Category Archives: Editorial

SO LONG…

Uddipana Goswami

The Northeast Review was born of passion, and a vision. Over the last couple of years, we have tried to bring our readers the best in reading experience. However, truth be told, our editors – each one of us – have had to overcome tremendous odds to keep the journal alive and well. And we will continue to do so in the years to come.

So this is not goodbye. Far from it. It is just a promise that we will keep striving for the same level of commitment and excellence that our readers have come to expect of us. In order to do that, though, we will have to go easy on ourselves. We will have to give ourselves the time and breathing space required to cull out the outstanding and exemplary in contemporary writing. And then present it all to you to feast on.

We are starting by revising our periodicity of publication. The Northeast Review will now be an annual journal. This current issue then is the last that we will be bringing you this year. We shall, of course, be adding more content to this issue in the days to come. And we hope you will continue sending us your comments, feedback and contributions.

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TROUBLED LAND

Uddipana Goswami

Image: Divya Adusumilli

Image: Divya Adusumilli

Touted as an island of peace in the otherwise ‘troubled’ Northeast periphery of India, Mizoram has nonetheless had a turbulent past. The traumatic experiences of this not-so-distant past have often been brushed aside or silenced. But no matter how deep this silence, it cannot drown the sounds of airplanes bombing entire villages out of existence. Nor can it hide within its darkness the cries of people uprooted from their hearth and home who were then resettled in contained environments.

With the passage of time people may want to forget why an earlier generation was forced to take up arms in a land where the hills seem capable of instilling only calm. But literature does not allow us this luxury of escape from the traumas of our past. It forces us to face our history so that we may be able to turn towards our future, healed. And this healing process has started, with so many scholars and writers rediscovering, revisiting those troubled years, trying to make sense of the traumatic past.

In our Tin Trunk this issue, the Northeast Review presents a small selection of this literature from this Rambuai, the troubled land. We are grateful to have Margaret Zama’s comprehensive overview. An extract from Malswami Jacob’s novel takes us back into that world. Roluahpuia’s research brings us the narrative of a woman rebel. And our selection of poetry tells us about all the rest: the pathos and the pain, the remembering and the forgetting, the living and the letting go.

***

In our regular section, Roderick Chalmer’s memoirs also take us back into the past – a different kind of past though – and one remembered with affection, not pain. Chalmers, who owned a tea estate in Assam before retiring to London, writes about growing up a tea planter. Sanjoy Barbora reviews Dhruba Hazarika’s Sons of Brahma. We have an excerpt from Aditya Sudarshan’s novel The Persecution of Madhav TripathiWe also hope that the poems by Saskia Priftis and Somak Ghoshal are well received by our readers.

***

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LISTENING

Sumana Roy

Image: Divya Adusumilli

Image: Divya Adusumilli

As a teacher, I am conditioned to move between ‘Can you hear me?’ and ‘Why don’t you listen to me?’ in the classroom. Listening, the subject of our Tin Trunk for this issue, asks various questions of the experience: Meherin RoshanaraDebolina Dey and Jyotirmoy Talukdar speak about various genres of listening, audible and inaudible, in their poems; Anu Kumar writes about listening to Hindustani classical music as a child; Daya Bhat’s short story tells us what it means to be imprisoned in sound; Goirick Brahmachari’s photo-essay is an investigation of listening as it plays out in the creases and curves on human faces, and Madhumita Das’s photo-essay is about the cosmopolitanism of the listening experience.

We’d love to ‘hear’ from you too.

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SILENCE SPEAKS

Uddipana Goswami

Image: Divya Adusumilli

Image: Divya Adusumilli

Silence also speaks, if you know how to listen. It speaks a language that only a few can understand, if they try earnestly to listen. Usually we are all so caught up in speech and expression, we miss out on what remains unsaid. Like we often skip over the white spaces between the dark lines of the written words in a book: what remains unwritten can, after all, fill volumes. If you listen with empathy, you might hear the sound of silence, even though it may only be one mighty shrug of indifference that says: I speak though you do not hear. For there is strength in silence, a great depth to the unspoken. There is also obduracy, a kind of tenacity. And there is confidence, there is peace. In this issue of Northeast Review, we listen: to silence, to the night sounds, to music, to the winter coming in and going out. *** We have in this issue, poems by Usha Akella, and fiction by Bijoya Sawian, who has recently published her short story collection, A Family Secret. Sawian also shares her own thoughts on writing and not writing with us. We have an essay by Enakshi Sharma. In our review section, we visit Janice Pariat’s Sea Horse and Haruki Murakami’s Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. We also have Gauraang Pradhan and Anu Kumar’s photo essay My Friend, the Siddi. And lastly, and most importantly, with this issue, we are very happy to welcome to our team our new editorial assistant, Gunjana Dey.

