By Dr. Kevileno Sakhrie
True Love Keeps Moving: A collection of prose and poetry by Wedekhro Naro is a 112-paged work featuring 7 stories in prose and 20 poems published by PenThrill Publication House, Kohima, Nagaland. In this work, the author moves from the rural towns and villages of his home state Nagaland to Mumbai in mainland India, taking the reader on a journey to faraway Kuwait in the Middle East with stopovers at destinations as diverse as Seoul, Bangkok, Bhutan, Brazil and even Sydney, Australia. The reader gets a sense of the restless energy that grips the narrator who moves from place to place in search of something that appears elusive and out of his reach. Given the title of the book, many would assume that he was in search of ‘true love.’ But halfway through the book, by the end of the last prose entitled “My Twenty Seven Years in One Page,” it becomes apparent that the whole exercise was in reality, a journey of self-discovery.
This debut publication of Wedekhro Naro is a sort of autobiography in huge bites and pieces but a good deal of it is interspersed with characters, situations and conversations that come from the author’s own imaginative and fictional space. It is an indication of his artistry that the reader is never sure where one ends and the other begins. True Love Keeps Moving is the outcome of the pain and trauma he underwent when the girl he loves decides to marry someone else. The author took to writing as a means of purging his feelings of disappointment, anger and grief, which had taken a toll on him. Fortunately, it proved to be cathartic as he discovered how writing was a therapeutic tool that could help him cope with his pain and also to heal. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, one could say that writing this book saved his life in more sense than one.
With this book, Wedekhro Naro has created a body of prose and poetry that will make the reader experience an emotional range that belies his 27 years of age. While the relationship of the author and the girl he loved and lost is central to the concept of True Love Keeps Moving, there are other pieces, which while not contributing to the main plot can be seen as spin-offs or different versions of the true love theme. Here, the readers can experience the euphoria of what it is like to fall in love for the first time (“We were kissing like those people in Korean movies”), the frustration of being friend-zoned by the girl he loves (“She called me best friend while I was trying to be her boyfriend”) and empathise with his heartbreak when he learns of her impending marriage to someone else (“I started to cry bitterly when I heard her voice”). And as we follow the different trajectories of the life of this love-struck boy obsessing over an ambivalent relationship, we get to know a romantic and sensitive soul whose heart is easily won over by a kind act or a gentle word as also by the laughter of friends shared over a meal or a cup of coffee. Here too, we will discover the young man, who finally emerges from behind his travails- albeit, a little bent and battered by his ordeals but still funny, fearless and unflinchingly truthful.
Perhaps there are lessons for young readers to learn from this story of unrequited love. Wedekhro Naro shows that true love means accepting situations which are beyond one’s control, however painful. This is maturity and he has it. Not all true love ends up with the person you want but that doesn’t mean that your love has failed. As the author sees it, love never fails nor forgets: you only need to forget the expectations you had for the person in question and move on with your life. This is evident not only in the prose pieces but also in his poems.
Regarding the Poetry section of the book, a brief evaluation of the historical and cultural context behind the poems may help establish the author’s credibility. It may also help to bring up to date what is currently happening in poetry today particularly, for those readers who are not part of today’s so-called ‘Millennial generation.’ Poets down the ages have always used the language of love to fill all manners of love poems- from sonnet to epic, from ode to haiku. But as a field of creative practice, poetry evolves constantly giving birth to new forms that stand in stark contrast to those written even just a few decades ago. At the same time too, there is a shift in the way young people look upon romantic relationships today which makes the 21st century literary landscape unlike any that has preceded it. This is partly due to the new and even bizarre poetic formats that are now being used and which has literary critics struggling to define the current complex and multi-faceted poetic movement. A rough idea of the different directions in which poetry has divided and sub-divided can be gained from the poetry found in contemporary anthologies and digital texts. These include poetry influenced by the Internet age, written through Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and Facebook or through search engines like Google. In other words, the tools of the internet and the network culture of today define certain aspects of the poetic movement at hand. Not only do they reflect the poetic sensibilities and outlook of the millennial generation, they also correspond to the stylistic processes and formats they use. A few basic principles of this paradigm are paradox, juxtaposition and collapse of distance. These principles (among others not mentioned here) may help readers to find some greater understanding of the sensibilities and tendencies of this generation to which our author also belongs.
Wedekhro Naro’s poems serves to remind that millennials perceive language differently. Although his structural and linguistic preferences are not as radical as those poets who revel in the textual linguistics developed for use only on the page (a pattern called ‘Internet Linguistics’), it is clear that technology has infiltrated his outlook and influenced the way he expresses it. A case in point is his peculiar use of punctuations and capitalisations or the absence of them in some instances in defiance of traditional standard practices. This shows that he is using a certain textual representation to replicate emotion that one normally cannot derive from regular grammar. A thematic element that he appears to share with other millennial poets is not just their briefness but also the expansive fusing of opposites as in poems such as “Aduo.” In other poems he reveals the weird and awkward, strange and absurd comingling of irreverence, which is another characteristic of these poets. For only a millennial poet could write a love poem as quirky as “The Bride, Groom and Me” or a poem idiosyncratically titled “Romancing with God” and pass it off as a love poem.
For some readers Naro’s poems might even veer between confessional ramblings and sentimentality, just escaping either description. He has so much to say, associating freely, wildly, switching between lingo and more formal forms of diction. His poetry is essentially prose lines broken up and arranged in column format without any formal architecture or occurs as run-on lines that blur the difference between prose and poetry. But perhaps it is wrong to look for stylistic sophistication from a genre of this type that is supposed to speak the words your heart could never say; where the usual conventions and limitations don’t apply. And his poetry is surely a way into language when it gives us hidden gems such as the exquisitely poignant “One Rainy Day” or lines that these that linger in the mind: “Darling, I shall be telling my children/that you travelled with others/but you walked with me” (Senolu). The bravest thing for a poet to do is when he writes about love directly, plainly and honestly. And Wedekhro Naro’s poems introduce us to a world full of weird and wonderful language expressing fresh thoughts about romance and the art of loving. He shows how Cupid may have his bow but his arrows don’t always shoot straight.
True Love Keeps Moving is a work, which announces every aspect of the author’s self with so much candour and uncovers the trauma and hilarity of the everyday. His prose is like an extended conversation with an old friend or one between the narrator and the world in which he finds himself: a world confusingly sad in terms of the way some relationships fail or falter but also one where there is the love of family and the family one makes among friends. There is an openness that is disarming, a sincerity and integrity in the way he tells his story. Amidst the angst and anxiety, the bouts of depression, emotional breakdowns and moments of weakness and vulnerability, there is also empathy, affection and most of all, a sense of humour that strikes a deep chord within the reader who is warmed by the shafts of comic sunlight and the author’s signature blend of self-deprecation and humour. This marvelously truthful compilation is but runs self-possessed, dark, funny, bitter, playful, restless and completely entertaining. The collection, as the title itself suggests, is about further possibilities, about revising, reinventing and reimagining our relational modes. For even as his stories depict the distance between self and others, and between self and society in a world where people can meet online and entire relationships can be played out on Facebook but still remain complete strangers, he still shows that ultimately, what is important for our survival is the real connection between people. This concept of relational interdependence is at the heart of Wedekhro Naro’s writing. His idea of love is more than romantic or sexual: it is a radical understanding of caring and being cared for. As such, his book is in part an elegy for the past and a love song for the future.
The author is a former HoD of English Department at Kohima College