Suravi Sharma Kumar evokes the beauty and turbulence of Assam in her debut novel
‘After long humid days, the breeze from the river relieved the valley. The red silk-cotton trees around the paddy fields flourished with seed pods, and with each gust of wind, the pods swirled and split, releasing confetti of cotton threads… while a bunch of village urchins clowned under the trees.’
This excerpt from the novel Voices in the Valleydescribes what is veiled in the valley of Assam. The serene and innate beauty of Assam has been brought alive by the author Suravi Sharma Kumar.
“Beauty of the land is the theme of the novel. It is about how a woman, feminist in thought, evolves in rural Assam. I wanted to bring the rural flavour of Assam in front. Guwahati and other cities are just like any other metro city. It is this rural life-my ancestral house, the vicinity which I have described,” says Suravi of her debut novel.
Apart from meticulous details of fresh green tea gardens, purple ferns, exotic variety of orchids, chirpy little birds, one horned rhinos, iridescent long pathways, this novel is about rural life, ethnic clashes, militant activities, women’s rights, and violent elections.
Suravi is a doctor by profession but has always been fascinated by literature. “Writing is my passion. I have been writing health related articles. This story has always been in my mind. I have been experiencing it all my childhood in Assam. So, I thought of enlarging this story. It took me almost three years to write this novel,” says Suravi.
The cover page of the novel again reflects beauty of the valley. It contains a pink orchid hanging on top of a background of blue and green. Suravi explains, “I get many compliments on the cover page. It is beautiful. This pink flower known as Kopou flower is very famous in Assam. Bihu dancers wear it on their heads. It is also our state flower.”
The novel has been written in a unique manner. Every chapter is divided into several parts. The author said she wanted to give it a poetic and epic touch. “Assam is such a beautiful place and people are not aware about it. That is why I wanted to describe its landscape and scenery in a poetic way,” she beams.
The main character of the novel, Millie is very strong. She struggles against orthodoxy, fights for her rights and goes on to become a student leader. She is described as ‘golden daughter’ by her mother. However, the most intriguing aspect of her character is her embodiment of Assam. “Millie represents Assam,” says the author. “Her childhood days are placed in the year 1962. That feeling is still very strong in all the dwellers of Assam. Again when she becomes a student leader and participates in protests, it echoes real student protests in Assam in 1975,” she adds.
One of the main problems which the character raises is inheritance of land by sons of the family. She confidently says, “Women in Assam are much stronger than all states of India. They are quiet broad minded and western in thoughts. Problem of inheritance of land by male member of the family is all over India. It is just that Assamese girls are more out spoken. They raise this issue of property a lot in Assam.”
So what part of the novel is fiction and what is real? She answers, “The stories in this novel are true stories. It is a collection of different biographies, a number of parallel stories . But these did not happen at the same time. I created the relation in stories and put all of them together.”
She is currently working on a medical project. Her second novel is also ready to be published. “It is a medical college life story of a girl in a metro. She is placed in Assam but moves to Delhi. It is common practice in Delhi. Girls complete their graduation here and then move to metros for higher studies,” the author says.
(This article was first published in The Hindu-MetroPlus)