At a conference in Delhi, Assamese writer Sanjib reimagines the enduring fable of Tejimola, the girl who sprouted leaves. But the English language literati don’t understand why he doesn’t write about the insurgency. With the very first story in this unusual and unapologetic collection, Aruni Kashyap sets the tone for an intimate exploration of a terrain that is both familiar and alien. In the spirit of modern post-colonial storytellers like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Daniyal Mueenuddin, his stories press the silences of the village and the nascent city to reveal their secrets. The result is a frank appraisal of our hypocrisies and desires, hopes and defeats—the stuff of the stuff we carry within us. Through tales that root up love, violence, motherhood, and sex, Kashyap appears to ask: what are the stories about a place that are told, which ones are worth telling, what do we really want to say?
Published by Context (an imprint of Westland Books, 2019)
It is 2002 and young Pablo, a city boy who has mostly lived a sheltered and privileged life in Guwahati, is visiting his ancestral village for his aunt’s wedding. This is his second time in Mayong, in rural Assam, since 1998, when he had come for a few days to attend his father’s best friend’s funeral. As the wedding preparations gather pace, Pablo is amused as well as disturbed by squabbling aunts, dying grandmothers, cousins planning to elope for love and hysterical gossips. And on this heady theatre of tradition and modernity hovers the sinister shadow of insurgency and the army’s brutal measures to quell militancy. In the days leading up to the wedding, which ends in an unspeakable tragedy, Pablo finds first love, discovers family intrigues and goes through an extraordinary rite of passage. Written with clinical precision, this gripping first novel announces the arrival of one of the most original voices from India’s North-East.