Classical music aficionados of Guwahati were in for a treat last week. The reason was the 2nd Guwahati International Guitar Festival which was held at the Directorate of Museum, Government of Assam in Ambari on December 20th last.
The Guitar Festival was initiated by the Indian Guitar Federation and city-based Mineral Water led by Lueit Hazarika. Into its second edition this year, the guitar festival featured a few master classical guitarists and others nylon instrument and who kept the entire audience mesmerized till the very end.
The performing artists in this year’s edition included Johannes Moller from Sweden, Thu Le and Lorenzo Bernandi from Italy and Ricardo J Martins and Fernando Ponte from Portugal. Before the concert in the evening, a classical guitar workshop was held in the lawns of the State Musuem in which around 65 students and music enthusiasts participated. Talking about the workshop, Lueit said, “Like last year, the workshop was open for all students and youngsters who have the basic guitar playing skills. We had around 65 participants this year for the workshop which were held on the lawns of the museum.”
The evening concert featured performances by the invited artists and the small auditorium of the State Musuem was packed to the brim with many people sitting on the stands to watch the eclectic performances. The evening began with a performance by Swedish composer Johannes Moller. An ambassador of the ZhenGan guitar of China, Johannes Moller had won the Concert Artist Competition Guitar Federation of America (GFA) in 2010 and performs close to 100 concerts across the globe every year. He started the evening with some of his own compositions and finished off with a unique fusion of Western Classical notes based on Indian Classical music.
The second performer, Thu Lee is an international award winning performer. Originally born in Hanoi, the guitarist who now lives in Bahrain. An influential classical music guitarist, she has earlier performed in countries like Italy, England, France, Germany, Spain, Bulgaria, Romania, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, USA, Nepal, Turkey, etc.
The final act of the evening saw master guitarists Ricardo J Martins and Fernando Ponte from Portugal. Both of them are ambassadors of the Portugese Guitar which is the main accompanying instrument for the Fado music of Portugal. Fado is the traditional folk music from Portugal described by UNESCO as an “Intangible Cultural Heritage”. It is usually characterised by mournful tunes and lyrics, often about the sea or the life of the poor, and infused with a sentiment of resignation, fatefulness and melancholia.
After the concert in an exclusive conversation with the writer, Ricardo spoke about the influences of Potugese music, especially Fado, in other parts of the world, especially in Goa of India where they are scheduled to perform before the end of this year. Lueit too spoke about the similarities of the music of a few communities of India and those of Portugal
Veda Aggarwal, Director General of the Indian Guitar Federation, said that the concert was an attempt of the federation to give people in the Northeast a chance to experience the best classical musicians of the world. The concert had earlier travelled to Calcutta and Imphal before coming to Guwahati.
A musical career spanning 50 years.. a single-minded devotion to Hindustani Classical music and its science and art… an instrument called the violin… one of the most difficult instruments to master… and weaving with the bow and strings a magical power to induce both happiness and tears with the same notes. That is the virtuosity of Minoti Khaund, the veteran violinist from Assam who has spent a lifetime in the pursuit of Hindustani classic music and its promotion in the region.
A musician who has established her mettle as a specialist amongst her craft globally, she has been a staunch guide and supporter to hundreds of musicians who have come under her tutelage and who have carved a name of themselves in their own right. But she perhaps takes pride in the fact that she has managed to groom and lay a strong foundation for her own daughter Sunita Khaund Bhuyan, who is presently earning critical acclaim across the globe through her mastery with the bow and fiddle.
Born in 1940, Minoti started playing the violin at the tender age of 10 years. Born to a musically enriched family in the music loving town of Jorhat in Upper Assam, she first expressed her desire to play with the fiddle to her maternal grandfather, Mr. Biswa Sarma, a noted connoisseur of the fine arts himself. Her grandfather could sense the passion in the girl child’s eyes and bought her a violin. This is when Minoti’s ethereal journey started with the violin and classical music began to encompass a rich musical career which has spanned more than 50 years now.
