Sunday Monitor

Poetry, politics & some memories

Veteran politician Chamberline Marak talks about his writings, 2023 elections & regional leaders

Percy Bysshe Shelley believed that ‘poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world’. By intertwining politics and poetry, Chamberline B Marak upheld the 18th-century poet’s assertion on the correlation between the complex emotions buried in the meticulously chosen words in a verse and the invisible labyrinth that designs the corridor of power.

Marak is known, among old friends and colleagues, to be a great speaker on the floor of the Assembly. He would often weave poetry into his speech.


“I too write poetry and have written 85 poems so far, all in Garo language,” Marak told reporters when they met him at his residence in Bajengdoba, North Garo Hills.

Among the reporters was a senior journalist, Philip Marwein, who remembered his interactions with Marak when he was in the Cabinet as a Congress legislator.

Marak, who will turn 78 this February 12, said his memory “often betrays me”. But as Marwein started a freewheeling conversation, reminding the veteran politician about his speeches and the days in the Secretariat, Marak’s face lit up.

“As I listen to you my friend, the memories gradually come back to me and I remember our old proximity. I remember you as an outspoken journalist,” he told 67-year-old Marwein.

Marak took out a sheaf of papers from a briefcase near his chair. “These are my poems. I have also written 35 proses, again Garo. I am thinking of publishing my works but cannot find a suitable publisher. It is a costly affair these days,” he said. The smile on his face and the twinkle in his eyes remained as long as he spoke to the guests.

After completing his matriculation from Damra Don Bosco, Marak took up science at St Anthony’s College. Later, he took up English as an honours subject. “I was drawn to literature,” he said, adding that poetry always had a special place in his heart. Among his favourite poets are William Shakespeare, whom “I worship”, and Chaucer.

Among Indian authors, he enjoys the works of Swami Vivekananda, Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi.

The writings of Swami Vivekananda, in particular, have a deep impact on the septuagenarian. “The Swami speaks nothing but the truth. There is no religion in his writings but the philosophy of life and the ultimate truth. He is another person that I worship,” said Marak, who first won the Assembly elections from Bajengdoba in 1993 against John Manner Marak with 58% vote share. He was re-elected in 1998. However, he lost the elections both in 2003 and 2008.

Sitting on the front-yard patio, Marak spoke about poetry and politics. Poetry, he said, is not the work of the mind but the heart. “You don’t think but you feel when you are writing a poem. I still write whenever I feel strongly about something. There is no particular time when or space where I write poems,” he said.

The conversation, as expected, took a smooth diversion toward politics but Marak’s countenance remained as pleasant as it was earlier. “I think the sitting MLA (NPP’s Pongseng Marak) has a chance to get re-elected,” he said when asked about the election fervour.

Pongseng’s opponents are Brigady Napak Marak of the Congress and Trinamool Congress’s Tengrak R Marak.

The senior politician also feels that the BJP “is the future of politics in India as its leaders are dedicated to bringing about a societal change”.

When asked why he quit active politics, Marak smiled, “A politician can never retire.” He joined the National People’s Party in 2019.

Marak remembered some of the old leaders of the state. According to him, Hoping Stone Lyngdoh was a man of strong principles and that the politics of the region has “outlasted him”. He remembered former chief minister BB Lyngdoh as a powerful leader of big stature. “We were good friends.”

As the conversation neared conclusion, Marak picked up a diary from a corner of the writing table and extended it towards the guests for them to write down the phone numbers. Then he got up, balancing himself on a bamboo pole. “I had knee surgery but it still gives me trouble. So, this is my third leg (he pointed at the bamboo pole). My friend, we are facing the same predicament. Be safe,” he told Marwein, who too balanced himself on his walking stick.

~ Team Sunday Monitor

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