The Staff Reporter of The Hills Times, Augustine Teron got the chance to interview the Padmashree awardee Dhaneswar Engti at his residence at Inglongcherop, Diphu. The Union Ministry of Home Affairs has shortlisted his name for the Padmashree Award, 2022 for his contribution in the field of Literature and Education and was one among the many to receive the award.
His short stories, articles and poems have been published in various journals and newspapers including The Hills Times, The Arleng Daily, Solangdo, The Sentinel, The Assam Tribune, Dainik Protibedon, Dainik Janambhumi, etc. Engti was the founder editor–in-chief of a popular Karbi literary magazine ‘Monjir’ in 1976 and founder editor of another Karbi literary magazine ‘Samphri’ in 1984. Apart from writing books he also writes lyrics for Karbi modern songs.
On 28th March, Engti was conferred with the prestigious award from the President of India Ram Nath Kovind at New Delhi. He is the second recipient after Padmashree Rongbong Terang in 1989 from among the Karbi tribe in the hill district of Karbi Anglong.
Despite being so busy with his literary works and attending too many calls from the writing fraternity and well-wishers, he has spared his time to share his thoughts and feelings about his writing journey and the award. Here is an excerpt of the interview.
The Hills Times (THT): Sir, heartiest congratulations on being awarded with the Padmashree. What are your feelings?
Dhaneswar Engti (DS Engti): I feel proud and well deserved to receive the award as it is the recognition of my work by the Government of India in the field of Literature and Education. I am honoured to receive the prestigious award from the President of India and this award is not given to me, but is given to the people of Karbi Anglong and Assam as it would not have been possible without their blessings.
THT: Tell us something about your childhood memories.
DS Engti: I was born on 1st November, 1955 at Bithilangso Palam Engti village in Karbi Anglong district. I am the eldest of three brothers in our family. Actually, I did not want to go to the school and therefore engaged myself in cultivation by helping my aunt. My father late Mohori Engti and mother late Basa Kropi were illiterates. And my father was a Sarkari Gaon Burah, but as he was illiterate he had problems with reading and writing. After surpassing all the oddities of life, my father was determined to send me to school. This is how I was enrolled in Panjuri Palam Engti Govt. LP School set up in the year 1961.
THT: Share with us about you education life and your journey of being an ACS officer.
DS Engti: After Panjuri Palam Engti Govt. LP School I joined Merok ME School Dengaon in the year 1965 and passed my HSLC from Dengaon government aided high school in the year 1972. After that, I joined Diphu Govt. College and completed my B.A. degree in 1978. I also did my M.A. in English from Gauhati University in 1981.
I also appeared for the Assam Public Service Commission (APSC) in 1986 and was selected as an ACS officer. I was first appointed as executive magistrate and posted at Hamren SDO (Civil) office, now West Karbi Anglong district. But the CEM and EMs asked me to stay back at Karbi Anglong District Council (KADC) now Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council (KAAC), where I served till my retirement in 2017.
THT: What inspires you to write?
DS Engti: I am a lover of my own mother tongue and during my high school days my teacher Kutububdin Ahmed has inspired me to start writing. At the primary level, I studied in Karbi medium, high school in Assamese medium and at the college level in English. So I have a good grip in all the three languages which has truly inspired the hidden writer in me.
THT: Do you remember when did you start writing and what was your first book all about?
DS Engti: I started writing when I was in ME school by writing small Karbi poems. In High school and college also I wrote several articles, short stories and poems. My first published book was ‘Ne lunjir’ in Karbi, which is a book of poetry.
THT: How do you describe your journey as a writer?
DS Engti: I write because I love writing and I write poems because I love reading poetry. I have great respect for writers and I have great fond of reading their books.
THT: Do you have a particular book of yours which you have special feeling for?
DS Engti: I have a special affection for the book ‘Ne Lunjir.’ Though it is a small book, a collection of short poems, it has expressions on patriotism, love for literature and feelings of humanity. It is my first published book. Balimahi in Assamese and Candle in The Night, a poetry book in English are also very close to my heart.
THT: Can you describe the environment for writers/intellectuals in the hill districts?
DS Engti: It depends on the person concerned. Supposing if you blame others, you can blame anything. But we have to realise what we can do for society. It depends on your thinking. You should not write books in order to get recognition and awards but rather as a contribution to the society.
THT: Do you have any young promising writer/s in mind among the Karbis?
DS Engti: Yes there are many promising writers among the Karbis. Say like Arun Teron, Joysing Tokbi, a very romantic poet On Teron and Kamsing Engti. I hope that their work will get recognition and in the near future, they will be awarded with the Padmashree award too.
THT: Any advice for the upcoming writers?
DS Engti: Writers must be fearless. He or she should be able to speak out about what is wrong and what is right. Writers should not be a puppet of others.
THT: As you have been conferred the Padmashree Award in the field of Literature and Education, what do you feel about the present educational scenario in the hill districts of Assam (Karbi Anglong, West Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao)?
DS Engti: You see education policy is being prepared on the need of the people. The Government of Assam has already given importance to the development of one’s mother tongue at all level of education. Karbi Lammet Amei is also doing tirelessly for the promotion and development of Karbi language. As the Karbi language is not included in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution of India for recognition of languages and we are not receiving the Sahitya Akademi award. My request to the Government of India and Assam is to include the Karbi language in the 8th Schedule.
THT: Is there anything else that you would like to say?
DS Engti: I want to thank the Government of India for bestowing me with the prestigious civilian award. I thank the President of India Ram Nath Kovind, The Home Ministry Government of India, chief minister Dr. Himanta Biswa Sarma and our chief executive member of KAAC Tuliram Ronghang. The complement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying, “Kaise ho? Lage raho, laghe raho” meaning continue doing it, has inspired me so much. I will continue to write as the work of a writer never ends. Kardom.