Monthly Archives: May 2010

Guwahati to pay tribute to the ‘Iron Man of Metal’

‘If Michael Jackson brought to the world his famous “moonwalk”, Dio will be remembered for popularizing the famous “devil’s horn” hand gesture’

The Devil's Own Hands!

He was a man who sported some of the wildest hairdos ever conceived. A man whose fearsome presence enthralled people the world over. And he was the man behind some of the heaviest music ever made in the world. But despite all this seemingly “negative” traits, he still remained a hero nonetheless. Or so it was till a few days back. Around ten days back, May 16 to be precise, heavy metal lost a bit of its heaviness when it lost its biggest hero ever. Ronnie James Dio, fondly referred to as the ‘Iron Man of Metal’, died of cancer.

A pall of gloom seems to have got cast over the entire rock fraternity worldwide ever since news about Dio’s demise passed around. For Ronnie can very well be said to be the man who shaped the growth of the metal genre. If Michael Jackson brought to the world his famous “moonwalk”, Rio will be remembered for popularizing the famous “devil’s horn” hand gesture, which went on to become an inseparable component of metal culture. A thorough gentleman to the core, the rich tenor of his baritone still continues to haunt his countless fans spread throughout the world. Ronnie James Dio was a man who, throughout his life, strove to keep aloft the metal banner, which he did with powerful and consistently excellent music marked by deep lyrical thoughts. As such, it was not surprising to see rockers of all hues in remote corners of the world, even in our seemingly far flung Northeast India, line up to pay tributes to a musician who is now being referred to as the “Michael Jackson of Metal”.

For those unacquainted with the man and his music till now, Ronnie James Dio was an American heavy metal vocalist. In a career spanning over half a century, he performed with groups, like Elf, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Heaven & Hell, and his own band Dio. It would not be wrong to say that Dio, as he is fondly known, shaped the growth of the heavy metal genre. As a critic noted: “He developed his near-classical style of vocal production in an era when amplification was yet to be developed. Along with Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden and Rob Halford of Judas Priest, Dio pioneered the semi-operatic style of vocal production in metal, one instance among many of the genre’s classical roots.”

Ronnie James Dio

For once, musicians in the Northeast have left aside their differences and come together to hail the contributions of one of the finest musicians to have ever walked on the face of the earth. One of the first among them was Maharaja Pradyot Manikya Debburman, the King of Tripura, who remarked on his Facebook profile: ‘Rest in Peace Ronnie James Dio. We will miss you’. I think Maharaja Pradyot Manikya Debburman is the only King in our country, and probably the entire world, who has been going all out to promote our rockers, especially those in the Northeastern corner of the world. I salute his dedication and commitment towards the growth of rock in Northeast India.

Meanwhile, musicians in Guwahati will be jamming in city-based cafe ‘Blues’ next Friday on June 11 in a tribute function organized by the Eastern Beats Music Society. The pub rock fest will see performances by Dhruva Sarma – front man of Friends and one of the pioneering rockers of the State, rock sensation Lucid Recess and a host of other musicians and bands from Guwahati and Shillong.

The tribute celebrations in Guwahati have caught the notice of music lovers all over the world. Mumba-based musician Harish Ramakrishnan tells me, “The initiative to hold a pub-rock fest in the memory of Ronnie James Dio is simply brilliant. I can hardly think of anybody paying a tribute to this legend, even though he’s been such an inspiration to other vocalists. His end seems so much like the song he sang… Die Young… If only I could be there.”

It is unlikely that the music community, especially followers of the metal genre, will easily forget Ronnie James Dio. And if I were to quote a musician friend of mine, the volume of work and reputation Dio leaves behind ensure that he will always be a ‘Rainbow in the Dark’.

Shillong gears up for annual Bob Dylan fest

Lou Majaw and the Bad Monkeys to perform in Kolkata and Shillong

Come May and the quaint little man in the hill town of Shillong gets ready to pay his yearly obeisance to his idol. Yes, I am talking about the annual Bob Dylan fest in Shillong, led by Khasi guitarist singer Lou Majaw, which over the years has evolved to become a major one-of-its-kind festival in the world. The scene is no different this year and grey haired Lou is once again seen bustling around town, making last minute preparations for his annual tribute.

For the unacquainted, the Bob Dylan tribute fest has been carried out in Shillong on a yearly basis by Lou Majaw – one of the legendry troubadour’s greatest fans in this part of the world. Having begun on May 24, 1972, the fest – one of the numerous Bob Dylan tribute fests all across the world – has continued for almost four decades now. A selective and most devoted group of people, from Mumbai, Delhi, Goa, Chennai, Bangalore, Kolkata, Guwahati and other parts of the North–east region and of course Shillong, gather in Shillong every year to take part in the fest.

The Bob Dylan fest in Shillong cannot be said to be a concert. It is more of a sort of a ritual, yet an unobtrusive one. Though when you compare it with the famed unfussy love of Shillongites for western music, you do tend to feel that it is almost insignificant. But still the Dylan fest is carried out every year in this quaint little town led by the same grinning old man who is part of the lives of every Shillongite. Lou is usually accompanied by the Ace of Spades – which is made up of Lou Majaw on vocals and guitar, accompanied by fellow Dylanites Lew Hilt on bass, Nondon Bagchi on drums.

