, such as money and laws, have allowed us to build huge, complicated societies far beyond what our biological limitations might suggest is possible. But in the secular west, religion is fading from public life. And in our globalised world, the idea of a unified nation-state is threatened. Being a Histotrian himself, Harari brings in a lot of historical facts in this book. So its interesting as you flip each page you’re fed with history of the worlf lessons. 

The Twenty-one Lessons are-

Part 1- The Technological Challenge

1.      Disillusionment

2.      Work

3.      Liberty

4.      Equality

Part 2- The Political Challenge

5.      Community

6.      Civilisation

7.      Nationalism

8.      Religion

9.      Immigration

Part 3- Despair and Hope

10.  Terorism

11.  War

12.  Humility

13.  God

14.  Secularism

Part 4- Truth

15.  Ignorance

16.  Justice

17.  Post- Truth

18.  Science Fition

Part 5- Resillience

19.  Education

20.  Meaning

21.  Meditation

Summing up the entire book in three points:

-Whoever owns the data wins, which is why everyone struggles for it.

-We don’t know, we just think we do – and that’s a problem.

-Education must show us how to navigate information, not give us more of it.

“Humans were always far better at inventing tools than using them wisely.”

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

It is difficult for me not to love Oliver Twist —the first ever Classic I read. Somehow I find myself finding my way into classics. Termed by many as boring and old but classics are like home to me! The quality of English language and the array of expressions that are found in classics are commendable. .

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Oliver, the protagonist, is born in a workhouse in the first half of the nineteenth century. His mother dies during his birth, and he is sent to an orphanage, where he is treated badly, beaten regularly, and poorly fed. One of the famous episodes in the book is when Oliver walks up to the stern authoritarian of the orphanage, Mr. Bumble, and asks for a second helping. For this act which was considered as rudeness, he is put out of the workhouse. .

“Please, sir, I want some more. ‘ Oliver Twist has asked for more!”

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Oliver is sent away to live with a family but he runs away from the family that takes him in. He wants to find his fortune in London. Instead, he falls in with a boy called Jack Dawkins, who is part of a child gang of thieves run by a man called Fagin.

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The story of Oliver Twist is a labyrinth of child labour, childhood in the 1830’s, child criminals, poverty and to never give up. Oliver went through a series of hard events but he put up with it and in the end he was happy. Even though there are trials and tribulations one must go on with their life. For Oliver , who had gone through so many bleak and hard times, just trying to survive becomes a big part. And that he must manage to survive in Order to live each day. .

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Oliver Twist is influential in bringing to light the cruel treatment of paupers and orphans in Dickens’ time. The novel is not only a brilliant work of art but an important social document. Dickens uses the novel to give readers of the time a dramatic understanding of the shameful social situation for England’s underclass and particularly its children. Oliver Twist might not be the most psychological complex of Dickens’ but it remains a powerful illustration of the 19th Century English society.

Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke

“These things cannot be measured by time, a year has no meaning , and ten years nothing. To be an artist means: not to calculate and count; to grow and ripen like a tree which does not hurry the flow of its sap.”

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I came across Rilke while watching Jojo Rabbit and there was a faint sigh in my heart with a pang of regret for not associating with Rilke way before. .

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Rainer Maria Rilke, an Austrian poet and novelist is considered as one of the most lyrically intense German-language poets. His poetic style is rich and adaptable. Letters to a Young Poet is a set of ten response letters by Rilke to a set of letters written to Rilke by a young man entering a military career who wished to become a poet. .

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Kappus, a young officer cadet writes to Rilke, enclosing some of his own poems and asking Rilke for advice. Letters to a Young Poet is the reply to Kappus’ letters by Rilke. The letters spans from the years 1903- 1908. The letters, at first, gives a ‘don’t write to me again’ kinda vibe. But as one delves deeper it keeps feeding one with priceless knowledge. “Nobody can advise you and help you,” writes Rilke, “nobody. There is only one way. Go into yourself.” .

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The letters, as one reads on, are filled with candid, thoughtful, useful and encouraging communications. The letters are thought provoking and insightful. Rilke illustrates the determination that artists require to stick to their path and create history. .

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“The only sadnesses that are dangerous and unhealthy are the ones that we carry around in public to drown them out with the noise.”

