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Dr. Nahendra Padun
Date of Publish: 2016-01-10


Oi ni:tom- Mising folksongs


Oi ni:tom is one among the kinds of popular songs composed in Mising language and which is now widely in vogue. Among all these songs Oi ni:tom is the at the height of popularity. Every one has a special fascination for the Oi ni:toms. Every one whether old or young, boy or girl is equally delighted and inspired by the Oi ni:toms. While it is difficult to explain the reason for the popularity of Oi ni:toms, varieties of thoughts, ideas, language, similies, rhythms and tunes that characterize the Oi ni:toms are to a great extent responsible for the wide popularity of Oi ni:toms among all the sections of people. There is none in the Mising society who dislikes the Oi ni:toms. He who does not like the Oi ni:toms cannot also like the Mising society and the Mising culture.

Oi ni:tom is a combination of two words. The word ‘oi’ in Mising language connotes love and affection. Hence an elderly person addresses a younger one with this word. The lovers also address each other with this word. The word ‘ni:tom’ consists of two syllables. The part ‘ni:’ connotes or implies to console or to lull and the other part ‘tom’ means one who is consoled or lulled. Hence the word ‘ni:tom’ signifies a song or a balled to be sung with object of expressing one’s love and affection. Oi ni:ms are comparable with the Bongeets and Bihu geets composed in Assamese language. In some Mising dialects Oi ni:tom is called ‘Abe:’ which means a speech or song to be sung in a particular strain.

It is difficult to trace the origin of the Oi ni:tom. Like oral form of literature preceding the written form of literature, all the folk-songs in Mising language were created as parts of oral literature. It is a fact that oral form of literature came into being since the days men learnt to express their thoughts and ideas through the medium of language. They have reached the present stage of development after conforming to the change in the pattern of thoughts, ideas, languages and rhythms along with the passage of time. All the folksongs including the Oi ni:toms are comparable to the currents of a river. Although men have inseparable relation with water and the current of rivers, no body can say when rivers came into being or where rivers were created. Like a river changing its courses from time to time, Oi ni:tom as a popular form of song attained its present shape after being in vogue orally from generation after generation. Thoughts, language, tunes and strains of Oi ni:toms have been constantly changing from time to time. Impact of different events and environmental situations are also responsible for the change of themes of the Oi ni:toms.

Oi ni:toms are not composed by a single person. Nor is it confined to the lips of an individual. Whoever sings or listens to an Oi ni:tom, the language of Oi ni:tom becomes the language of his heart. Hence the Oi ni:toms can serve as bridge between the thoughts , ideas and emotions of the hearts of singer and the listener.

Although pronoun like ‘I’ and ‘you’ are frequently found in Oi ni:toms these donot present any particular individual. The thoughts, ideas and emotions of the singer and listener of Oi ni:toms almost confluence in one another. Oi ni:toms are the language of heart  of all persons and for all times. Hence the impact of Oi ni:toms is universal and their language is perennial.

The origin of Oi ni:toms can mainly be traced to love. Birth, death and marriages are some of the tangible manifestations of the worldly life of human beings. Birth and death are beyond the control of human beings. Even Godly interference in these issues is beyond comprehension. Marriage on the other hand keeps alive the worldly affairs of mankind through uniting the man and woman. The marriage is preceded by a kind of relation between the lovers when there is a strong tendency for exchange of emotions and feelings and these may be called the amorous affairs. Love attains its maturity through meeting or marriage. On attainment of this maturity the pastoral poet loses all his zest, enthusiasm and inspiration. As the unfulfilled state of love was the eternal spring of inspiration for all the romantic poets, so in the same way the hope, desire, frustration, anger and emotion that characterize the period before marriage are at the root of inspiration for the Oi ni:toms.

Apart from love-bred emotions, all events, episodes, political conditions, conducts, behaviours and battles of the contemporary age find place in the Oi ni:toms. This is substantiated by profuse references in the Oi ni:toms aeroplanes, ships, company, Indo-Pak war, Indo-China war, Hiroshima, Nagachaki, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, pistol, rifle, Tajmahal Calcutta, Bombay etc. To put in nut-shell, Oi ni:toms not only contain everything associated with the Mising society but also things from beyond the contour of Mising society.

Oi ni:toms are divided into two lines. The first line contains a description of nature. The second line contains a comparison of the poet’s or the singer’s personal life to nature either in positive or negative aspects. Here the logic of the amorous pastoral poet is very simple. If the creator of this world can love, why not we? If the birds of the forest can join in couple, why not we?.


                        Asi sikur sikurko

                                    Miksi sikur sikurko,

                        Asi sikur pín-yepé

                                    Miksi sikur pínpéma:.


            The spring of water is a spring

            The spring of tears is also a spring

            The former dries

            While the latter does not.


                        Dé:né motor dé:daggom

                                    Lapkínamém ka:begma:,

                        Oi nok légang kabdaggom

                                    Miksi dínam ka:begma:.


