U Soso Tham, the pioneer of Khasi poetry, was not only a poet laureate but a great patriot at the same time. He was born in 1873 when India was under the British rule. After the fall of the great freedom fighter, U Tirot Singh, the independent estates of the Khasi and Jaintia Hills had to surrender to the British power in 1829; and U Soso Tham since his childhood could feel the pain and humiliation of bondage of his motherland.
Tham was a philosopher and had extraordinary thinkings of his own. He was a self made poet and despite his poverty and absence of literary or poetic culture, he made a mark in the literary world in the region.
“I know nothing about the art of poetry, rhythm, rhyme and idea — these are just like the scattered bones of dead cows. Nobody taught me to create Khasi Poetry and literature,” were his simple words.
It was his own inner feelings that would turn him into a poet or philosopher. Patariotism and love for nature were the main essence of his poetic creations. He says:-
“When still in my father’s and mother’s laps,
Though I survived on the herbs,
The world yet was flat; I bragged,
I scorned, I daydreamed as a child;
I laughed, I cackled, to be good I could not”.
(The Cipher on the Stone translated by Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih)
Through his writings, Tham revolted against all those misleading educational applications on its countrymen. He was always against the so-called English living style and culture what many Indians had adopted at that time and considered a status symbol. Tham could express boldly — “British had enmeshed us completely with their wiles and guiles when they succeeded to make us sing ‘God save the king’ with heads held high when we should have hung them low, had dug the grave of our culture when they had been able to make us look down upon it to ape their self which had stunted our intellectual growth and warped our natural outlook on life”, (Ref: U Soso Tham the Torchbearere of Khasi Poetry by Ankur Deka).
However, his own countrymen could not recognise his spirit and ridiculed him as a mad man. What he had thought in the early 20th century is being keenly realised by the present generation.
But some educated people could realise his exceptional intellectual thinkings and he was appointed as a Khasi vernacular teacher in the Shillong Government Boys’ High School Mawkhar in 1905.
Tham always thought for oneness and unity among his countrymen; and tried to remind them not to forget their ancestral root. He wrote:
“The ancient tribe — Khasi and Pnar —
A Multtitude that spread thoughout the World:
The hidden Light — that we may quest
How in ancient times the Uncles the Fathers
Had fashioned politics, had founded states —
From their intelligence to illumine,
The Olden Days of Ancient Times……”
(The Golden Grain translated)
Tham, a great patriot and poet, left numerous examples of his deep patriotism in his literary works but unfortunately many of his works were not properly preserved. I am personally indebted to the learned translators of U Soso Tham’s works otherwise the non-Khasi society would have been deprived of the invaluable contributions of the great patriot poet of Meghalaya. I keenly suggest inclusion of his poems, particularly on patriotism (translated) in the SSLC and HSLC syllabus of MBoSE, which will be a real tribute to the great patriot poet.
(Contributed by Uma Purkayastha)
Dew drops on the grass,
In the morning they glitter;
I too from home will depart
To hunt for these pearls.
From the grass that is green
They take off with the sun;
Like them then I’ll plunge
To an unknown region.
The thorns though they prick
In a faraway street;
From home I’ll depart
And return long after.
The heart too will grieve
The tears that gather
Are actually pearls.
— U Soso Tham (translated by Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih)
Source: Raiot website