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“Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are waiting to see us act just once , with beauty and courage . Perhaps everything that frightens us is , in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love. “

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Definitely in love with Rilke—reading, and will continue to Rilke! .

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The picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

I want to be good. I can’t bear the idea of my soul being hideous.

The Picture of Dorian Gray is a Gothic novel by Oscar Wilde which was originally published in 1890. This book was widely condemned for its speculative treatment of immoral subjects. This book projects a horrible vision of power and frailty of human self-delusion. Aestheticism, hedonism, immorality of purely aesthetic lives and the values of art runs wild in the novel. There is explicit proclamation of the uselessness of living live in accordance with aesthetic values. Dark desires and forbidden pleasures hovering around art and morality acts as the base to the story. The terrible pleasure of double life is eminent in the character of Dorian Gray. Lord Henry comes of as a terrible influence for Dorian Gray where he sets a particular standard of dandy-ism for Dorian. Dorian is unable to live up to Lord Henry’s ideals due to his inability to escape his conscience as depicted in the portrait ⁠—a portrait of Dorian created by his painter friend Basil Hallward. The portrait of Dorian Gray becomes the best masterpiece of Basil. Dorian challenges himself to outlive his own portrait and wishes to remain youthful forever. But beauty and vanity is such that, they poison the mind. Hence unable to cope up with his power and influence and his decadence lifestyle, Dorian destroyed himself. By attempting to destroy the painting, and thus free himself from the constant reminder of his own guilt he, ultimately, manages only to destroy himself.  Dorian Gray personifies the aesthetic lifestyle in action, pursuing personal gratification with abandon. Yet, while he enjoys these indulgences, his behaviour ultimately kills him and others, and he dies unhappier than ever. Rather than an advocate for pure aestheticism, then, Dorian Gray is a cautionary tale in which Wilde illustrates the dangers of the aesthetic philosophy when not practiced with prudence.

‘There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written or badly written. That is all’.

Set in the Victorian Age, The Picture of Dorian Gray centers on Dorian Gray, a beautiful yet vulnerable young man who has recently inherited a fortune. He arrives in London and meets Basil Howard, a painter who becomes fixated on capturing the beauty of Dorian Gray through painting. The painting of Dorian Gray becomes the masterpiece of Basil Hallward. One afternoon, in his elaborated country home, Basil and his sardonic friend Lord Henry are talking about Basil’s masterpiece— The Picture of Dorian Gray. Dorian Gray is absolutely the most beautiful man Basil has ever seen. Lord Henry insist that he meets this mystery man but Basil is hesitant to introduce Dorian to Lord Henry as he fears that Lord Henry would corrupt Dorian.

because to influence a person is to give one’s own soul

One day Lord Henry finds Basil and Dorian in Basil’s home. Lord Henry introduces himself and Dorian, being incredibly impressionable is easily influenced by the Lord Henry’s cynical views of the world, especially about youth and beauty. After all the talk between the two of them, Dorian’s views seem to parallel Lord Henry’s views about the only thing important in life are pleasure and youthfulness. Lord Henry is completely transfixed on pleasure seeking and practises it or mocking those who attempt to alleviate human suffering. Lord Henry is a twisted person. He tells Dorian to enjoy his youth and seek out all the pleasures that he can. Lord Henry remarks to Dorian that although he is beautiful now it’ll all fade through time. When Basil finishes his portrait of Dorian, it immediately began to serve as a reminder ot Dorian that even though the paiting of Dorian will remain beautiful, he himself will grow old and lose his youthful beauty. Having been influenced by Lord Henry, Dorian makes a wish that he would remain young and the painting would carry the weight of time for him. However Basil’s view is the opposite of Lord Henry. Basil embraces the outlook that beauty is so breathtking because it doesn’t lasts. It’s not something to cling to.

An artist should create beautiful things, but should put nothing of his own life into them.”

Dorian meets Sibyl Vane and develops an obsession with her. Due to his new found love Dorian rejects Lord Henry’s philosophy of hedonism and pleasure seeking. Sibyl is an actress who does Shakespeare plays at the local theatre. After the two of them meets and fall in love, she becomes a terrible actor because she’s in love. Because of her real love for Dorian she decides to quit acting. Dorian promptly rejects her believing that he has not fallen in love with her but with her acting. Dorian abandones Sibyl Vane, who shortly after kills herself. Dorian denies that it’s his fault at all that Sibyl killed herself even though no one was prosecuting him.

