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E-Pao! EI - A Rendezvous with Sahitya Academy Awardee

A Rendezvous with Sahitya Academy Awardee
- Saratchand Thiyam and Bimabati Thiyam Ongbi -

By: MRFD *

Describing a remarkable achievement by Manipur after winning maximum number of gold medals among the competing States in 33rd National Games at Guwahati, Sahitya Academy Awardee (2006), Mr. Saratchand Thiyam commenced his talk, in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) on 18th February 2007. This session was also a part of MRFD's (Manipur Research Forum, Delhi) effort to create a forum where critical engagement could be made possible with people from various professional backgrounds and ideologies. In fact JNU is the first stopover in Delhi when he comes here for receiving the award, which will be conferred at the Kamani Auditorium on the 20th of this month. We thought of having a first hand account of the history of Manipuri literature from a writer who is also part of this creation of history. Guided by this enthusiasm to discover or rediscover Manipur and its literate culture, we in MRFD wanted to discern the minds, which are groomed in the soil of the land itself.


The awardee spoke on the topic "Literary Trend in Manipur" and his half parter Mrs. Bimabati Thiyam Ongbi, a short story writer, talked on "Women's Writing in Manipur". On the eve to receive prestigious award for his travelogue 'Nungshibi Greece', a travelogue in Manipuri published in the year 2002, eminent literary activist, poet and litterateur Mr. Thiyam expressed the commendable role art, culture and literature are taking to introduce Manipur to the world. He briefly traced the history of modern Manipuri literature, mainly of the postcolonial era. The speaker narrated how there has been a rapid development in literary writings, till today, of various genres like the poetry, short story, novel, and recently travelogue. Manipuri literature also passed through various phases like modern phase and now post-modern. Most of today's Manipuri post-modern writers address the existential crisis of Manipuri society in general and individuals in particular. They have also taken to the issues of identities, which are very much contested, in the recent history of Manipur. The speaker also expressed his happiness in the growing number of Sahitya Akademi Award winners from Manipur. He becomes the 32nd awardee from Manipur. Out of 32 Sahitya Akademi award-winning Manipuri books, 13 are in short stories, 10 poetry, five novels, three plays and a travelogue.

However he lamented the lack of travelogue writing in Manipuri due to constraints in travelling, be they economic, social or political. In fact he is the first writer from Manipur who receives this award in the genre of travelogue. He bagged the award for his highly popular and well commented travelogue Nungshibi Greece. Expressing his gratitude to Mr. Chingkheinganba Thangjam, on his English translation of award wining travelogue "Nungsibi Greece" (O Lovely Greece) who also presented during the session, The travelogue `Nungshibi Greece` was among the largest selling literary books in Manipur. The travelogue got the Best Book Award in Manipur State Book Fair organized by the Government of Manipur in the year 2002.

The second speaker Mrs. Bimabati portrayed the problem faced by Manipur women writers after they enter the married life. She shared the plight of women writers in Manipur due to various societal and familial constraints. Altho the status of Manipuri women is good and leading in every field, the Manipuri women are facing a lot of difficulties, she added. Though the condition is changing gradually in positive direction, it is still difficult for working women to combine writing, office work and above all the household activities. So, they have to adjust their time in this patriarchal set-up. The speaker felt that some of the issues pertaining to women could be narrated more vividly only by women writers. She also shared with the audience that there are also a few women writers who explicitly claim to be feminists. This way they are also under the influence of the feminist trends around the world.

In the interactive session after the talks there were comments, questions and queries from the audience. The audience comprised mainly of young scholars from various colleges, universities and institutions in Delhi. But before starting this session Mr. Thiyam read out some of his poems, like Iche (translated in English by Robin S Ngangom as `Sister`) which is taught in the Master Degree course in English of the Nagaland University and Africa etc. The interactive session livened up the atmosphere when there were some sincere comments and critiques from some in the audience. Such interjections included one on the very content of his poems, themes of his writings, Manipuris writing in English in general, the speaker's political stand, the adjustment between the universal and local values in his works etc. In reply he expressed the grim political condition of Manipur today. Also the role taken by the writers in crucial moments faced by the society itself, was mentioned by the speaker. Mrs. Thiyam also expressed her hope of a society where men and women can enjoy equal rights in the real sense of the term.

The discussion continued at the canteen, outside the confines of the seminar room, over a cup of tea. This opened up the formal minds to come down to a very informal and engaging level so that the curious minds could be fed with knowledge from the seasoned writers themselves.
At the end of the session, Mr. Thiyam donated some of his valuable books to Manipur Research Forum, Delhi (MRFD).


The above information is provided by Atom Sunil Singh on behalf of MRFD. You can reach him at atomsunil(AT)rediffmail.com.
This article was webcasted on February 19th, 2007


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