Title: Raconteurs from the Hills
Authors: Talilula, Vishü Rita Krocha, Agnes Tepa, Emisen Jamir, Imti Longchar, Lhütü Keyho
Publisher: PenThrill Publishing House
Price: INR 199/-
In a time when truth struggles to see the light of day and when so many stories go untold for lack of brave people to tell them, it is heartening to come across ventures like PenThrill. Founded by Vishü Rita Krocha in late 2013, it aims to ‘promote gifted writers of our place’ or give, as its snappy tagline declares, ‘ink to your story’.
Stories can be simple or fantastical; they can be serious or frivolous; they can also be sanguine or fatalistic. Yet, however they are presented, stories are unfailingly sincere and we can always count on them — especially works of fiction! — to tell the truth.
My companion for the past two days — a book I have had in possession for more than a year — Raconteurs from the Hills is a collection of thirteen short stories by half a dozen local writers published by PenThrill. The stories are honest and instantly relatable. And as they are written by authors of diverse backgrounds across two generations, there is a lot of variety. That said, there is an unmistakable undercurrent that runs through all of them — with the exception of the remarkable and thrilling Deliberate Delirium — and that is their inspiration from and concern for Naga society.
If A Porcine Tale, The Revival and The Wait are strong indictments of a myopic and irresponsible society plagued by small-minded egomania, Sangyuba and his Bespoke Rubber Shoe and Diary of Two Dog Meat Fanatics are humourous tales served with strong helpings of satire. The latter with its macabre twist at the end reminds one of Saki’s immortal style. Buried Dreams, The Laughing Weed and Cough Syrup deal with the widespread social distress regarding drug abuse.
A Glimmer of Hope narrates the disturbing experiences of civilians caught in the middle of hell unleashed by the struggle between the Underground Groups. Specifically, it is set in Tuensang where I grew up. The accounts of armed guerrillas occupying homes, tenants being forced to relocate and women and children being stuck in homes with faces and bellies to the mopped mud floor as the sound of rifles pierce the air in the distance — okay, I got a little carried away there — resonate with my own experiences as a child.
In terms of style and polish — even though I am no authority on the matter — I enjoyed Final Orientation and the challenge of the five–page one–paragraph Deliberate Delirium. Some might find fault with the lack of consistency in the stories. And to be honest, it feels weird jumping from a candid and almost childish style story with very accessible language to a brooding and claustrophobic thriller of sorts woven in a tight vocabulary. The book would have been more coherent if the stories were clubbed based on topics. But it is not a deal breaker by any means.
We need to celebrate artists whether it is painters, writers or singers. Despite the hardwork, many fail to secure even basic necessities forcing them to abandon their work in favour of more money friendly ventures. We need artists and they need recognition and support in order to survive and continue doing what they do. The best way we can do that is by consuming their output. So, if you happen to visit Crossword, please get a copy of this or the other titles published since. You won’t be disappointed.
Surely the skies would clear off, at least for that promising day…
…and the fresh dew drops would no longer be stained by the anguish of unheard cries.
Vishü Rita Krocha