By: Tania Saili Bakshi
Pic Courtesy: Sachin Chauhan/Shailendra Kant
The latest edition of VoW’s ‘Authors from the Valley’ hosted Bijoya Sawian best known as a writer, translator and an educator who made Dehradun her home some five decades ago.
Born and raised in the hills, Bijoya did her schooling from Seng Khasi and Loreto Convent Shillong. She then went on to do her graduation and post-graduation from Delhi University. The author was in conversation with another fellow author, poet, painter and educationist Deepanjali Singh. Deepanjali moved to Dehradun from Australia and is currently working on her second children’s book and a poetry collection when she is not busy producing plays and conducting personality development classes in various schools in the district.
The camaraderie and comfort between the author and the moderator at the VoW Cafe - Gallery – Studio brought alive Bijoya’s journey from her home in the hills of Meghalaya to Dehradun, a town known for its green-hedges and grey-hair. As Bijoya gently puts it, “After a serene childhood in the hills of Meghalaya, a mind- blowing five years in Delhi University, Dehradun was a perfect balance when I came here 48 years ago. The then picturesque town, the pace and the people inspired me to realise my dreams - write and translate. That is the Dehradun that still lives within me and it will always be so.”
Smitten by the written word from an early age, Bijoya has a rich literary career behind her. Her work involves highly acclaimed translations from Khasi into English. Her works of fiction include Shadow Men, A Family Secret and other Stories. Shadow Men was shortlisted for the prestigious Rabindranath Tagore Literary Prize 2020. Bijoya's essay, A Khasi Masterpiece, Ka Jingsneng Tymmen was published in an anthology, "Native Voices of India". Her essay on Shillong is part of the highly acclaimed anthology titled 'Between Heaven and Earth'. Bijoya is a regular contributor to various literary journals, magazines and newspapers. Her stories and articles have been translated into Hindi. Her piece on Khasi rituals is featured in Namita Gokhale's most recent anthology, 'Mystics and Skeptics,’ by Harper Collins.
The author has also penned down a biography, 'The Legend Unfolds-Palasi Sylhet Shillong, an Incredible Journey'. It is an absorbing account of her father, LBK Dey's life who was a celebrated police officer, the last IG Police of undivided Assam.
Speaking about the author, VoW Festival Director Dr. Sanjeev Chopra added, “We, in Dehradun are delighted that the Shillong born Bijoya has chosen Dehradun to be her second home. Not just as a translator and chronicler of the mythology, folk tradition and contemporary writings of her Khasi people, she is an established writer in English language as well. VoW is privileged to have her in the ‘Authors from the Valley’ fourteenth edition, for she is a definitive person with a brilliant narrative style.’
At present, Bijoya is the Chairperson of 'Annfield Senior Secondary School' in Vikasnagar Dehradun which she and her husband Alark Singh established in the year 1997. Bullets points for budding writers from the prolific author are, “our first book should be based on a subject, (incident, person, place) you know thoroughly. Secondly, stop reading books simultaneously for they intrude into your work and it will show. Thirdly, good editing is extremely important.”
The hour-long session dedicated to authors from Dehradun and people associated with the written word has made its mark on the literary calendar of the Doon valley. Hosted on the first Sunday of the month at the VoW Café -Gallery-Studio, the event has hosted over a dozen serving and retired bureaucrats; authors, poets; senior journalists who share their passion for writing with the next generation as well as senior citizens which makes for an interesting afternoon conversation with like-minded, vibrant and inter-active audience over a cup of tea.