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U MANIK RAITONG

A comfortable two hour drive from Shillong
Situated on Mawhati road is a village Raitong
Long long ago peculiar brand of bamboos was found
For they grow up with shoots upside down!

Sadly no authentic records could we have those days
So for most of the story we rely on hearsays
But the fact remains, Raitong was a quarter
Of a very large kingdom that spread near and far.

The king had a queen, recently married had he
This is natural with every man and it should be
Lieng-Makaw, her name and a beauty of this land
And to match her youthful beauty no other girls can.

The king could not stay long with his married wife
For on his shoulder depended all his subject’s life
So a long long tour over for his kingdom’s sake
No matter how many long years it was going to take.

Every night sweet music escaped Manik’s flute
Being not far, to these varied tunes listen the queen could
Some said he (Manik) hailed from a royal Sutnga family
A handsome muscular man in his prime was he.

Infact this man was the one Lieng Makaw wished to marry
And for quite sometime they did go on steadily
It is said her and his love letters were inscribed in stones
Letters of course never deciphered written when they were all alone.

With her stern maternal uncle it was thus sad
For very determined was he to wedge them apart
And very successful he was right from the beginning
That he finally married his niece to the mighty king.

Left to herself with a golden chance as good as this
She tiptoed in the night to the tiny hut of hi
And while Manik deeply buried in the music of his flute
She forced into the room to drive her who ever could?

All by himself with a blossom beauty in his room
From that moment began waves of inevitable doom
Seduced night in and night out by a beauty of fame
Manik weak as any man, lost all quilt and shame.

Time passed by, to the queen was born a child
The news quickly spread like fire in the wild
Raitong shocked, surprised but were clueless
For these are not uncommon in royal palaces nonetheless.

Long after the king returned but she won’t name the father
And act which made him more desperate than ever
The father of the boy he needed to know with no flaw
For he should be punished according to the law.

Men as many were rounded up and seated in circle
With the king, his queen and the boy in the middle
And the king stood up to pronounce the game
To reach at the answer the much awaited name.

Abiding by the rule of that cleverly planned play
Every probable picked up a banana on that day
They only needed to lift it (banana) in fatherly gesture
And the boy would jump to his father, this is sure.

The two year old scampered and then looked around
Round and round but the boy had not yet found
The king the nobles dumb founded at what had happened
Who on earth this boy’s father could have been?

`A durbar was urgently summoned to discuss the matter
Every minute, every hour grew darker and darker
No one had even thought the despised lowly Manik Raitong
Never summoned, was the father to whom the child belonged.

No need for banana my friend on the second day
The two year old jumped instinctively, what a display!
The durbar then ordered Manik to face “u Tangon u Lymban”
Which means death by clubbing, the law of our land.

But Manik shocked everybody when he pleaded
“Let me jump to death on the pyre to be set”
To this all who were present were with one’s voice
“Let him anyway die according to his choice”.

Woods upon woods, the driest were heaped from dawn
To create a mighty fire for Manik to jump on
Manik many a time circled round the flaming sticks
While tears rolled down as he played his music.

Sound suddenly stopped as Manik jumped to death
Into that flaming avenging fire that was for him set
With a heavy thud his frail fingers pushed the flute down
And never again from it those melodies would sound.

The pillars of smoke kept pushing farther and farther
Smoke of seasoned oaks and smoke of her son’s father
Pool of tears hitherto concealed would burst to climax
That sooner was going to trigger the most unprecedented act.

Lieng Makaw smuggled through the crowd to follow suit
To join her flaming lover who owned nothing but a flute
Love as story as death, and no bottomline of poverty
Could prevent these lovers to be wedded to eternity.

And like the phoenix of the ancients, this powdery flute
Got itself reborn to a divine bamboo shoot
It did grow upside down a mystery of mysteries
To re echo one our beloved hill’s greatest love stories.

Friends let not myth, fiction or love be your conclusion
For facts are sometimes stranger than fictions
And as we puddle through these turbulent romance of history
Let this greatest love be not erased from memory.

********
The bamboo shoots that grew upside down at Raitong are no more. Till what century they did survive, we cannot say. Rumours have it that the British during their days might have dug and get them removed to another place to find out if the botanical paradox could be scientifically explained. Whatever be the case be it a reality or myth it depicts the greatest love story of the finest and greatest degree.