Chansa Makan’s ‘Living Ghosts and Other Uncanny Stories’ review


CHANSA MAKAN’S Living Ghosts and Other Uncanny Stories is equally an easy and a complex read. Positionality might determine the sway. For an outsider, these stories could merely be myths, thrillers or random ‘other’ uncanny stories. For an insider, these stories, as also in nostalgia, have in-depth historical, social, cultural and a teeny weeny bit of political underpinnings, among other things. He does it well in his attempt at reaching out to the outsiders; and for insiders, he realises the dreams of many in putting out the richly embedded oral histories and/or uncanny stories; simultaneously spotting and leaving the areas that require further works.

As colloquial as it is analytical, Makan shuttles between colloquial translation to retain the essence of Tangkhul Naga-ness and the Victorian ‘cultured’ analysis of events and lifeworld in attempts to engage with the readers outside the community. In other words, apart from his ‘stylised’ representation of oral histories and/or uncanny stories, he also unravels the indigeneity of these stories embedded in Tangkhul Naga culture, lifeworld and worldview. For instance, in ‘Kazeiram Kazang: Journey to Sheol’, the author narrates an account of a particular event detailing the practices and belief system surrounding the larger understanding of eschatology among ‘pre-Christian Tangkhul Nagas’. He also reiterates the clashes in the worldviews – pre-Christian and Christian Tangkhul Nagas.

Related | Stories of the past: Recalling our ancestors in Chansa Makan’s Living Ghosts and Other Uncanny StoriesCover Photo Living Ghosts 1

This incredible work meticulously deals with the fragility of indigenous folklores, histories, culture, social mores and its orality. It is a clarion call upon readers to wittily ‘decolonise’ their ‘colonised’ (by default) ‘minds’. There are glimpses of colonial satires and catnaps in passing as wry sense of humour to justify arguments by negation. Not to forget that the author here is unpacking certainly sensitive taboos to the public which in itself is a courageous endeavour but a prerequisite for a community that is swelling with newer ideas yet infested with identity crisis and injured with clash of worldviews.

Historiographically decolonial it is, in the sense of the term that this work attempts at ‘talking back’; writing history or recording/documenting oral narratives by community themselves against misappropriation or misrepresentation and so forth. His work also gives a new but Tangkhul Naga perspective to the world and the way they wish themselves to be seen and understood by the rest. Decolonial logic might help capture the textuality of his work. If a reader succeeds in such immersion into the texts and its textuality (Tangkhul Naga lifeworld ‘a priori’), one would best manage to arrest ‘an’ interpretation that is coherent with indigenous worldviews; wherein lies the honesty of Makan’s writing and the beauty of metaphoric mind/consciousness of the Indigenous Peoples, Tangkhul Nagas in this case.

Also read | Book Review: Homecoming and Other Stories – Jim Wungramyao Kasom

If there ever was a blemish in this book despite its marvel, it would be the usage of non-indigenous concept of time; for that matter, a Tangkhul Naga conception of time in itself requires altogether a series of research works, debates, books and so forth. Otherwise, Makan’s Living Ghosts and Other Uncanny Stories is path-breakingly BIG and evidently there for all to read. It is rich in oral history, romance and its melancholic twists and dramatic flares, and spine-chilling ghost stories. Might I be spared the honour to elucidate the details of such a great work?! Yet I ought to warn the future readers beforehand to not make the same mistake as I did. Have a friend alongside while reading some of the chapters. You could be reading the same word on the same page with the ghost/s. I think I was :-). Overall, this work is a beauty; as smooth as satin in its extraordinary blend.

Review by Shaokhai Mayirnao

Pages- 126

Publishers- Bluerose Publishers (2020)

You can buy the paperback here AMAZON

You can buy the e-book here AMAZON Kindle Edition

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