A doctor by profession, writer by passion: Tale of a passionate author from Arunachal Pradesh -- Dr Gumlat Maio

“Writing is the painting of the voice”

A doctor by profession,this man has not stopped his passion of writing. Meet Gumlat Maio who is also a cartoonist from Arunachal Pradesh.In an exclusive interview with TNT-The NortheastToday Gumlat Maio talks about his journey of becoming a writer and fulfilling his passion by publishing two novels till now.

TNT :Tell us something about yourself?

Hi! My name is Gumlat Ong Maio.I am a doctor, a writer of novels and a cartoonist. You can find my stories, poetry and cartoons on my Facebook page ‘Once Upon a Time Somewhere’. The page has so far been visited over four million times by my readers or audience. My novels are available in online stores like Amazon and Flipkart both in paperback and e-book form.

Currently, I work as a medical officer in a government hospital in my hometown Bordumsa in Arunachal Pradesh. Before this, I worked in AIIMS, Delhi, Ramakrishna Mission Hospital, Itanagar and of course my alma mater North Bengal Medical College.

TNT:Being a doctor, how did writing become your passion?

 I like to think that it all started with being an introvert since childhood.My diary was the only companion who I could share my feelings to as boarding school was full of guys who liked to mock you for being different; in my case, for being too silent all the time.

When a diary couldn’t satisfy my needs, I chose to write stories about college and uploaded them on Facebook. Unlike a diary where you had to fill a page a day, I could write as long as I wanted and describe an incident as detailed as I wished.Writing had never felt more orgasmic. Soon, readers poured in and appreciated it. I have never looked back since.

Not that I would’ve stopped if there was no audience. For me, writing new stories is such an orgasm that no other activity can match up to it.If the books sell, great. If not, move on to creating the next book. Keep moving forward, whatever the previous outcome.

TNT:Who is your favourite writer and where do you seek inspiration from?

 I seek inspiration from every work of art that moved me emotionally. It may be a chapter that I read in a school textbook, a novel, an engaging Facebook post, a memorable movie scene, anything that makes me question myself — ‘Wow! How did they create this? Where did they get this brilliant idea from? Why can’t I do something like this?’

 It would be a crime to name only a few. There are hundreds. There is Haruki Murakami’s casual style and unusual characters, JhumpaLahiri’slucid yet effective prose, Ruskin Bond’s way of describing nature, Jerome K. Jerome’s eye for humour in the most mundane of situations, the innovativeway in which Arundhati Roy and Kiran Desai occasionally throw grammar out of the window and write lines or entire pages in the exact way their narrators speak or see them. I learn so much from different writing styles of all these great authors.

TNT: Recently you have published two novels; what are their names and can you give us an excerpt of it?

My novels are ‘Once Upon a Time in College’ and its sequel ‘Once Upon a Time in College – Part 2’.

An excerpt from the first novel:

“And then my lips stuck to her left cheek like a magnet. Not that it stuck there forever. Just a moment.

All the myths about love’s first kiss were broken that day. I had heard that the first kiss was supposed to make you feel heavenly, other-worldly, divine, life-enhancing, blah, blah, blah. It was nothing like that. The only thoughts that filled my head were –

Dry skin. Need moisturizer.”

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TNT: What is your take on writers from the region?

 To be frank, books in English (literature, not anthropological or historical books) by Northeast writers are notoriously hard to find in bookstores so I have not read many of them except Mamang Dai, the most well-known (the only well-known?) among English writers in Arunachal. Even her books can be found only in Itanagar, the capital.

There are uncountable award-winning novels and short stories in Assamese literature, too, but their English translations are hard to find.

Thanks to Amazon and Flipkart, I’ve been able to find books by Northeast writers like TemsulaAo from Nagaland. And then, there is ‘Lunatic in my head’ by AnjumHasan, a novel that revolves around Shillong. These are among the few great works that can be foundonline.

TNT: Do you think the art of writing is declining in Northeast India?

Of course!But then, when was writing so popular here that it is declining now?I think music is more popular in the Northeast than writing. You can name twenty to fifty music bands from the Northeast but novelists? – I can’t come up with even ten. And I mean writers in English only, not in regional languages.

TNT: Do you think youths should follow suit to writing as a means of employment?

Not at all! Unless you are so crazy about it that you can go through weeks of writing without a decent meal or your book sells millions like the Harry Potter series or Fifty Shades of Grey.Royalties earned from sales of books are not much unless you sell lakhs or millions of copies. I am fortunate that my medical practice provides a comfortable income which allows me to indulge in my passion and not worry too much about sales of my books. I can’t abandon being a doctor for writing full-time as a means of employment unless income from books exceeds those from my medical practice.

TNT: Do you think youths are totally dependent on internet even for writing? How do you think this can be countered?

Yes, they are.Most of the magazine articles I come across these days are straight ‘copy and paste’ write-ups from websites like Wikipedia. But they can’t be blamed as it is the age of information boom.

 No one can advice them to not use the net for info when it’s available at your finger tips. It has to come from within. They should realize themselveswhether they want the easy way i.e. copy and paste or write something original off one’s own effort.

TNT: Your message to aspiring writers from the region / What are your future plans?

 Persistence is the key. My novels took shape because I persisted, no matter what. Because of my work at hospital, I didn’t have time to write every day. I wrote one chapter a week. Sometimes it was slower, one chapter every ten days. But I continued and added a new chapter whenever I could. And finally, it turned into a huge, nearly 400-page novel with 46 chapters after a span of a year and seven months.

So, my advice is, there may be days when your fingers are not flowing as freely as you want.Write some other day then, but persist. Keep persisting and that creative juice that you’ve been seeking for, it will definitely flow.

Future plans? There is going to be one more novel in the ‘Once Upon a Time in College’ series which is already complete. Then, there is a novel about schoolboys and a collection of folk tales of my Singpho tribe.

By Natasha Dkhar

(The writer can be reached at natashadkhar11@gmail.com)

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