String for the garland

String for the garland

Aheli Moitra

Last weekend, the Heritage Publishing House in Dimapur released two new books, one by its oldest author and one by its youngest author. On Saturday, February 16, it launched Prof. Temsula Ao’s ‘Songs Along The Way Home’, her sixth book of poems; on Sunday, February 17, it launched 12-year-old S. Yusenti Jamir’s ‘A Narrative of a Third Culture Kid,’ the author’s second book.

The works are both similar and dissimilar—both in the way they reflect the stages of the authors’ lives.

Temsula Ao, born in 1945, is at the age of 73. Her book of 50 poems is a deep philosophical exploration of life – personal, social, political – as it has passed her by. The poems are heavy, laden with layers of lament, written with the skill of a songbird singing its favourite dusk song. She is not shy; she shows us anger when felt, sarcasm where necessary, advice on occasion and shares some joy too. Her interplay with words through the medium of poetry – weaving narratives that mature readers will connect with at several levels – makes her a classic poet. In ‘Evening,’ she opens hence:

Evening is the time
when the aging earth can
no longer yield the songs
it once sang,
or recall
the tales it told
in the first flush of spring
or the passion of summer.

On the other hand, Yusenti was born in 2006 and is 12 years of age. She writes using the faculties of her joyful heart; she opens it up to the reader, providing a wide and clear view of her life, no holds barred. Yusenti has precious insights into the bits and scraps that define the larger point of life, of how much each of us could look forward to every single day, how we can frame ourselves in imaginative ways. It is as though the young writer needed a few more pages to tell us just a few more things. She gives us seven musings, three poems and hope for more to come. In ‘Ol’ Night’s Visit,’ she opens hence:

Oh! Jolly ol’ Night came to visit the city,
But no one even noticed
‘cause they were just too busy!

So Night shined so bright with his partner,
Mr. Moon,
And the little starts joined
To make light, too.

A striking contrast emerges at how the writers see the world on the setting of the sun.

It is the reader’s fortune to have publishers like Dr. Lanusangla Tzüdir of the Heritage Publishing House, or Vishü Rita Krocha of the PenThrill Publication House, who have stood by the taxing stream of publication entrepreneurship in Nagaland to become the strings that hold the Naga narrative garland in place. Today, thanks to these publishers, readers can access poet/writer Temsula Ao, who took the initial steps to write extraordinary English literature among the Nagas, alongside next-gen writers, like Yusenti Jamir, who emerged from those first steps and the space they created to write and express in myriad, fearless, ways—all at once and reflect on the journey bygone, or yet to come.

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