Authors writing in English from the Northeast are now establishing themselves quite firmly as part of the exclusive Indo-Anglican writers’ club.
The year saw not only their work being published like never before but also most of them are now drawing the attention of the world to their craft and talent and also towards their region, most of which still remains on the list of lesser known destinations in the country. They have in a small but sure way become the refreshing voice of the region, trying to engage the world without being didactic.
Aruni Kashyap is an example of how the young generation from the Northeast is eager to tell the world about the insurgency-ridden families of the region. In his debut novel, The House With a Thousand Stories, published by Penguin, the 29-year-old highlights human rights violation in the region and clashes between Ulfa and Sulfa. The book has received encouraging critical acclaim.
Then there is The Girl from Nongrim Hills by Ankush Saikia, a thriller with Shillong as the backdrop. Sanchit Kumar, proprietor of Not Just Books, a bookstore in Guwahati, said established houses such as Penguin and Harper Collins published as many as 10 to 21 writers. “But it is not about who is publishing the books but the content. The books are being read. It is a good sign,” he said.
Writing in English comes naturally to most in the region given its association with the Raj and the spread of education by missionaries. It also helps them take their work to the world. “English fits in with the cosmopolitan sensibility of writers from cities in the Northeast such as Shillong and Guwahati. Writers from the Northeast writing in English have shown that their work can stand up against wr-iting in English from anywh-ere else,” said Ankush Saikia.
Guwahati girl Nirmita Sarma, 19, is one of the youngest from the region in this genre. Partridge Publishing published her Shadows Linger Until Dusk, a 650-page fantasy novel written under the pseudonym Cyril Cliffette, last month. Nirmita is currently studying English literature at Kamala Nehru College under Delhi University.
Among those who have created ripples with their writings is Guwahati’s Somnath Batabyal. The 39-year-old journalist-turned-lecturer has shared with readers his over-a-decade-long experience as a crime reporter based in Delhi in his debut novel, The Price You Pay. Batabyal did his schooling from Don Bosco School and Arya Vidyapeeth before leaving for Delhi. Guwahati was always on his mind and so he decided to write his next two books based in Assam, one specifically on Guwahati.
Windhorse, about the struggles of Tibetans, is another debut novel by London School of Economics alumnus Kaushik Barua, which is also doing well.
Besides, young poets like Jerry Pyrtuh (Mystifying Facades of Time) and Naphirisa Kordor Tariang (The Vision Dancing in my Mind’s Eye) from Meghalaya are coming up in the literary world.
Boats on Land, a collection of short stories by Janice Pariat from Meghalaya has been receiving acclaim since it hit the stands. The book recently bagged the Yuva Puraskar (Young Writer Award) from the Sahitya Akademi and the Crossword Book Award 2013. In her website, Janice says the book offers a new way of looking at the world and, in particular, at India’s little-known Northeast. “We are reaching out to others as much as other’s books are a way for us to explore literature written around the country and the world,” Pariat said.