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WHEN AUTUMN CAME

Uddipana Goswami

divya2Autumn should come with the sound of leaves rustling softly underfoot. Autumn should come with the smell of white xewali fallen on the ground on lazy mornings that are only just starting to feel the nip in the air. Yes, autumn should come with a sense of beauty, of joy, and hope.

And yet, this year, autumn set in with the cruellest months; months that brought floods and hurricanes with the power to wash away lives and livelihoods; months that witnessed political protests and mindless killings; months, in fact, that did not bring us respite from the endless cycle of misery and mayhem.

The poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz did not, then, without reason paint autumn in such bleak terms in his poem, the title of which I borrow for my editorial. The trees are stripped of their yellow hearts, he says, that lie on the ground. Even when trampled ‘out of shape’, they do not moan in protest. Meanwhile, the birds lose their song, their voices torn out of their throats. Every year, I teach this sad commentary on what should be a beautiful season to a room full of young minds that will grow up in this world that has lost the wherewithal to fight back. And like the poet, I can only pray for the ‘gift of green’; so that at least one bird may sing.

***

In this issue of The Northeast Review, our Tin Trunk has a few things Autumnal. Sumana Roy elaborates in her editorial.

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TIME AND SOME TIDINGS

Uddipana Goswami

Photo : Kishalay Bhattacharjee

Photo : Kishalay Bhattacharjee

Time, they say, has great powers – to hurt and to heal, to bring pain and subsequently palliate, to embitter and mitigate, to destroy and recreate, and then, to repeat the cycle all over again. Time wreaks havoc upon humans, and then, slowly, quietly, wipes away the memories of the same. And in so doing, it comes out the winner, every time, subjugating us, our wills and our actions.

Time then, becomes the cause and the cure, the reason and the refuge. We become its slaves.

This tyranny of two-faced Time can be overcome if only we could stop getting affected by its vicissitudes, and let it take its course, while we go Zen. Or utterly Alice-in-Wonderland-ly. ‘Begin at the beginning… and go on till you come to the end: then stop’ – as Alice’s creator would suggest. After all, what more is there to life, but to go through it? And if one can only adjust one’s attitude thus, even a war can start to seem like just a game of wooden pieces. Or like Javed Akhtar, in our selection of Urdu poetry in this issue, we can begin to question, ‘What game is this?’:

My opponent has made a move
And now
Awaits mine.
But for ages
I stare at the black and white pieces
That lie on white and black squares
And I think
What are these pieces?

Were I to assume
That these pieces
Are no more than wooden toys
Then what is a victory or a loss?
If in winning there are no joys
Nor sorrows in losing
What is the game?

It is when we start allowing the absurd rules of Time’s games to rule over our lives, that we begin to question:

If this is the rule
Then what is a rule?
If this is the game
Then what is the name of the game?

Perhaps retiring unhurt (or at least before the hurt gets too much to bear) is the best solution…

***

Timeless Tawang is our focus in The Tin Trunk of our current issue. Sumana Roy takes us on a journey beyond the inner lines of our wanderlust to this place where Time has no meaning. What guides us to this place is just our soul’s search for beauty and grandeur.

This issue of NER comes after a short hiatus. During this period, the NER team indulged in some soul searching and decided in the end to publish our journal four times a year, instead of the usual six times. It is our constant endeavour to bring our readers the best that we encounter, but it has often happened that Time’s tyranny has restricted us from delivering, well, in time. Given the small-sized team that we have, and the big-sized enterprise that we have undertaken, we decided it would be prudent to reduce our periodicity but increase our offerings to our readers. So, although we will be publishing a new issue every fourth month now, we will be uploading content to the current issues almost every month. That way, there will always be something new for you to come back to.