Very often, the show starts with Majaw playing a couple of solo tracks – Tambourine Man or Buckets of rain – and the band join in shortly. This is the listening part of the show as the audience’s eyes are locked and riveted on Majaw as he sings the gospel… according to Bob. Though this festival has become highly popular and is one of the most highly regarded among all the Bob Dylan tribute festivals of the world, the monotonous nature of the festival never ceases to amaze me.

Bob Dylan is a man who changed people looked at things. Taking the form of story – telling from folk music and the blues, Dylan changed the way popular music would be written. Besides his seemingly effortless genius with lyrics, he has been and continues to be a musical stylist constantly evolving a sound that is his own. As such, the contained ambition of his fans in Shillong – some of whom don’t really know his music but get enveloped by its energy – is something truly remarkable and which is, I believe, the hallmark of the entire Bob Dylan fest. For despite the fact that their actions do not match the ideals for which Dylan really stood for, the power and depth in the tribute cannot fail to move you, to teach you something.

My personal opinions notwithstanding, the Dylan tribute fest in Shillong remains an yearly pilgrimage for all music lovers that ought not to be missed. This time around, Lou will be accompanied by the Bad Monkeys – a highly progressive three-piece instrumental outfit based in Shillong. Made up of Rangdap on Guitar, Gideon on Bass and Noel on Drums, the Bad Monkeys started off as ‘Rangdap’ – a solo project with most compositions by Rangdap himself and Gideon on the Bass. The band released their debut album ‘MAMA’S BOY’ in 2008. Later Noel joined in for the Drums and percussion. With the new line up, the band’s music has opened up to an entirely new horizon that also has a bit of humour and soul into it. The band is presently in the studios recording for their second album, Beyond the fence.

The festival will kick off in Some Place Else (SPE) of Hotel Park at 10 pm today evening. The first phase of the celebrations in Shillong will be organized on Monday (May 24) at Pearly Dew Secondary School in Jaiaw at 2 pm in the afternoon. The fest will then move on to Khyndailad (Police Bazaar). So if you are not in Kolkata today evening, be sure to make it to Shillong this Monday!

LOU ONE-LINER: “There is no such thing as an old song. When you play a song, add some life in it, so the song will breath a new life.”

When music came calling

Indian Ocean: Live in Concert

Last weekend, Guwahatians woke up to a concert of a lifetime as Indian Ocean performed live in the city’s premier Racquets and Billiards (R&B) club. For the uninitiated, Indian Ocean is the oldest band of the country, as also the most well-known, having taken Indian sounds to the globe through performances all over. Given the band’s illustrious career and the number of chartbuster hits they have to their credit, it was not surprising to see Guwahati’s music-loving crowd get all heated up as news of their arrival did the rounds. In fact, my phone hardly stopped ringing towards the fag end of last week as enthusiastic fans kept calling at regular intervals to find out if I could somehow manage a ticket or pass for them!

A band renowned for its member’s penchant for experimentation and originality, Indian Ocean has, over the years, evolved a sound of its own – something which cannot be classified under any of the conventional and established genres, and which critics have left under the broad spectrum of ‘Hindustani-rock with jazz-spiced rhythms’. Notwithstanding the genre its music belongs to, the band’s skillful blending of Indian folk songs, classical music, slokas, Sufi, Baul and contemporary melodies with modern instruments has mesmerized people the world over.

The band, however, is no stranger to the Northeast, having performed here on four different occasions throughout their 20-year old existence. Though their performances in the city also include venues like IIT (Guwahati), I particularly remember their performance in Diphu a few years back when they had shared the stage with Karbi fusion band Warklung, which was led by Phuninding – our very own rocker Sadhu. Coming back to their performance in Guwahati last weekend, I was truly amazed to see the growth of the band’s fan club, which has risen by epic proportions. Racquets and Billiards club – the venue for the concert – was packed to the brim that Saturday evening, even as the crowd swayed in a mystic stupor to the quaint chords being strung on stage.

Though I have been following Indian Ocean’s music for quite some time now, I looked forward to their performance this time for a number of reasons; the first being the fact that this was the first time I would be watching them perform as a band after the demise of their founder member and ace percussionist Asheem Chakraborty. Indian Ocean’s very genesis can be traced back to the focused jamming sessions between Asheem and Sushmit, and I wanted to see whether the former’s demise has had any impact on their music. This issue had also come up during the band’s exclusive interaction with The Sentinel earlier in the day when Sushmit had said, “Asheem was the man and face behind many aspects of the band. It is impossible to fill the void left after his demise; he cannot be replaced. We all have to look at a new direction now. Each one of us have our own identities; we have to see whether out own individual identities, when combined, can help give a new dimension to our music.” The band’s line-up consists of Susmit Sen on the guitars, Rahul Ram on the bass, Amit Kilam on the drums and Tushar – the new replacement tablist in place of Asheem.

