Guwahati: The pandemic, which continues to evolve as new viral variants emerge, has left an indelible mark on all art forms. During these two years, we have been exposed to the din of hunger and death. We have also witnessed the deterioration of the economic and social rights of peoples. The prolonged period of suffering also had an undeniable effect on writing skills. Indeed, literature is a reflection of society, and fictional tales and verses are often based on what writers see and observe around them.
To give some breathing space to the book publishing and sales industry, which has been hit by the pandemic, the 2021-22 Assam Book Fair is scheduled to start on December 29 in Chandmari, Guwahati.
In light of this, EastMojo spoke to a few young and new writers in the local editorial scene to learn more about the struggles of foreclosure writing and how the disaster affected their work and what the future holds.
The year that was
Abhijit Bora, the author of Deuka Kubai Jai, believes the pandemic has rocked the lower middle class, and it is difficult for them to understand how terrifying this has been for those living in poverty. “As a writer, I saw nothing but their pain and their struggles to survive in the face of the pandemic,” he adds.
For the young poet Ankur Ranjan Phukan, winner of the 2019 Munin Barkotoki Literary Prize, it was more important to observe the situation as a human being than to analyze it as a writer or poet. He says, “Even the poet is first and foremost a human being, and we all live in a time when people are constantly terrified. Therefore, fear and anxiety also affect a poet’s thinking.
“The global situation of helplessness will undoubtedly influence my writings,” says poet Mamani Das, whose collection of poems H2O’r Pisorkhini released last december. “Life goes on, but the pace has vanished. Instead, it is our financial, mental and physical suffering that reverberates in the silence, ”she adds.
“To write about people and society, a writer must first relate to their grief. With the gap that keeps widening between people, how can isolated individuals internalize their tragedy or how can wounds heal without touching it reassuringly with one hand ”, asks Bora, winner of the Literary Prize. Munin Barkotoki in 2020.
As for Jintu Gitartha, author of the collection of short stories Sobir Bhram, Bhramar Sobi, the pandemic has changed our perspective on the ordinary joys of life that many of us still take for granted. “After the pandemic, I try to be more responsible because now I am aware of every second that passes,” he says.
“In the content and serene pace of life, creativity cannot flourish, and the angst of our current existence has left a deep mark on my inner soul. As a result, these observations and sensitivities have also provided me with multiple real-life perspectives to work on, ”he adds.
The impact on writing and productivity
Gitartha continues: “It is because of the first confinement that my first book came out a little early. In an otherwise hectic lifestyle, the lockdown provided me with a time to think about and react to my terms. “
“It’s hard to predict how the pandemic will affect my storytelling, but new aspects of social life, new views on individual life, and new terms have already appeared in what I have written over the past six months. “
Besides reading a wide range of genres and writers, he also did a few short storytelling and translation projects during this time.
However, in an attempt to strike a balance between professional life, academic responsibilities, and family obligations, writers have had to grapple with a persistent lack of focus and writer’s block, as well as find peace in the midst of life. tormented.
Mamani Das, who also completed her first book during the lockdown, said: “Other than that, I wrote a few more poems about the pandemic, but not much.”
“The current situation has taught us to transcend values and awareness of human life and death, and these experiences would undoubtedly manifest my work directly or indirectly,” says Ankur Ranjan Phukan. But the poet reveals that while he was productive throughout the early stages of confinement, the monotonous and isolated life quickly became irritating to him.
“The frequency of writing a new poem has decreased for me. But I am exploring a new passion by expressing myself through a different art form ”, says the poet, whose Hrashanta ta is a creative rendezvous to challenge accepted standards in poetry and strike a chord among readers.
Writing the end of the pandemic
The pen has enormous power. It has the power to recreate history and shape the future. When asked how storytellers would like to end the predicament if reality was their creation, writers and poets expressed hope and optimism for the future of humanity.
Ankur Ranjan Phukan decides to end it with “an awareness of the present, an awareness of its value, a sense of the needs and relevance of society and a redefined perspective for the future”.
Abhijit Bora, who hasn’t written anything new since the release of his book, says he’s weaving a few stories in his head. And in its version, the pandemic would end once and for all without any false hope.
“The world has suffered more than enough,” he adds.
On the other hand, it is the awareness of the value of nature and the vulnerability of human lives that resonates in the thoughts of Jintu and Mamani.
For Jintu, “self-introspection in the form that nature can survive without us, but we cannot survive without nature is essential.”
With the same point of view, Mamani says, “The life and thoughts of human beings will be irrelevant if the natural balance is lost. Thus, our dependence on nature demands an overhaul.
“Suffering is universal, although in varying degrees of intensity. I would end the pandemic by empowering all those affected so that they can regain their mental strength, get back on their feet and recover from their disrupted lives, ”she concludes.
The future of new writers and poets
The lockdown had hit the communication and distribution channels of book publishers hard, affecting their overall productivity and revenue. With the postponement of literary events and book fairs, the crisis also created a very unwelcoming period for early writers and their careers.
“Because the lockdown gave everyone a lot of free time, people started to write extensively. This has resulted in a shortage of space in monthly magazines and other publications for new writers like us, ”says Ankur Ranjan Phukan, who recently joined Gogamukh College as an assistant professor of sociology.
“Obstacles will appear at every turn, but we continue to write because a creation has to go through a variety of challenges to complete itself,” he adds.
“It’s hard to establish yourself as a writer or poet in Assam, and even if you do, it’s not enough to make ends meet. I write because it’s my passion, but my career is not the same, ”explains Mamani Das, who has a degree in English literature.
“The situation for young writers today is dire, but if you write correctly, the right publisher and the right media will always find you. And I’m not talking about self-publishing, ”says Jintu Gitartha, who is currently pursuing graduate studies in education.
While social media and online chats have kept the conversation going around the books, newly published authors still feel a lack of sufficient exposure.
“Yes, virtual platforms are useful, but nothing compares to the pleasure of meeting an author or reader in person, especially at book fairs or book launch events,” says Jintu Gitartha.
Moreover, in Assam, the remuneration structures for young writers, popular writers and a few full-time writers differ.
“In my opinion, there is nothing new and old among writers. All you need is a good book. The problems we are currently facing are problems that every writer faces, ”says Abhijit Bora, who is currently pursuing his doctorate in Assamese literature.
“I’m very new to this area, so giving advice seems a bit strange to me, but I’ll say this: take it slow and read a lot, familiarize yourself with different types of literature, and keep writing and rewriting.” You have to be able to recognize your flaws. They need to develop the skills to be their own critic, ”says Bora, when asked to give advice to aspiring writers.
Jointly organized by the Publication Board Assam and the All Assam Publishers & Book Sellers Association, the Assam Book Fair 2021-22 will be held at the playground of the Assam Engineering Institute (AEI) in Chandmari from December 29 to 9 January.
The theme of this year’s book fair is in line with Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, and the event will host approximately 110 book publishers and book retailers. Organizers said ten publishers from Dhaka, ten from Calcutta and five from Delhi will attend the book fair this year, with more than 50 new books to be released.