The sixteen stories included in this volume represent different aspects that characterise the life in Northeast India such as innocence, violence, corruption, romantic love, humour and the supernatural. Variously, these stories bring in the human concerns, and relationships and their fragility to focus. Although not representative, these stories give an understanding of the life and culture of societies in Northeast India. There are stories of very established authors alongside of authors who are young and talented, giving a feel of the changes in cultural life and social dynamics. The stories in the volume variously attempt to transcend time-space dichotomies, aspiring to be universal in dissecting life.
Professor Kailash C Baral, former Pro- Vice chancellor of the English and Foreign languages University, Hyderabad is presently a Professor of India
Studies at the same University. Earth Songs, the first book of stories from Northeast that Professor Baral edited has been translated into Kannada and Hindi. He has to his credit 10 books and his research articles have been published in reputed international and national journals. Professor Baral has contributed significantly to Northeast studies.
The present volume took over a couple years in its making. Opinions may differ on the time factor, whether two years is too short or too long a time in the preparation of a volume like this. But does it matter? Perhaps it does not. What matters is "time" as a necessary condition of life and its predicament. Similarly, time matters for the very making of the present volume — it's planning, preparation and final publication. In the contexts and contingencies of the making of this volume, time has presided over the story of and the stories in the volume. The story of the present volume will terminate at a stage in time marking its publication only to begin another journey of its existence in the hands of the readers, signifying one end as another beginning — indeed another dimension of time!
Stories, as we all know, are about time and space. This volume is about some recognisable geography, about a territory that is Northeast India. Northeast India means many things to many people — those who live here, those who know about it and read about it. This land mass has existed for centuries through its legends, myths, stories, poetry, dances, arts and crafts, its conflicting history and moribund politics. It is both ancient as well as modern. Linked to the mainland with a chicken neck corridor through Siliguri, this territory has many facets to it. That is how one looks at its map. But a map is not a territory! A territory represents real people and habitats in that it designates a living space, not an abstraction. The territory of Northeast is a land of contrasts. Its exotic landscape holds in its body huge rivers, high mountains, valleys, gorges, evergreen and tropical forests with diverse flora and fauna representing a slice of terra firma that is awesome and breathtakingly beautiful. In its fearful symmetry, here is God's plenty, — a touch of His genius!
The people who call this territory their home define the uniqueness and diversity of their cultures, customs and social practices through their oral and written literatures. There is hardly anything common about the people of Northeast, for they are as diverse as its landscape. In spite of their cultural, ethnic and linguistic diversity, these communities are known for their personal warmth, indulgent hospitality and the culture of "giving" that characterise their commonness in the face of differences. Endemic militancy ironically looks on the face and challenges this culture of Northeast. In this sense the Northeast is a land of paradoxes. In the congeries of its complexities, Northeast does not only designate a territory of diverse cultures and people but also represents an idea constantly in its making. If the past has a rootedness of harmony and cohesiveness among communities and cultures, the present is a reality of profound disaffection. The violence that stalks this landscape is part of the everyday life of people and adds to the fluidity and fragility of the situation. In spite of all this, life goes on. What is edifying in the face of all this is the call for humane aspects of life that informs the stories included in the volume. It is true that creative writers seek a world different from the one they live in; there is a moving within, a stirring that takes the form of a story, a poem, a novel, in articulating the inexpressible, transforming/transcending the mundane into a different realm. This realm is a seeking for some kind of wholeness in the face of disintegration and fragmentation. Needless to say, all genres of creative writing collect the raw material from life's fount, in that stories come into being in the unfolding of the world of words in order to give some meaning to life while connecting the individual to the society, to the world. The act of creativity in its self-knowledge and dynamics seeks to identify and erase, identity and difference while holding together the home and the world.
The present collection of stories owes its origin to my association with Katha Academic Centre at NEHU. As an Associate Director of the Katha Academic Centre, I organised a number of translation workshops in many states of the region. It was an experience of immense personal significance for me. For the first time, I was exposed to the rich tradition of oral and written stories of the different linguistic communities of Northeast. The translation exercises at the workshops provided the impetus to publish a collection of stories representing the different linguistic groups from the region. Although collections of short stories in translation from Assamese into English are available the same is not the case with other languages. The translation scene in Northeast in general is not very satisfying. The tribal communities of this region have a rich oral tradition, but the written tradition is not very old. Except Assamese and Manipuri, in most of the tribal languages of Northeast, the written tradition started with the publication of the Bible in the concerned language.
Although the early stories in these languages bear a strong Biblical influence, contemporary stories reflect variously the reality the writers live in.
The preparation of the present volume in terms of selection of the stories and their translations has been very daunting. For selecting and editing the stories, I have taken help from a number of people. However, one point has remained contentious, that is regarding the standard of translation. Without getting into the debate what is standard of translation and what is not, I take the stand that there is no perfect translation. Translation indeed is a form of writing and plays a social role in that a sense of loss is inevitable. Translation in fact produces an effect of transformation that, breaks down the oppositions of author to translator, of translation to original, as the translated version emerges like an original piece with a life of its own. What needs to be ensured is that, in the sophistry of translation, the underlying message of the original piece and its cultural nuances are not lost. However, it cannot be claimed that the selection of stories for the present Volume is representative and their translations perfect; they are indeed no less if the stories are able to convey the human concerns that are embedded in them. The stories characterise different aspects of life in Northeast such as innocence, violence, humor, corruption, romantic love and the supernatural. The variety of representation, in spite of gaps and a sense of incompleteness, conjures up creative ideas about the land and its people.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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