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.
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