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Showcasing of a Marginalized Region

Amit Prakash

Edited by Geeti Sen
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2006, pp. 306, Rs. 675.00

VOLUME XXX NUMBER 9 September 2006

The volume under review is an unusual one. It covers a vast sweep of issues and topics – from culture to politics, from patterns of social transformation to contested identities and from myths creation to poetic sensibilities – all related to Northeast India. The purpose of the volume is not to further the boundaries of research on Northeast India but to provide a showcase of the variety of patterns in the socio-economic, cultural and political life of a much ignored region of the country.   The volume is a collection of stories and poetry (all ably translated from various languages of the region into English), essays, narratives, and analyses about various states, issues and facets of the Northeast written by authorities in their respective fields. The book is divided into five major sections dealing with various aspects of the region. The first section on Oral Narratives, has been “assembled by Mamang Devi, herself a poet and author of distinction” (p. viii). This section records the oral tradition from the eight states by presenting vibrant tales of the myth of creation through the avenues of “extensive research, translation and documentation” (ibid.). These myths permeate everyday life in the region and are indispensable to the understanding of the cultural milieu and the socio-psychological constructs of the individual viewpoint in the region while presenting a picture of a world in complete harmony with nature. These stories and myths are fundamental to the contours of identity of the communities of the Northeast, laying down as they do, the boundaries of the communities themselves. It is also important to stress two aspects of these stories: first, these “stories did not come into minds of men like a bolt of lightening” (p. 6.) but are products of generations of lived experience. In this respect, they are reservoirs of human experience of the region and incorporate all aspects of human endeavour – from valour to sorrow, from victory to defeat and from wisdom to human apathy towards nature. This discussion therefore opens a new window to the Northeast.   Second, it must also be underlined that while many of the stories presented in the volume document the unique human experience of the Northeast, the underlying thread of human concerns resonates rather closely with the myths of creation in many other cultures. Undoubtedly, the details and nuances differ but the fundamental thread of similarity is unmistakable. The second section collated by Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih ...

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