‘The Land of the Half-Humans’ by Thangjam Ibopishak Singh belongs to the “Anthology of Contemporary Poetry from the Northeast”. The Indian poet and translator Robin S. Ngangom translated the poem from the Meitei language to English. Being a poet hailing from Manipur, Thangjam Ibopishak Singh presents an overview of the socio-political situation of his native land through this poem. ‘The Land of Half-Humans’ is none other than the symbolic reference to Manipur where various insurgent groups cause havoc to the existing peace of the land. Moreover, the fairytale-like approach with a dystopian manifestation makes the poet’s irony more scathing and piercing.
‘The Land of the Half-Humans’ by Thangjam Ibopishak Singh talks about a place similar to any Indian state where humans live with heads for six months and the rest of the year with only their bodies. That’s why those peculiar humans go on eating, drinking, and talking for the first six months. In the rest of the year, the “half-body” performs working, laboring, and shitting. The women of this land have well-proportioned bodies and unlike men, they give birth through their mouths. According to the poet, this land inhabited by nameless half-humans is always in the news. The poet isn’t sure why the land is so famous as it is just like any other democratic state of India.
You can read the full poem here.
‘The Land of the Half-Humans’ by Thangjam Ibopishak Singh consists of 29 long lines. The prosaic structure of the poem along with its lack of internal rhythm depicts the absence of harmony in the land the poet refers to through this poem. The story-like lines of the poem halt in the middle. Apart from that, there isn’t any rhyme scheme and metrical scheme in the poem. It is in blank verse without having any rhyming at all. Moreover, the flow of the poem breaks often for presenting the nature of the humans living in that land. The poem is written from the first-person point-of-view and the poetic persona directly converses with the readers. Hence, this poem is an example of a dramatic monologue.
‘The Land of the Half-Humans’ by Thangjam Ibopishak Singh begins with a rhetorical question or interrogation. In the fourth line, the poet uses a simile in the comparison between the eating style of those humans and the grinding of the millstone. Moreover, there is an allusion to the Indian epic Mahabharata. Here, the poet specifically refers to Bhima and Shakuni. By using the word “share” the poet presents a metaphor. Here, the “share” refers to the feces. Apart from that, the poet uses repetition for the sake of emphasis. It is present in lines such as “The head talks, eats, drinks; just talking, eating, drinking” and “While the body is working, laboring, shitting; work, labor, shit”. In these lines, the poet also uses asyndeton. There is a metaphor of reproduction in “springtime”. However, the lines of the poem get connected by the use of enjambment.
For six months just head without body, six months just body without head, has anyone
seen a land inhabited by these people?
working, laboring, shitting; work, labor, shit. To sweat, to be bone-weary. In the land of the half-body.
‘The Land of the Half-Humans’ by Thangjam Ibopishak Singh talks about a land where humans live with the head without the body for six months and in the following six months they live with the body without the head. The poet asks whether anyone has seen such a peculiar land. Usually, none has ever been to such a place. But, the poet has been to that land. However, by using a litote in this line, “It’s not a folktale”, the poet tries to create credibility in readers’ minds. Thereafter, the poet says for six months they only talk and eat without having the body to do any work. They eat like a millstone is grinding something. In the next six months, they suffer like Bhima and Shakuni, two characters from the Mahabharata. As the head has eaten too much in the previous months, the body now suffers from shitting that much.
Moreover, the poet says the head only talks, eats, and drinks. Whereas, the body works, labors, and shits. The body of the half-human labors so hard that it becomes “bone-weary” in six months.
Do women live in that land? What does the species of women look like?
eating the mouths of the women also deliver babies. The women have more attributes
than the men do. That is why the women have no teeth. God created them with ingenuity.
‘The Land of the Half-Humans’ by Thangjam Ibopishak Singh illustrates the features of women of this strange land. They also live with their half-body and half-head. Like real women, they also have long hair. Moreover, they are big, tall, buxom, broad, and well-proportioned. As for clothes, they wear them below the waist. It is the custom of the land that doesn’t permit one to hide her body. Apart from the features, the poet says that they copulate when the body dwells. It’s like springtime in the land of half-humans.
During the six months when those humans live with their bodies, for the absence of the head, they can’t judge each other. They meet only for mating like animals. In the next six months, the mouth of a woman of that land gives birth to babies. Apart from that, the poet ironically says God created them with ingenuity. That’s why women don’t have teeth like half-men. As having teeth will be problematic during childbirth.
When the head walks, its two broad, fanlike ears, spread wide and it flies like a bird,
beating its wings. When they speak, we can comprehend their language; they speak the
sweat of six months, the six month-old head eats up with a vengeance.
In this section of ‘The Land of the Half-Humans’, Thangjam Ibopishak Singh illustrates the head of those half-humans. According to the poet, the head can walk. Its two broad fanlike ears help them to fly. Here, the poet uses a simile to compare their flight with that of birds. Thereafter, the poet refers to their language. The poet says the head speaks the language of real men. But, when the body speaks, it makes only farting sounds associated with the foul smell.
This land is always in the news. The poet doesn’t know why. Everything is normal there. There isn’t even the predicament of poverty and starvation. Some men of this land even surpass the god of wealth Kuber. Just like real human beings, they greedily eat up their earnings with a vengeance.
There are political rights; a government is set up in the land. Democracy functions with
no one can decide. A land such as this is very much in the news, a land much talked
In ”The Land of the Half-Humans’, there are political rights. The half-humans also set up a democratic government in the land. Naturally, the election is held every five years like any other state of India. Apart from that, the poet says that the people of this land have no names. The poet ironically remarks here, “So for the nameless citizens the nameless representatives govern the land of the half-humans. There is a reason behind them having no names. They can’t decide which part they should give the human names. It is important to note here that the land symbolically represents the Northeastern states of India. And, through this line, the poet refers to the attitude of men living there. The last line makes it clear that in this poem, the poet is actually referring to his native land.
‘The Land of Half-Humans’ by Thangjam Ibopishak Singh symbolically presents Manipur and other Northeastern states. The sectarians of these states try to demolish the existing peace. Through this poem, Thangjam Ibopishak Singh illustrates a dystopian image of the Northeastern states. The “half-humans” is none other than the extremist groups of those states. For their selfish motives, they don’t even think of the condition of those who only long for peace and stability.
Like ‘The Land of the Half-Humans’ by Thangjam Ibopishak Singh, the following also present similar themes.
- The Void by G.M. Muktibodh – Like ‘So Very Far’, it’s about the lack of humanity in human hearts.
- 26 January by Sahir Ludhianvi – Similarly describes the social scenario of India after independence.
- Toba Tek Singh by Gulzar – Describes the suffering of humans during the partition of India.
- Death Fugue by Paul Celan – This holocaust poem, presents the theme of inhumanity and ruthlessness.