Reminiscing about those early days, she recounts, “My grandfather was the President of All Assam Music Conference – Jorhat chapter. Everyone in my family had a huge inclination towards music. We were exposed to a lot of music shows where maestros used to come and perform. That atmosphere helped me a lot in my career. I must have been eight or nine years old when I started my career in music. There was a music school in Jorhat run by Late Lokanath Sarma where children from well-established families used to come to learn music. We learned under the guidance of Indreswar Sarma.”
Her family’s deep rooted interest in music also helped her develop as a musician. As she says, “My mother wasn’t a musician, though, but she stood by me through thick and thin, to become my source of inspiration to pursue music. At that time, learning music wasn’t easy as teachers were not available and there weren’t many institutions as well. But my sister, Pronoti Khaund is a singer. My brother (who is no more) used to play tabla, flawlessly. The All Assam Music conference played a pivotal role in our lives for giving us abundant opportunities of performing in different platforms, and at the same time meeting the experts and learning from them. I can recall many instances when in the December month’s chilly nights, people used to sit all night long clad with their blankets to listen to music, until 6 am in the morning, with a lot of patience. It was highly motivational for us. I was already performing before marriage, for I was the only lady violinist in the town, perhaps in the whole of Assam. I got married at the age of eighteen.”
The turning point in her life came when she was performing at the All Assam Music Conference in 1972 and violin maestro Pt. V.G.Jog heard her on stage and offered to impart his art to Minoti.
Minoti, already a mother of two and the daughter-in-law of then Deputy Commissioner Rabindra Ram Khaund, agreed to this god sent opportunity and started her apprenticeship under Pt. Jog. Her husband Kabindra Ram Khaund and her family supported her completely in her journey seeing her thirst for music and devotion towards the violin.
Fifty Glorious Years in Music
Thereafter started the traditional Gururshisya Parampara between Minoti and Padma Vibhusahan Pt Jog. Minoti bloomed as a musician under Jog’s able guidance and the exposure of performing on live shows besides him. For Indian Classical Music this is the best way that a student of music can imbibe the nuances and intricacies of the science and the art of classical music, accompanying the guru and simultaneously building a rapport with the audience.
Acknowledging the huge role of her guruji in her life, Minoti says, “Getting opportunities of seeing the performances of noted violinists, and also performing with them, has played an integral role in my learning. When I used to go to Calcutta to learn under my guruji, he used to take me to various music conferences, and to meet various other gurus, to see and learn from them. I met A T Kana, vocalist (a maestro). We played vocal music, not in words, but with our fingers. Pt. Budhadeb Dasgupta, another noted musician, also shared his knowledge, and I could learn a lot from him and his gharaana. He was a very liberal person. And, he is the one who inspired me to learn from everything. He said that I should grab a piece of learning from everyone and everywhere, wherever there is something good to learn.”
The Rising Talent Conference at Kalamandir Calcutta in 1978 introduced Minoti as a talented artiste in front of the knowledgeable gurus and music hungry audience of Kolkata. There has been no looking back since then. The Amir Khan Music Conference at Rabindra Sadan Calcutta, Benaras, Burdwan, Cuttack, Bhubaneshwar, Tatanagar, Rabindra Natya Mandir Mumbai, India International Center Delhi, Mehta Memorial Hall Allahabad, IIT Festival, Shankardev Kalakshetra Guwahati, National Gallery of Modern Art Mumbai, India Habitat Centre Delhi, Women’s International Forum Goa, Kala Ghoda Fest, Mumbai, Nehru Centre London, Glasgow, Nehru Centre Mumbai, Madhusudhan Manch Kolkatta, Kameshwari festival, SAWF Sri Lanka, Ganga Mahotsav Varanasi, Sangeet Natak Academi, ITC SRA series, etc were some of the platforms that Minoti performed in and enthralled the audience and press alike. She became the foremost violinist of Assam and did her motherland proud, earning accolades by blending the tantrakari style of Pt Jog with her own inherent melody.
