Kishalay Bhattacharjee, a senior journalist, focuses on human stories and cultural aspects of the North East region in his book, Che in Paona Bazaar
Kishalay Bhattacharjee has reported and written about the North-East region for decades. But realising the dangers of a single story, a fact the Indian media is guilty of, Kishalay wanted to depict other realities of the region, thus he set out to write Che in Paona Bazaar. At the launch of the book held last month at Oxford Bookstore, where the author was in conversation with Sumeet Shetty, president of Literati, Kishalay regaled the audience with anecdotes from his days of travel through the region and his interactions with the people there.
The blurb of the book states: “Not all revolutions will be televised. But some stories need to be told.” Che in Paona Bazaar¸ based on real events, explores the culture, customs, beliefs and lives of the people of Manipur, and of the other North East states.
To Sumeet’s question of whether terming the region as “North East” is erroneous, Kishalay says: “No other part of the country is called North West or South East. Each state has a distinct identity. The book defies stereotyping.” Kishalay says it was his endeavour to bring together the many stories of the people as best as he could.
“Steve Jobs in his lecture in Stanford University spoke about looking back and connecting the dots. The rigour of reporting on conflict is depressing, it’s just about numbers, about how many people have died or have been abducted. I didn’t want the book to be a journalist’s diary. We constantly stress the one aspect of the place. I wanted to give a bigger picture of the place. It took me a while to figure out which dots to connect.”
Manipur, Kishalay says, has seen a number of historical mistakes. “When India was re-mapped, Manipur was annexed as an act of betrayal. The King was not allowed to ask his people what they wanted.
For the last 63 years, all that government of India has done is use force.” Kishalay also writes of an important historical event that few know of. “The most decisive of the battle of the Second World War was fought in Imphal and Kohima, the Japanese were stopped there.”
When he speaks of Paona Bazaar in Imphal, Kishalay becomes nostalgic. “Paona bazaar is known for the Chinese and Burmese goods available there. All my pirated DVD collections are from Paona bazaar. I would see Che Guevara’s face sticking out from among the merchandise.”
Kishalay was asked to leave Shillong, where he grew up, because he was considered an outsider. “I don’t look back on the incident in anger, I look back with perspective.”
Che in Paona Bazaar is a Pan Macmillan India publication.