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Updated: February 8, 2013 14:28 IST

Showcase: In the hills of the east

SWATI DAFTUAR
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Bitter Wormwood, Easterine Kire, Zubaan Books
Special Arrangement Bitter Wormwood, Easterine Kire, Zubaan Books

Bitter Wormwood, celebrated Naga author Easterine Kire's new novel, traces the story of one man's life from 1937 to the present day woven in with the Naga struggle for freedom. The struggle, which has expanded over the last 70 years, has seen countless human lives wasted and families torn apart.

Published by Zubaan books, Bitter Wormwood shows us the struggle through Mose's eyes, a man who lives with his widowed mother and grandmother in one of Nagaland's tribal villages. Small incidents from Mose's childhood, his family, the routines and rituals of traditional village life paint an evocative picture of a peaceful way of life, now long-gone.

Growing up, Mose and his friends become involved in the Naga struggle for independence and they are caught in a maelstrom of violence — protest and repression, attacks and reprisals — that ends up ripping communities apart. Once the Naga underground is formed, Mose and his friend decide to join it. The novel moves in and out of Mose's life, and we see the Naga freedom struggle gaining momentum.

Kire also shows the hardships faced by the Naga people. The novel is written simply, and highlights facts and points crucial towards understanding the tumultuous situation in the region. In the introduction, Kire also gives a brief chronological history of the Naga political history.

There are copies of important letters sent by Naga leaders to the Simon Commission along with a copy of the agreement of peace between the governor of Assam and Naga leaders. Though listed as fiction, this book walks a thin line between fact and fiction and is a recommended read for anyone who wishes to learn a little more about one of India's ‘most beautiful and misunderstood region'.

Bitter Wormwood is a herb believed to keep bad spirits away. With violence and danger surrounding them, the herb became a powerful talisman for the Naga people.

Bottomline: A recommended read for anyone who wants to learn more about one of India's most beautiful and misunderstood regions.

Bitter Wormwood; Easterine Kire, Zubaan, Rs.295

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