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A Writer must have Enormous Wings of Imagination with the Roots on Ground

A Writer must have Enormous Wings of Imagination with the Roots on Ground
January 20
12:38 2020

(Imran Hussain (1966) is an engaging storyteller, who has extracted his tales from a spectrum of lore where myths, magic and stories merge into each other; where the natural and the supernatural inhabit with native ease. Hussain, a teacher of Political Science by profession, belongs to the westernmost district of Assam, Dhubri, where cultural polyglossia is one of its most distinctive dimensions as several languages as well as cultural mores habitually converge giving a rich texture to its myriad narratives. His collection of Assamese short stories, Hudum Deo aru Anayna (Sahitya Akademi, 2003, later translated by Mitali Goswami as The Water Spirit and Other Stories, Harper Perennial, 2015) drew immediate attention of critics following the exploration of narrative possibilities at a completely different note. Following his close proximity to life, through the very experience of living in a non-descript urban backyard, he evolved the acumen to deal with the apparently discarded lot with the warmth of a fellow traveller, for he believes that a ‘writer must have enormous wings of imagination’, which does not necessarily grow in the confines of limited social boundaries. His stories, therefore easily transgress as the free tales from one social locale to another, where from the stories of the Prophet, he had heard from his grandfather, to the seemingly erogenous fertility rites of Hudum Deo of the Koch Rajbanshis become his prolific flight feathers.

Among the awards he has received includes Katha Award for creative fiction, Chandraprabha Barua Memorial Award, Jehirul Hussain Memorial Award et al.) – Jyotirmoy Prodhani

Bondita Barua in conversation with Imran Hussain deciphers the creative trajectories through which his imaginations and experiences transform into tangible narratives of absorbing tales.


BonditaBarua: As you are a fiction writer with abundant imagination, what are the elements that make a person a creative writer, according to you?

Imran Hussain: To become a creative fictionist you must have a pair of enormous wings, wings of imagination. With those wings, you must fly to the land you have never seen before— to the time and space, the places and the people, the chronology of events and everything. Along with boundless imagination, you must have strong roots that will keep your feet on the ground. As you have to search for your roots in the soil, you will as well have to get out of the soil to search for that other world through your enormous wings, to find the land of the unknown. But only experiences are not enough, along with that your perspectives towards those experiences are crucial. The understanding of life, entanglement with roots, imagination and ideas, and opening the doors of perception to the lived experiences and beyond are juxtaposed to untangle the maze you need real control of the language. That is what transforms a creative writer to a creative artist. And the language is very important. After all, Mallarme rightfully points out that “it is the language which speaks, not the author”.


BB: You have mentioned just now that childhood experiences are important. Please tell us about your childhood.

IH: Though you may find lots of myths, superstitions, customs, beliefs of our rural folk life in my stories, my life, on the contrary, is purely urban. I was born and brought up in Dhubri, a sleepy town at the eastern corner of Assam. My home is just opposite the huge dirty slum called ‘Dabri’. This place is near a close ended railway line where murderers, drunkards, pick-pockets, movie ticket-blacker and cheap prostitutes used to dwell. I have seen lots of communal riots and murders in my childhood especially at the time of the Bhaxa Andolan. During those days, murderers and daredevils like Minnu, Babu, Azad, Duberu, Joban were our real heroes. We wanted to be like them as everybody was scared of them. In such awful milieu, I would have gone astray had my father the late Liaquat Hussain not been there. He was a strict teacher and an extraordinary artist. He had painted the portrait in oil of Shankardeva in 1962. My grandfather, a staunch follower of the teachings of the Shariat, did not approve of painting portraits. But he had great skill of telling the tales of Islamic prophets, the legends of Hassan-Hussain, tales from the Arabian Nights and so on. Maybe my imagination had its formative seeds in those moments.


BB: Why are you so much attracted towards water, myths and the world of the supernatural?

IH: I do not know why I like water bodies so much especially rain and dew drops. Sometimes I feel these two elements are not earthly at all. Many nights I dreamt of weird places with showers of rainfall and sometimes fish falling from nowhere. Though I have this fondness, yet simultaneously I am also terrified by water since I cannot swim. Whenever I happen to see big rivers and lakes, my imagination flares and I feel as if there are villages inside. For that reason perhaps I was inspired by the local myth of Baak, the water spirit. Hudumdeo is a deity of rain of the Rajbongshis, the community to which I originally belong. In this story I tried to use the Ramayani myth of Rishi Risha Singha, the harbinger of rain and Behula-Lakhindar, but with a different connotation.


BB: There are elements of magic realism in your stories. Can you enlighten us on how you establish the link between the real and the magical?

IH: “Encroach” was my first story written in 1994, at that time I was not aware of Magic Realism. But after three years, I read a Bengali translation of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “An Old Man with Enormous Wings”. This story, which was written for children, gave me two new wings on my shoulders to fly with my imagination. Magic realism is a way through which firmly grounded stark reality can be depicted fully, conveying a wonderful vision of the fantastic and magical features of reality. Other elements like the presence of the supernatural, play with time and space, multi-dimensional hybridity, layered fictional narrative and plenitude amaze me a lot. This is the narrative technique I had experimented with in my stories, “The Water Spirit” and “Encroach”.


BB: The author is a creator; do you think the translator has the liberty to exercise his own power over the author’s text or is the translator held back by any limitations?

IH: Both the author and translator are creative persons and both have their own limitations. A creative writer portrays his imagination through his writings. But can he control his characters? Can he write exactly what he imagines? Again, the translator’s job is to take the author’s text to a different language. She also has imagination and creativity. But at the time of translation, her creativity should confine to the author’s creativity, her credibility will lie in her ability to imagine what the author has imagined. So she has to transform with precision the author’s lines into the target language, not only the written lines, sometimes delving in between the lines. If she wants to go beyond that, she becomes the author!


JyotirmoyProdhani is a Professor of English at NEHU, Shillong.

BonditaBarua is a Research Scholar at the Department of English at NEHU, Shillong, Meghalaya. 


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