Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih’s Manik is a wondrously layered retelling of an old Khasi folktale. Manik touches on key issues of love where a bond is severed by strictures and cruelties of society. Manik believes in asceticism and abstinence as a path to cleanse himself of his past misdeeds. He finds solace in playing his sharati (Khasi flute). The most melodious of tunes beguiles Lieng Makaw, a beauty who finds him in the fields.
Ka Ibadasuk Books Agency was a quaint little bookshop in Police Bazaar that still resonates in my heart. I was drawn to the shop because of its turn of the century interiors. They reminded me of the State Central Library. With time, I slowly realised that bookshops are shared memories. Passing through the pavement leading to G.S Road, I saw a chic dukan sha replaced it.
When novelist Orhan Pamuk was asked by The Paris Review whether he wrote poetry, Pamuk replied in the negative. Pamuk then added, “…because poets hear voices from God”. This is true especially of lyric poets. In ancient times, the poems of Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles and Virgil were regarded as highly prophetic.
Almost the whole year of 2015 I lived the life of a beatnik. Being unemployed despite having applied for many jobs, I was disillusioned in knocking doors of offices with photocopies of resume and marksheets in hand. I would try to read novels in my small makeshift room. But seeing the pile of competitive exam study guides, I felt averse. No matter what effort I put in to decipher and solve mathematical calculations, they confused me further.
Writers nowadays have acquired celebrity status and fame with success and popularity of their novels. Many of them, though, are quite self-conscious about it. The question arises — Shouldn’t they be considered “thinkers” rather than “celebrities”? Literary festivals like the Jaipur Literature Festival, The New Yorker Festival, The Hindu Lit For Life Festival etc have boosted their self-image in society.
An attempt to make a documentary film on Khasi matrilineal society is difficult. For one has to present contrasting views without prejudice. Aditya Seth was able to achieve this objective. The established filmmaker from Mumbai did extensive research on the subject. He came to Shillong in 2014, and started filming the documentary. Are They Better Off, screened at Riti Academy of Visual Arts, fluidly tells the story of Khasi people. Though without a narrator, the personalities interviewed produce a narrative that provokes multiple questions and interpretations.
With advancement in internet and social media, our consciousness has shifted and expanded to a global level. We feel we are “global citizens” belonging with the world as a whole, and not any particular society. Many a time, we hear narratives of the world being small, that it is a global village now. But with this comes negative consequences for we often let go our roots. It is akin to what Bob Dylan said, “A complete unknown with no direction home”.