It was in 1998 that the first of the four volume series of the 'Knit India through Literature project – the volume on the South Indian languages - came out. I certainly did not then feel the fear and trepidation that I do now, as I stand on the threshold of the second volume being published, this one on the East Indian languages.
I have had a lifelong acquaintance with the South Indian languages of Malayalam, Telugu, Kannada and Tamil, through the several trips made to the neighbouring states during school holidays to visit numerous relatives. Hence, I did not feel any discomfort during my trips to Hyderabad, Trivandrum or Bangalore to meet with the various writers I needed to meet for the first volume. On the other hand, the trips that I undertook for my research on the eastern languages left me utterly bewildered most of the time. Apart from the usual problems like an unknown language, an unknown region and unfamiliar food habits, I was faced with many a practical difficulty on account of the work itself. There was the problem of communicating with some writers who could not understand English. Then there was the problem of transcribing the cassettes of the interviews several times on account of the different pronunciations. Worse still were the additional trips I had to undertake to far off places like Darjeeling and Imphal when I found that the interviews had not yielded sufficient material or there were doubts that had to be personally clarified with the writers.
The project was basically accomplished in three phases. The initial spadework involving research on the language, the field work that involved travelling to the homes of the various writers and interviewing them and then the work of transcribing the tapes on my return to Chennai and editing and writing them up. I took the assistance of others only to transcribe the tapes. While my assistants found the job of transcribing the tapes containing the interviews of the South Indian writers easy on account of their familiarity with the languages, they were somewhat challenged when it came to the Eastern language interviews.
As a result of lack of proper communication, the interviews of some important writers have unfortunately been excluded from this volume. Despite sending him two letters, I could not get in touch with the Jnanpith Award-winning Oriya poet Sitakant Mohapatra. I probably had the wrong address and, as a result, the letters possibly never reached him.
In the years that have gone by between my fieldwork in the eastern region and the release of this volume, there have been many changes, many losses. Dr. Birendra Bhattacharya and Dr. Jagat Chhetri, who accorded me such a warm welcome and hospitality in Guwahati and Darjeeling respectively, are no longer with us. Mr. Subhas Mukhopadhyay, who was so encouraging, is today able to communicate with others only with the help of a writing board. Although I grieve these losses, I am happy that I was able to interact with these people when they were at their cheerful best.
All the trials and tribulations that I had to face in the course of this work are of no matter to me now that the book has been published, after systematic and honest research and through the co-operation of all the esteemed writers.
The foreword written by the Jnanpith Award-winning Malayalam writer M.T. Vasudevan Nair is an ornament that serves to embellish this volume. I am thankful to him and all the others who have made this work possible.
My inner soul calls to me at his juncture, cheering me at this halfway mark and encouraging me to proceed undaunted with my efforts to complete this Herculean task. I am confident my inner grit and determination will see me through the tasks of completing the work on the Western and Northern languages shortly.
Sivasankari (born October 14, 1942) is a renowned Tamil writer and activist. She has carved a niche for herself in the Tamil literary world during the last four decades with her works that reflect an awareness on social issues, a special sensitivity to social problems, and a commitment to set people thinking. She has many novels, novellas, short stories, travelogues, articles and biographies to her credit. Her works have been translated into several Indian languages, English, Japanese and Ukrainian. Eight of her novels have been made into films, having directed by renowned directors like K. Balachander, SP Muthuraman and Mahendran. Her novel 'Kutti' on girl child labour, filmed by the director Janaki Viswanathan, won the President's Award. Sivasankari's novels have also been made as teleserials, and have won the national as well as regional 'Best Mega Serial' awards. As a multi-faceted personality, she has won many prestigious awards including Kasturi Srinivasan Award, Raja Sir Annamalai Chettiyar Award, Bharatiya Bhasha Parishad Award, 'Woman of the year 1999-2000' by the International Women's Association, and so on. 'Knit India Through Literature' is her mega-project involving intense sourcing, research and translations of literature from 18 Indian languages, with a mission to introduce Indians to other Indians through culture and literature.Rent Now