In Conversation With The First Woman Writer, Poet And Novelist From Arunachal Pradesh

City Scape: Transit Lounge

She believes a writer should not be captured within a bubble and with her versatility, Padmashree Mamang Dai has already proved that! A renowned poet and novelist from Arunachal Pradesh and the first woman writer from the state, Mamang Dai left a lasting impression on her readers with her first published poetry collection, ‘River Poems’.

Later, she took to novel writing and ‘Legends of Pensam’, published by Penguin was her first novel. Her other works include Once Upon a Moontime: From the Magical Story World of Arunachal Pradesh, The Sky Queen, Stupid Cupid and Mountain Harvest: The Food of Arunachal Pradesh, The Black Hill. Mamang Dai was in the city to attend the Sarala Award ceremony recently as the chief guest on Thursday last when My City Links got an opportunity to interact with her.

This was your first visit to Odisha. So, how was your experience?

I had two days of sightseeing and got an opportunity to see some of the places which Odisha is quite famous for. We went to Puri, Konark, Chandrabhaga, and saw the white tigers for the first time in Nandankanan. It was really a nice and wonderful experience.

Any favourite writers from Odisha?

I have read some of the works of Pratibha Ray and Ialso know her personally as we travel a lot together for various literary events. I also like the works of Jayanta Mohapatra. On Wednesday, I went to Cuttack to meet him because Jayanta as a renowned poet was very encouraging of North-eastern writers.

You are a poet and a novelist. Which medium of writing do you like the most?

Both are quite satisfying but writing something in the verse form is my first love. All my thoughts come out in a kind of image which might be called a poetic image. This poetic image is very important to me as sometimes even a novel grows from that. Poetry is a distillation process whereas with novel you have more freedom.

Arunachal has a rich tradition of oral literature. But currently oral literature is in danger as most of the young generation do not have idea about the popular oral folk tales. What is your opinion about it?

Oral tradition is a gift and if we have to pass it on to our new generation, there has to be two phases or two strings. If you just give the oral tradition of stories during festivals and other events, it is not very participatory. To keep the oral tradition alive, we need to go for some innovation. I have done some stories for young readers based on oral tradition and I have realised unless you make it little bit different, they are not interested. I believe theatre can also play an important role in preserving oral literature.

You are the first woman writer from Arunachal Pradesh. Do you think that the literary scenario is changing in Arunachal as more women writers are coming up?

Yes, many young women writers are coming up in Arunachal Pradesh and they are writing poetry and even publishing their collections. But it is still not a perfect scenario mainly because of the language as we don’t have any script due to which they are not writing in their own mother tongue, and one feels uncomfortable writing in English or Hindi. Earlier the medium of instruction was Assamese which is why writers like YD Thongchi and Lummer Dai used to write in Assamese.

We have created Arunachal Pradesh Literary Society, where we encourage writers to share their creative writing and help them understand creativity.

What would be your message to young writers?

I always suggest young writers to exercise independent thinking. Life is such a mystery, go ahead and explore it.

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