Director of English and Foreign Languages University,Northeast Campus, Shillong, KC Baral is a well-known critic and writer. He tells Seven Sisters Post that one should not just read but have dialogues with books
|K C Baral|
Literature is always ‘on the side of life’. It teaches us how to respect life and how to remain human when humanity is embattled. It is universal as it brings home infinite creative possibilities and has relevance not only for today but for tomorrow as well. Literature depicts the ‘here and now’, our existential conditions, and also transcends them in asking why things happen as they do while proposing alternatives. From the mundane to the ideological to the spiritual, literature is the only human creation that transports us to the unknown and unknowable.
How close is your relation with literature in general, and with literature of the Northeast inparticular?
I have been a student and also a teacher of literature forlong. It is an intimate domain for me; I’m also an amateur writer of sorts. Iknow most of the writers from Northeast writing in English and in vernacularpersonally. I’m really grateful to most of them, for their generosity insharing their works with me, and often gifting me with their publications. Iedited Earth Songs: Stories fromNortheast India, a volume of stories in English from the region, forSahitya Akademi a few years back. I’m a participant, sometimes a critic andmost of the time, a passionate admirer of the freshness and quality ofliterature here and of the writers’ commitment.
What future do you see for literature from the Northeast?
NE literature has already arrived with the force of itsplural voices and articulations. The future is already inscribed and secured,for I strongly feel that the creative energy that circulates as well asmanifests in the written words holds immense possibilities.
Name one book that had a lasting impact on you. In what way?
There are many books that have sensitised me to multiplethings. As one grows up, it is difficult to stick to only one type of book;reading habits and choice of themes change. Among the few authors whose worksthat I love to return to are Dostoevsky’s TheBrothers Karamazov, Thomas Mann’s Deathin Venice, Ben Okri’s The FamishedRoad, Milan Kundera’s The UnbearableLightness of Being and Raja Rao’s Kanthapura. I’m also a fan of Oriyawriters such as Fakir Mohan Senapati, Gopinath Mohanty and Surendra Mohanty.
What book would yourecommend for our readers and why?
Reading is a matter of personal choice. One should read andkeep on reading, for each culture has its habit of reading. We in Indiaculturally patronise listening and speaking over reading. My suggestion wouldbe not just to read a book but to listen to it and have a continuous dialoguewith it. Only then is meaningful reading possible.