But all my doubts about any new dimension to their music were put to rest as the band members of Indian Ocean began with a highly spirited rendition of one of their hit tracks, Pau jamin pein aur aasman pe najar. Be it the on-screen chemistry between the members or bassist Rahul Ram’s on stage histrionics – the band simply dazzled throughout their performance that day with the trademark Indian Ocean sound, representing the improvisational depths of Indian classical music and the invigorating intensity of rock. The band was also joined by Papon for a duet in one of their compositions Ma Reva, a eulogy to the Narmada river. The composition is based on a tune Rahul had learnt from local communities on the banks of the river who were engaged in the struggle for self determination against the large, ecologically unfriendly Sardar Sarovar dam. I especially like the jugalbandi towards the end between Rahul, Amit and Tushar, and the same brought everyone to its feet. Bandeh, the song from Black Friday which rode the popularity charts and marked Indian Ocean’s foray into Bollywood, also expectedly struck a fancy with the crowd. The evening ended with the band performing their famous Syrian prayer song Kandisa. Now listening to this song is always special for the same is a rehash of an Aramaic prayer – a 3,000-year old Semitic language believed to have been spoken during the time of Jesus Christ. Knowing that I am listening to a practically “dead song” gives me a real kick, no matter how many times I listen to it. Watching the song being performed live is an altogether different trip in itself.

All in all, a brilliant concert that is bound to remain in our hearts and minds for a long time to come. My heartfelt thanks to the organizers and also R&B Club for creating the perfect ambience for an evening of music.

The power of verse

(With Anurag Rudra)

India’s Northeast has a long standing tradition of literature and folklore, and one that is deeply rooted in the instinctive urges of the collective consciousness of its populace. Owing to the existence of a staggering spectrum of impulses, ranging from ethnic strife and conflict, to stupendous beauty and soulful music, the consequent expression of literary concerns have acquired a touch of exclusivity and brilliance, a rare quality peculiar to the incredible region. Addressing these concerns of the region has always been the creative preoccupations of the writers here. However, it would hardly be an exaggeration to say that the common stock of traditions, folklore and myths, in addition to the burning problems haunting the visage of the society have stimulated a stupendous school of writing and creative expression, branded as Northeast Indian Writing In English. Of this creative brigade, the poets have always assumed a special significance and appeal owing to the universality of the medium and the sheer brilliance of this avenue of creative expression.

Kympham receiving the Veer Shankar Shah Raghunath Shah National Award in 2008 by former Speaker and Madhya Pradesh Governor Balram Jakhar

The primary reason for which this school of poets have won worldwide acclaim and interest can be attributed to the avenues explored by their creative faculty in their brilliant verse work. From the metaphysical to protest, from love to languid beauty and from the singing hills to the gurgling river, the rich tapestry of thought and imagery woven by the poets have surpassed all creative barriers, transcending the mere trivialities of time, place and existence, and acquiring in the process an eternal, universal appeal. Folklore has always been a driving force of poetry from the northeast, and the region being a treasure trove of folklore and folk traditions, has provided great stimulus in exploring our roots and customs with a new found creative vision and a sense of perception. The exploration of cultural identity and the glorification of our folk traditions is one remarkable facet which manifests itself with such sheer dexterity and passion in the splendid poetry from this region.

The Northeastern poetry scene, at the moment, is churning out a corpus of remarkable and souls stirring poetry, admirable in its refined sensibilities, its harkening for one roots and laced with an eternal obsession with the universal concerns of beauty, tranquility, and naturally, conflict. The tag northeastern poetry is inclusive of an immensely wide horizon, and one that encompasses a variety of impulses. Conflict, beauty, identity and folklore etc have been the major thematic concerns of the poetic outpourings of the writers and poets from the northeast. It should be borne in mind that the aforesaid observation is neither, adequate, nor appropriate, but a sort of lump sump approximation of the same, for the purpose of analytical and practical convenience.

Most of the Northeastern Poets writing in English, surprisingly are based in Shillong and their collective creative innovations have led to the emergence of what has been informally labeled as the Shillong poets. As such, it was with great pleasure that we had the chance to feature one of the most prominent poets from the region, Kympham Sing Nongkynrih- a poet who dons many hats- that of a bilingual writer, poet, folklorist and translator. One of the most talented and prolific poets from the Northeast, Nongkynrih’s poetry encompasses a staggering gamut of impulses and thematic concerns and thus lending to his poetry, a touch of unparalleled brilliance and splendour.

For the uninitiated, please do go ahead and google up his name and you shall see a staggering list of publications with the most reputed poetry journals and publishing houses all over the world. Not surprisingly, Dr. Nongkynrih is one of those very few poets from the region who have managed to cut across boundaries and make a name for himself in the national, and ultimately, in the international poetry arena. As it is, Dr. Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih has published five collections of poetry, two in English, three in Khasi. These include Moments, The Sieve, Ka Samoi jong ka Lyer, Ki Mawsiang ka Sohra and Ka Jingpeiñ jong ka Por: Ki Haiku bad Senryu. And if that is not enough, it would be pertinent to note that when most poets from the region vent out the grievances about the pan Indian publishing houses not investing sufficient interest and applying greater stimulus to the poetry being churned out from the region, Dr. Nongkynrih’s third poetry collection in English, The Yearning of Seeds, is forthcoming from HarperCollins India.

