Assamese writer Uddipana Goswami’s debut collection of 12 stories are more ‘fact’ than ‘fiction’, as they tellingly bring to the fore the political realities of present-day Assam. They speak of violence that is so woven in the daily rhythm of life that it is hardly noticeable, in This is How we Lived, two children returning from school are gunned down by a drunken Army man, and it is given out that they were caught in the crossfire between militants and the army. Of course, no questions were raised, so used we have got to such reports in the Northeast. The stories also speak of loss, both personal and a way-of-life that has forever vanished to leave in its wake the ugly scars of religious intolerance. In Andolan, Jeuti talks about the world she had grown up in; she, a middle-class Axamiya girl had friends from the tea tribes and East-Bengali community respectively. But the world she now inhabits has no place for shared memories; violence pervades the very air she breathes in. But as Jeuti’s husband points out, the seeds of discord were sown long ago; we are only reaping the macabre harvest. Uddipana’s stories also stand out because they bring to us characters we have not encountered before (in Indian English fiction)—be it of Sam, the bright young rebel from the tea tribes in I Do Not Love Sam, or the incessant talker and traveller Melki Buri in Melki Buri. The author’s questioning of false middle-class Axamiya values also strikes a chord, as does her stand against idle carom-playing youth turning into nationalists overnight. Also, the use of colloquial expressions lends an easy familiarity as does her non-intrusive translations. The stories are important and need to be heard precisely because we need a voice of reason in the midst of all the madness in today’s Assam.
Publisher: Zubaan Books