Innovations and Awards Galore
Minoti continued her parallel studies in the field of music and attained Sangeet Nipune from Prayag Sangeet Samitti, Allahabad, in 1986, bagging a gold medal for her Sangeet Visharad. During this period, she also got associated with vocalist Pt. A.T, Kanan of the Sangeet Research Academy, Kolkatta and imbibed the “gayaki ang” in her style. She also underwent music studies in the field of raga improvisations and rhythmic patterns of “tala” from sarod maestro and musicologist Pt. Buddhadev Dasgupta. She became an empaneled Artist of ICCR, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India in 1990.
Minoti’s new composition on Durga Shakti with her daughter Sunita Khaund Bhuyan, “Invocation of Ma” has taken the mother daughter duo across the country and abroad. She was conferred the title of Sangeet Jyoti and was recently conferred the Shilpi Award by the Assam government for having completed 50 years as a violinist and music teacher. She also received the Lifetime Achievement in Music recently by the Paschim Guwahati Durga Mandir Trust recently. Besides, she brought glory to Assam when she received the Exceptional woman: Creating a Better World Award at the Women’s Economic Forum in 2018 and the R. G. Baruah Award for Excellence in her Craft in 2017.
Contribution to the Field of Music
All through her musical career, Minoti has been contributing towards society by propagating Classical Music amongst the youth and teaching the violin to the young and old alike. Her vast experience in the performing art and musical studies gives her the edge to impart music lessons on the violin with technically accurate systems and methods.
Pt Jog was so impressed with the way Minoti had groomed Sunita into the intricacies of the instrument that he also offered to train Sunita under him and thus carried on the “guru shisya parampara” across two generations of violinists. The mother and daughter have been currently performing jugalbandis together
Minoti currently is the visiting faculty of a reputed music college of Guwahati and is a panel examiner for music courses at the State College of Music and Art. She is currently focused on spreading the knowledge of music as a sublime recreation and frequently speaks in music forums and conducts workshops and seminars. She has also retained her penchant for writing and is a prolific writer of music columns and articles in journals and newspapers. Her endeavor has been to propagate music among today’s generation and make music a medium of achieving inner peace and harmony and thus spreading positive energy and harmony throughout the society.
When asked if she felt that her achievements in the field of music have not been acknowledged at par, Minoti Khaund, as a true musician, says that her inner satisfaction is paramount and that “no external titles” can deter her from her passion. “I have spent an entire lifetime in pursuit of music which has brought happiness to me from within. I am well aware of my own capabilities and I have crossed the stage when I have to look to others for approval.”
Encouraging Fusion, But a Purist at Heart
A purist at heart, Minoti Khaund has strived to keep the flag of classical music flying high. But she is also aware of the need for cultural evolution. She encourages today’s youth to experiment with different kinds of music as she believes that all melodies in the world centers around the 7 notes of Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni. However, she maintains that mastery in any kind of music can be attained only through the pursuit of classical music. This has been the content of many of her speeches and columns, which has inspired a large number of young people to learn classical music.
As she says, “We all have to evolve with the changing times. During my jugalbandi performances along with my daughter, while I encourage her daughter to go ahead and experiment with other genres, I myself stop after a certain point,” she says.
Music is more than just a soothing performing Art. The possibilities of using this Art form to heal the mind, body and spirit is endless and that is what a number of musicians and artistes have been trying to do all over the globe. The latent powers of music, as has been successfully proved by the Eastern Beats Music Society in Guwahati, can be exploited to a large extent to unite people and to heal wounds, something which is truly remarkable.
Now, another prolific musician from the State has won an innovation award for her attempts to use music to enrich life and productivity in office. I am talking about ace violinist Sunita Bhuyan who is presently working as a Human Resource professional in Mumbai. Sunita recently won the award for ‘Most Innovative HR practice’ at the World HR Congress for her training program in Syntel – ‘Life enrichment though music’.
With long office hours, tough deadlines, grueling schedules, demanding clients and unsympathetic bosses being some of the main features of most of today’s professional careers, stress comes early in a person’s life these days. Add to it lifestyle problems like lack of exercise, more bouts of anger and worry, the result if predictable: decreased productivity and higher chance of psychological and physical problems.