In addition to the aforesaid achievements, it would be worthwhile to note that some of his poems have been translated into Welsh, Swedish and some Indian languages including Hindi and Bangla. Others have been prescribed for the MA English programme of various universities in the country and abroad and his khasi poems are also taught as a part of the higer secondary syllabus in his home state. His other books include edited volumes, critical and translation works in both Khasi and English. He is a keen chronicler of folktales, and his latest book, Around the Hearth: Khasi Legends, was brought out by Penguin India.

One of the most established names in poetry from the region, he was awarded the first Veer Shankar Shah-Raghunath Shah National Award for literature conferred by the Government of Madhya Pradesh (2008) and also the first North-East Poetry Award conferred by the North-East Poetry Council, Tripura (2004) besides a Fellowship for Outstanding Artists 2000 from the Government of India.

As they say, the earliest influences and impressions of childhood act as one of the major influences in shaping the consciousness of the person, and more so in the case of the poet, we delved deeper into his earliest impressions of childhood. “I was born and brought up in Sohra or Cherrapunjee, famed worldwide for the rain and the breath-taking beauty of its landscape, but also known in Khasi as the land of poets and educators”. Speaking of his family life and home, Dr. Nongkynrih says, “After my father’s untimely death, my mother worked as a lowly-paid basic health worker in the Health Department of the Government of Meghalaya. This means that we were quite poor and had a hard life in that sense. But poor doesn’t mean unhappy. Growing up among the sacred woods, the panoramic hills and clear rivers of Sohra; among warm and compassionate neighbours, that remains the best part of my life, and I find myself hankering back to that time again and again. This is why my only hiraeth (Welsh, loosely translated as various form of longing) now is for Sohra, for I still consider myself a true son of the wettest place on earth, baptised by its wind-driven rain and its impregnating fog.” Later on, he went on to complete his education from NEHU and earned his masters and doctorate in English before finally joining his alma mater NEHU as a faculty member. At present Nongkynrih is Associate Professor in the Department of English, North-Eastern Hill University, Shillong.

Coming straight to the question, we prod him about how his initial tryst with poetry began. As he opens up and says, “I started writing when I was quite young, in High School. I still remember how it actually began. I was staying in a rented house in Shillong when a beautiful young woman, with a little girl child, who had been abandoned by her husband came into the same compound. I became madly in love with her. But what was I to do? I was only “a strange and ragged rustic, struggling to be a day-time student, a night-time labourer.” She seemed to me, in her loneliness, like a flambeaux in the dark lanes of those nights. Something stirred inside me. I was racked by a sudden desolate yearning, something fierce and restless, a gnawing, tormenting desire to reach out, to touch— and I scrawled my first few lines, and then, furtive like someone committing a crime, one night I crawled up to her two-room residence and slipped the poem through the door. But in my foolishness I did not even write my name. For days after that, the woman kept looking for the man who had called her his “Light-in-the-Night.” But I did not have the courage to reveal myself.” As he goes on to say, “My poetry was first discovered by one of my teachers in MA, the late Prof. E. N. Lall, who encouraged me to have my poems published in reputed national journals. I was also very fortunate to meet with a group of already published poets. Among them, Robin Singh Ngangom has been my first reader and truest critic.”

Though he is a student of English literature, Dr. Nongkynrih strongly feels that he has not been significantly influenced by any of the English poets. This is because he has always been drawn to the poetry of some famous poets in Latin America, West Indies, East Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Japan. With such a diverse and wide range of influences, it was only natural that his poetry should represent such a staggering gamut of impulses and emotions in all their splendour. Speaking of the thematic concerns of his poems, it would be worthwhile to note that Dr. Nongkynrig comes from a land where folklore and myths are a integral part of the individual and social consciousness and psyche. As such, one is not surprised to find the poet dabbling extensively in folklore and myths. Speaking about how he incorporates folkloristic impulses in his poetry, he says “Chinua Achebe, the Nigerian novelist and poet, once talked about “The Novelist as Teacher.” I would like to talk about the poet as teacher. This is what defines my approach to the folk material. As I said in one of my articles, ‘I would like to talk of our great festivals … and the vitality of their role in our social life… But most of all I would like to remind my people, as a poet raconteur, of the virtues of their ancestors’ ways and the necessity of perpetuating them. I would like to talk of our myths and legends and let those, who will, draw lessons from them.’”

Shifting our focus to the contemporary poetry scene of Northeast India, we ask him about his opinions on the poetry scene of the region, which has been attracting worldwide critical attention and acclaim. Commenting on the present situation of poetry In Northeast India, he comments adeptly, “As you know, the Penguin anthology of poetry from the Northeast Dancing Earth, co-edited by me, has just been brought out. In editing this anthology and the previous one brought out by the North-Eastern Hill University, Shillong, I realise that Northeast poetry is deeply rooted. The roots of the poets’ beloved land; the roots of their people’s culture; the roots of their times; and most of all, the roots of the past that is “lost” to them, have sunken deep into their poetry. And this is the chief reason why their poetry is found, by writers like Jayanta Mahapatra, to be so bonding even though it may come from “the very different regions of the Northeast.” Nature poetry, contemporary realities (like the “banality of corruption and the banality of terror,” influx and ethnic conflict) and the use of myths as a means of rehabilitating the past as high culture, are some of the major themes to be found in Northeast poetry today.”

