Saturday, May 25, 2024

A Conversation with Manisha Sarma: Assamese Litterateur

Priya Kumari Enigmatic Horizon Staff (Sub editor)

Manisha Sarma is an Assamese writer, poet, author, playwright, travel writer, and journalist. She was born in Punjab, and she completed her primary schooling at P.V.K. Public School. Later, she returned to her original home in Baksa district, Assam, and commenced her elementary schooling at Baksa High School. She continued her studies until the first semester of graduation. She had to drop out in the middle of her semester for marriage. A few decades ago, the people of Assam went through the problem of violent insurgency, which was a tough time, especially for women who were sexually assaulted by terrorists. The fear of each parent saving their daughters from the terrorists led many to marry off their daughters early. Manisha Sarma went through the same thing. Eventually, she completed her higher education after her marriage. Her father, Nipendranath Sarma, was a litterateur and a first-grade employee of paper technology at Jogighopa Paper Mill. He had also worked for a paper mill in Chandigarh. Her mother, Bharati Devi, was involved with social service, and her husband is a businessman. She herself is also involved in various kinds of social service activities and is also a businesswoman. Enigmatic Horizon had a conversation with her regarding her writing career and her future plans, which is presented below.

EH: You are a successful writer today and can also be considered a prominent figure in the field of Assamese literature. Therefore, we would like to know what was it that inspired you to become a writer?

MS: I come from a well-educated family background. My father was a writer who used to read and write books as well. His older brother, my uncle, was also highly qualified and was always involved with reading books. Thus, since childhood, I have observed my father consistently involving himself in writing books. I used to wonder sometimes if I could author a book as well in the future. So, I could say that my family is my first inspiration, especially my father. Gradually, I started writing poems. I started my writing career with Asomiya Pratidin.

EH: Could you elaborate on how you began your career as a professional writer?

MS: I commenced my career with my first ever poem, “Asol,” which got published by Asomiya Pratidin. Within some time, I served as a print journalist with multiple Assamese newspapers and magazines. Within some time, I became a frequent writer for various newspapers such as – Asomiya Pratidin, Dainik Asom, Niyomiya Barta, Dainik Janambhumi, Amar Axom, Asom Bani, Dainandin Barta, Sadin etc., and also wrote for various famous magazines such as – Prantik, Goriokhi, Mukuta, Sofura, Baro Athur, Sakhi, Nandini, and Sathori. Gradually, I started writing novels. Most of my novels are based on real-life issues faced by society. I prefer doing on-field research and having first-hand experience so that I am able to feel the situation before I write it down in my writing.

EH: Recently, at a book fair in Guwahati, your two novels, “Teje Dhua Kolijar Usoponi” and “Nikhiddho Duar,” were among the bestsellers. Anything you would like to say about it?  

MS: I am overwhelmed that both of my novels were accepted by readers. I have received many phone calls from the readers who shared their feedback. For me, no award or recognition is as important as the acceptance of the readers. Writing a book takes immense hard work, and this is why we consider it a success when people buy and read our books. As I mentioned earlier, my novels are based on real life situations and my own experience. “Teje Dhua Kolijar Usoponi” is based on the lives of people in the Bhutan hill border area, and it shows how terrorists used to torture the native people of the Bhutan hills. Before writing this novel, I personally went to those areas to do research and get first-hand experience from the native people. “Nishiddho Duar” is also based on real life situations. I am delighted that all my hard work has paid off.

EH: You have received a number of awards and recognitions. Could you mention some of them?

MS: Definitely. I would love to mention some of the best awards I have received. In 2018, I was awarded the “Kabyo Mohiyan Award” by Kamrup District Kobi Sanmilan. In 2020, I was awarded the “Basanti Bordoloi Award”, for the novel ‘Rudan’, by Assam Sahitya Sabha. In 2020, I was awarded the “Sahitya Sati Award” by the Assam Agrani Cultural Group and Social Cultural Group, Rangghar Udyug. In 2021, I received the “Sahitya Shri Award” from Krishti Awards, Barpeta Road Assam Sahitya Sabha, and the “Raijjik Sanman Laav, Lekhok Sambardhana Award” by Srimanta Sankardev Kalakshetra Press Club. In 2019, I received the “Special Jury Award for Literature” by the Assam Sports and Cultural Festival. In 2021, I was awarded the “Mora Pagladiya Sahitya Award” by the Boroma Baksa Press Club. On the 73rd Independence Day, I received the “Kabyo Mohiyan Upadhi” by Jalukbari Kendriya Nagarik Samiti. 

EH: You told us that your family is your inspiration behind becoming a writer, but who was it who influenced your style of writing?

MS: I used to read Indira Goswami’s (known by her pen name, Mamoni Raisom Goswami) books and was highly influenced by her writings on women’s problems and socio-cultural constructs. Her novels are also based on real life experiences and problems of the common people. That influenced me, too, to write about the problems that common people face in their lives. I also love reading Emily Dickinson’s poems. Her poems influence me.

EH: Are you currently involved with any projects?

MS: Yes, currently, I am working on two projects. Firstly, I am writing novels for the upcoming book fair. I hope this book will receive the same love and acceptance that my previous two books have received. Another project that I am working on is a travelogue.

EH: What is your advice for young writers?

MS: According to me, young writers are more talented and privileged than us. Nowadays, everything is digital. Writers can use these digital platforms to publish their writings. However, the problem lies in the content of some of the young writers, because I find a lack of research in their content. They should work on researching more about the topic they want to write about. I wish the young aspirants a bright future.

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