‘Dali, Hussain, or Odour of Dream, Colour of Wind’ by Thangjam Ibopishak Singh is a dream sequence. There are only meanings in the poem, without any coherence. Each idea generates an image and then another idea takes its place. Such image upon image and meaning upon meaning create an absurd atmosphere in the poem that somehow depicts the restlessness of the poet’s mind. He is awake at the same time asleep. In between his wakefulness and sleep, what one sees is the subject matter of the poem. After reading the poet, it becomes clear that Thangjam Ibopishak Singh isn’t dreaming. He is visualizing the reworkings of his frustrated mind.
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‘Dali, Hussain, or Odour of Dream, Colour of Wind’ by Thangjam Ibopishak Singh begins as absurdly as it ends. Likewise, in the first stanza, the poetic persona refers to two different questions, one about the yield and another about the number of poems. Thereafter, the persona sees someone counting a bundle of one-rupee notes in his dream vision. Surprisingly, the cashier eats up the notes. Moreover, in the following stanza, the poet refers to a maxim said by a poet. In the next stanza, the poet asserts his individualism and non-conformist attitude towards society. The fourth stanza is undoubtedly similar to the previous sections. Here, the poet talks about the sound of the gun alongside the scent of flowers. Thereafter, introducing a bunch of images, the poem moves to the ironical reference to the sacred peepal tree. At last, there is a reference to the metamorphosis of the poet’s wife.
You can read the full poem here.
‘Dali, Hussain, or Odour of Dream, Colour of Wind’ by Thangjam Ibopishak Singh is a free verse poem that is written by using the stream-of-consciousness technique. Moreover, there is a dream-like structure in this text that absurdly shifts from one image to another without any coherence. Whatsoever, there are a total of five sections in the poem. Each section contains two stanzas except for the second section that contains only one stanza. The line-lengths as well as the syllable count of the poem are irregular. There isn’t any specific rhythm in the poem. However, in some instances, the poet uses slant rhymes. Apart from that, the poet uses the dramatic device called aside to comment in between the lines.
‘Dali, Hussain, or Odour of Dream, Colour of Wind’ by Thangjam Ibopishak Singh is a satirical poem that contains several literary devices. Likewise, in “a rotten mouldy bundle of notes” the poet uses a metaphor. Here, he compares the notes to rotting materials. There is irony in the last line of this section. In the section, the poet uses personification. Moreover, the third section begins with an epigram. There is a paradox in “Men who close their eyes can be seen inside a lockup/ Or inside a sacred temple).” Here, the poet also uses sarcasm. Apart from that, the poet uses several contrasting ideas to heighten the ironic effect of the poem. In the last stanza, there is an anaphora in the lines beginning with the pronoun “I”. This stanza also contains an allusion to “Chelluvi” directed by Girish Karnad.
My uncle from Wangu asked me:
How many kgs of poems have you written for this month?
‘Dali, Hussain, or Odour of Dream, Colour of Wind’ by Thangjam Ibopishak Singh begins with two contrasting ideas. At first, the speaker refers to the question of his uncle. He asked him how many bushels of paddy he had stored for the season. Thereafter, using the same sequence, he asked his friend Kesho how many kilograms of poems he had written for the month. In this way, the poet compares a farmer’s production to poetry. A poet and a farmer both count on their production for their sustenance.
Write and then tear up, write and then tear up;
He eats up the notes, one by one.
‘Dali, Hussain, or Odour of Dream, Colour of Wind’ by Thangjam Ibopishak Singh presents a completely different image in the second stanza. But, it is somehow related to the idea present in the previous section. As the poet was thinking about materialistic ideas, naturally the idea of money might have appeared in his mind. That’s why there is an image of a cashier counting old one-rupee notes. The notes are rotten and have molds grown over the bundle. Still, the person counts the notes spending over one hour of his time. It depicts how money controls human beings. The final image heightens the ironic effect. The poet says, “He eats up the notes, one by one”. It’s a reference to how men react in matters related to money.
True, the poet says:
If there are no leaves
On the bare tree.
In this section of ‘Dali, Hussain, or Odour of Dream, Colour of Wind’ by Thangjam Ibopishak Singh, there is an epigram. The poet metaphorically refers to the “leaves” as “poetry” and the “fleeting wind” as “poetic inspiration”. Here, he paradoxically refers to the situation when he was writing this poem. There was nothing that could give poetic inspiration to him. The “tree” symbolically representing the society was bare due to the worsening situation.
One knows man’s thoughts from his speech
(Men who close their eyes can be seen inside a lockup
Or inside a sacred temple).
‘Dali, Hussain, or Odour of Dream, Colour of Wind’ by Thangjam Ibopishak Singh presents a thought-provoking epigram at the beginning of the third section. The poet says one can easily decode one’s thoughts from the way he speaks. While in the case of an inexpressive person, one can read his mind through his eyes. The poet is tight-lipped. To hide his eyes, he uses “dark glasses”. Even if the dark glasses fail to stop one from reading his mind, he feels it safe to close his eyes to the world. Being truthful to society, always brought a writer an intolerable response. So, the poet thinks it is better not to express what’s in his mind.
Moreover, the poet sarcastically remarks one can find men with their eyes closed either inside a lockup or in a “sacred temple”. Juxtaposing such ideas, naturally connects the inner sense. And, connecting the inner sense brings about the ironic effect. Comparison between a criminal and a deity not only welcomes a comic effect but also shows how religious strife prevalent in India disturbs the poet.
I’ve never seen fish flying in the sky
You also say and I too declare: What they call ‘you’
Is never me.
