PAGE TURNER - Sajal Nag Recommends

Professor of History at Assam Central University, Silchar, Sajal Nag has authored a number of books like Roots of Ethnic Conflict and India and North East India. He feels that literature from the Northeast will soon dominate the Indian literary scene

What does literature mean to you? Do you think it has any relevance in our day-to-day lives? According to you, does it have anything to do with all that is happening around us?
Sajal Nag, Professor
Literature to me is the representation of life, but representation cannot be ordinary depiction. It has to be such that it attains a higher form and becomes an art. Since literature is about life it has certainly relevance to everyday life. It emerges out of life and enriches culture. It makes civilization. In fact, the government should provide free copies of some important poetry, fiction and essays to every family for reading. Literature informs, it makes you aware and makes life meaningful. It makes people strong and sensitive. People must know their daily life, their tears, their laughter are all meaningful. These have reverberations somewhere else. Literature is the mirror of what is happening around us.

How close is your relation with literature in general, and with literature of the Northeast in particular?
I am very close to literature. I cannot sleep unless certain books of fiction and poetry are beside my bed. I may not read them all the time, but the thought that they are there and I can read them whenever I want makes me comfortable. It makes me sleep peacefully.
For me, literature has no region. Hence I read anything, be it from the North east, from Bengal, or elsewhere in the world.

What future do you see for literature from the Northeast?
I am aware of Assamese vernacular prose and poetry. Assamese poetry, I think, has made tremendous headway. It has moved ahead with such force that it is difficult to ignore it anymore. I am sad that some of the prominent young Assamese poets are not writing anymore.
English prose and poetry, I feel, comes naturally to the people of the Northeast. Suddenly there is a flood of books from the region, each of them fabulous and remarkable. I do not want to name them, but I think the poets and novelists from the Northeat are soon going to dominate the Indian literary scene.

Name one book that had a lasting impact on you. In what way?
I have just read Temsula Ao’s These Hills Called Home and Easterine Kire’s Mari. These had a tremendous impact on me as I was working on the Second World War and the impact of counter insurgency operations by the army on the Nagas. I feel the official information that I had on them had come alive and become more meaningful with these accounts.

What book would you recommend for our readers and why?
I would recommend Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih’s poetry collection. I always have a fascination for political poetry which is very rare and difficult to write. I think Kynpham’s poetry is extremely political. Mixed with aesthetics, it makes for wonderful reading.

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