If mainstream India has marginalised any single identity the most, it is of the several identities of the Northeast states. Who remembers Nellie in 1976, where over 3,000 men, women and children were slaughtered?
The (non) response to Arupa’s earlier and excellent novel, Dawn, also published by Zubaan, reflects this marginalisation in literature too.
Kalita’s new novel, Felanee, is a must-read for those interested in literature from the Other India. The story revolves around two agitations—the ulfa-led one and the Bodoland agitation in Assam in the late ’60s, as seen by the eyes of Felanee, the mixed-race girl whose parents are killed in one conflagration. She is raised by another, married to another, and lives through troubled times. Along the way she loses her beloved husband and a newborn, and raises one child on her own. Reading this you might be deluded that Kalita speaks of the horrific killings of Rwanda or Ethiopia instead.
Felanee hits home the reality of violence, and excels in its portrayals of courageous women through the quotidian earning of livelihood, the joys of cooking and feeding, the smell of spices, the warmth of a child’s embrace.... The characters are not cardboard ones, but living, breathing, fully realised human beings.
What I missed in the book, being an ordinary Indian, was an introduction and a glossary, giving details of the often-confusing events.