New generation of storytellers | Art & Culture | Nelive

New generation of storytellers

Jun 04, 2015 11:49

For a northeastern it’s always a pleasure to be connected to her roots, here in my case now I have been reading novels set in my land. The experience is amusing, as you get mesmerised by the vivid description and the vibrant literary tradition.

Until 2007 there wasn’t much a buzz about the novels from Northeast in the Indian Media. Suddenly by the mid of 2008, national magazines and journals have taken unprecedented amount of interest in writings from this region. The profusion of literature from Northeast has also generated immense interest within and outside the nation. Publishing is brimming with new novels from here. They are fresh, different and they reflect the incredible diversity of the land.

Some novels which are to be applauded and are at par with their counterparts throughout India namely, poet and journalist Mamang Dai’s The Black Hill (Aleph, 2015) marry history and imagination. It is a doomed love story of a girl from the Abor tribe and a man from the Mishmee tribe, which is set against the vivid backdrop of 19th century Arunachal Pradesh and Assam. The two recorded pegs: “A priest (who)... walked across these hills carrying a cross and a sextant” and one day disappeared, and the execution of a Mishmee tribal man, Kajinsha, for his murder. To connect these two dots, Dai weaves a rich tapestry of characters, landscapes and incidents. In the process, she resuscitates a chapter largely ignored by mainstream historians, those custodians of memory; breathes life into people and a way of life that rarely finds representation outside the region; and, at the least indicates the wealth of inspiration that this land offers. It provides an opportunity for its readers to explore if we would only look.

Parjwal Parajuly’s Land Where I Flee (Penguin, 2014), a nuanced book about family, about relationships and about people striving for individual freedom in a society that compels them to hide their innermost selves, It has no black and white characters. The story celebrates the get-together in which four Nepali Indian siblings return to Gangtok to celebrate their grandmother’s 84th birthday. The grandmother with her caste pride is also an admirable woman who raised her grandchildren by herself and, instead of the usual revulsion of eunuchs evident everywhere in India, has a close bond with her servant. 

Janice Parait’s Boats on Land (Random House, 2013), are fifteen sublime short stories set between Shillong,  Cherrapunji  and  Assam which undertake fictional re-imagining of the alteration that swept through Northeast India during a period of three centuries, starting in the 1850s.Weaving together local folklore and tradition with unfolding social and political events.

Mamang Dai from Arunachal Pradesh was awarded the Padma Shri for Literature in 2011. Prajwal Parajuly, who grew up in Gangtok became the youngest Indian to secure an international book deal. Janice Pariat won the Sahitya Academy Yuva Puraskar. These writers can be called Northeastern because they belong to Northeast but each of their work are just as different from each other’s as their individual cultures are. 

These are only few names from the bunch of most powerful storytellers. The younger generation of English-language writers from North-East India includes Jahnavi Barua, Arnab Jan Deka, Siddhartha Sarma, Nitoo Das, Aruni Kashyap, Manash Pratim Borah, Nabanita Kanungo, Mona Zote, Ankush Saikia, Bijoya Sawian and Uddipana Goswami. These writers express strong political awareness by addressing issues such as identity and ethnicity; a few hailing from Assam interrogate the violence that has ravaged their home state Assam due to the tussle between the secessionist militant groups and the Indian government in complex ways. Some of them like Arnab Jan Deka delved deep into the spiritual and intellectual heritage along the Brahmaputra valley, and also highlighted its environmental fragility. 

This window into contemporary writing from the Northeast shows rest of the country, what an exciting place it is to be in; backed by a strong, vibrant literary tradition, and surging with fresh ideas. Readership in both English and local languages is growing, regional publishing is strong and awareness of what comprises “good” writing is not in doubt.

Jun 04, 2015 11:49

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About Author

Anwesha Roy Choudhury    Ranchi, Jharkhand
Anwesha Roy Choudhury is a Masters in Mass Communication & Journalism from Tezpur Central University, Assam. Over the years as a development professional, she had firsthand experience in managing communication channels and taking active part in developing creative contents. Currently based in Jharkhand. Worked as documentation officer in Citizens Foundation and now Director of Health Initiatives, Resource India trying to bring out the positive change in health sector. 
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