When asked about growing up during the turbulent Naga National movement, the fact that Easterine Kire categorically says that she rather speak about other things is proof enough that the Noway-based Naga author is trying to tell a different story. One of her earlier books, Bitter Wormwood (Zubaan, 2011), though, is set around the Naga political struggle but focuses, through a fictionalised narrative, on its impact on ordinary men and women. “It is cathartic to write on it” she says adding that while there has been political strife and turmoil in Nagaland, “behind it lies tales of beautiful lives, and a beautiful culture, raring to come out. That is the true Nagaland.”
Kire’s Son of the Thundercloud (Speaking Tiger, 2016), which has just been awarded the Sahitya Bal Puraskar 2018 announced in a meeting of the Executive Board of the Sahitya Akademi in Guwahati on Friday, is a reflection of the author’s need to represent Nagaland beyond the usual narrative. The book draws from Naga folklore, and is about a woman whose sons and husband have been killed by a tiger. Later, she is impregnated by a raindrop, and gives birth to a baby boy who avenges his father and brothers’ deaths. “Naga society has changed over the years. We are at the risk of losing our tradition of oral story telling — it’s disappearing in the towns, and my writing seeks to preserve that,” she says.
Kire is one of the 21 recipients of the Bal Puraskar which will be handed out in a ceremony in Delhi on November 14. She has won in the English category. The other recipients were selected by a jury consisting of three members each in the concerned language category.
Of living away from home (she moved to Norway 10 years back), Kire says, “Home stays with you, in your stories.” In 2015, Kire won The Hindu Prize for her novel ‘When the River Sleeps’ (Zubaan, 2014), also based in the hills of Nagaland about a lone hunter in search of a magical stone. “I grew up in a Christian household — it was sort of a ‘nativized’ Christianity…an interesting combination of tribal culture and religion coming together,” she says.
The Sahitya Akademi, which was established in 1954, promotes and preserves literature in 24 Indian languages. According to an official press release, the award includes a casket containing an engraved copper-plaque and a cheque of Rs 50,000.