            As the aeroplane flies

            Its feather movement is unseen,

            So in the same way

            You cannot see my tears

            When I weep for you.

( Please click the following link to listen to an oi ni:tom by Torabati Milit and Sadananda Payeng-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VhuiYYE4inE )

In these two examples there are comparisons between the water of a spring and the tears of an eye and this comparison has a negative aspect. In the second instance there is a comparison between the feather of an aeroplane and the tears of an eye. This comparison has a positive under note. Of course such a hard and fast principle cannot be applied to all Oi ni:toms.

The language of Oi ni:tom is simple. Difficult and uncommon words are rarely used. Moreover the language used in Oi ni:toms is not the one that is used in a particular age. Along the change of time, the language and themes of Oi ni:toms also undergo changes. Hence it is difficult to get an idea about the language used, say, one hundred or five hundred years ago from the language used in contemporary Oi ni:toms. As a form of oral literature, the language used in Oi ni:toms transcend the language that is in vogue in a particular age.

Although the age in which an Oi ni:tom is created can be determined from reference to such terms like aeroplane, Indo-China war, Indo-Pak war or from such description as the railway line from Chilapothar to Jonai. The language in which Oi ni:toms are couched cannot always be determining factor as to the time of creation of Oi ni;toms. Because language is like a rubber ring that can fit any finger on which it is put. Oi ni:tom composed on the basis of events of a particular age undergo changes along with the passage of time and ultimately the language of Oi ni:toms completely conforms to the language used in the contemporary age.

There are several dialects of Mising language. The tone and rhythm of an Oi ni:tom are governed by the particular dialect spoken by the singer. Like water taking shape of the vessel in which it is kept, the words and accent of a particular dialect predominate the Oi ni:toms.

Oi ni:toms have a distinct strain of its own. Although in respect of composition a similarity can be found between Oi ni:toms and Bihu geets, the distinction between Oi ni:toms and other folk songs of India is quite marked. With my limited knowledge on music, I can assert one thing from my experience of hearing that the strain dominating the Tibeto-Burman folk music is also noticeable in Oi ni:toms.

Oi ni:toms generally begin with a high pitch and as the song develops the pitch gradually descends to lower and lower level. Generally the five pitches represented by sa, re, ma, pa, dha dominate the Oi ni:toms. Depending on the five pitches the strain of an Oi ni:tom varies  and a multiplicity of strains are created. In this process the strain of an Oi ni:tom varies from year to year and  some such strains one dominating the Oi ni:toms have already passed into oblivion.

Oi ni:toms as form of oral song show an unique and rare blending of tone and rhythm. The stanzas of Oi ni:toms maintain the balance between the tone and rhythm. Although the illiterate singer can have no ideas of stanza formation, the effort to maintain the balance between the tone and the rhythm leads to stanza formation in an unconscious way. In the absence of proper stanza-formation among the lines of Oi ni:toms , it is quite natural that discrepancy may arise in the strains. Hence it is also possible that Oi ni:toms emanating from the mouth of various singers may have stanzas shaped automatically without any conscious efforts on the part of the singer.

Dr. Nahendra Padun

( Dr. Nahendra Padun (1941) is a poet, essayist and linguist.He has written twenty books on different issues of Mising language, literature and culture including the first collection of Mising poetry in Roman script. Formely professor in the deparment of Assamese ,Sivsagar College,Dr. Padun was associated with Asom Sahitya Sabha.)



Few Oi ni:toms

1. Even if we are burnt in two different plots of grasslands
   The smoke rising from our pyres would get blended above.
2. Not being a dove ,not being a bird-not having wings to fly
   I can not be with you when I desire to
 3. The orphaned chick has no one to take it around
    Poor that I am ,there is no one to listen to my tale.
  4. Your grave may be on the other side,mine may be on this
    The grasses on our graves will spread and be together.
  5. How far can the moon be if the rocket flies there?
     How far can your village be from mine if you choose to love me?
  6. You are such a beauty, my darling, with those eyes!
      How can I be Away from one whose shadow too is blue!
  7.My darling! My flower!We had blossomed together
     My darling ! We had crept like the creeping cane together.


Asi sikur sikur-ko miksi sikur sikur-ko

Asi sikur pi/nye/-pe/ miksi sikur pi/npe/me.

Flowing water is a brook

Flowing tears are brooks too

Water brooks dry up

Tear brooks never do.

 E/sing agle/:l ogabla pe/ki mari ri:du:ne/

Oi-nok gordu:l pigabla ngokke/ mikse/ di/d

Resting on tree branch the dove wails

Tears well  up as I rest my hand on your shoulders.

 Asi bidnam bojela tatoride/ jindu:ne/

Nokke/ agom bojela ngokke/ asin jindu:ne/

Reeds on water bank shiver

As the river waters spate

My heart flutters

As your  words fill it up.

( Translated from Assamese to English by Dr. Moushumi Kandali )








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