I spent a considerable amount of my childhood with an old couple who used to be our tenants in one of our rented rooms, who treated me like their own grandchild and so, I called them Pupu and Abok. Pupu was a great storyteller, he would narrate to me tales of great wonders — folktales, fairytales and everything in between. The time spent with me listening to his great tales sparked my interest in folklore from a very young age. As I grew up, we drifted apart and I felt the need for more so by the time I had learned to read and write, I turned to other sources like books to feed my ever-growing curiosity and interest.
My love for stories of legends and myths about my culture did not stop at me just listening or reading about the wonders of it all. I wanted to share it with people I knew and people who loved reading as much as I do. I felt like it was my job to keep looking for stories unheard of, stories that were unknown and stories that had long remained buried, never passed from the lips of the person who heard it last. I felt I needed to search, listen then pass it on just like it was passed on to me.
In early 2017, I was walking around with a completed manuscript and a goal of seeing my first draft published. Story-telling has always been something close to my heart so when I had compiled and put together my first draft, I was sincerely hoping to see it in print but I had very little knowledge of how book-publishing worked, or what went into the making of an author. Nonetheless, I was pretty adamant with my goal of seeing my book in print and so, I set forth to self-publish my book. What embraced me when I did was a rough time because I was not prepared for it. Because I had no prior experience, no support and no guidance from the right people, it proved to be a harsh period for me. Although my first book did decently well with sales and feedback, I soon ran into trouble with my publishing house that propelled me to stop printing my book altogether. It greatly discouraged and disheartened my spirit but this rough patch, like all other rough patches in life, soon waned.
By the time I published my second book, I was better prepared than I was the first time. Some time after my second book was published, I was able to re-publish my debut book by courtesy of my well-wishers and the Ministry of Art and Culture, Manipur. Despite these, there were times I contemplated, biting my nails, whether I was worthy enough or whether my works were worthy enough. Nevertheless, I still learned how to navigate the publishing world and discovered new things everyday, no matter how tough I had it. Today, when I see the love my work receive, I am reminded of why the hardships are all worth it. So much good can happen when you let your curiosity and your thirst for learning take over.
As I narrate my story, I am, again, reminded of the wonders of how story-telling provides people the foundation for connection and one-ness. To find a feeling of one-ness through culture, history and the greatness of a tale is the essence of my work. Likewise, let what greatness of your culture you hear from the lips of a wise person, not remain idle with you but pass it on to the next person and so on lest the beauty of our culture, our identity wither.
Linthoi Chanu is the author of two books – Wari: A collection of Manipuri short stories and her debut book, The Tales of Kanglei Throne. Her books focus on Manipuri folklore, myths and legends.