Editorial – 2010

Even before the North East Writers Forum came formally into existence in 1997, there had been several informal gatherings where writers who worked in English met and listened to each other read out from their works in progress. These early casual gatherings crystallized into the formal inauguration of this literary group.

The North East Writers Forum is a unique literary body for several reasons. Firstly, it is a forum for writers who work primarily in English and who live in or are from this region. As is well known, this is a region that has a huge diversity of ethnicities within it, along with languages and dialects. The extant literatures of these| various languages, both oral and written are rich and varied. Indeed, there are many lively literary bodies in this North Eastern part of India . In comparison, English as a medium for literary expression in this region does not date back very long. Even though we are, each one of us, firmly rooted to our cultures and our languages, for various reasons we have chosen to write and publish in English.

More than a dozen years ago, for those of us who wrote in this language, it was a solitary activity. While writers in Assamese and Manipuri, for instance, could meet up with other writers through their vibrant literary bodies, this was not possible for those of us who worked in English. For even though we all write of what we know best, and our writings, though in English, are anchored to the soil of this region, the use of a particular language for literary activities separates. The problems and satisfactions of writing in one language are different. from writing in another.

The formation of the Forum therefore was a felt need at that time. Though several of us knew each other through our writings, and had met casually, it was indeed wonderful when we began to get together on a regular basis, first in the homes of members, and finally, in our own office. Through readings of members’ works. and also of translations, we encouraged and supported each others’ journeys, applauding successes and wishing only the best for each other.

The second reason why the North East Writers Forum is unique, is that its membership spans no less than eight States. The hills and valleys of the North East are very well represented in the Forum. Each State brings with it its own rich culture and history. Indeed, even within each State the diversity is huge. So, even though each member writes in English, the work is always brilliantly backlit with that exclusive cultural glow.

At the time of the Forum’s inception, writing in English, especially in the valley States of the region, was perceived to be, somehow, an “elitist” activity. This misconception was another reason why it was so comforting to meet up with other similarly misunderstood writers, and to discuss each others’ works in an atmosphere of congenial give and take.

The huge range that is found in the writings in English coming out of this region is quite amazing, and its beauty has evoked great appreciation around the country, indeed, internationally. Besides, many members “pay their dues” to their mother tongues, as it were, by translating extensively from their own literatures into English. Indeed, a large translation project between the publishing house Katha and the North East Writers Forum has resulted in several well-received books of translated short fiction, plays, folk tales and myths and legends.

Over the years, the Forum has held several Meets and Festivals, in the eight States of the region. The special invitees for these events have always enriched us with their talks and sharing of their literary experiences. This year, the Forum has expanded its horizons in holding a Festival which is being attended by so many literary luminaries from India and also from several other South East Asian countries.

Keeping this in mind, this issue has specific writeups on several of the North Eastern States, through which people from outside this region, or country, can get an idea of a particular aspect of the State. In addition, there are the fiction pieces, both short stories and extracts from larger works, and poetry, sent in by our invited guests. As usual, a selection of works by members rounds off the collection in this edition of NEWFrontiers.

Mitra Phukan
Srutimala Duara

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