The Northeast may be known for its delicious momos, music and fashion but there is more to it than just that. The region has also given birth to some of the nation’s best writers paving a way for people to discover and appreciate the many talents of the people of the Northeast region.
These are some of must read books on the northeast that you should not miss.
Sikkim: Requiem for a Himalayan Kingdom
Author: Andrew Duff
Publication Date: 14 May 2015
Based on a true story of Sikkim, it tells the story of this tiny Buddhist kingdom in the Himalayas that survived the end of the British Empire only to be annexed by India in 1975 and the extraordinary tale of the last King of Sikkim, Thondup Namgyal and his wife, Hope Cooke, the inadvertent push to the spotlight while seeking support after their wedding in 1963. Sikkim became a pawn in the Cold War in Asia during the 1960s and 1970s with tension arising between India and China turning to a war in the Himalayas. On the other hand, the mysteriously charming and conspiring Scottish adventuress, Kazini Eliza Maria Khangsarpa, wife of Sikkim’s leading political figure coordinated opposition to the Palace. The ruling family never stood a chance against the world’s major powers colliding for regional supremacy during the early 1970s. On the eve of declaring an Emergency across India, Indira Gandhi outwitted everyone to bring down the curtain on the 300 year-old Namgyal dynasty.
Based on interviews and archive research, as well as a retracing of a journey the author’s grandfather made in 1922, this is a thrilling, romantic and informative glimpse of a real-life Shangri-La.
The Maharaja’s Household: A Daughter’s memories of her father.
Publication Date: 2014
The Maharaja’s Household is the last published book by Manipur’s Maharaj Kumari Binodini Devi, a descendent of the Ningthouja dynasty, who passed away in January 2011. The book was presented at the Jaipur Literature Festival by her son Somi Roy, and uncle of the present King of Manipur Leishemba Sanajaoba.
The book gives us a glimpse into the past and present of the northeast state.
The Maharaja’s Household provides a unique and engrossing intimate view of life in the erstwhile royal household of Manipur in northeast India. Part memoir, part oral testimony, part eyewitness account it brings to life stories of kingdoms long vanished, and is an important addition to the untold histories of the British Raj. The stories of royal life, told from a woman’s view and informed by deep empathy for the common people in her father’s gilded circle.
Elephant hunts, polo matches and Hindu temple performances form the backdrop for palace intrigues, colonial rule and White Rajahs. With gentle humor, piquant observations and heartfelt nostalgia, Binodini evokes a lifestyle and era that is now lost. Her book paints a portrait of the household of a king that only a princess – his daughter – could have written.
Fragrance of Peace
Author: Irom Sharmila
Published: 24 November 2014
A small compilation of twelve poems written by Irom Sharmila provides a moving account of the underbelly of one woman’s struggle for peace. Published on the tenth anniversary of Sarmila’s hunger fast for the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, a draconian law that allows the army unfettered powers in areas that are considered politically “sensitive” or “disturbed”. Taken into custody and released every twelve months by the State for attempting suicide (considered illegal in India) Sharmila is being force fed to keep her alive. Her battle for peace in her strife torn homeland has become a powerful symbol for all those engaged in fighting for peace in the northeast of India.
No Direction Rome
Author: Kaushik Barua
Publication: May 20th 2015
The book is about Krantik, an Indian working in Rome. He is is cynical, jaded and utterly bored. He’s also a paranoid hypochondriac. With a failed engagement, he drifts aimlessly with the help of several intoxicants and short lived love affairs.
Krantik’s personal revelations and delusions of grandeur – exquisitely funny and devastatingly poignant — expose the hollowness of social mores and the anxieties of a rootless generation. This is a clever, bizarre tour de force, part noir, part philosophical and entirely likable.
The Black Hill
Author: Mamang Dai
Published date: 1 December 2014
‘The Black Hill’ is the story of Gimur, a girl from the Abor tribe who runs away with Kinshasa of the Mishmee tribe. Their tale of love is painted with the mid-nineteenth century Northeast India as the background – a time when foreign winds had brought the East India Company into the region, and along with it inter-tribe unrest and superstitious xenophobia within the native dwellers. It had also brought in missionaries, one of them being Father Nicolas Krick, a Jesuit priest who wanted to carry his mission to Tibet. ‘The Black Hill’ is a richly imagined story descriptively created around two recorded historical events – this French priest’s mysterious disappearance and the execution of Kajinsha for his murder. The ‘miglun’ – the white men – remain a constant presence, peripheral but very much there, for the story is set between 1847 and 1855.
The Black Hill’ touches you with its poetic beauty, it terrifies you with its realism and it even triggers a re-opening of a debate on colonization. From descriptions appealing to those appalling, the author’s pen creates a darkly fascinating world in the novel. Our half-knowledge about people of our own country will make us see this as ‘exotic’! But we know it is 1847, and hence a context not just far removed from the present but also from popular discourse – political as well as literary.
It is a ‘story of love’. It is also a story about ‘treachery of men, and the dark thoughts that grew out of solitude in this cruel and bewitching landscape’. The three thematic Fs of Frontier, Foreigner and Faith find significant space in the book. Many readers may be reminded of Chinua Achebe’s ‘Things Fall Apart’ but an equal number will see how this book falls short of a clear voice on colonization. Nevertheless, much like Achebe’s book, ‘The Black Hill’ shows us the importance of the oral, of telling stories; stories from times gone by but which transcend time, and need to be told.
Land Where I Flee
Author: Prajwal Parajuly
Published: June 2, 2015
To commemorate Chitralekha Nepauney’s Chaurasi – her landmark 84th birthday – Chitralekha’s grandchildren are travelling to Gangtok to pay their respects.
Agastaya is flying in from New York. Although a successful oncologist at only thirty-three he is dreading his family’s inquisition into why he is not married, and terrified that the reason for his bachelordom will be discovered. Joining him are his sisters Manasa and Bhagwati, coming from London and Colorado respectively. One the Oxford-educated achiever; the other the disgraced elope-r – one moneyed but miserable; the other ostracized but optimistic.
All three harbor the same dual objective: to emerge from the celebrations with their grandmother’s blessing and their nerves intact: a goal that will become increasingly impossible thanks to a mischievous maid and a fourth, uninvited guest.