But perhaps this is just one aspect of Northeast poetry. The fact is that the Northeast is a great melting pot of cultures and there is in it an “uneasy coexistence of paradoxical worlds such as the folk and the westernised, virgin forests and car-choked streets, ethnic cleansers and the parasites of democracy, ancestral values and flagrant corruption, resurgent nativism and the sensitive outsider’s predicament….” As chroniclers of their subjective realities, the poets of the region do reflect in their poetry this “world of eerie contradictions” even as they explore their own mindscapes and tackle the eternal themes of poetry and the many-layered complexities of human relationships. Because of all this, the Northeast poets “cannot merely indulge in verbal wizardry and woolly aesthetics but must perforce” write what Leigh Hunt called the poetry of “felt thought.” Therein lies the universality of their poetry.

It has been an interesting and long journey for the prolific writer and poet and with things looking brighter than ever for Northeastern Poetry, Dr. Nongjynrih has miles to go before he sleeps. Winding up our conversation with the prolific writer and poet, we ask him for his concluding opinions and views and true to our expectations, he comes forth with his comments and seals the conclusion with adept firmness and beauty: “ I just want to say that it doesn’t matter where we live and from where we are writing. The most important thing is to read great writings and emulate great writers. If we can do that, then, as Neruda suggests, it doesn’t matter if our poems have sunken their roots deep into our native soil; it does not matter if they are born of indigenous wind and rain or have emerged from a localised landscape. If they are worth their salt they must “come out of that landscape… to roam, to go singing through the world….” It is indeed a comforting reassurance for all poetry and literature aficionados from the region that he shall continue to enchant us with his mellifluous words about his hills, his people and these roads, all of which we call…. home.

Leading from the front

To be able to lead others, a man must be willing to go forward alone.
– Harry Truman

