“I hear the land cry
Over and Over again
Let all the dead awaken
And teach the living
How not to die”-Temsula Ao
Author: Temsula Ao
No of pages: 147
Publisher: Penguin India
About the book:
This book is a collection of ten short stories all of which takes place in Nagaland. Most of the stories have the background of the heightened tension between the rebel groups in Nagaland popularly known as the underground army and the Indian army. While all the stories are unique and diverse there is a common thread that binds them. All stories portray how it’s the common people who are often the worst victims of such wars and civil strife.
The jungle major follows the story of a woman who marries a guy whom all feel is inadequate for her but this inadequacy helps her to rescue him. Soaba follows the story of a young orphan boy who does odd jobs in many households and who suffers from the brunt of the violence in an unexpected way. The last song shows the brutality of violence in its most violent form and how women suffer the most.
The curfew man shows us how violence leads to one doing the most unexpected jobs at times. The night and the pot maker acquaint us with the customs and traditions of the Naga people and help us to understand them. Shadows is the story of the rebel group. It shows us the inner dynamics of the rebel groups and how they also have certain jealousies and prejudices brewing among them. An old man remembers tells the story of someone who was once the part of the rebel group and investigates and shows the circumstances that pushed them to become one. The journey acquaints us with the everyday hardships that people in Nagaland face. A new chapter, like the title of the story, shows how people adjust to the volatility and cope with violence. It shows the rigmarole of corruption, violence, manipulation and politics that Nagaland is captured in.
The writing is simple and has a lot of clarity. It has a very engulfing nature to it such that you cannot stop yourself from reading it in one go. Though it is a collection of short stories you get the picture of the whole at the end. One realises how the common people are the worst casualties in such civil strife, how women suffer from a turmoil the pain of which is indescribable, how all people have a resilient spirit which makes them carry on and try to lead a normal life in the worst of circumstances. Character building is commendable and though each character has a very small appearance one can connect and relate to them. The plot, of all the stories, is as gripping as it can be.
If anyone wants to understand north east India or see what is the circle of violence that it is grappling with, this is a great book to start. Though it is fiction one feels that one is learning a lot through each of the stories. What I really loved about this book was that though it showed how women suffer the most heinous of crimes against them in such situations all the stories had a very strong female protagonist. None of the female protagonists was a damsel in distress rather all of them were strong who lived up against the hardships.
The book shows how violence and brutality spare no one, the young, old and children all bare its brunt. It highlights how war has no victors at the end and often it just fills one with so much anguish and pain that insanity is the path one treads upon.
I highly recommend this book to all. This book is a triumph of great storytelling.
The history and many other aspects of North East India are largely ignored or most are not well acquainted with it. So I personally request all fellow readers to please read this book as diverse reading is what makes us understand each other better.