DR KAMAL KUMAR TANTI
Poetry is a voice and the poet is the owner of that voice. When a poet writes a poem, he delivers a new hope for the new people of his land. Poetry speaks of, in its best possible way, about land without border, about river and sky, without an ending, about people without their identity. Poetry is voice and the poet, the chronicler of our dead and live histories.
Sananta Tanty is the one of the foremost voices in the Assamese poetry. 1981. A year before I born, when his first collection of poetry had come out, Assamese poetry got a new lease of life. Along with the emergence of another strong voice, Sameer Tanti, he had taken the dimension and reach of Assamese poetry to new level. Although Assamese poetry is always routed, and lyrical, Sananta Tanty has digged below the routes and made Assamese poetry more lyrical as well as political ever.
Ananda Bormudoi, the well-known critic, had once wrote: “Political awareness has always been there in Assamese poetry but the politically committed poets were seen as a separate group till the sixties. The sixties saw the convergence of two parallel streams…… In the seventies a new group of young poets began to raise voices of protest. They were Samir Tanti, Sananta Tanty, Jnan Puzari, Jatindra Kumar Borgohain and a few others.”
For a general reader of Assamese poetry, Sananta and Protest is synonymous, often, by virtue of its new idiom, structure and language. Sananta is highly political, in its sense and language.
Every poem Sananta writes, he writes for the people, for the masses. He speaks of the agony and misery of his own people, and at the same time, he can talk about the injustice towards the Africans elsewhere. He takes off from his own coolie line, along with his weapon, and may land up anywhere, to eco the voices of the oppressed of the mother earth.
Those who are progressive, liberal in thought, democratic in attitude and put a firm stand against communalism have recognized the Tea Tribes or the Adivasis as one of the most important communities contributing to the formation of the greater Assamese society. It is equally true that the Tea Tribes or the Adivasis of Assam are a branch of the greater Adivasi society of the country. And Sananta Tanty has given Adivasis of Assam, a new and routed identity.
Reading Sananta Tanty in Assamese is altogether a different experience, in the sense that, he adopted the language in his youth, and expressed himself in it, without any hesitation. This is the fact that he spoke a very different Assamese, in its tone and language, in the times, when Assamese Nationalism is at its peak, and slowly taking pace for a fragmented identity of the ‘Assamese’. After those years, the term Assamese in never be the same, although the formation of greater Assamese nationality is on the verge. And it is a fact that he picked up a new political language, and adopted the same in his verses. And that makes Sananta Tanty a rare, distinct poet of his times.
The powerful language and tone, the rare magic and lyric lies in the finely-crafted lines, mixed up with a highly political voice, are the major elements of the poetics of Sananta Tanty. His poems also portrays the two lost centuries of the migration and after-lives of Adivasi immigrants in the new soil of Assam.
In the post-colonial era of Assam, it’s interesting to observe the rise and growth of subaltern voices in Assamese literature, and a subsequent amount of literatures are either written on/by the most oppressed community during the colonial period. After independence of India, there are few committed and literate writers from the Adivasi community had started writing about their contemporary lives and culture. Although there are chances that they could have started writing protest poetry and other literature, but this actually started in the late seventies only, during a period of leftist movements in Assam.
Like other peers from different communities, both from mainstream and tribal, the younger generations from Adivasi community had tried to uncover the injustice and oppression on them during the colonial period and they have chosen a very different and distinct path, whereas the older generation of the community were more interested to integrate with the greater Assamese identity.
This younger generation have started talking about their own identity, which in intact with their varied cultural aspects. This had a higher impact on the literary writings also. Although they have adopted Assamese language, which they don’t speak at home, they come out with a different language altogether, which is a mix of their different cultural identity and their present socio-economic conditions.
This generation had also taken up a different path of protest, by mainly writing poetry. Among them, three Tanti’s poetry have attracted the readers: Sananta, Sameer and Sanjoy. Interestingly, all of them were closely associated with the different left politics in Assam, viz., SUCI, CPI (M) and CPI (ML) respectively. Although Sanjoy Kumar Tanti had lost his initial tempo, and did not publish any book of his own, but with the help of Nationalist and Left intelligencia of Assam, they have taken up writing poetry seriously, and after that they have created history of their own. Both of them are to be considered two best finest poets of the last two decades of twentieth century.
They continued to write poetry and prose to become the original and best voices from the subaltern communities of Assam. Here lies another mystery. The two best subaltern voices start becoming major and mainstream voices.
Interestingly, there are certain criticisms as well. Critics start criticizing them, as they are reaching the centre-stage, they start ignoring their original position and slowly disintegrating with their own Adivasi cultures, and became more interested to be get accepted in the mainstream Assamese society. For every tribal writer, I think, this happens and their lies the confusion and contradiction of those writers, and that makes them grow as distinct from other writers, and same has happened to both the poets.
Sananta was a close observer of the turbulent times in the eighties and nineties of last century, which the most happening period of Assam history. And his poems are close portrayal of these times in Assam history. The reflection of different themes, perspectives of the contemporary times, made the verses of Sananta timeless and boundaryless. It was the rare voice we hear from him, that made us to read and re-read his poems over and over again, in the last several decades. The sublime poet has been awarded the Sahitya Akademi Award 2018 for his collection of poems “Kailoir Dintu Amar Hobo” (Tomorrow will be Ours).
Kamal Kumar Tanti is a well-known young voice in the contemporary world of Assamese Poetry. Kamal is a bilingual poet, critic, writer and translator; and writes both in Assamese and English languages. He is a nominated Member of Assamese Language Advisory Board of Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi. He belongs to Adivasi Tea-garden Labourer Community of Assam. His first collection of Assamese poetry Marangburu Amar Pita (Our Father Marangburu), published in 2007, won him the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Yuva Puraskar in 2012, for Assamese language and Munin Barkotoki Literary Award in 2008. His second collection of Assamese poetry Uttar-Ouponibeshik Kabita (Post-colonial Poems) has been published recently in July, 2018. His Assamese poems have been included in various anthologies of Assamese poetry and featured in various journals in Assamese. He has a Ph.D. in Astronomy & Astrophysics, for which he worked at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai and Gauhati University, Guwahati. He is currently working as an Assistant Professor of Physics at Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Petroleum Technology, Assam Centre and lives in Sivasagar, Assam, India.