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North-East history

A different metaphor

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The North-East is brimming with ideas that can turn into great books, says writer Siddhartha Sarma.

When Siddhartha Sarma was mulling the theme of his debut novel in English, he decided that he would write about the North-East - but not about its troubled politics or insurgency.

"I focused on writing on a crucial period in North-East history. I explored the act of growing up in the backdrop of the 1944 Japanese invasion. The novel revolves around the theme of Assamese and Naga relations and the strength of that relationship. I wrote the novel for children and readers outside North-East without making it a heavy reading exercise, " says Sarma, 32, of The Grasshopper's Run. The book was awarded the Bal Sahitya Puraskar by Sahitya Akademi in 2011 but Sarma says he is still learning the art of crafting fiction.

Among the most promising young literary voices from the North-East, Sarma has written three non-fictional works as well so far - 103 Journeys, Voyages, Trips and Stuff (2009), East of the Sun (2010) and 103 Historical Mysteries, Puzzles.... and Stuff (2011). The first and second books are meant for children and young adults, the third is about his travels in the North-East and Myanmar.

A journalist by profession, Siddhartha is currently writing a sequel to The Grasshopper's Run. He is not planning to turn a full time writer any time soon though he started writing while in school (his first short story was published in an anthology in 2007). "I am not looking at that option simply because it's not sustainable. I will continue with journalism, " he says.

The akademi award indeed brought recognition and encouragement to Siddhartha. "I would have written anyway whether I got the award or not. But the fact that Sahitya Akademi awarded me is a great honour and encouragement, " he says.

Sarma says he wasn't really inspired or influenced by anyone in his writings but he is indebted to the experiences he gathered from other writers of the area. "Also I learnt a lot from reputed writers whom I met during the award ceremony, " he says. The region has indeed produced some of the best-known names in the field of Indian writing in English - Dhruba Hazarika, Mitra Phukan, Mamang Dai, Temsula Ao among others.

Siddhartha says the North-East is full of great story ideas that can engage those who live in other parts of India. "There are innumerable of themes and story ideas in the North-East which can create lasting fictional works. The outlook on English writing in North-East is bright. Publishers are also showing serious interest in our works, " says Sarma.

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