“The Hills are Alive”
A truly enriching experience for writers and non-writers alike, the discussion titled ‘Voices from the Valley’ gave a chance to novelists and poets from Uttarakhand from all walks of life, to showcase what motivates them to keep the mountains in their writing.
The panel consisted of Ekta Uniyal, Venu Sanon andd Manju Kak, with Jaskiran Chopra chairing the talk, that provided allowed the audience the lens through which they could perceive the amplified senses a writer might be gifted with, due to the beauty of the natural landscape they are surrounded with. It was discussed, how some authors might not be especially appreciative of the existence of these hills that lend much more than just aesthetic inspiration, others are able to make them the defining element of this precious natural resource (read Ruskin Bond!).
“The mountains are alive, they aren’t dead; and they’re here to make you feel more deeply.”
Ekta Uniyal elaborated on how a first person account, a personalized narrative was imperative to her vision as a writer. In ‘The Mountain Girl’, avoiding a distant approach, she chose an almost autobiographical path by creating a character that matched her own self, leading them into a story that she envisioned, inspired by her travels in the mountains.
Venu Sannon, in ‘At the Brewery Cottage’, has stuck to non-fiction; detailing a personal narrative that included characters from the world of humans, as well as that of spirits. Readers are expected to be prepared for an open minded interpretation of rationality in order to engage with the account of events.The book lucidly reveals the author’s own and her family’s history in her familiar locale that is Mussoorie. A writer by profession, Sannon only took the craft while on bed rest from a bout of pnuemonia.
In the Shadow of the Devil by Majni Kak explores the life of craftsmen in hilly regions. Once again, the hills reign supreme, and that includes not just the stricture, its also the people, the air, the culture, how these elements interact. Moderating the event, Chopra asks her about the motivation behind probing this dimension of mountainous life.
As a socioologist and ethnographer, she was fascinated by the dichotomy in the craftsmen’s life and work, and where they are located in the caste system. Decoding this puzzle is her what provides her with the motivation to pursue this book.
The role of memory is important here; among those who take to the pen and happen to reside amidst the scenic beauty that exists wherever you have mountains, it the much more than just the nostalgia of their childhoods.
Ekta Uniyal says she considers herself a naturalist by choice. Urban surroundings have their own moments of inspiration, but they lack the maturity of the hills, and cosmopolitan works may in some ways, be lacking of the space and time that is liberally derived from those who spend their lives in the calmness and quite of valleys.
The session was immensely helpful in understanding the consciousness behind naturalist writing and its motivations, and also gave a much needed platform for some exceptional talent.
Yusra Khan, St.Stephens