Creative Writings in the Eastern Himalayas Pankaj thapa Like the fabled Lake District region that inspired

the Romantics, the Eastern Himalayas too have inspired and brought forth writers and poets. Writers who have expressed not just the natural beauty and grandeur of the region but also the dreams and hardships, the sense of alienation and the angst that is a part of life for these mountain dwellers. Initially, this issue was confined to the emotional conflict between rural traditions and urban life. The lure of the city has steadily taken its toll on the rural consciousness. Remika Thapa, a poet from Dooars observes this in her collection Poems In the Village : The village knows not of black money, Nor of black market All of a sudden Famine strikes the village And in this famine It is the village that has to save the seed. The metaphoric seed of course, has multiple implications, not least of which is the degradation of traditional values and loss of innocence. Urban thoughts have changed the villager who is no longer the naïve, innocent lovable bumpkin of folklore. More often than not, he would have mutated into a politically savvy individual with urban dreams. And in a region where political battles are decided by the rural vote, not by the urban erudite, the rural voter reigns supreme during elections. Tenzing Gyatso, a poet from Gangtok has this very familiar image of elections in our areas : Yes! It’s election time! Zindabad!Hurray! So villagers, let us rally round our generous MLA (and not to forget his worthy contender in the fray) … so shake a leg, my fellow village bumpkins we can lay off eating saag, iskoos and pumpkins. let us crowd the jeeps, bursting at the seams with free rides, meat and drinks beyond our wildest dreams! (From Election Furore by Tenzing Gyatso). Unfortunately, such party politics bring in divisions that destroy relations. Brothers fight brothers. Neighbour stalks neighbour and human rights are annihilated in the all-devouring quest for power. In the 1980s, this conflict turned political in the Darjeeling hills with the demand for Gorkhaland. This desire for a separate political state was further rooted in the quest for an Indian identity which the leaders of the movement subsequently hoped would help to equate them with mainstream India. Noble intentions aside, these political divisions of mind and body have released forces that more often than not, never see eye to eye. The horror and the trauma, the blood metal taste of the Andolan days still reek in the alleys and cellars, threatening to stain the streets again. In this cauldron of hate and mistrust, the poets and writers have bravely tried to stem the

He is a poet who has taken pains to have much of his work translated. historian and writer using his nom de plume Laygnaw Manos (which of course is his name spelt backwards) writing a very interesting column called PLACE NAMES where he researched and explained the place names and colloquial terms of the region. Remika Thapa too speaks of the corroding of human values on a more somber metaphoric note: A bridge is needed In the village Not to walk on But to join one with the other For a heart To reach the other Anmole Prasad is a practicing lawyer in Kalimpong. Rajendra Bhandari. Dorjee T. poet and artist friends he founded and published FLATfile. The very eloquent Anmole Prasad of Kalimpong writing tongue-in-cheek about his friend Harka Bahadur. A gifted illustrator who’s equally adroit with the guitar as with words. often poignant but always rooted firmly on the ground. a name well known to many of you. Dr. FLATfile also published essays and short stories. he is the quintessential poet of the region. Sadly. born in Darjeeling and presently teaching at a college in Gangtok. During it’s short but prolific lifetime.Bhandari has been felicitated for his minimalistic approach to mundane themes. Till date. The perils of treading the path of the opposition are familiar to all of us. written with deep insight and personal experience. Along with an eclectic but very talented group of writer. Lepcha and Pema Wangchuk deserve special mention for their ethnic themes and meticulous development of plot and character. compares him to a cat with nine lives in Harkabahadur The Cat : Harkabahadur the Cat Has nine lives But only one wife …balanced like a thin acrobat On the risky wire of a working day He goes to teach at the school In the next town Never knowing for sure if he’ll reach Home again or not. ( a schoolteacher cum politician). Also worth mentioning is Dr.onslaught. a literary journal that showcased some of the region’s best writings in English. FLATfile remains the best literary journal to come out of this region. he is a poet who writes with great style. Sonam B. The short stories by Praveen Moktan. the journal had to be discontinued when personal constraints scattered the group. Wangyal. another popular genre of creative writing from these parts. a researcher. many of them with great danger to their loves. A recipient of more Literary awards than he has shelf space for. He is also not averse . Hailing from Kalimpong. Another literary feather in Kalimpong’s cap is Dr.