Being a leader is not easy. For he is the one who has to show the way, in each and every aspect of life, to all those who have reposed their faith in him. He is the one his followers look up to, adhering to each of his directives, with the hope that their lives and belongings as well as those of their near and dear ones are safe in his hands. It is a different matter that in today’s age of cut-throat competition and with our ever increasing lifestyle demands, the definition of leaders and leadership has undergone a dramatic change. While many of us might want to equate leaders with successful people or professional achievers, the fact remains that only a few people are really cut out for the task.
Ace bureaucrat is one such born leader in our midst. While he may today find his name in the list of the many Deputy Commissioners to have served the financial capital of Nagaland – Dimapur, I believe he has already etched his name in the hearts of the people of this erstwhile garrison town. Thanks to a lot of his efforts, peace and normalcy is creeping in to this town once again and the people have slowly started picking up their lost threads in life.
Thanks to Maongwati’s radical and bold initiatives, many in Dimapur have started looking up to him as the answer to their prayers of their troubled city. Maongwati, however, is not satisfied with being just an able and successful bureaucrat. At a time when spiritual leadership has taken a backseat among people all over the world, especially in our strife-torn region, he has been striving to restore mankind’s faith in God and His Love, by openly sharing and preaching His Word and by displaying tremendous integrity and honesty in both his personal and professional spheres of life. The recipient of a number of prestigious awards and commendations, including the Governor’s commendation for outstanding service on two different occasions and a Doctorate in Philosophy from the University of Jerusalem, this charismatic leader has proved his salt as a guide, reformer and skipper of the lone ship in troubled waters.
Maongwati Aier was born to an illustrious family with four other siblings – two brothers and two sisters – all of whom are well placed and settled in life. His mother Makenla was a housewife and Sunday school teacher, while his father S.Lima Aier was an IAS officer himself who had served wholeheartedly to the cause of the Nagaland government in various capacities before finally retiring as Commissioner of Taxation and Excise. Given the achievements of his father, young Maong might have had learnt a few lessons in leadership and discipline at home itself at a very early age, enabling him to step into his father’s shoes as smoothly as possible. His father was the 1st Deputy Commissioner of Dimapur and he the 18th; the son succeeding the father decades later. Given the succession of authority, it is not surprising to learn that Maongwati is quite attached to his present residence – the DC Bungalow of Dimapur. As I glance across at the walls of the old Assam type house, adorned with numerous medals and commendations, he shares modestly, “This is the house where I grew up, where I spent a good part of my childhood with my brothers and sisters. This is the house where I now live with my wife and where my children are growing up. Though it would rather look like a government accommodation for others, I regard this house as my home.”
Having completed his schooling from Kohima, Maongwati went to St Edmund’s college in Shillong for his higher education – a place which, he believes, shaped him up as the man he is today, and of which he still has a lot of fond memories. “Till the late 80’s, St. Edmund’s was undoubtedly the best college in this corner of the world. Under the tough administration of the Irish brothers, the school really blossomed. We had the top most political scientists, economists, historians and professionals of the country teaching there. Coupled with the amount of emphasis given to the wholesome development of the students, it is not surprising that St. Edmunds had churned out countless number of achievers, who have excelled in each and every aspect of life and who are all making a difference today in different parts of the world.”
For almost three decades now, Moangwati Aier has served the State of Nagaland in all its districts and in different capacities, gaining experience right from the grassroots level. With his rich experience and family bearings, he has been able to make a difference almost everywhere he has gone. The road in front of him, however, has not been easy. As he says, “Two years back in April 2008 when I took over as the DC of this town, Dimapur had been declared a war zone. The most challenging task in front of me was the factional war going on in the town. In fact, an IRB jawan had been killed on my very first day in office.”
The time called for thinking out of the box and for bold and crucial decisions. Talking about the drastic steps he took on immediately taking charge, he says, “My first step was to set up the Dimapur District Coordination Group (DDCG). The DDCG was formed with all the presidents of different organizations like the Naga Council, Naga Hohos, the Superintendent of Police, Commanding Officer of Assam Rifles and Commanding Officer of the CRPF with me as the chairman. We (the group) met once every month and since we had direct access to all the different militant outfits, we began to appeal to them to stop killing each other and to reconcile for peace.”
Another feather to Maongwati’s cap was the formation of community policing in Nagaland. Explaining about this novel move, he says, “I managed to gain the confidence of the Naga Hohos and gaonbudhas (village elders) by setting up this system. Under this system, there are 10 community policemen in each of the 21 wards of the town. This system where the policemen are appointed by the gaonbudhas themselves has proved to be highly rewarding as they provide us with all the intelligent inputs. In fact, on a number of occasions these are the very people who have caught culprits, thieves, robbers, and the like.”
Being the administrator of a town has its benefits. But to administer a war-hit town where militants belonging to different factions are out for each other’s blood is no cakewalk. On many an occasion, Maongwati came pretty close to death, something which he acknowledges rather solemnly. He confides, “On three different occasions, I had to go in between the crossfire of both the militant factions to address them through the PA system, appealing them to stop the firing. On one occasion as the SP and I found ourselves in the middle of a crossfire, we narrowly escaped being shot at as bullets whizzed past us.”
Maongwati has had similar experiences in other parts of the State as well. In 2007, when he was posted in Phek as its DC, he had to assume office by removing a war camp infested with militants. “The scenario in the State was chaotic at that time. The two factions of the NSCN as well as the federal groups were all fighting with one another. A war camp had been set up at the clock tower in the middle of the town. With the help of the police, Army and the Naga Hoho, I had to conduct a flag march and remove the camp. Rapid flush-out operations were conducted and a police beat house was installed there.”
Though the road has been rough, the tide is slowly turning around now. With the coming of peace, the developmental process is slowly resuming once again. “Over the last year, five new multinationals have set up shop in Dimapur, which was unthinkable till a couple of years back. A new flyover will soon be put on the map to control the increasing traffic flow, while another will be sanctioned shortly,” he revealed.
While administration is an area where he has excelled, spirituality in the lives of the people is another area that this soft-spoken man is trying to address. For many Christians in Dimapur, Maongwati is not only an administrative head but also a spiritual leader, with many people going on record saying that he is the answer to their prayers for a godly leader. “Most Nagas lack integrity, respect for other’s rights, work ethics and transparency, among other things. These are the symptoms of a dysfunctional society. Through the grace of God and the prayers of so many well-wishers, I have been able to visit and preach in most of the churches of the State, where I have always tried to impress on the people of the need to remove apathy.”
Preaching is something that this bureaucrat loves immensely; in fact, he addresses the morning assembly of the town’s Lima Aier Memorial Higher Secondary School at Lingrijan on alternate days. He puts it, “My father started his career as a teacher and always had a dream to open a school. Accordingly, in remembrance of his wishes we started this school, which is looked after by my wife. Improving and strengthening moral values of students along with all round development is what we are trying hard to achieve through this school.”
Dwelling further on the need for moral education for our children, the intellectual in him exhorts, “Life is more than just achieving one’s professional goals and targets. We’ve many IAS and IPS officers who could not bask in the glory of their achievements, primarily because of increased alcoholism and narcotics consumption and other spiritual shortcomings. A human being is defined by his character; the moral fabric should not be stained even after professional goals have been met.” Maongwati is also the founding member and convenor of the New Path Shelter located at Assisi School, Dimapur. He elaborates on the shelter, “Nearly 50 women in difficult circumstances have been rehabilitated through this shelter, which provides training in livelihood activities and the necessary resources for women in difficult circumstances to pick up their lives once again.”
Besides proper education and a good dose of spirituality, the DC also a lover of sports feels that sports have a contributing role to play in the wholesome development of an individual. He remembers with fondness the sporting activities in his college St. Edmunds and says, “Sports is really a very important activity. A person excelling in the field of sports will also shine in other areas because he would have learnt to discipline his mind. Success in life, you see, calls for disciplining the mind, body and soul. As such the person has no time to dwell on bad habits”.
This visionary bureaucrat, however, feels that one of the biggest problems of the Northeast today, especially Nagaland, is apathy amongst the populace, especially the youth. In his words, “We are poor not because of lack of natural resources but because we lack the right attitude and interest to work. We can create awareness among the people about our wealth of mineral and human resources but unless we generate in ourselves that interest to work and a right attitude, things will remain as they are.” Maybe that is why he keeps urging the youth of the region to broaden their mind and horizons. “Go out of the State. See the rest of the country and the world. Embrace new cultures. Only then you will realise the areas in which we truly lack,” he extols.
Maongwati Aier is married to Imtila Aier and together they are blessed with three children – one girl and two sons. His daughter, the eldest, is doing her graduations in New Delhi, while his two other younger sons are in school. Despite his hectic schedule, the bureaucrat makes it a point to spend quality time with his family. “My wife and children are an important part of my leisure time and are the inspirations of my life. We make it a point to go out together during weekends but since our personal time are so scarce to be together at home, we prefer going out for long drives.”

