Panel discussion on English literature emerging from Sikkim

Monday, Feb 15, 2021 08:00 [IST]

Last Update: Monday, Feb 15, 2021 02:19 [IST]

Panel discussion on English literature emerging from Sikkim

BIJOY GURUNG

‘Need libraries in govt schools, create more public reading avenues to promote reading culture’
GANGTOK,: Emphasis should be given to expand school libraries and creating more public avenues for reading to incubate a reading culture in Sikkim, opined celebrated authors and poets during a captivating panel discussion here on Sunday.
The panel discussion on emerging English literature from Sikkim at a local hotel was organised by SKM students’ wing as part of its three-day book fair at M.G. Marg.
Poets Guru T. Ladakhi (Monk on a Hill) and Tashi Chophel (How to collect a folk tale) and authors Chetan Raj Shrestha, Parshu Dahal, Ashim Basnet and Pankaj Giri took part in the deliberations moderated by Karma Chopel Bhutia.
Parshu Dahal, in his observations, said developing a reading habit – be it English or Nepali or other language – should commence from government schools and villages given most students study and reside in rural Sikkim.
“Encouragement is very less for reading in schools…we can encourage our students to start reading by giving them an assignment to read books twice a month and submit a written review. It could be literature of any language and would encourage our students to read. It (reading culture) has to start from government schools and villages. Reading culture would not progress if it does not start from government schools and villages,” said the author of ‘The Lama Who Never Was’.
Adding to this, Tashi Chophel said people do read for pleasure but sometimes they should be forced towards it for an initial exposure. We need to push people towards reading, he said and mentioned that potential to have a vibrant reading society is there in Sikkim with interventions needed to have ease of access to reading materials.
We want people to come to libraries but we should also make it easier for them to visit libraries, submitted Tashi Chophel.
Chetan Raj Shrestha also stressed on the need to expose people towards literature through public reading avenues. He expressed sadness on the dismantling of the community hall library, Development Area a decade ago which took away a major public library for a long period.
“There is only one bookstore in the town and books are expensive. If you don’t give them (people) avenues then you can’t say people do not read. Show them first and if they do not read then we can complain (that people do not read). We have to open as much libraries as possible in the districts,” said the author of ‘The King’s Harvest’.
Pankaj Giri, the author of ‘The Fragile Thread of Hope’, shared while readership is not as good as desired in Sikkim, creative promotional activities can be undertaken to attract readers.
On the question why it took Sikkim so long to have published English poets and authors, Chetan pointed out that Sikkim became a part of India only in 1975. “Sikkim was a young State then trying to find its feet. There may be latent talent then but most of the energy went into building the State. This may have taken out creative minds who could have written in English. Nepali literature had a slow but steady growth but English literature took time,” he said.
Guru T. Ladakhi added that Sikkim was still trying to find its feet for many years after being a part of India. The whole effort that time was in building the new State, priorities were doctors and engineers rather than a writer, he said. He recalled that neighbouring Darjeeling was a happening literary hotspot then but now Sikkim literature is more prolific.
“Over the years, things have changed and in the last ten years or so, lot of literature has come out from Sikkim compared to almost none from Darjeeling. So it is not so bad here if we are to compare with our neighbouring region. We have made a beginning and as this journey continues, I am sure there would be more young, bold and imaginative writers. I think we are in the right track,” said Guru T. Ladakhi.
Ashim Basnet, the author of ‘Black, White and Grey’ short stories, shared about a couple of published works by Sikkimese authors in past. “We always had this latent talent but no guts to come out and publish. We have come a long way and have a long way to go. We have tremendous potential in Sikkim in English writing,” he said.
Lok Sabha MP Indra Hang Subba, Gangtok MLA Y.T. Lepcha, Soreng-Chakung MLA Aditya Golay, Chief Minister’s political secretary Jacob Khaling, dignitaries and students attended the engaging panel discussion.

Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi