Nambul : The River that cries as it dies A view on Prof Rajendra Kshetrimayum’s Cry of a Dying River

Maisnam Susmina
It was during my master days at Manipur University that I got to know Professor Rajendra Kshetrimayum the author of  “Cry of a Dying River”, a polymath who tries to inculcate in us not only the bookish knowledge but also beyond our syllabus, be it in literature, sports, films, politics, developmental works and more. This was how he inspired and instilled in us to learn more and read more. Professor being an environmentalist always told us about the unclean, unhygienic, contaminated, foul smelling river that lies at the heart of Imphal city. He always urges us to save what is ours and to be a responsible citizen. He used to narrate us many stories regarding his youthful days, on how he enjoyed the scenic sights of “Hi-Honba” from Thanga-Karang, canoeing up against the river stream up to the “Thongnambonbi” and also how he enjoyed buying the eatable from the Hihonba at the “Hiden- Tapham”.
So, during my maters days, I always used to sit in the front row not because I was a studious person but because I was really enjoying his fascinating stories that gave me an immense taste which is similar to that of my grandfather’s Phungga wari.
It was on the 7th of October 2020 that the book Cry of a Dying River got officially released and I got a copy myself. And so here, I am sharing my thoughts and opinions on what I have learnt and knew after reading this book.
It was just another normal day for me at around 10 pm that I thought of starting to read the book. I tend to start with a preconceived idea that it is just going to be my another bed time story book and that I will be reading only five- five poems each night. But once  I started reading, everything changed. I find myself unstoppable from five to ten to fifteen and it went on. I completed reading those poems the night itself. As I went through the book, I came to learn and know many things regarding the Nambul River. The river which was once filled with rich varieties of fishes like the ‘Khajings’ and ‘Sarangs’ has now turned into a rivulet and I could feel the tone and the passions which the poet tries to convey in his lines . I could feel the wretch, the unhappiness and the poem itself sounds melancholic, so good and so real. I am not a person of literature but I somehow found it deeply meaningful because of its genuine, honest- to-goodness lines.
I speak no language of violence
I raise no issue of ‘rights’ violations
No question of justice denied
Today as I lie in comatose
I asked of you oh! the powers that be
Don’t I have the right to exist
Couldn’t I have the liberty to flourish
These lines struck me so hard. Thinking of what these inhuman humans have done to Mother Nature. The author reminiscing his good old days and I being a 90s child never in my life experienced the once clean Nambul that was used for navigation. Being from Sagolband area my father and I sometimes stood at the bank of the river and watch the river decaying. The poet cries for the river that feeds us, nurtures us and grooms us. But we as a citizen have failed to protect this Beauty. It also reflects the poet’s love for the Loktak Lake, charmed by its beauty, fascinated by the mythical stories of Loktak and the Phumdis. The poet personifies the river and laments for the loss of cultural heritage of the land and the people, of the once fresh water which is no longer here. We humans seem to have failed to realize that it’s human who needs the environment more than environment needs us.
During my master days, we did a study in one of the village alongside Loktak Lake. One of the villagers said that the Loktak is polluted not because of the villagers but by the city dwellers dumping waste in the rivers like Nambul. I think we the city dwellers or the so called “Imphal Macha” are so ignorant and undeniably irresponsible in this regard. In Imphal we often see people with high standards collecting and dumping solid waste into the rivers. This is one of the many reasons on why the rivers and our natural surroundings are degrading day by day. In my opinion it’s not only the rivers that cry as it dies but the LOKTAK and The SANGAI also cry.
During this pandemic, the Government is doing its part in maintaining the River Clean but it’s also a must for us to contribute and participate in it as a responsible citizen. It should not only be the sole responsibility of the Manipur Pollution Control Board or any other authority concerned of the State. We must pledge to fulfil our responsibilities towards mother nature as a citizen so as to protect our own rivers, lakes and the planet at large from deterioration and to handover clean and green planet to our children, the future generation.
“Every time you put a pollutant to the river
Forgetting you are a lesser mortal
A part of you dies
Every time you ravage the riverine ecosystem
You are choking your children
Every time you abuse natural resources
You live and let your children die”. (From the Letter of Ethics)
It’s high time we as youths save the river and turn the urban ugliness to pristine beauty, artificial drainage to natural river, pestiferous rivulet to fishable river, from conterminous streams to swimmable river and all we need is a small step at a time. Our single step may be small but if hundreds and thousands are united together then one day it will bring a drastic change in our ‘Kangleipak’. It’s high time to think and act fast because it has and will definitely have impact on the people not only the people who depend on the resources but the society at large. “The activist is not the man who says the river is dirty. The activist is the man who cleans up the River.”
If we want to save our Nambul all we need is the passion, intention, desire to save and this desire will be ignited by the sentiment and feelings to love and behold with love which the poem gives us-a clear picture to love again and again. This poem collection as a whole portrays the economic, political and social issues. It depicts the plundering nature of man towards nature. And this is what the younger generations need to love and be loved in order to save our own Nambul: the river that cries as it dies.

The writer is an alumni of Sociology Department, Manipur University