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Intersecting Narratives

Manjeet Baruah

By Mamang Dai
Aleph Book Company, New Delhi, 2014, pp. 308, Rs. 395.00


Mamang Dai’s recent novel The Black Hill is fascinating. Written in the genre of historical novel, it is an account set in the middle of the nineteenth century among the Himalayan societies of present day Arunachal Pradesh. The story mainly revolves around the lives, (between 1847 and 1855), of three individuals, Kajinsha, Gimur and Nicholas Krich, all belonging to different communities. Kajinsha was a Mishimi, a leader (if one may use the term) and Gimur, an Adi, was his wife. Nicolas Krick was a French catholic priest, who attempted to set up a mission in Tibet. To reach Tibet, the route he followed from Sadiya (in Assam) to the Zayul valley (in eastern Tibet) brought him in contact with Kajinsha and Gimur. Nicolas Krick’s writings, colonial records and popular memories generally provided the information to write the novel. On the one hand, the novel is an account of Kajinsha and Gimur, in their social contexts. Their journey began from meeting each other in the guard houses in the paddy field. She was only seventeen, and fell in love with the powerfully built Kajinsha. She left Mebo (her village) to live with Kajinsha in the high mountains (near the borders of the Zayul Valley). But the charm of romance began to dwindle with the birth of twin sons, considered a bad omen among them. One of the sons was still born, while the other baby too eventually died when Gimur, in depression and desperation with her loveless life, was trying to run away from Kajinsha. Nevertheless, Gimur later returned to Kajinsha and lived with him until his capture by the British soldiers on the alleged charge of killing the French priest Nicolas Krick. Kajinsha was put to death by the British in the colonial cantonment of Dibrugarh (in Assam). Along with the story of Kajinsha and Gimur, there is the parallel story of Nicolas Krick, and his indomitable faith in establishing a mission in Tibet and carry the message of his god to the people of the high mountains of the Himalayas. He lived through the hardships of his voyage (1850) from England (Portsmouth)to India (Madras), and then again through the difficult terrain of Assam until he reached Sadiya in the far east of the Brahmaputra Valley. From there, he made two journeys into eastern Tibet, especially the Zayul valley. In his first trip (1851-52), he secured the help of several ...

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