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A Naga Author’s Charming Love Note to Her Conflict Ravaged Land

Book Title: The Last Light of Glory Days: Stories from Nagaland

Author: Avinuo KirePublished

Publisher: Speaking Tiger

Genre: Literary Fiction, Short Story

 

Book summary:

Profoundly compassionate and a masterful storyteller, Avinuo Kire describes a world that is as breathtaking as it is shattering; where military occupation and magic co-exist.

‘The Disturbance’ holds three interconnected stories, set against the backdrop of the Indo-Naga conflict that began in the late 1940s and remains unresolved to this day. Told through the eyes of women from three succeeding generations of the same family, the stories recount how Naga people remained determined to hold on to normalcy even in the face of occupation, state torture, the tearing apart of families and racism.

In ‘New Tales from an Old World’, everyday events in the mountains are infused with an element of the supernatural. Naga myths and folk legends slip effortlessly into tales of hard farm life, childhood terrors and adventures in the countryside, love and mourning. In these stories, hunters, predators, Tekhumevi (weretigers), secret potions, shadowy-demons called Kamvüpfhi, strange spirits and enchanted forests, find a place in contemporary Nagaland with remarkable ease.

This volume, both a political declaration and a personal love-note to her land, establishes Avinuo Kire as a writer of formidable skill. The Last Light of Glory Days is an exquisite unravelling of the tired tropes that cast Nagaland as another undistinguishable piece in the ‘Northeast’.

About the Author:

Avinuo Kire is a writer and teacher. She has authored an anthology of short stories, The Power to Forgive and Other Stories; a collection of poetry, Where Wildflowers Grow and has documented and co-authored a collection of oral narratives titled Naga Heritage Centre: People Stories. Avinuo lives in Kohima, Nagaland, where she teaches English at Kohima College.

My Review:

Aninuo Kire’s The Last Light of Glory Days: Stories from Nagaland is a collection of 10 short stories that are evocative and steeped in the rich socio-cultural ethos of a land that has been ravaged by external military strife as much as by internal churnings within a society going from tribal and traditional belief systems to modern times.

The collection is divided into two segments: The Disturbance with three stories, all subtly interconnected and based during the traumatic events of the Indo-Naga conflict from the late 1940s-90s and New Tales from an Old World with seven stories that tackle contemporary themes with just a hint of Naga folk legends. Not only are these three stories set in the same backdrop but stays within the ambit of certain characters, following their lives even as new characters get added. The title story is a poignant look at how lives are ruptured by violence and one’s age is a reminder of the many losses of lives and the dreams and hopes of a community. Flower Children captures the loss of innocence and how fear creeps in to the world of children when armed soldiers become a part of life. It is an almost meditative story that looks how trauma is deeply unsettling and yet ignored because one is not prepared to cope with it. The allegory of the flowers on one hand and children on the other is a powerful writing device that puts into focus how beauty is necessary in life and for living but that it is fragile and ephemeral.

Sharing Stories is a layered examination of how even as younger generations embrace people from outside who represent those who have caused much oppression to the older generation, and who the latter were not able reconcile with. It is one story that acknowledges generational trauma while subtly looking at how young people today are caught at the crossroads when they are expected to carry it in their lives. The elements on the personal politics in this story struck a familiar note with me and will be familiar with many.

The folk elements in the standalone stories add an extra zing to stories of young love; a young woman living with the memory of her husband with whom she discovered traveling when he was alive; a young man who learns that one must take and receive only what is given according to one’s needs; a young girl trying to ward off the unwelcome physical advances of her tutor at home. I loved When the Millet Fields Flower for the way it captured the age-old belief systems of the Naga people on one hand and the change of faith to Christianity on the other.

Each of the stories in this collection will leave an impact on readers: the rich narrative style ensures that. My only slight niggle is with how the three interconnected stories in The Disturbance need not have repeated things after establishing the core basis of how the Indo Naga struggles were playing havoc in the lives of people. Barring this, the collection overall is nuanced and will leave readers anticipating more from the author.

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