The sadistic Lord Henry twists the meaning of Sibyl’s death. He convinces Dorian to view her suicide as an artistic expression of love and not to be sad about it. To cheer up Dorian, Lord Henry suggests that Dorian reads a certain yellow book which reaffirms Dorian’s new lifestyle of sensual pleasures. The yellow book is about a young Parisian who spends his life seeking out pleasure. He begins to indulge himself in pleasures like drugs, sex and alcohol. At this Dorian figures out that his wish has come true. His portrait has changed to reveal the darkness inside of him and his body has remain beautiful and youthful. The painting becomes more grotesque with every sin that Dorian commits which motivates him to hide the painting. All this time, the only person who knows about the change in the painting is Dorian because he keeps it locked up in an old closet in his home. As he continues to see the painting age, he became worried about someone breaking in and stealing his painting. As he has been living his scandalous lifestyle, he has acquired a lot of enemies who would like to expose Dorian, if only they knew the truth. Dorian’s adult life is filled evil indulgences and pleasures that ruined his soul, and also his portrait. The painting has turned into a hideous looking thing with barely any resemblance of Dorian himself.

There is no such thing as a good influence, Mr. Gray. All influence is immoral—immoral from the scientific point of view.

Years have passed when Basil sees Dorian on the street. Basil tries to bring him back to the proverbial lifestyle. He begs Dorian to use his power and influence for good as opposed to the evil he’s been using it for. Dorian leads Basil to the room where he keeps his portrait locked up. Shocked, Basil sees the disgusting and festering version of Dorian in the painting. Stricken with rage from the painting Dorian murders Basil and asks help from his scientist friend Alan Campbell in disposing off the body.

I am jealous of the portrait you have painted of me … Every moment that passes takes something from me and gives something to it. Oh, if it were only the other way! If the picture could change, and I could be always what I am now!

Dorian attends a party which he finds rather boring. He decides to go to an opium den where he encounters a man who tried to kill him. The man is James Vane, the brother of Sibyl Vane. He is seeking revenge upon Dorian for his sister’s death. However, Dorian tricks James into believing that he is not Dorian as he has the face of a twenty year old, and roughly eighteen years have passed since Dorian and Sibyl’s relationship. But later James learns from a lady in the opium den that it was infact Dorian and that he simply doesn’t age. 

For the second time, James tried to kill Dorian. This time it’s in a party in Dorian’s country house. But unfortunately James got killed by accident and Dorian is relieved. Dorian encounters Lord Henry and reveals that he had killed Basil. Dorian wonders if he can be changed. Dorian returns back to check his painting but it is even worse. Now it has grown into the look of a hypocrite. Frustrated, he stabs the heart of the painting. Dorian Gray becomes the grotesque and festering man from the painting. While the painting reverts to its original beauty. Dorian Gray lies death on the floor with a sword in his heart.

Okthuishap Rala by Soror Zimik

A Short Review on Okthuishap Rala? by Soror Zimik

“Ngayin, ili hanglu chiakha leikashi hiya kacham kashang wui kakhalat mathei mana. Kateowa bing wui vangla kahakka bing wui vangla leikashi wui kakhalat ngaraichaya.”

Okthuishap Rala? is a tragic Tangkhul language novel written by Soror Zimik. The novel gives an account of Ngayin and Soyar’s tragic love story or more so the tragic life of Ngayin— the protagonist of the novel. A sob story, a tear-jerker definitely not a literary novel, Okthuishap Rala? explores the themes of class disparity, HIV/AIDS, love, childhood, alcoholism, upholding societal values, discrimination on grounds of social dogmas, and friendship. Zimik maps out the so-called “societal attitude” towards everything that is not based on convention. In this novel, such marginalized attitude is meted out to people living with HIV/AIDS, which we can say is still prevalent in the present society. Ngayin is alienated from the society on the grounds that his parents died of HIV/AIDS. The perspective of HIV/AIDS which the society deems it to be dangerous and unacceptable is prominently manifested in the novel. Because of the stigma created by the society towards people living with HIV/AIDS, Ngayin, a poor orphan is forced to give up the love of his life and slowly shrinks away as people watched him ruin his life bit by bit.