and is a founding member of the CONVERSE meets. whose dynamic editor. Guru’s poems are prescribed in the schools of Sikkim. Guru Ladakhi is a poet who straddles tradition and modernity with equal élan to create a style of his own. is a gentle poem set amidst the foothills of the Tibetan Plateau. Graham’s Homes. Kalimpong. and have appeared in various national journals and magazines. whose lovers while feeling the pangs of separation and longing. or Nathu La would place the poem at a time when trade was brisk between independent Sikkim and Tibet. The reference to the wind-filled pass at Nathu. His words weave intricate images of Sikkimese heritage. and Shriram College of Commerce. are practical enough to accept the reality of the inhospitable region. and places or people that have moved him. Jayanta Mahapatra held him in high esteem. a final glance. the rain and a shuffle of doctors.” (from Father and My Birthday) This is a sample of his three-line poem inspired by Haiku : “Go back. …between the wailing. the reclusive bachelor Dr. One can only hope that the present hiatus is . New Delhi. A master of satire. O words. and he leaves through a corridor of the night dissolving into intangibles …By the time you are through taking care of everybody your future reads like the back of your hand and quite suddenly without your consent you are already your father’s son (from Death of Father) For someone who can write so well. successfully adopting the Japanese haiku for many of his short three-liners. including Chandrabhaga. “…my features are gradually resembling my father’s even my temples are graying in the same manner as that of my father’s My father had kept his graying hair grey Whereas I resorted to black politics there . it is almost criminal to deny the overflow of powerful feelings. One of his poems a Himalayan Ballad. From here onwards I have to move experimenting with different styles. Bhandari displays great wit in his writings. much of it aimed inwards as well. His success as a poet unfortunately was interrupted when he exchanged the wings of poesy for the wheels of commerce. his home. Like Anmole Prasad.” Guru T Ladakhi is from Sikkim and is an alumni of Dr. which also changed his role as founding member to that of a funding member. The poem deals with conventional love.

Vichandra Pradhan of Mirik writing on loss of love and humanity. Thankfully. that is. wit and satire seem to be a common feature of most of the writers in English from these parts. As it turned out. and 2000 have brought together a cornucopia of writers from the mountains.temporary and that Lady Muse will visit him soon… once she gets an appointment. Workshops and Seminars like CONVERSE 98. Old Mother Nature deemed Gangtok to be lush. One can only assume that attitude helps to put in perspective the sense of alienation from the other writers of the region writing in the mother tongue. 99. Discussions and deliberations were held on the creative process and on problems of translation. Tenzing Gyatso. Tenzing Gyatso’s writings are a blend of contemporary issues that plague the man of the street and musings about the ‘the days of yore’. Udai Thulung of Mangpoo writes on issues of Gorkha identity. where local sentiments emphasize the necessity of writing in the mother tongue. So the town folk simply followed Mother Nature’s cue’ They built tall buildings that blocked out each other’s view… ( from Gangtok is Higher than High ) Indeed. Their geographical locations are as varied as their themes – Manprasad Subba of Darjeeling. and the late Jeewang Theeng of Gangtok who wrote on the identity crisis of Sikkim after the 1975 merger. The poems of Tenzing Gyatso another poet from Sikkim. Some of the best established poets and writers of the region along with a few green horns interacted and presented their works. hills and peaks reach up to the sky. writing about his own spiritual alienation. who once rocked the the Palace parties with his renditions of Chuck Berry has been mentioned by the Gyalmo (Queen) Hope Cooke in her book ‘Time Change’. laced generously with delightful and witty rhymes. The basic idea for CONVERSE emerged out of a need to revive interest in poetry. Since it is not possible to mention every single writer who’s scribbling on a pad or punching a keyboard in the mountains and valleys where I come from. The advent of magazines like Flat File from Kalimpong and the more recent CATSCANNED from Gangtok have provided a platform for newer writers to emerge. Meena and Binashree Kharel. green and high. Our lofty ridges. writing in the English language has survived in the mountains. It succeeded in bringing the writers from the North Eastern States together on a common platform. Today this retired school teacher lives in the little rural hamlet of Sajong about 18 kms from Gangtok still belting out rock classics on his six-string on occasion. the Meet was anything but basic. plains and hills of North East India. Their themes and motifs range from gender discrimination . on the other hand echo a sense of the erosion of traditional values in today’s Sikkimese society. I shall try and give you a brief introduction to a few regional writers who have raised goosebumps. The choice of English for creative writing is an issue in itself. Sudha Rai. Some of the noteworthy women writers from Sikkim are Shanti Chettri.

both spiritual and physical. I can tell you From its sweet smell It’s too young to die. Gangtok. (Pankaj Thapa is the Head of the Department of English at the Govt. Tadong. To conclude. Among the recent young entrants into the sphere of writing is Yeshi D. blond petals of shattered marigolds Still intact on a cotton thread Strands of faith Now droop into the load of the bin. using a much worn out cliché. Degree College. creative writing is alive and kicking in all directions in the mountains and growing stronger and healthier by the day. Literary Meets like CONVERSE help to bring exposure to our writers’ creative outpourings and newer writers will be inspired to seek their muses on a more permanent basis which can only bode well for the entire business and the business of writing.) . a poet and columnist from Gangtok who shows much promise with her latest offering There in a Dumping YardThere in a dumping yard I can see The burnt.and emancipation of women to unrequited emotions.

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