‘Literature is where I go to explore the highest and lowest places in human society and in the human spirit, where I hope to find not absolute truth but the truth of the tale, of the imagination and of the heart’. -Salman Rushdie
Miles of luscious earth spread under the canopy of blue firmament in north-eastern states in India has innumerable stories to tell everyone. Combining compelling narratives with utterly mundane existence of tribes living in hilly terrains in these states could keep the readers amused and engrossed in the wonderland of imagination. In the decades, north-east states have produced celebrated writers and impressive repertoire of imaginative writing. The gripping storylines in the works of authors that showcase political cataclysms, tribal tradition, and jungles have their uniqueness in rich portrayal in the narratives. But the sad thing is the rest of India has a little taste of it as ironically works of foreign authors are more familiar to the readers in the country. Home to several languages and dialects, the states share rich literary tradition. Particularly, Assam has always stayed the fertile heartland of an ever flourishing culture, where literature is the greatest asset in its heritage.
Although, the list would become very exhaustive about the brilliant minds from north-east, some of the best -known all-time talents among the authors from north-eastern India are as follows;
Poet, novelist, teacher, and winner of Sahitya Academy award-Rita Chowdhury- is an acclaimed author of Assam for her novels and poetry. “Deo- Langukhui”- the tour de force
in her entire repertoire is the path-breaking portrayal of Tiwa society focusing on customs and traditions. The protagonist in this work- Chandraprabha- is the depiction of royal lady character in the court of king Pratapchandra. As the plot in her novel thickens with romance, conflict, treachery, hostility, and allegiance, the story unwinds the historical facts of contemporary royal society. The novel is full of literary verve giving depiction to the royal grandeur of Assam in the past. Simply irresistible as it is a unique combination of history and fiction. Among her other publications, she has to her credit the first work in English- ‘Incessant Journey’. Besides this, she has penned several novels and collection of poetry.
Born on 20th August, 1960 in Tirap of Arunachal Pradesh, she has secured a great place in Assamese literature.
The Moth Eaten Howdah of a Tusker’ –the best known classic of Indira Goswami, is indisputably a milestone in Indian writing in English. Like the fame of the book, its author familiar to all as Momoni Raisom Goswami, needs no introduction to the readers. Based on lives of Brahmin widows of Sattras of Assam, the magnum opus
bares the plight of a Brahmin widow, caught deeply in the whirlwind of orthodoxy and moderation in 20th
century Assam. The book remarkably delineates the emerging societal changes, leading to the transformation in the woman. She was conferred with Jnanpith award for this rare contribution to the world of literature. Her other widely reviewed work ‘The Blue Necked Braja’
vividly portrays femininity in the plight of Hindu Widows living in Vrindavan as Radheswamis. She is forthrightly critical in her first-person description of Sikh Riots in 1984 but critics hold her book on practice of animal sacrifice in Kamakya Temple of Assam- The Man from Chinamasta- is a path-breaking attempt on heinous practices prevailing in India. As ‘pain and flesh’ is her only anthology of poems, she is always busy writing on the sensitive social issues.
Born in the year 1942, she remained an inspiring figure for every literature lover till her death in 2011 and even after that.
Birendra Kumar Bhattacharya
Recipient of first ever Jnanapitha award from Assam, Dr Birendra Kumar Bhattacharya, is an inspiration in literature for generations of readers. The twin master-pieces, ‘lyaruingom’ and ‘aai’ have mesmerised readers’ right from the days of their first publication. But it was the classic, Mritunjaya, which brought him the highest honor for his genius in writing- Jnanapitha award. This widely read classic is another milestone in Indian literature as its gripping story-line captures the moods of young revolutionaries during the days of quit India movement in the year 1942. As the unrest for independence in that year was nearing an end, the disillusioned youngsters took to the path of violence as they were disenchanted with the struggle for independence through non-violence. They chalked out a plan to derail a train, which was carrying the British military officers. Literally, the book offers the most stunning description of the execution of the plan. Based on the real derailment at Barapathar in the year 1942 by some freedom fighters of Assam, the book is utterly salutary about the hectic days during freedom movement.
During his life (1924-1997), Dr. Birendra Kumar Bhattacharya played a notable role in finding out, fostering, and promoting budding talents in Assamese literature.
M.K. Binodini Devi
As a scion from Manipur royal family, Maharaj Kumari Binodini Devi, has a very high stature in Indian literature. Notable for her creativity for bridging the gap between olden days of royalty and present generation with her penchant for writing vividly, she is an acclaimed novelist and short-story writer. Her widely-acclaimed classic “Boro saheb Ongi Sanatombi
“won her the Sahitya Academy award in the year 1979. She is also the recipient of Padma Bhusan in the year 1976, which is the highest civilian award in India. In this classic book, she gives the vivid depiction of the life of a princess, who falls in love with a British agent. ‘Sanatombi’-the princess and protagonist of the novel- is a dissenter of royal norms and chooses to live on her own principles. Sporting the spirited nature of an unorthodox princess, she dares challenging the patriarchal norms imposed on women by the society. M.K. Binodini Devi masterly crafts femininity with her brilliant strokes of pen by infusing defiance in this chief female character in the novel that appears so unconventional in the puritanical and orthodox royal society. This makes her work the favorite of thousands of readers belonging to different generations. Among her other works, she is also a prolific authoress of popular short-stories, while she has also penned innumerable essays and screen-plays, lyrics, and ballet-scripts that went on to win laurels and awards.
Her life (1922-2011) inspires every generation of writers as well as readers.
Atul Chandra Hazarika
Poetry and plays inspired generations, who fought the battle of freedom. Atul Chandra Hazarika, hailing from Assam, was an accomplished poet, dramatist, children story writer, and translator. In the thirties of 20th
century, he compiled several anthologies of poetry. Besides this, he is an author of more than 100 books in Assamese literature. His poetry is a class apart as those expressed vociferously about social issues and other problems. “Dewadasi” and “Balisor” are renowned among his anthologies as those are sensitive portrayal of social issues and sentiments. His work on the life of Chatrapati Shivaji is widely held as a work of genius
in Indian drama. In this, not only the readers get glimpses of History but the lines have packs of fertile imagination.