Okthuishap Rala? will take you down memory lane and give you a sense of belonging. The streets of Ukhrul and its various street foods; concerts in town hall; school days; GREF road and Ukhrul Jail road; Ukhrul bolero taxis and the many natural entertainment that comes with Ukhrul are some of the memorabilia that’ll take you to Ukhrul upon reading this novel. Even the very mention of HIV/AIDS would trigger you back to Ukhrul Town, which once had the highest record of HIV/AIDS prevalence in Manipur. Needless to say, the judgmental society that we live in today forms the core catalyst of every occurrence in this story.

On a narrower side of the story, Zimik catastrophizes the circumstance of Ngayin, the protagonist of the novel, in an immoderate fashion. How can one human suffer so much? There’s agony after agony, so much so that it appeared like all the sufferings have been laid over to Ngayin. In his relationship with Soyar, somewhere down the storyline it felt like Soyar has got nothing to do with their relationship. For at some point, it was only Ngayin who agonises about their failing relationship while there was not so much involvement from Soyar even when their relationship broke apart. Setting aside all these, Okthuishap Rala? is an absorption of thoughts and entertainment together, something that lies between watching a Tangkhul film and listening to a sad Tangkhul song. 

Why should you read Okthuishap Rala?

As far I know, I believe Soror Zimik is the second novelist who writes in Tangkhul language after the acclaimed Tangkhul novelist, Makanmi Ramror. This book is a 334 page book written in solid Tangkhul language— satisfying and appealing. Being a Tangkhul, this book gives me a sense of belonging. I love reading and to read a book or a novel written in Tangkhul language is such a delight! There’s curiosity as the page progresses  and it doesn’t bore me as reading a novel is Tangkhul language is still very new to me. I enjoyed every line, sobbing at times after reading the depressing life of Ngayin. This book is a one time read for me as all the plots starts registering in my mind like I am watching a Tangkhul movie. I’d say reading this book is like watching a Tangkhul movie. Pick up this book and experience how thrilling it is to read a novel written in Tangkhul language.

Elaborated highlights of the novel

Ngayin, who lives in Ukhrul Town with his widowed mother, comes from a poverty-stricken family. Soyar, the only daughter of one of the most elitist and richest families in Ukhrul Town is the best friend of Ngayin. Since childhood Ngayin and Soyar have been inseparable. They are as thick as thieves. They study and go to the same school. Their close affinity often becomes the subject of discussion, both in school and Ukhrul Town. Soon the friendship between them grew into deep affection. Promising unequivocal love towards each other, the duo plans to study in Shillong together for Pre-University course after their tenth grade.

Ngayin’s father, in his living days, lived a frivolous life giving away to drugs and alcoholism. He squandered away the little wealth that they have in the act of self-gratification leading to broken and wretched life. His offending lifestyle drew away all the near and dear ones. He lived a despicable and contemptible life. The day he passed away there were silent whispers in the neighbourhood that the head of the family departed this life suffering from HIV/AIDS. Everybody whispered in hushed tones, for in Ukhrul, to have HIV/AIDS is to live with irremediable stigma— a disgrace, a shame. 

“Ngayin, nathum katha hina kazingram mava akha okathui mi katonga kazingram mava rar la meifa zangser haora”

Unbeknownst to Ngayin about his father’s disease, his mother brought him up to be a fine and obedient young boy. The neighbourhood mothers wish to have sons like Ngayin. For Ngayin — a precocious and duteous son, listens to his mother and knows the value of life. Destitution and hardship have always been constant companions for Ngayin and his mother. Ngayin knows how it feels to live a life in poverty. Nonetheless, the mother-son duo lives a forbearing life nurturing what little they have. 

“Inishi shimkhur hiya ngaya eina ngashun wui khangateili ngarai chaya.”

The disparity in class and wealth between Ngayin’s family and Soyar’s family is about to create a barrier in their relationship. Ngayin loves Soyar as much as the countless stars in the sky and both could not live without each other. The class difference has always been a shattering thought for Ngayin whenever he proclaims his love for Soyar.

“Leikashi hina uklungli angayung phonkhui kahai chitharanva masashat luipaimana.”

