Writing about lost cultures and other things

Sunil Sharma

“I do not think the measure of a civilization is how tall its buildings of concrete are, but rather how well its people have learned to relate to their environment and fellow man.”

– Sun Bear, Chippewa

 

It is another first!

After the British working-class poetry in October, this month’s special section brings the spotlight on the indigenous voices of India.

According to a report by Amnesty International, there are 476 million people in more than 90 countries that identify themselves as Indigenous Peoples. There are 5,000 types of these people and they use 4,000 languages for communication. They are 5% of the world population and 70 % of them live in Asia.

Needless to emphasise, they are marginalised and treated badly in democracies!

As a tribute to their sense of resilience, this special feature curated by the well-known poet-academic and presenter, Paramita Mukherjee Mullick, highlights their literary and spiritual achievements.

A batch of 15 signatures here captures the texture of the lived experience, of being human, in the languages spoken by their ethnic groups and tribes; the indigenous cultures, the tribals and their habitats, languages and customs, all under threat. The rich Adivasi Bhashas have come to be in terminal decline due to the official neglect over decades, very much like other dialects of other nations spoken by the people variously termed as the Aborigines, Natives, First Nations; rising hegemony of English or other metropolitan languages of power, lack of incentives for these indigenous languages and their meaningful preservation and promotion by the State everywhere. No job opportunities for these children of the lesser gods compel them to learn foreign languages and adopt alien cultures and habits---and by this gesture, repeated by generations, a beautiful culture is lost forever!

Rooted in nature and leading a simple existence in communal settings, these tribes---or their current remnants in some urban pockets or reservations---lead an endangered existence in contexts inimical and strange and hostile.

Writing in Bodo or Santhal or any other dialect is a pure act of courage by these writers. Selecting these significant signatures for this edition is an act of faith and love for Dr. Mullick.

The originals along with competent translations are there in this section.

We are proud to be part of their journeys forward.

The very tone of their writing is warm and welcoming!

Take a look at this excerpt from a poem by the famous Bodo poet Bhairabi Baro, translated into English by Anil Baro:

 

IF YOU HAVE TIME, COME TO SEE OUR VILLAGE

If you have time sometimes come to our village

From wherever you stay, cities big or other countries.

If you come sometimes

Step in our village and touch at my home

Where you will find everything new every day.

 

This month, the winners of the Annual Setu Awards for Excellence for the year 2022 were also announced.

Here, the list of the recipients:

English

 

---Arthur Broomfield (Ireland)

---Eugene Ngazme (USA)

---Paul Brookes (UK)

---Meenakshi Mohan (USA)

---Jerome W Berglund (USA)

 

Hindi

---Prakas Manu

---Devi Nangrani

 

Our hearty congratulations to these distinguished authors for blazing new trails.

The other regular features are also there.

translations.

Fiction.

Poetry.

Collaborations.

Review.

 

I thank Paramita and all the featured authors for their kind support to the bilingual journal.

Take care!

 
Sunil Sharma
Editor, Setu (English)
Toronto, Canada



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