When we read Saweini Laloo’s poems, we knew we wanted more of this voice. Her idiom is as unselfconscious as it is unadorned. She offers guileless portraits of life in Meghalaya, where Rod Stewart happily coexists with the ‘kwai, pathi and raja or khaini, / mashing them into equal size, / each action a resurrection of ancestral time’. Hashtag unfiltered. From the everyday of ‘Bei’s Morning Rituals’ to the philosophical in ‘Masochist’ and the socio-political in ‘Red River’, these poems stand out for how they do not take on the burden of explaining the north-east. Instead, they stand in witness, part-belonging, part-reticent, saddled with a deep awareness: ‘We must always remember. / We must never forget.’
— Pervin Saket
The Bombay Literary Magazine
Bei’s Morning Rituals
She wakes up at the crack of dawn
as the faint rays of buttery light
touch the pointed end of the roof.
She offers no prayers
but reaches for her joggers
before the sun stretches its arms
over this side of the hill.
the music from her phone
blasting her seventies rock favourites
with Rod Stewart at the top of that list.
A trail of sandy-eyed neighbours
watch as she prances back home
perhaps wishing for a better morning too.
She pours her tea — always with milk —
offers a two-second prayer,
then pours in oil with the other hand.
She sips and stirs, she chews and slices.
She sings and shouts– sai utu u jhoor, sai kitu ki doh!
She chops the leafy ϊanem into thin strips
and slices the juicy red doh masi into square pieces.
She then takes out her real morning buzz,
her palate cleanser
of kwai, pathi and raja or khaini,
mashing them into equal size,
each action a resurrection of ancestral time;
as one pops in their mix of paan and duma sla,
One must always remember.
One must never forget.
While the pots and pans simmer,
and all rooted things return to the freezer,
she sits on the mura with her Bible
then opens the pages with raja-scented fingers.
She places her sons and her husband, her sisters and brothers
and me, her daughter
— all those within her circle and out —
until at last she places herself
at the foot of His Divinity,
and finally utters a quick Amen
just as the cooker whistles loudly.
All is ready for the day.
With our love
and our special adoration
for the almighty raja chilli or sumrit rakot;
with how we relish steaming rice
and scalding water
streaming through our insides and outsides;
with our strange satisfaction
for needles poking our skin
to etch memory with intricate design
or to dangle fancy earrings and shiny nose pins;
with how we relish each stab at the heart
with diamond-studded fists,
Masochist is the name
for us, for you, for me.
Women are still
Pieces of their shells,
on rocky riverbeds
where fish no longer are scared
and so they catch the bait
cold as them.
Or beneath a thick covering of greens
where snakes and bugs
wondering perhaps why the human
lies so still.
Or in dark spaces
Where the scent
of rusted iron
from their veins
lures unsuspecting dogs
governed by instinct
along the trail of hardened red water.
Women are still
when they make the mistake
the world has finally allowed
them to breathe.
Saweini Laloo (author)
Saweini Laloo is from Shillong, India. She is currently pursuing a doctorate degree in English Literature from North-Eastern Hill University. Her works have been featured in Muse India, a Zubaan anthology of women writers from Meghalaya, Induswomanwriting and Caesurae Magazine.