Fantastic opportunity for Northeast musicians

Music lovers of the country could not have had it better! Committed to expanding its global reach and influence and recruiting more students from overseas, the Musicians Institute of Hollywood is making its first recruiting drive in India this year with an exhibit at Musician Expo at the Bombay Exhibition Center in Mumbai from June 3-5.

Since 1977, Musicians Institute (MI) has trained thousands of graduates for careers in every genre of contemporary music. From the beginning, MI revolutionized music education with hands-on, intensive, performance-based programs taught by working professionals. Today, MI’s unique, innovative approach includes degree and certificate programs for career-minded guitarists, bassists, drummers, vocalists, keyboardists, audio engineers, independent artists, guitar makers, music business professionals and filmmakers.

Musician Expo is exclusive to India. Since 2001, it has attracted the global musical instrument industry to Mumbai for the Indian market. The exhibition features the latest products and technology in music and pro sound and light. The show features a comprehensive array of western acoustic and electronic music instruments; music recording software and hardware; music production and post-production equipment; music reproduction and sound reinforcement; stage sound and install sound; DJ equipment; digital media and accessories.

Thomas Music Corporation has partnered with MI to represent them in India and Sri Lanka, and will be assisting MI with the recruitment of students. Thomas Music with its offices both in USA, and in India, has assisted major US and International manufacturers of Musical Instruments introduce their product line in India. Musicians Institute and Thomas Music will be travelling to Bangalore, Chennai, and other cities to promote the benefit of MI’s unique music education. Interested music students may request their preferred city by visiting

Hudumdoi – The ritual of exploitation

If love speaks a universal language than so does exploitation. There may be changes of climate, colour, characters or the climax but the message, almost all the time, remains the same – the supression and exploitation of the powerless by the powerful, of the downtrodden by the wealthy. Director Mrinal Kumar Bora’s adaptation of Imran Hussain’s ‘Hudumdoi’ evokes a similar tale of angst and exploitation.

Set in the rural backdrop of Goalpara district of Assam, Hudumdoi speaks of the age-old feudel system. But inpite of the oft-repeated theme of the landlord exploiting the weak, illeterate and powerless peasants, Imran Hussain’s tale has a kind of raw energy and vigour about it. ‘Hudumdoi’ is a ritualistic practice whereby the village womenfolk practice a ritual of dancing naked in the paddy fields to appease Hudumdoi – a mythical figure who, as legend depcits, heralds the advent of the monsoons. This ritualistic practice is an integral part of the lives of the villagers. Because the very livelihood of the community depends on the regular and periodic arrival of rains.

Along with the rural background which is sought to be depicted, the other facets of poverty – illiteracy, superstition and disease – also run amok in the story. Set against such a backdrop is the story of Bhanubala who has to run a family, which includes a young daughter-in-law and a small grandson. The landlord of the village had cruelly taken away Bhanubala’s son and killed him – a fact which was unknown to both the mother and her daughter-in-law Behula. With no male member in the family, the family plunges deeper and deeper into the clutches of the lecherous and greedy landlord.

Faced with no option of providing for a livelihood and in the absence of her husband and a male figure in the house, Behula – the daughter-in-law – finally has to give in and succumbs to the demands of the landlord. Her action was fuelled primarily by the need to provide food and the means of sustenance for herself and her family. Just like every other small village, it was difficult for Behula to keep her actions a secret and very soon, the news of her affair with the landlord spread like wildfire amongst the villagers. And once it did, it did not take long for the womenfolk of the village to rush to Bhanubala and complain about her daughter-in-law’s wayward behaviour. Bhanubala, however, takes a tough stand against the villagers.

One night while lying in an amarous embrace with her, the landlord finally succumbs to the young widow’s repeated pleas regarding the wherabouts of her husband and he spits out the truth – that he had killed him. In a fit of rage, Behula kills the landlord.

The denoument of the play is indeed a fitting climax to this tale of love, hate, exploitation, corruption, and of a kind of poetic justice. Desperate to end the bad spell that seemed to have engulfed her life, Bhanubala, towards the end, goes into a trance and performs the Hudumdoi. Her daughter-in-law, mad with frenzy, also reaches the same field after killing the landlord, and cries her heart out there in the field where she believes the body of her dead husband lay. The juxtaposition of Bhanubala dancing the Hudumdoi and Behula crying inconsolably besides her certainly provides for some cathatic moments.

The scene where Bhanubala importunes her daughter-in-law, along with the other villagers, to perform Hudumdoi and the latter’s vehement refusal is also highly captivating. The characters of Bhanubala and the young daughter-in-law was essayed with great force, ease and fluidity. More attention, however, needs to be paid to the dialect.