So long and thanks for all the fish!

***

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OLD GUARD AND NEW

Uddipana Goswami

The old guard stands down to make place for the new. This has been the rule of the universe. There is nothing new to remark on that. But what may be remarkable is when the old and the new all come together: when the old order comes up with something new, and the new refers back to the old. In this issue of Northeast Review, we bring together the old and the new.

We celebrate the poetry of one of the most revered names in Indian English poetry, Shiv K Kumar, here. His latest collection of poetry is due out this year from Authorspress. We bring our readers selections from the same. In his nineties now, the poet is understandably preoccupied with death, time, lost childhood, shadows and ghosts. But there is also acceptance, as in the poem ‘He Walked All Night’. Of course, questions remain, and some apprehension:

In my dream, I once saw
a river retreating to its mother’s womb
to see if its umbilical cord had been cut at the right point. (‘Birth of Time’)

One of Shiv K Kumar’s most famous poems, ‘Indian Women’, has been both glorified and vilified as being itself a glorification and/or a vilification of femininity in India. To my mind, it is fitting, therefore, that we carry his poetry in this issue which also concerns itself with insights from, on and of a few contemporary women writers. As the fiery Monalisa Changkija urges, women – and especially women writers – need to set about ‘Finding Our Lives’. Femininity, after all, is just one aspect of our many identities and Belinder Dhanoa speaks about her divided identity/ies. Our identities, like our writing, change as we explore new territories of being and belonging. And as Nabina Das tells Rumjhum K Biswas, ‘Nothing is Safe in Writing’.

This issue exploring women’s voices also carries a photo essay that looks at women’s photographs of the early 20th century as historical documents. ‘The value of these photographs,’ says Geraldine Forbes,  ‘is in the issues they raise as much as the clues (not answers) they give to questions about women’s autonomy, representation, modernity, and family culture.’

The other focus in our current Tin Trunk is Kanchenjunga. Sumana Roy has more on Memories of Kanchenjunga.

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OLD MAN RIVER

Uddipana Goswami

Saving Blues Photo : Nitoo Das

Saving Blues
Photo : Nitoo Das

The old man river – Burha Luit, Brahmaputra – is my soul. I am him, he is in me.

He taught me about the breadth of love by the way he embraces and enriches all on his way.

He showed me the depths of humility, flowing as he did so calmly above the turbulent undercurrents.

He led me along the lengths of fortitude. He said to me: We do all of us have to run the course, despite all that dam our direction.

And he moulded my mind along his length, breath and depth.

But he, my old man river, did too instil in me the righteous rage to face the torrential rains that tear at my breasts ever so often.

Sometimes I wonder if he shouldn’t have been an old woman.

***

This issue of the Northeast Review is dedicated to the Mighty Brahmaputra. Sumana Roy has more on the Red River. Meanwhile, our search for young writers continues in Moina Mel.

In keeping with the eclectic approach that we like to bring our readers, we are also proud to announce the publication of a three-part series by Neville Maxwell on Katherine Mayo and her Mother India. This issue of NER carries the first of the three. We like to look at it as the prelude to our next issue focusing on women writers and their many concerns.

In our regular features, we have an essay by Rini Barman focusing on poetry from northeastern India; fiction by Mildred K Barya and Vineetha Mokkil; poetry in three voices; and reviews of some very interesting books.

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ONE YEAR ON

Uddipana Goswami

This is our first anniversary issue. In the last one year, we have been received so well by our readers and have gotten encouragement from so many quarters – expected and unexpected – that we have felt quite enthused to keep at our endeavour. But there have been obstacles as well: time and the tussles of day-to-day life that have dogged our team members. It is only the love of literature and a passion for doing what we do (and doing it well) that has kept us going. And we intend to keep going. We only ask our readers to indulge our occasional delays. In return, we promise never to compromise on quality. Our effort will always be to provide a quality reading experience to all who stop by.

