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Not All Revolutions Will Be Televised


Amandeep Sandhu

CHE IN PAONA BAZAAR: TALES OF EXILE AND BELONGING FROM INDIA'S NORTH EAST
By Kishalay Bhattacharjee
Macmillan Publishers, Delhi, 2013, pp. 241, Rs. 399.00

VOLUME XXXVII NUMBER 8 August 2013

All journalists carry many notebooks, either literally or in their heads. That is because what they manage to bring out through their channels, whether print or television, is just the tip of the iceberg of the story. The details, the body of the stories seldom get enough space to come out through these channels. Kishalay Bhattacharjee’s book on the North East Che at Paona Bazaar has this line on the back cover: Not all revolutions will be televised but some stories need to be told.   Through a detailed travelogue and reportage, Kishalay gives a nuanced politico-historical-anthropological account of Manipur and some other parts of the region. For most part, Kishalay uses a dual narrative structure. The twenty-one chapters, and Prologue and Postscript, are told from two dominant points of view. His own, in which he also brings in many local part fictional voices that articulate their own aspirations, and through the eyes of a fictional character Eshai who brings in the native point of view and the trajectories which map the aspiration of the youth and the conditions they face. Eshai means song in Manipuri. While Kishalay retains a measured distance in his narrative voice, Eshai is the romantic one, the bringer of folk tales, the bisexual lover, a bit edgy, but overall too human and even lovable.   Reading the book forces us to ask ourselves: how do we look at a place about which we have heard a lot but most of what we have known has internal contradictions? Our assumptions are the reason Kishalay the journalist has turned an author. He selects the best possible location for us to try to understand the myriad realities of the North East. The pacifist that he is, the book is dedicated to his daughter ‘with a hope that she grows up to a world which will realize the futility of killing each other’, he plays out an irony in the title of the book Che in Paona Bazaar. We know Manipur to be in conflict but the people there do not revere the icon saint of revolutions Che Guevara. They do not even know him. Yet, as a global fashion statement, Che’s face is stamped on all the goods in this market: belts, caps, T-shirts, trousers, and so on. This Imphal market is itself named after an iconic figure in Manipur, its warrior from the 1891 Anglo-Manipuri war Paonam Nawol ...


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