By ANINDITA DAS
Tucked inside a wrapping paper was “12 Mini Biographies and a slice of contemporary history of northeastern women”. A delicious chocolate cake lay by the side of the neatly gift-wrapped books. A conversation around noted journalist and author, Indrani Raimedhi’s book My Half of the Sky (Sage) was all set to charm everyone in a cozy setting at one of Guwahati’s popular coffee shops. What seemed more exciting was that this conversation on 12 mini biographies was to be moderated by a real-life Maharaja.
What happens when a fairytale turns to your worst nightmare and the love of your life is a stranger with a secret? Who is that spunky woman who battles darkness every waking moment yet shows the light to others? Who is the sixty year old daredevil who drives her car at top speed while revealing the riveting story of her life? Who straps her baby daughter to her back and sets out on a perilous journey to uncover the truth? These kind of teasers on social media tickled many minds and everyone waited for a conversation slated for December 11, 2004.
Thumb Print Conversation (an initiative of the webzine www.thethumbprintmag.com) in collaboration with the North East Writers’ Forum hosted the release of Indrani Raimedhi’s book My Half of the Sky (Sage). The book was formally unveiled in the presence of Monisha Behal, Parvati Baruah, Bhaskarjyoti Mahanta, Dileep Chandan, Rita Choudhury, Surajit Baruah, Swapnil Bharali, Imran Hussain, Akashitora, Wasbir Hussain, Seema Hussain, Ruchira Neog, Nani Gopal Mahanta, Arzoo Dutta, PP Singh, Miguel Queah, Rosanna Lyndoh, Anjali Joseph, Nazreen Ahmed, Krishan Kumar, Anita Deka Mahanta among others. A group of women cutting the chocolate cake embodied a spirit of solidarity.
The gathering was welcomed by Srutimala Duara, academician and author. In his introductory remarks, bureaucrat and author Dhruba Hazarika said that women in the region are empowered and documenting their lives and deeds can always prove inspirational. Pradyot Manikya, the head of the royal family of Tripura, moderated the conversation. He said that it is easy to write a book but difficult to finish it. “Documenting people from the region is a great endeavour when North East is not getting the proper recognition. We should not stop at 12, we need to keep on doing it”, he further remarked.
The book, subtitled as 12 Mini Biographies and a Slice of Contemporary History of North Eastern Women, features the 12 twelve women belonging to various parts of North East and from different walks of life. These women have been able to create a space of their own in the midst of all adversities. “I wanted to sing a song of women in North East” said Indrani Raimedhi about her book. For her it was the product of two years of late night, long phone calls and extensive research on the women in the book. She then extended her gratitude to her friends for their constant support and suggestion while writing the book, the North East Writers’ Forum, J.K Pujari and her family for being with her all throughout the period.
Answering Bhaskar Mahanta’s query whether she went with the women to their work, Indrani Raimedhi replied that though her full time job did not allow her to do so, the work is based primarily on many sessions of interviews where she asked open-ended questions. About her selection of the women she said that they are from different fields. “I searched for drama in their lives”, she further added. She also stated that the women she has featured did not have narrow success and have not achieved a static point, as Wasbir Hussain wanted to know about the common thread that runs between these 12 women. Every story is individual, as it is about the women who are unique in their own way, which is what Indrani Raimedhi believes.
Raimedhi adds, “Through my 25 years as a journalist, I have come to know many remarkable men and women who are scripting success stories in various fields. There were positive life – affirmative stories that were just waiting to be told. Again, I wanted to convey what it was to be a woman in this part of the world. Through a blend of facts and story-telling, I wanted to present an engrossing narrative celebrating the indomitable spirit of womanhood. “
All the women featured in the book including Mary Kom, Rita Choudhury, Teresa Rehman, Parvati Baruah, Monisha Behal and the rest have strived to reach the stage where they are today. Rita Choudhury’s focus of work reflects when she says “I am committed to women, world and the people. It is not creation for the sake of creation, it is about raising a voice, to speak for the people who cannot speak for themselves.” Monisha Behel says that since childhood she has been concerned with social issues. “It is imperative to showcase North East outside and to set up all sorts of developmental plans. I want the young women to be heard intellectually,” she feels. Teresa Rehman shared her experience of being marginalised in the national media whenever she had a story to tell from the region, and so she mentions “I thought of creating a space of my own, and the webzine The Thumb Print has come up in the cyber space to reach out to the people across the globe”.
The author Raimedhi summed up the evening, “A Maharaja, a chocolate cake, friends, literature, gentle leg pulling and every copy sold out. What else does one need?”