In pursuance of this promise, we have undertaken a new project from this issue onwards – showcasing children’s literature, art and other related enterprise. ‘Serious’ literary journals generally shy away from accommodating the little people and their often-belittled adventures. But we do not believe in limiting ourselves and making allowances for such labels. Our aim is to cull out the freshest and the best. And what could be more refreshing than a child’s view of life, the universe and everything else? Maybe if we started taking children and their perspectives a bit more seriously, they could somewhere help lighten the serious problems dogging our lives. With that hope in mind, we have put together our Moina Mel, the space where children can converse among themselves and convince us adults to appreciate their inspired genius.

Our Tin Trunk in this issue purports to take us on a ride through different locales in India; our travelling companions some of the best known writers from the country. Sumana Roy has more on the Cloak Room.

In the regular sections, we again have the fresh alongside the old favourites. In fiction, a teenage fiction writer, Jae Woo Jang, rubs shoulders with the acclaimed writer, Mahim Bora. One of our favourite poets, Robin Ngangom, whose poetry has borne witness to the violence and trauma dogging the Northeast region of India for decades now, shares space with Nigerian poet, Chielozona Eze, who also depicts the wars within and without that have torn his homeland apart. And a debut novelist, Kaushik Barua, whose novel Windhorse is set against the backdrop of the Tibetan resistance, writes about what/who inspired him to write.

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CLOAK ROOM

Sumana Roy

© Avirup Ghosh

Drift
© Avirup Ghosh

I was at the train station in Puri, Orissa. Cyclone Phailin had just left, and standing in the overcrowded station on that rainy October night, that only seemed like a prologue for what was to follow. The roads were flooded, buses and cars had stopped plying, cycle rickshaws were fighting fuel-served machines with an energy that one encounters only in aphorisms. We had to remind ourselves that we were on a holiday.

There was no space anywhere – not for bags and suitcases, not for human feet. My nephew, two years old, whose mother had recently taught him to fold his hands into a pranam for the gods, suddenly turned to the porters standing next to him and offered his pranam. We laughed, and when the back story was explained to them, the red uniformed coolies laughed too.

‘Come, let me tell you a story about coolies and trains,’ one of them said.

My nephew is still not old enough to be greedy for stories. And though our feet were aching and our incessant yawns reminded us of how deep and uncertain nights at railway stations can be, we could have done with a story.

Roghu, one of the coolies, began telling us about the hazards of rail travel in Orissa. ‘Isn’t that why Jagannath travels by the rath?’

‘Trains are not for ordinary people,’ his friend added.

‘Who is it for then?’ asked my brother, irritated with everything around him.

‘Trains are for Biharis,’ said Roghu.

His colleague clarified the answer for us. ‘Haven’t you ever travelled by train through Bihar? Haven’t you had your reserved seat taken away by Bihari men?’

Turning towards my husband, Roghu asked, ‘Do you know who invented the train? It was an Englishman, was it not?’.

My husband isn’t one to let go of an opportunity for a laugh. ‘No, it was a Bihari,’ he replied.

The conversation about the difficulty of travel in Bihar amidst the incessant buzz and bite of mosquitoes continued until our train arrived. It was called ‘Jagannath Express’. If I hadn’t been so sleepy, I might have sat Roghu and his friend down to explain to them the delicious irony of that name.

Instead, as incessant rains delayed the arrival of our Jagannath into the Howrah rail station in Calcutta, I sat working on my laptop, reading two writers from Bihar: Amitava Kumar and Tabish Khair. I had first encountered the train in Kumar’s work in his first novel, Home Products, a scene in which the protagonist returns home smelling of the train. I wanted to be on a train like that, to smell of the journey I’d just made. Now I want to live in these trains in Amitava Kumar’s essay.

If bus journeys in Bihar could be as enjoyable as the ones made in Tabish Khair’s novel, The Bus Stopped, who wouldn’t want to take a bus to Patna? In this essay Khair writes about the relation between bus journeys and his writing.

Satish Singh’s Hindi poem, Yatra Chakra, about journeys local and universal, through Patna and elsewhere, has been translated by Abdullah Khan.

Gopal MS, in his photo-essay Mumbai Local, shows us how the world appears to those who live in trains and also how the train appears to the world that is passes by.

The cover image, “Drift”, which is, among other things, about the solitariness of every journey, is by Avirup Ghosh.

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