Whether it be the Progressive Writers Association that Ishmat Chugtai and Mulk Raj Anand were part of or whether it was the Bloomsbury Group, who comprised of writers in Britain the likes of Virginia Woolf and the Bell siblings that got together to discuss literary and philosophical ideas – there is always a revolution brewing in the world of literature. Usually, the beginning of a literary movement starts with the banding of like-minded, young people witnessing major political and social shifts in their landscape and ideas begin to emerge out of cocoons that had stayed hidden. They’re transformed into words on paper and in due course of time, another young person picks up the end product and vows that it changed their life.
Such is the story with Redendron, founded by three individuals – Hemant Adhikari, 20; Thupden Gurung, 23 and Sachin Rai, 23. The trio, along with a few other students attending college and school met to sit and discuss youth mobilization and wanted to facilitate the growth of Sikkim’s young intelligentsia in a positive manner by providing a platform to showcase their love for art and writing.
Thus, in 2017, the first edition of Storytellers was launched with the theme of “Redefining Humanity” and the speakers chosen were mainly philanthropists and people who took the time to reflect on the essence of being human. For example, they had invited Dewakar Basnet, a popular educator and public figure who spoke about how instant gratification kills humanity. Simply put, they invited those who had gone beyond their selves in finding innovative solutions that were parallel with humane approaches, for problems that the youth is concerned about.
Today, Gangtok Groove was abuzz with conversations between individuals who had all broken stereotypes and paved way for new ideas. Six speakers – Mandira Chhetri, Biswas Timshina, Tenzing Tsundue, Sewon Rai, Prashansa Gurung and Chimie Dolma narrated their stories to an audience rapt in attention. It marked the second edition of Storytellers, with ‘A Paradigm Shift’ as this year’s theme for discussion.
“I was very fortunate to be one of the people selected to speak. It was a great experience. Redendron is really upping the game in terms of culture and art. I always thought they were a bunch of people in their 30s and 40s who had a lot of experience but then I realized they were juniors from my school, doing such amazing work!” says Bishwas Timshina, popular comic and YouTuber. “We need people like them to inspire the youth and I want to help them as much as I can.”
Redendron describes themselves as a “youth-led collaborative exploring the art and culture of Northeast India”. Why is it important to have a venture such as this in Sikkim, or rather, the Northeast?
The NE has a dearth of good writers but is overflowing with skilled artists. In both traditional and contemporary spaces, there are craftspeople who can spin beauty out of nothingness. Yet when it comes to literature and writing, there aren’t many whose voices have been amplified on a national scale. Sure, there are renowned authors like Janice Pariat, Prajwal Parajuly, Easterine Kire etc., but words boil and brew in the minds of the newer generation. The Millenials and Gen Z’s care about narratives and mediums of expression and engage in conversations about science, philosophy and beauty.
Storytelling lies in our blood. We have grown up with the tradition of passing on stories and advice orally as a universal thread that binds us no matter what region we base our identity on.
When Redendron was first started, most of the members were writers, so they began publishing only their works online. Once it caught up, people began sending in entries from Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Arunachal Pradesh, broadening the horizon and signalling the start of serious business. “It was a bit hard for us to manage at first because of how far and widely scattered the writers were, but we got used to it.”
Another speaker, Tenzing Tsundue, founder of Skatekonnect thinks that people nowadays only glamourize things that serve consumerism and don’t do the same for thinking and reflection so having something like Redendron make an effort to empower others to do that, is commendable. “Sikkim needs more groups like Redendron. My experience with their event was beautiful and emotional. I think it was very self-revealing; all the speakers had overcome different challenges. We all have different perspectives and principles in life, however, there is a familiar thread of self-belief between us.”
He adds, “To create something, you don’t just need creativity and motivation – you have to know oneself properly. All the decisions you take have to hold true to that…I think that’s something all successful people have in common.”
The other notable aspect of Redendron is that they are self-funded. “We occasionally do branding and graphic designing on the side and have been working on an e-magazine. The question of ‘how can an artist create a living sustainably?’ always crossed our minds so we decided to make a magazine for creators.”
So as to not spoil everyone’s surprise, Thupden mentions two interesting content topics that will be present in the e-magazine. For one, they would be decoding the lifestyles of artists, musical and non. To elucidate, in an interview with a popular singer whose name obviously will go mentioned here, Gurung has asked questions pertaining to what he/she likes to do on a lazy day or how they deal with their anxieties and stress. It is a break away from stoic interviews with artists, where the listlessness of factual queries often dampen the spirit of dialogue.
Then there are writings on culture and stories (mostly folklore) from the Northeast. This is an area that the writers seem keen on exploring since many of the published works on their website under “Mountain Tunes” have beautifully written articles explaining various mystical rituals, traditions and lores.
Still, Redendron does not conform to only writing and fine art. They launched the Redendron Show, a podcast that has been discontinued six months ago, after a successful first season featuring 9 creative individuals. “When we started it, we thought the equipment did not matter but turns out, it did. We didn’t have funds to buy proper tools for sound. Currently, we are not actively planning for it but we will continue the show in the future.”
If the older generations were worried about the future of Sikkim, it is in their best belief to see that in the presence of such inventive and engaging personalities, who go the extra mile to ensure their regions best minds have a space where growth and learning are encouraged, their fears can now be put to rest.