If a River

In a narrative that is fresh, spontaneous and inventive, Kula Saikia delves into the inner feelings of his characters to explore their psychological landscape. The complexities of urban living are depicted in apparently simple storylines and day-to-day situations, but the author frequently forays into the minds of the characters to fathom human desires and anxieties. The chaos, violence and disorder occurring in the physical world are reflected in the recesses of the mind, which makes reading the stories both fascinating and puzzling. Saikia’s characters lead a multi-layered life in search of identity and purpose, and display as well as hide their joy and tears.

This collection of twenty stories in English translation represents a rich oeuvre that earned the author the Sahitya Akademi award in 2015, for his ‘post-modernist style of storytelling with an occasional touch of magic realism’.

Translated from Assamese, each of the 20 tales is narrated with a certain measure of delicacy and literary elegance . . . These come through a host of characters who seem to be seeking small pleasures in most mundane of situations, locations, relationships and social interactions but with significant profundity.

The author uses characters to create his own world with delicate sensitivity depicting Assamese life in a subtle way by encompassing solitude, loneliness, alienation, strife, violence and beautiful nature. The author has succeeded in bringing out complexities of life in the remote North-Eastern part through his sensitive narration with precision.
PRAKASH BAL JOSHI, Free Press Journal

This is a collection of stories sensitively narrated with touches of literary style that light up the reading. The translations though done by different people have a consistency that makes it the single voice of the author. While the setting may be redolent of Assam, the stories appeal in their universality of relationships and people who struggle to connect, love, lose, and meet again. The river of life courses in many hearts in much the same way.
N. KAMALA, The Book Review

An interesting twist in last few lines of each story leaves the readers with a deep thought. The author has adapted a very unique way of telling the stories where one can start feeling the emotions and feelings of the characters.
SADHNA SOBTI (review on Amazon)

These stories reveal the evolution of a brilliant writer who unravels the mysteries of life by reconstructing it, in a skilfully realistic way, which is unsettling, intriguing and delighting at once.

These stories are intricately woven with threads of imagination and interpretation, which allow us to live that particular life in that particular moment in the given landscape which is extremely strange and intensely familiar at the same time. Here is an accomplished storyteller who masterly transforms his regional experience into universal aesthetics.
K.R. MEERA, Writer and journalist


Dr KULA SAIKIA (b. 1959, Assam) did his postgraduation from the Delhi School of Economics and taught Economics in Hindu College, Delhi University for a while. He served in the Planning Commission, New Delhi as an officer of the Indian Economic Service and then as an Indian Railway Traffic Service officer, before joining the Indian Police Service in 1985. At present, he holds the rank of Director General of Police in charge of law and order of Assam.

As a Fulbright Fellow, he went to the Pennsylvania State University, USA during 2000–01. He worked briefly as a Consultant in the World Bank, Washington. He holds a PhD degree in Economics from the Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati.

Dr Saikia has been invited as a guest speaker by prominent business schools and other institutes, such as INSEAD (Singapore), Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Administration (National University of Singapore), Indian School of Business, Hyderabad and Indian Institutes of Management (Ahmedabad, Lucknow) to speak on issues like ethics, leadership and innovation. He is a resource person for community policing in the National Police Academy. He was twice awarded the President’s police medal for his outstanding contribution to policing.

Dr Saikia has eighteen published collections of short stories to his credit, as well as a novel. He has written three plays and scripted two telefilms for Doordarshan. His short stories have been translated into Hindi, Bangla, Odia, Marathi and Telugu. He received the Sahitya Akademi award in 2015 for his collection of stories, Akashar Chhabi Aru Ananya Galpa.

Translated from Assamese by

Rupanjali Baruah, Parbina Rashid, Rhinusmita Kakoty Lahkar, Stuti Goswami,
Meenaxi Barkotoki, Neeta Sharma 

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