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Jonki and Panei: The Epic Mising love story

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Article by Niladri Sekhar Dutta, The North-Eastern Chronicle

Visuals by: Manash Jyoti Saikia

When we talk about epic love stories what comes to our mind mostly are “Romeo & Juliet” by Shakespeare or “Laila & Majnu”, the epic old arabic love story. But do we know about a love story “Jonkie and Panoi” from Miri Jiyori, an Assamese novel written by Rajanikanta Bordoloi. The book unveils some important aspects of then-contemporary Mising society and a series of their customs and traditions they follow.

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Who wrote Jonki and Panei?

It is a social novel based on a simple love story, Miri Jiyori by Rajanikanta Bordoloi set in the Miri which is now referred to as the Mishing community. A passionate story about doomed love, it was written at a time when the novel as a literary form was yet in its beginning stage. With a deeply sympathetic portrayal of a young Miri couple who matured from being childhood companions to deeply committed but doomed in love.

‘Miri Jiyori’ the love story begins with Jonki and Panei drew to each other as children. Eventually, they declare their love, but Jonki who is an orphan realises it’s very unlikely that Panei’s family will agree with their marriage, as he’s an orphan and also earns no money. But in fact, Panei’s mother, Nirama, doesn’t think it would be such a bad idea, as they don’t have any son and would be happy to have Jonki as their son-in-law. But Panei’s father, Tamed, prefers another suitor, Komud, son of the local village chief. Tamed doesn’t think it’s not necessary, asking for his daughter’s consent before her marriage.

Jonki

So Jonki goes to a nearby village to try to earn enough money to support the woman he loves, and Komud is invited to move in and start serving as an “apprentice son-in-law”. But Panei never gave him any indulgence, and always kept herself aloof from him. Komud is increasingly the state of ridicule in the village. Tamed isn’t pleased and eventually has enough of this and decides to forcefully hand over his daughter to Komud.

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Panei manages to runs away and is reunited with her true love, but they are eventually caught and it takes a while for things to get sorted out, culminating in a case that’s brought before the local court. Even that doesn’t settle everything to everyone’s satisfaction, and Panei runs away by herself. Jonki does eventually catch up with her, but there’s no happy ending there as well.

Yes, like other epic love tales, the love of Panei and Jonkie led to terrible consequences. As the angry mob, caught them and nailed the loving couple together at the palms and among other places of their body and eventually killed, with the mistake of their love or loving someone of their own choice.

Jonki

Though some readers say, Miri Jiyori reads like a poorly edited version of a much longer novel, compressed so tightly that much of its power has been squeezed from its pages. Bordoloi seems to waver between what kind of morals he wants to offer and the idea that Panei should have. Tamed certainly learns his lesson, but his exotic Miri character implies and quite adhere to conventional custom.

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