Northeast is, more often than not, absent from any discourse on Indian literature. Here’s a chance to gain some perspectives on the subject, its uniqueness, its similarities with mainland literature, the painful and violent political history that shapes it. Easterine’s latest work, Bitter Wormwood, gives a poignant insight into the human cost behind the political headlines from one of India’s most beautiful and misunderstood regions. The book is published by Zubaan Books.
Excerpts from the web-chat…
EASTERINE: Hello, this is an interesting question. About thirty years ago, there wasnt much literary production from the north east in the sense that we were not getting published, we had very little translated literature in English and whatever was available was poetry and writings by anthropologists on the region. So the mainland universities cannot be blamed for ignoring literary input from the North east. But now that so much is being published from the NE, there are no excuses for Indian academia to ignore literature of the NE region.
EASTERINE: This is a highly politically loaded question because if we go into it, I have to honestly state that during the time of the Mughals, the NE was not part of India and even India was not India as we know it after 1947. Historically speaking, the Naga hills were colonised by the British in the 1800s and on their departure, the British ignored Naga appeals to leave them out of the Indian union. Rather treacherously, the British halved Naga territories and gave the one half to Burma and the other to India. So, there was no cultural connection between mainland India and the NE. There wasn’t even a historical connection so it is not surprising that following Mughal Hindustan, mainland India did not ‘recognise NE’ as you have put it.