Kishalay Bhattacharjee’s Che in Paona Bazaar is a reticent vein running through the North East. The short stories are chased by a population who are buried under the unmixed concrete of violence which is a common factor by now. The stories move like flipping television channels across a border that survives with the fear of hope. The author has lived in the North East for long to know the differences between a normal life elsewhere and the lives of normalcy in that part.
The title character here is the region. The insurgency that plagues the nation hits the headlines whereas the smaller / insignificant stories never make it to the newspapers. Kishalay Bhattacharjee gets everyday stories to present his non-fiction material. Buri Ma, an old woman looks after ‘left over’ children for nearly 27 years. All the children were brought up on marijuana sale. The author becomes one among them with an outsider’s eye. The festivals that are a fusion of traditional rituals along with Vaishnavite practices bring the town a new flavour. Hindi films are orphaned on the other hand Korean films and television serials dominate cinema halls. Powerless (both: free thinking and electricity); rapes by security forces, naked protests against rapes hamper the prospects of wetting the land with promise. In the midst of all the cacophony people are adept at sports.
North East is also notorious for its involvement in training child soldiers. A child soldier blows up a railway colony market in Guwahati with an auto van carrying gas cylinders for home delivery in return for some good Chinese meal at a city restaurant. If a child carries such a scar into adulthood, he will pass it on to the future generation. Many stories in the book are mundane chores that may happen anywhere but since it is a conflict infested area, there is a sense of curiosity.
The author’s journalistic approach seems right for Che in Paona Bazaar. He’s emotionless, unapologetic and lacks sentiment. Serenity needs to flood the small strip that is a part of India, North East is not an alien nation, the seven states are included very much. The book shows that the people living there lead a life of wet mud in the anticipation of a melted jaggery.