Life is uncertain and it will always be. One summer morning, Ngayin’s mother suddenly fell ill. Everything happened in an instant and that summer death lays her icy hands on Ngayin’s mother. Ngayin’s life shattered into pieces. Now he is left all alone to tend to himself loathed and unwanted, chiefly by his close relatives pertaining to shame brought upon the family name by his father. The dream to study in Shillong with Soyar became a mere wish after his mother’s passing. Ngayin had to take care of his home and there was nobody to support him for his further studies. Ngayin had to forego his dream to study in Shillong with Soyar. Soyar unwillingly left for Shillong without Ngayin right after the board results. 

“Leikashi wui kaphaning maungkashung hiya ngaha shilakka, arila maleimana. Leikashi leiman hiya runlala makan mana, phunglala makan mana”

Life went about, Ngayin studying in Ukhrul and Soyar in Shillong. Long distance and the lack of communication between  Soyar and Ngayin drew their relationship apart. Soyar grew closer towards Rhokho, an Angami Tangkhul who studies in the same college with her. Although Soyar still loves Ngayin and Rhokho is wide aware of Ngayin and Soyar’s relationship, the Shillong duo could not stop being close. Soyar continued her under-graduate course in Shillong while Ngayin continued in Ukhrul due to financial constraints. Stories about Soyar and Rhokho were not alien to Ngayin nor does Soyar admits the alleged relationship with Rhokho. But people know that something is brewing between Rhokho and Soyar including their parents.

“Khamashunga kachangkhat leikashi hili sakkhamei khikhala maleimana. Sina lupa lan einala malokhuipaimana.”

Ngayin’s mother left with no intimidation about his father’s disease. There were talks in the Town that HIV/AIDS took away the lives of Ngayin’s parents. And it is such that if both the parents die of HIV/AIDS there is high chance that the children would also contract the disease. People, including Soyar’s parents mocked and alienated Ngayin. Ngayin found out the bitter truth by rummaging through the old letters of his father and it was written that his father had contracted the disease during his prime. Ngayin felt devastated and slowly began to move away from Soyar. But life was hard but love was harder. He could not bring the word to Soyar. 

Meanwhile, the families of Soyar and Rhokho are in talks about their marriage. Soyar knew that she won’t be able to live without Ngayin, not even one bit. Soyar decided to run away with Ngayin but they were intercepted by Soyar’s father who belittled and abused Ngayin in front of the whole neighbourhood for being the son of HIV/AIDS (zakkashi kazat) victim parents. In a rage Ngayin declared that he never want to see her. Soyar and Ngayin were forced to go separate ways. 

“Nali maleishi thuda kaikahai maningmana kha thang kachida nali leikashi mataisang mamanda I khipa khala kachi malai haoki kachi atam rashung haoda I uklung na kayakha leishilala I khamorna maleikashi sarekda keishat leiman otphun katonga phungkhuihaida zat kahaina.”

Ngayin fled the town and went and settled in one of the Eastern regions for more than three years. During this time he started taking comfort in alcohol. Ngayin’s life crumbled into pieces. Day in, day out, alcohol became his sole companion. Drinking became his life. He returned back to Ukhrul with this drinking habit and he became the talk of the town for there was not even a single day where people didn’t see Ngayin in drunken state. He would walk up and down the street like a mad dog and people would pity him, some loathe. Soyar married Rhokho and went away to settle in New Delhi. 

“Mirin khonshat hitha phalunga, mitui morei phungkazat chothaira, shaphaira. I khikha makahao luimana. Leikashi wui kakahalat theikhui haira, ngasot nao wui aman kasakla tamkhui haira, mirin wui ringkapha khangayam kachot kachangla samphangkhui haira. Mirin hina shaphaoka.”

For a long time Ngayin lived an intoxicated life. As for Soyar, she went on to live a happy life with her husband Rhokho and son, Yarmishang in the capital city. They live a contended and affluent life. After a good seven years of living in inebriety, it finally dawned on Ngayin that life is a precious gift from God. He remembered how much his mother treasured life. He decided to make his life right before it is too late. His transformation stupefied everyone. Ngayin became a changed man and went on to pursue a diploma course in Fine Arts from National Institute of Fine Arts, Delhi. After his diploma he taught Art in a school for two years where Yarmishang, son of Rhokho and Soyar is a student. Although Ngayin could not fulfill his desires to be with Soyar, the only love of his life, he was able to become one of the closest friends of her son Yarmishang and for that Ngayin remains grateful to God. Read on the book to find out what happened to Ngayin.

Pages – 334

You can order your copy from the link given below

https://naoko.in/books/okthuishap-rala/