The manifold benefits of Indian classical music need not be undermined and you only need to listen to benefit. The scientific aspects of certain raagas for tackling diseases like hyper tension and cardiac problems have been well documented.
There are raagas for every time of the day. Morning raagas like Raag Bhairav, Todi, Ahir and Bhairav helps boost metabolism and puts you in an energetic and chirpy frame of mind. Besides opening up the nervous system, it lifts endorphins making you feel calm and contented. It also helps in tackling indigestion. Needless to say, the morning raagas are perfect for you to tackle a hectic day at work!
Similarly, post-lunch raagas like Raag Bhimpalashri, Kafi and Dhani helps one beat the post-lunch sluggishness that is usually found to affect one during the afternoons. Besides perking you up, songs with these raagas usually invokes a cool frame of mind. Evening ragas are again mostly romantic, providing vivid images of love, colous and nature – just what you need to relax after a tiring day at work!
An interesting feature of Sunita’s module is ‘Raaga to Bollywood’ – an unique method in which one can make use of the benefits of Indian classical raagas from hit Bollywood numbers. So if you don’t have the patience to listen to raagas and if you are not able to understand the nuances of Indian classical music, you need not worry. Sunita prescribes just a few hit bollywood tracks based on the same raagas and which are just as useful in beating stress! For instance, if you humming the all-time hit Tu cheez bari hai mast mast, you are just listening to Raag Bhimpalshri. And if you think Kaisi Paheli from Parineeta is soothing, it is imperative you know that the song is based on Raag Bilawal!
So next time you go out music shopping, just be a bit more careful in choosing your music. Buy stress-free music, which are available in most music shops in plenty, and help lead a more productive life – both at home and in office! And on a more personal note, let me say that there’s nothing like making music. If you can squeeze out the time, enroll in a music class today! The benefits are enormous, trust me.
With what words do you describe a musician who devoted his whole life to the pursuit of good music but could not see the day to bask in full, unbridled glory of his achievements? I guess that unfortunate would be the right word to describe Late Nupur Bordoloi who left for his heavenly abode having got but, just a glimpse of a prolific and international music career. After all, how often it is that Assam or the country for that matter, sees the emergence of musicians, who can be termed as ‘export materials’?
A gentle giant, Nupur earned many a nickname during a short but none the least, eventful music career with tenga doi (Sour Curd) being one of them. And though the tenga (sour) tag stuck throughout, his music had always been sweet from the very beginning. It would be wrong to classify Late Nupur just as a keyboardist and ‘maestro’ would be the right word to describe a person of his stature. He was one of the most talented musicians that the region has ever produced and he had been part of some of the most popular and trend-setting musical initiatives of Assam, as well as the north eastern region. In a region lacking in trained musicians, Nupur was amongst the very few graded Western Classical musicians and his journey to International stardom was cut short as he had to fight a losing battle with an adversary like blood cancer.
Despite maintaining an unerring belief in the higher power till his very last moment, life had been grossly unfair to this pioneering musician. During our last meet when he had just recovered from a deadly dose of malaria leaving him totally weak, his faith seemed to have increased manifold. And during our entire chat, while he talked about the importance of faith in our materialistic world, the words of a Khasi guitar strumming crooner kept flashing through my mind,
“Tell a man to paint a picture,
To paint in sorrow, paint in pain.
I will look through the eyes
Of a world driven insane.”
I remember Nupur saying on many an occasion during his last few days, “We are living in such a beautiful world. Man has become so destructive that paap (vice) has engulfed us from all sides. I pray that the pristine glory of this world remains intact and retains, at least some, if not in entirety, some of its earlier glory”. The paap must have become really unbearable and he left soon after but similar to his nature, he saw to it that the transition from his physical state did not cause any problems for anyone.
