By Tungshang Ningreichon
When they shot my brothers
I wiped my tears and vowed revenge
I took them down one by one
I was pleased
I let the fire that stoked when they call me ‘brave’ burn within.
It made me proud till I spent restless nights,
remembering the names and faces.
I moved places but the memories surfaced
Some nights I woke up to dreams of screams
In the morning my mother’s calmness would sweep my thoughts
But when the night set the fears would return
I was possessed!
I disclosed my fears to the woman who bore our children
and shared my journey, but not my dreams.
She told me about Nebuchadnezzar
The mighty king whose sanity was restored when he looked upto heaven
I ran to the quiet of the room to find the great king of Babylon
Oh he had all the power and glory the world could offer
He had Pride!
It took him down.
I writhed in pain.
Heaviness choked my heart,
my freedom to peace.
I counted the years I have lived
Oh the few years I might have in hand
I did not possess the time or the design
I only had pride that walled my heart pretending to be bravery
I counted the deaths one by one
to realise that the enemies were not them but within me
I ripped myself apart to face my great nemesis
I knelt in shame
I hungered for forgiveness
And I remembered He wept too
In the dawn, my mother’s face appeared like the morning glory
I found my way to seek forgiveness
And surrender my pride
‘Neath the cross
That night the dreams returned again
But this time,
We set the albatross around our necks free.
I had entered Reconciliation
I found my peace but the war had not ended
It birthed widows and orphans
I sought counsel from the elders and the leaders; the learned and the sacred.
I knocked on every door but love, like life, was short everywhere.
I was restless again till I met the widow at a funeral
I remember her man pled for his life but I closed my eyes and shot him
The dirge was long and heavy
My anxiousness heavier
I ran through my memories to latch onto my mother’s words
It gave me courage.
We shook hands like it could thaw unforgiving hearts
I asked forgiveness.
She said she nursed her wounds,
but never held anger.
Her pain was like a long walk in the desert but it was in the matrix of God’s gracious plans
Like how it was for Joseph, son of Jacob.
I returned home to the quiet of the room to find Joseph
His story of forgiveness that healed his brothers and restored light and dignity to them
His wretched brothers! They tried to kill him but sold him to slavery.
He had the chance to destroy them but he cried instead, in the joy of reunion
That night I slept thanking life
for the gift of stories
The different mystery and philosophy it opens to everyone
That night I walked like Joseph to a wider path of reconciliation
The war continued like the incessant rain
But the battlefield was changing. The actors too.
The walls got higher,
and the hearts, colder
‘We are for political and historical rights’ they all said
But raged lives and peace
The war spread to civil space and sense
Peace got more violent everyday
The youths lay wasted like the cadres
The church got bigger and the souls smaller
Women were asking for rights and becoming more patriarchal
Men grew wealthier and shallower
In the nights my dreams were of pitch black
I kept running in the wilderness
My prayers became laments
They were long and bitter
The land was mourning
Injustice grew deeper and showed its scars in splits:
Of movements, churches, homes, tribes, gender, civil societies, politics.
We had not found the centre to anchor.
If we are to emancipate our people
We must unchain our women and widows
Free the youths from condemnation, even if they fall
Give new hope to our men when they fail
Teach our children the colour of truth and justice first
Not the scars of violence and tribe
Insist our church to embrace lost souls, not tithes
And measure our leaders by the size of the heart, not wealth
When freedom is restored
Like dignity and justice in the lives of the people
There will be peals of thunder that writes
Let my people go!
That will be the last walk of reconciliation!
Reconciliation is a long road.
It is a political process. It is a spiritual churning.
It is both a personal and a collective journey.
My journey to reconciliation has been a lonely one.
Before my days end
I must pass on my baton of struggles and stories
to our women, the widow and her co-travelers in mourning
They hold the key to transform rigidity into love!
Tungshang Ningreichon is a mother from Ukhrul and is based in Delhi.
She walks with the Naga peoples’ Movement for Human Rights and writes occasionally on issues close to her heart.