GUWAHATI, Dec 21 - Having remained frozen in time and print for exactly 100 years since that wonderful compilation of 30 Assamese folktales by Sahityarathi Lakshminath Bezbaruah, Burhi Aair Sadhu has undergone an extensive revision, with the latest edition not only doing away with caste-indicating references, but also coming with a list of word-meaning at the end of each story.
The revised edition – done for the first time ever – has been undertaken by journalist Samudra Gupta Kashyap under the guidance of noted litterateur and former Asam Sahitya Sabha president Dr Nagen Saikia, who himself is an authority on Bezbaruah, the doyen of Assamese literature.
Releasing the book at the ongoing 13th North-East Book Fair here on Tuesday, Dr Saikia said though the folktales in Burhi Aair Sadhu have withstood the test of time, it had become necessary to revise the stories, especially in the context of changing times and perceptions.
“Perceptions have changed with time. Our culture and way of life have also undergone tremendous changes in the past 100 years. A number of words and expressions have gone out of fashion while newer ones have crept in. Our folktales, which had moved with time through word of mouth from one generation to another, cannot afford to remain static. Had Bezbaruah been alive today, he would have probably been the first to have undertaken such a task of revising the stories,” Dr Saikia said.
Lauding the revision that Kashyap has carried out, Dr Saikia said it was a difficult task, especially in keeping the original structure of the stories intact.
“One of the primary functions of folktales is to increase the communicative ability of people, especially children. That exactly is why the beauty of a story lies in the way one tells it. I am happy Kashyap has not effected any change in the stories except doing away with certain terms and expressions that are no longer acceptable. A day would probably come when we might have to entirely rewrite stories like Tejimola or Tula aru Teja, given the cruelty that they contain,” Dr Saikia said.
Speaking on the occasion, internationally acclaimed Guwahati-based children’s writer Arup Kumar Dutta said Burhi Aair Sadhu not only reflected the richness of Assamese literature, whether oral or written, but has also inspired generations of children since it came out in print 100 years ago.
“Stories help children develop their imaginative capabilities, and Burhi Aair Sadhu has almost singularly played this role for 100 years in Assamese society,” Dutta said.
Describing the changes in the revised book, Kashyap said he had not only removed references that indicated castes, but also done away with some derogatory terms that were used as abuses in some of the stories.
“Long sentences have been cut down into shorter ones, and meanings of words that were in vogue a century ago have been given at the end of each story,” he said. The revised edition, priced at Rs 100, has been published by Banalata.