Thereafter, in ‘Dali, Hussain, or Odour of Dream, Colour of Wind’, Thangjam Singh presents the difference between reality and imagination. The poet is realistic and he expresses it in the following manner, “I’ve never seen fish flying in the sky/ But I often saw ducks floating on water”. Mentioning of the “sacred temple” in the previous stanza, and remarking humorously about “fish flying in the sky” gets connected interestingly. Religion always talks about such imaginary things that have no veracity. And, here, the poet mocks such ideas that somehow deviate people from reality.
A non-conformist knows, his ideas can’t find listeners in a pragmatic society. So, the poet admits he is wrong and says “In Brahma/ Lies zero.” It symbolically refers to the hollowness of the religion as a whole. However, at the end of this stanza, the poet says how society wants him to see, he can’t be like that. He is different and will be adhered to his ideologies no matter what.
Which is more fragrant
Blind men see colours on voices.
Stanza four of ‘Dali, Hussain, or Odour of Dream, Colour of Wind’ presents a comparison to the readers and asks which one is more fragrant, “The report of guns or the scent of flowers”. According to the poet, “the sound of guns” lies on the nose. Whereas, the fragrance of flowers lies on the tips of flowers. Blind men visualize colors on the “voices”. In this way, the poet presents the contrast between war and peace. And at last remarks about the blindness of those who can’t see the beauty of life. Those cruel minds only find satisfaction in the redness of blood and the doomed blast of guns.
A love letter
A horoscope of my grandfather
Piercing my sleeping teenage daughter’s
Then her two ears move lazily.
‘Dali, Hussain, or Odour of Dream, Colour of Wind’ by Thangjam Ibopishak Singh presents a chain of images that appears in the poet’s mind. Here, he uses the stream-of-consciousness technique to reflect how disturbed his mind is. The poet can see a love letter alongside the horoscope of his grandfather. Suddenly an old radio of his mother appears with a pair of tweezers of his son. Moreover, the poet visualizes ten bottles of rum flying in the air and a brassiere of his grandmother. Even in this long stanza, the poet doesn’t spare religion. The reference to “a pair of lingams” representing Lord Shiva alongside the brassiere of his grandmother presents dark humor.
Apart from that, the poet sees a bird carrying a bunch of keys in its beak, a whistle, two butterflies, and a cake of soap. Then appears a Shakespearean sonnet and a pair of clogs tied up by women’s hair. Thereafter the poet says to add what a reader wishes to add in this sequence of absurd thought processes. At last, the poet presents disturbing imagery. He sees an egg sinking very slowly into the head of his sleeping teenage daughter’s hairless plate. It doesn’t cause pain to his daughter. She only moves her two ears lazily as if nothing has happened with her.
One day, wanting to own a peepal tree
Walking with a small peepal tree
Growing on his head).
In the last stanza of ‘Dali, Hussain, or Odour of Dream, Colour of Wind’ by Thangjam Ibopishak Singh, the poet humorously presents another visual imagery from his dream vision. One day he climbed atop a rich man’s tall building and entered his bathroom in search of a peepal tree. The poet says, he did that as he likes peepal trees just like other citizens of Imphal. Thereafter, he ironically refers that the people adore the peepal tree so much. If they could, they should grow a small peepal tree on their heads.
Then inside that bathroom
I found my wife leaning:
How can I claim now
That I like peepal trees?
After entering the bathroom of the rich man’s building mentioned previously, the poet found his wife surprisingly leaning there. Half of her body was naked and the rest portion turned into a peepal tree. This description is exactly similar to what one sees in a dream. In a dream, one’s mind connects the ideas loosely and forms an unending story that only ends when the person wakes up. The poet was also dreaming. Moreover, the poet says he was neither surprised nor worried after seeing his wife in that awkward form.
Thereafter, the poet refers to the film “Chelluvi” directed by Girish Karnad. This film was based on a folk tale of Karnataka. Chelluvi was a girl who turned into a flowering tree. Like Chelluvi, the poet’s wife also metamorphosed into a peepal tree. At last, the poet says after seeing his wife in another man’s bathroom, how can he claim her as his wife. Moreover, the poet says he dislikes the peepal tree as his wife transformed into that tree.
‘Dali, Hussain, or Odour of Dream, Colour of Wind’ by Thangjam Ibopishak Singh is a dream-sequence. In this poem, the representation of the ideas refers to that the poet was disturbed as well as in a delirious state. He was clinging between wakefulness and sleeping. However, what he saw in the dream, isn’t totally absurd. The representation may seem absurd but there is a connection between the lines. There is also a significance behind choosing this style. After referring to the political situation of the North East states of India such as Manipur and Nagaland, it becomes clear the poet might be disturbed by such an ongoing pandemonium outside.
Moreover, the restlessness of the poet’s mind gets reflected in the shifting images of the poem. As a thoughtful citizen of India, the situation of his state caused pain to the poet. The cruelty and the killings of men belonging to different local tribal groups segregated the minds of common people who just wanted peace.
Like ‘Dali, Hussain, or Odour of Dream, Colour of Wind’ by Thangjam Ibopishak Singh, here is a list of a few poems that similarly talk about how external strife impacts a person’s mind and depict the mental struggle of the person.
- Strange Meeting by Wilfred Owen – In this poem, Wilfred Owen, one of the best British wartime poets, describes how a soldier escapes from a battle, only to find that he has escaped into hell.
- The Man He Killed by Thomas Hardy – In this one of the best Thomas Hardy poems, the poet illustrates how external strife such as war impacts the writer as well others like him.
- What Were They Like? by Denise Levertov – This poem describes the aftermath of war and what happens when one culture conflicts with another culture.
- 26 January by Sahir Ludhianvi – In this poem, the poet presents the socio-political situation of India after Independence.
- ‘Toba Tek Singh’ by Gulzar – It’s a poem describing Bishan Singh, a lunatic and a person torn by the strifes during the partition of India in 1947.
You can read about 10 of the Best War Poems here.