The director Mrinal Kumar Bora seems to be a bright star in the theatrical firmament of the State. The entire crew really blossomed under his guidance, while the simple yet elegant backdrops provided the perfect ambience for the play. Last but not the least, writer Imran Hussain’s depiction of the subaltern and marginalised section in the story speaks of richness in terms of language and imagery, and a vivid and gripping portrayal of character and situation.

Lucknow wakes up to sound of Dhul, Pepa and Gagona

The Assam Association in Lucknow celebrated Rangoli Bihu at Dilkusha Garden, Lucknow Cantt late last month. The event proved to be a highly memorable get-together of about 300 people of the Assamese community, primarily the families of defence personnel.

The cultural function was inaugurated by the chief guest of the evening, Dr Mishra, the Dean of SGPGI, Lucknow. Inaugurating the event, he gave a thoughtful talk on culture and festivals of the country, with particular reference to the festivals of Assam and its significance in contemporary age.

The evening kicked off with a mellifluous rendering of ‘Oh Mor Asommee Ai’, which was joined by all those present there. The sound of the Dhol, Tal and Pepa soon reverberated across the entire Dilkhusa garden as the people danced to the tune of Bihu songs in the function held in the open air under a Banyan tree.

Among the performing arties, mention should be made of Bipin and Sunita Rabha, Tridibjyoti Goswami and Diganta Saikia and their party, who mesmerized the audience with their Bihu songs. Children and women dances troupes were awarded with prizes by Jayanti Kalia. A grand feast was organized in the afternoon with delicious fish dishes as part of the Bihu celebrations.

The evening truly proved to be a memorable get-together for the Assamese community there and enabled them to relive the spirit of Bihu in a far-off land. The evening ended with a lot of goodwill and the people promising to come together again the next year.

The Lucknow Assame Association has been celebrating Bihu in Lucknow in grand scale for the last many years.

Shooting of ‘Pole Pole Ure Mon’ starts

After the successful production of last year’s hit Assamese film, ‘Jibon Bator Logori’, Hills Motion Picture Association started its second Assamese Film – ‘Pole Pole Ure Mon’ (Wings of Ecstasy) at the campus of the Auniati Xatra in North Guwahati on April 30 last.

The meet was attended by several artists, and a number of technicians and members of the public also participated in the same. Noted actors Nipon Goswami and Dinesh Das, classical dancer Ram Krishna Talukder and Journalist Rezek Ali Ahmed were present in the meeting as guests of honour. Noted actors Moloya Goswami, Arun Nath, Tarun Arora and Pabitra Margherita participated in the various ceremonial activities associated with the film mahurat.

The film will be directed by Timothy Das Hanse. The acting crew of the film has an impressive line-up, including the likes of Nipon Goswami, Arun Nath, Dinesh Das, Arun Hazarika, Moloya Goswami, Beauty Barua, Madhurima Choudhury, Saurov Hazarika, Rag Oinitom, Ravi Sarma, Tarun Arora, Arup Bora, Gayatri Mahanta, Rimpi Das, Shyamantika Sharma, Parineeta, Jupitara Bhuyan, Hiranya Deka, Jeet Sharma, Asthajita, Mowsam Hazarika, Bishnu Kharghoriya, Pabitro Margherita, Raja Murad, Shoma Anand, amongst others. While noted cinematographer Shivanan Barua has been roped in for the project, popular singers like Adnan Sami, Zubeen Garg, Parineeta, Subashana Dutta, etc will be providing the music for the film.

Lucid Recess releases second offering

Following the huge success of the debut offering ‘Carved’, Lucid Recess – one of the top bands of the Northeast – recently released their second album, Engraved Invitation. The album was released by veteran musicians Utpal Barsaikia and JP Das at a simple ceremony in the Guwahati Press Club.
Undoubtedly one of the tightest outfits to have come out from the Northeast in recent times, the rise of Lucid Recess has been simply amazing. But their rise should mostly be credited to a lot of hard work and perseverance. Formed in 2004, the band is made up of two brothers – Siddharth and Amitabh Barooah – along with talented drummer Partha Boro.
The band’s new album, Engraved Invitation’, is supported by Rock Street Journal (RSJ) and ‘Grey and Saurian’. The album is a collection of 12 new songs that has been brought out in a highly professional manner. The first 1,000 copies of the special audition comes with a 20-page booklet, band poster and sticker in a handmade box. Talking about professionalism, Lucid Recess has been highly instrumental in ushering in the wave of professionalism in the region – be it their attitude towards music or even their penchant towards perfection.
The first and only band from Assam to have been selected for the prestigious Great Indian Rock Festival, organized by Rock Street Journal (RSJ), Lucid Recess has a number of firsts to its credit. The band was the first from Assam to have been selected for the Kingfisher Pub Rock Fest, which was held in the Indian cities of Bangalore, Kolkata, Shillong and Guwahati. The band became the first from the entire region to achieve a circulation figure of 42,000 for their album, when their debut album ‘Carved’ was distributed with the Rock Street Journal.
Besides being the only rock outfit from Assam to have won a award for best composition in a web portal competition, the band has also collaborated with professionals abroad while producing the videos for their album. The video of the song “Painstaking Obsession’ from ‘Carved’ was created and directed by Reuben Issae in United Kingdom with a cast comprising of postgraduate students of the University of Surrey in the UK.