BY YASMINE DUTTA
A bright Sunday morning in mid-July saw a lovely gathering at the P. C. Dutta Memorial Children’s Library and Recreation Centre for a workshop on Creative Writing. The event was organized by the Lakhipriya Devi Baruani Children’s (LDBC) Park Committee, with Sewali Dutta, wife of Late P. C. Dutta, at the helm. In attendance were Birinchi Barua (President), and other LDBC Park Committee members P. C. Phukan, Mahesh Bhuyan, Chitra Baruah, Sudhin Barua, and Swapon Dowerah.
Swapon Dowerah, Principal of Icon Academy introduced Mitra Phukan, renowned writer from Guwahati, the resourceperson for the Workshop. While exalting her various contributions to Indian Writing in English, Dowerah urged Phukan to share her ideas on writing creatively with high school children who had come from various schools of the city.
Phukan started off with the observation that children of previous generations had the habit of writing diaries, chronicling their thoughts and feelings on a regular basis. She noted that most people then would write letters to each other, and some would contribute to journals and magazines as well. Thus, she said, the art of writing was alive and kicking.
Phukan remarked that this skill is gradually vanishing as most of us nowadays use a phone to communicate, whether through calls, SMS or social media, instead of writing. She thus, encouraged the children to cultivate the art of putting their thoughts in black and white so that this beautiful and enriching tradition can flourish. She said that, for her, seeing her name in print gives her a “high” even now, after all these years of being an author. She commented that besides this satisfaction, it is the ability to portray one’s thinking that is one of the most rewarding feelings, especially when one’s thoughts and emotions might be denied an audience if spoken aloud.
Phukan observed that when one writes one must have excellent command over the language used, “whether that language is English, Sanskrit or Japanese”. A story, she said, must also reflect a writer’s individuality, akin to one’s fingerprint. She stated that one must attempt to portray characters in their element, and attribute those characteristics that would make them easily identifiable to readers. Phukan also advocated “pushing the envelope” in order to make colloquial language a part of the mainstream; she mentioned being instrumental in incorporating some Assamese words, like tenga and deuta, into contemporary Indian English.
Phukan went on to discuss the various kinds of fiction that one could write, from epics to short stories to Twitter fiction. She stated that it is a challenge to write a short piece, as it requires great finesse to be succinct, while making the most impact. She noted that, while writing, the first sentence is the hardest to come up with, while the rest of the narrative tends to flow more smoothly. Phukan wrapped up her speech by stating the different elements of a story, commenting that each account must have a beginning, middle, and an end. She then asked the children to write a story within a stipulated time by providing the first sentence from one of her own books. The participants were divided into groups and were asked to read out their stories afterwards.
The Workshop ended with a vote of thanks by Yasmine Dutta, daughter-in-law of Sewali Dutta. Dutta extended her gratitude to Mitra Phukan, the LDBC Park Committee, Sewali Dutta (principal sponsor and guide of this Workshop), the children who attended the event, and the Park personnel for making the debut Creative Writing Workshop a great success. She hoped that such an event would become a regular feature associated with the Library for the continued development of the children of the community.
P. C. Dutta Memorial Children’s Library and Recreation Centre is an initiative by the wife and children of Late Prabin Chandra Dutta of Narikal Bari, Guwahati. The Library, established in 2010, was founded on the premise that books be made available forchildren to acquire the habit of reading books other than their prescribed textbooks. Reading was one of Late P. C. Dutta’s favourite pastimes and his personal collection included anassortment of publications ranging from fiction to non-fiction to religious literature. The principal benefactor of this Library is Subashi Runie Trivedi, the second daughter of Late P. C. Dutta and Sewali Dutta. The Library contains several books donated by Trivedi and other community members. The books are mostly for children of different ages. A section on adult literature was recently added to this array. The space in the Library is also utilized for various activities, such as dance and music classes, and other children-oriented events.
Yasmine Dutta is Psychology Teacher and School Counsellor at Delhi Public School, Guwahati.