FIFTH WALL - Cross-cultural currents : Uddipana Goswami

Uddipana Goswami, Literary Editor
Starting with this issue, NELit review will bring our readers a series on the literatures of the various ethnic communities of Assam. Each focus on a different literature will be interspersed with other issues built around other themes. In the end however, we would like to have incorporated all the small and big ethnic groups of Assam which have a literature of their own.
In recent years, there has been a proliferation of many cultural festivals celebrating the multicultural ethos of Assam. The just-concluded Desang festival or the soon-to-start Dehing Patkai festival are a few of these. They all try to showcase the richness of our ethnic mosaic. Globalisation, corporatisation and increasing commercialisation do after all, have some positive side effects.
Through our literary pages, we would also like to do a showcasing of our ethnic diversity – through writing, on paper. Conflicts will rage on so long as ethnic and identity politics continues to play its Machiavellian (or Kautilyan, if you like) part in Assam and the Northeast as a whole. Despite their divisive influence, however, there have been those who have transcended narrow ethnic considerations to write in languages that are not their first, or set their literary works in ethnic backdrops that are not native to them. Such cross-cultural engagements through literature provide us with a basis in our search for ethnic reconciliation.
We spoke to one of the most respected intellectuals of Assam, Anil Raichoudhury, to understand more lucidly his philosophy of the Assamese language and culture. Patently poly-ethnic, why does a section of the Assamese middle class consider the language and culture to be its sole preserve? Drawing on their indigenous heritage, poets like Jiban Narah have created a distinctive idiom and lilt in the Assamese language. We revisit his poetry here. We also bring a portion of Rita Choudhury’s Deu Langkhui in translation for our readers. The Sahitya Akademi winning Assamese author has portrayed the richness of Tiwa culture through this book.

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