GLF: Being a language writer, do you think you are not getting due recognition at the national level?
A. I write both in English and Khasi my language. As can be expected I can reach out to more readers in English since Khasi is spoken by only less than a million people. That said, I feel that the vernacular languages have not been given the attention and importance they deserve. Why is Khasi not as yet part of Schedule VIII as one of the recognised languages? This is a question we have been asking for a long time. It is high time to recognise little known languages of this country before such languages become obsolete due to non-usage.
GLF: Can literature influence social life? Do you think a writer should be socially responsible?
A. Literature captures its essence and narratives from society and literature in turn influences societal mores. Literature is the legacy we leave behind for our younger generation as they can only learn about their cultures and histories from literature which records the life and times of our forbears over many centuries. All writers must be socially responsible and not inflame communal or religious passions that could trigger violence or communal conflicts. Writers are above all mentors and story tellers. They cannot unleash violence through their words. In fact writers are supposed to build bridges of understanding and cultivate humanitarian values. Of course writers need to speak up against evils such as corruption, oppression of the powerless and other such social evils. But the language they use need not be rabid and inflammatory.
GLF: Can literary festivals make progressive changes to the language literature?
A. Most literary festivals organised across the country are for those writing in English. They are elitist and exclusive. One hopes that a litfest that gives a platform for writers in the vernacular languages of this country will also help us bond and together seek out a better deal for ourselves.
GLF: Did you ever felt ill-treated or deprived of your due for being a writer in vernacular languages (vis-à-vis the so called mainstream writers who chose English as their medium)?
A. Of course vernacular writers are looked at askance because their work has to first be translated into English before they can be recognised. That is the tragedy of a country which promotes English and Hindi only above other languages. States that are powerful have managed to get their languages recognised by smaller states like ours have not received the attention they deserve.
GLF: There are numerous glitzy events packed by glitterati being celebrated in the country under the guise of literary festivals in up-market show places. What do you think about `Gateway Litfest’ and how is it different from such up-market events?
A. Gateway Litfest is different because it promotes those who write in their own languages and provides them a platform there they can share their stories without fear of being judged. I think we have had enough of glitz and glamour associated with literature. It is time to get real and be proud of our heritage.
GLF: Your views on the dominant plot of storytelling in year 2018.
A. Storytelling in any culture is the only way to keep alive that culture and the history of a place and people. Without the stories where would we be? How would we know of our past and our rich heritage? In fact, it is our diffidence to tell our own stories and our reliance on English and American literature in colleges and universities that has undermined our rich and varied heritage. It is time to reclaim our origins through our stories…