“Lummer Dai: Vicar of Literature”

[ Yater Nyokir ]
Late Lummer Dai is an indispensable name in the arena of literature in Arunachal Pradesh. Nobody thought the less privileged boy born in remote Siluk village on 1 June, 1940 would leave his eternal footprint in the literary canon of Arunachal Pradesh. He has a momentous contribution in shaping the genre of novel in Arunachal. His debut novel ‘Paharor Xile Xile (1961)’ is considered the first novel in Arunachal Pradesh written by an Arunachalee.
He began his voyage of penmanship in his prime age with the publication of article ‘Aboror Rup Nuguche Kiyo?’ in the then handwritten school magazine ‘Giribani’ when he was a student of graded school in Pasighat.
His sojourn in Assam for higher education in Cotton College, Guwahati gave him the opportunity to come in contact with eminent literary figures, like Birendra Kumar Bhattacharya, that aired the spark of his creative zeal. This association bore a fertile result. He began writing short stories for eminent Assamese literary magazines of those days, like ‘Notun Asomiya’, ‘Ramdhenu’ and ‘Navayug’.
He published his first novel Paharor Xile Xile and subsequently his other works followed: Prithivir Hanhi (1963), Mon Aru Mon (1968), Kanyar Mulya (1978), Upar Mahal (2002). He has also compiled an anthology of Adi folktale ‘Udayachalar Sadhu (1959)’. Dai was well educated in Assamese medium. Perhaps that is why all of his works are in Assamese language.
Dai was an ardent lover of his land and culture.
Although he chose a distant language for his creative works, the essence of his work remained attached to his land. His oeuvres depict the cultural ethos of his people and exposed the hidden land to the world. Therefore, he built a stair of literature for the world to reach the unreached land of Arunachal.
Dai was a writer on errand. Being a first generation of literates, he was diligent to his responsibility towards his people. He used his creative platform to critique social issues, such as child marriage, gender inequality, system of slavery, corruption and so on. Raising these issues through his art, he made a sincere effort to bring transformation in the society.
The fertile pen of Dai went beyond the prose. He is also one of distinguished names in the field of mass media in Arunachal Pradesh. He was a founder and editor of the state’s first newsletter ‘Echo of Arunachal’. In this respect, he is considered not only a pioneer figure in literature but also mass media in Arunachal.
Dai’s contribution towards his people is immeasurable. His prolific style of writing in Assamese language had made him one of the leading names in the Assamese literature.
Dai received the Sitanath Brahma Choudhuri Award from the Assam Sahitya Sabha for his novel ‘Kanyar Mulya’ in 1978.
He passed away in April 2002 after writing his last novel ‘Upar Mahal’. In his honour, the Assam Sahitiya Sabha instituted the Lummer Dai Sahitiya Bota award and every year his birthday (1 June) is celebrated by the Assam Sahitiya Sabha. To pay tribute to this man of letters on his birth anniversary, the Arunachal Pradesh Literary Society, in 2016, constituted the ‘Lummer Dai Luminous Literary Award’ that is given every year to budding literary figures. (Nyokir is a member of the Arunachal Pradesh Literary Society)