An arts graduate from B. Barooah college, Nupur’s music genius had been recognised by a lot of organisations in many places throughout the country. In 1993, he was adjudged the best accompanist (national category) in a nation-wide music competition organised by Mood Indigo, where his band Dorian Platonic had gone to participate. In 1996, he was awarded B-high grade, as a western classical musician of piano accordion, by All India Radio. He had composed music for the award-winning and trend-setting television serial, Preyoxi. Some of the music albums which he had composed are Angelica with Dilip Fernandez (1994), Rosti (music arranged by Bhaya-Mama), Anamika (Zubin Garg), Sinaki Logori and Pahi (Kaberi Goswami), Najaba-Najaba (LIVE by Kumar Bhabesh and Jayanta Kakoti) besides numerous other compositions and Bihu albums. He had also composed the music for an English album, Friends in Touch by Dhruva Sarma.
The musician who loved to admit that he, in fact, loved singing was never happy with the western music scene in the state and his deepest regret was of the fact that people in the State had failed to understand the real beauty of this particular genre of music. A fan of legendary composers JS Bach and L Van Beethoven, Nupur wanted to cut an instrumental fusion album of folk and western classical music which would have again, been a first of sorts. “It all depends on Deepak Baba and Maa Saraswati”, I remember him saying.
And as I followed his mother inside his strikingly sparse room where sunlight had long stopped flowing, Nupur’s visage in the portrait hung along side those of other Gods, evoked a sense of peace and radiance which illuminated the entire dreary surroundings. The person who promised to make a mandir in Deepak Baba’s name seemed to be at peace with himself and with the world which ironically, had always snatched so much from him. I just pray that his soul rests in peace, wherever he may be.
Among all the States of Northeast India, Nagaland has always evoked a sense of mysticism and awe, something which has been further intensified by its remoteness and its people who have managed to successfully preserve man’s animist culture. The varied and rich topography of the land which is inhabited by a group of fiercely independence-loving warriors and their ancient traditions have further added to the mystic appeal of this hill State.
Bound together by its own set of rituals, customs and traditions, Naga culture is exclusive in its own right. The State has a population of only around 1.9 million people, which might sound meagre when compared to other Indian States; but these very people are made up of 16 different tribes, each representing different cultures and preserving different customs. However, with the conversion of the population into Christianity and the incorporation of western influences into their daily life, the rich and varied culture of the Nagas is slowly falling onto oblivion. There is an urgent need to save Naga culture for the present and upcoming generations, primarily for its youth so that they are aware of their roots, their identity.
Up close with Sentila Tsukjem Yanger, Padmashree awardee
In our search for those dynamic Northeasterners who have managed to bring about a positive change in society through their efforts, the melange team recently landed at the door of Sentila Tsukjem Yanger. A Naga textile specialist and craft revivalist, Sentila is widely acknowledged for her work with women craft artisans, which has provided vital links in bringing around sustainable rural development. An ardent advocate of the use of natural dyes as eco-friendly alternatives, Sentila has been experimenting with and incorporating value additions in Naga fabrics with the aim of making it more attractive amongst the younger generations. Her efforts have paid off as youngsters in Nagaland, as well as the rest of the country and the world, today carry with élan, trendy and fashionable clothes and bags which are based on traditional Naga textiles. Not just textiles, Sentila has been at the forefront of those working for the preservation of Naga Art and culture. An avid music enthusiast, she has been working with young people in Nagaland to make Naga folk stories, music and tradition more interesting by recreating them in digital format, while incorporating modern techniques like 3-D animation and experimental Naga folk music. In acknowledgement of her significant role in shaping policies for Handloom and Handicraft development and women’s empowerment, Sentila Tsukjem Yanger was bestowed with the prestigious Padmashree Award last year.
Following are excerpts from a discussion which Aiyushman Dutta recently had with the suave lady at her residence in Dimapur.
Aiyushman: Please tell me something about your childhood.
Sentila: I was born to Late Tsukjem Wati and Achila Tsukjem of Mokokchung district in Nagaland. I was born into a pretty affluent family as my father was a successful businessman, being one of the first Naga Army contractors. My father had completed his education from Bombay Commerce College and after he came back to Nagaland, started providing food and other supplies to the Army. His decision to become an Army supplier was significant for Nagaland was passing through a turbulent stage during that time, there were a lot of anti-India feelings in the State. Under those circumstances, his work assumed more risky proportions.
Aiyushman: You studied in Shillong for a considerable period. Please tell me something more about those days.
Sentila: Though I started going to school in Nagaland in the first two years of my school life, I did most of my schooling in Loreto Convent, Shillong. I still remember how traumatic it was for me when I first joined Loreto Convent in 1965. Hailing from a small school in Mokokchung which taught me just passable English, I felt totally out of place amongst the highly westernised and articulate students of Loreto Convent who spoke the language fluently. Looking back, I barely understood the language and was just bewildered in such company initially. I remember my reaction when I met the first blue-eyed blonde in school – I could not take in the sight as I didn’t know whether she was a doll or a human! We had no other option but to pick up the nitty-gritty of the language. Hostel life again was quite an experience. I was just around six years when I went to hostel and it was pretty frightening. I adapted though and developed an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. In many ways, my schooling in Loreto Convent helped lay the foundation of my life and made me the person I am today. After Shillong, I left for Mysore to attend Theresian College and thereafter at Bangalore.
Throughout my days in school and college, I was very much into sports, the Arts and craft. Having a deep interest in extra-curricular activities, I won a lot of prizes in elocution and painting competitions in school.
Aiyushman: You have also been working in the field of prevention of substance abuse. Can you elaborate a bit?
Sentila: I have always been involved in a lot of charity work and our club –the erstwhile Yorovan Club – was the first organisation in Nagaland to wake up to the threat of drug addiction in Nagaland around the early eighties. One thing we realised was that the Nagas as a whole – especially the elderly people – had not even realised the implications of the widespread use of narcotics and prescription drugs by the younger generations. Though the thrust was on prevention of drug abuse in Nagaland, we also had to make the elder people – the fathers and the mothers – aware about the problem.
In 1984-85, we started a year-long media campaign in Nagaland through the two English newspapers which were published in the State at that time in order to educate people about drug abuse. We got in touch with a rehab facility in Kolkata and organized the first de-addiction camp in Nagaland in April 1986. We collaborated with the district medical officer here who provided us with the ward space for the detoxification camp at the Dimapur Civil Hospital. Besides, we organized rock concerts and other shows to garner support for the cause, and the money generated from these activities were always used for holding de-addiction camps.
Aiyushman: Looking back, how would you view those days?
Sentila: In those days, there were very few people who were aware about the problem. At the end of the day, we are satisfied for contributing at least a drop into the ocean; drops that led to the creation of a ripple. This ripple has now become a wave of sorts as people are now highly aware and sensitized about the problem.
Looking back, we were just a group of like-minded individuals having a genuine concern for society. It was all self-motivation and since there was a genuine sense of responsibility, there was genuineness in our actions.
Aiyushman: Please tell me about your family.
Sentila: I am married to Aochuba Yanger, who is a successful paper technologist. We met in Bangalore and decided to get married. He spent around 4 years in the Mandiya Paper Mill before eventually deciding to come back to Nagaland, where we have been ever since. One of my sons Limawapang is a musician and composer who is presently based in Mumbai, while my other son Lipoktemsu Yanger is a successful graphic designer also working out from Mumbai. My son Lima is married to this wonderful girl Anisha Sengupta, who as the name implies is Bengali and Parsi from the maternal side.
Aiyushman: Why did you choose to work on textiles?
Sentila: There was always a creative side of me which I wanted to nourish; I wanted to get into an area which needed to be explored. So I started experimenting with textiles for I saw a huge scope in this field. I had always been perturbed to find that traditional Naga fabrics are all based on the same style, even though we have a wide range of motifs at our disposal. In order to make our textiles more appealing to market opportunities, I decided to experiment with our textiles by applying the same traditional designs in a more contemporary mode. Accordingly, I started a weaving unit in my house with around six weavers who were all suffering from their own individual problems. A blend of tradition with the contemporary was how I started designing and producing my products.
Aiyushman: How was the beginning like?
Sentila: People nowadays are more conscious about colour and trends. The market today is ruled by these factors. My products follow these colour trends but at the same time, they have elements of ethno Naga. Handloom entrepreneurs in earlier days were concentrating primarily on traditional stuff; but we, the second generation entrepreneurs, have taken it to another level. My initiative which began with just six weavers has now expanded to around 80 weavers who are spread across Dimapur and two villages in Mokokchung district.
Aiyushman: Did you ever think that your initiative would reap such rich dividends? What kind of difficulties did you have to face?
Sentila: Well, the focus was always there to take the work to a very high level. When I first started, the emphasis was on taking Naga fabrics to the world audience. This objective has now been more or less achieved by the handloom entrepreneurs of the State. We have managed to incorporate a lot of professional ethos into the Handloom sector of Nagaland, while frequent textile fairs have helped promote Naga fabrics to people outside.
As far as difficulties are concerned, there were quite a few. Firstly, we were all quite young and there was very little professionalism in the beginning. We also faced a lot of problems with regards to availability of trained workers and sourcing of raw material. To top it all, it was always a difficult job procuring new colour schemes.
Aiyushman: Working basically as a craft specialist and revivalist, how did you get drawn into the field of women rights and women empowerment?
Sentila: After personally witnessing the domestic problems of the six weavers who had joined me in the beginning, I grew more aware of the need for supporting the womenfolk; aware of the necessity to bring women together collectively and channelling their energy into a positive direction. Tribal Weave was accordingly formed in 1994. I have always championed the cause of women empowerment and rights and had the privilege to address these issues in several platforms. Some of the committees I have been associated with are: Member of the Working Committee for the 11th Plan Preparation on Village and Small Enterprise, (Gender Perspective) Planning Commission, GOI, Special Invitee, National Board on Skill Development, Planning Commission, GOI, Nagaland State Level Women Empowerment Committee, Member, Thematic Group on Gender Issues for the Nagaland District Human Resource Development Report.
Aiyushman: I hear you are also pretty much into music…
Sentila: Well, music is a passion which goes back to the days of my childhood. Having started with the music of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, music is something which has remained constant throughout my life. Classical music has also always been an integral part; I started learning the piano when I was in Class 2. Though it’s been years since I sat behind the piano, I would say music requires a lot of dedication and perseverance for a person who wants to make a career of it. Otherwise, music is the food of love- play on.
Aiyushman: What aspect of Naga culture and heritage do you feel should be projected to the rest of the country and the world?
Sentila: Frankly speaking, I don’t approve of promoting Nagaland as an area of jungles, animals and rustic people. That is not the real Nagaland. See, culture is constantly changing; globalization has resulted in a sort of monoculture – that is one culture for everybody. We have so many aspects to our culture; I believe each and every facet should be promoted and preserved.
Aiyushman: What do you feel about the insurgency problem of Nagaland?
Sentila: I seriously feel that there are a lot of other areas which need our attention other than these issues which have been going on for the last sixty years. However, I would leave the specialists and civil societies to help find a solution to the problem. But yes, I would still say that there are a lot of other areas which need our attention; issues like HIV and AIDS, violence on the girl child, unemployment, loss of cultural values, unabated influx of migrants from Bangladesh, and the like.
Aiyushman: Talking about loss of cultural values, what do you have to say on the blind imitation of western culture by today’s youth in Nagaland and the Northeast?
Sentila: I basically grew up during the hippie period and like others of my age, I found the love and peace thing “groovy’. We were the generation in the region to wear mini skirts, bell bottoms, platform shoes while boys sported long hair, frilled shirts, wore beads, the generation to give the “culture shock”. You can say that we were the first generation to bring “monoculture” to the region; looking back, let us be the first to say no to the blind imitation of western culture.
Aiyushman: What are your views on the increasing trend of learning Korean by Naga youngsters?
Sentila: This is something very alarming as urban youngsters of Dimapur and Kohima are now incorporating so much of Korean language and culture into their lifestyle that they are slowly losing touch with their own traditions; many can’t even speak their own mothertongue! As a result, we now have children communicating with their parents in Nagamese. Besides being highly unfortunate, this is something which needs to be taken very seriously.
Aiyushman: What are your plans for the future?
Sentila: I like to take it one day at a time. But I do envision a future where we all march ahead, looking back on our past to shape the future and take the best of our cultural values with us.