Here are some of sentiments expressed at the last writing workshop in Ranchi:
The important thing is that if we don’t write down the stories of our grandfathers and grandmothers. Which might seem quite trivial, like the story of how the tiger got his stripes, and if you don’t write them down, then our stories are completely forgotten, and then the next generation has no wealth of knowledge. Even the smallest little detail might be something that can generate identity and connect the next generation to their heritage. So everything is important. So as a writing community we are hoping to write down and explain what we know, so the future generations will have the chance to understand our legacy.
We have been dependent in passing on through oral tradition, but our generation is at a juncture because we are transferring to a written tradition and we now have a very less opportunity to hear about our ancestors from our forefathers. So it is unfortunate for us not to hear our old stories from our grandparents and pass on to our granddaughters and grandsons our own family stories. We are now very much dependent on digital instruments like mobile and other modern facilities. On one side this is good, but it is also a disadvantage (since we do not share orally). So we have to cope with both and we have to adapt the oral as well as the written. In times past there was no written tradition, we were very much in touch with our language and culture, now it is up to us to write our traditions. But we are forgetting, or are reluctant to know our culture, which is unfortunate. But now we are very optimistic and know we have to save all these things otherwise the coming generation will not know anything.
I don’t know what your experience is, but my granddaughters don’t want to listen to me. I want to talk to them, but they view the TV or their mobile, and they look at it and talk there. I want to talk with them, but they do not want to listen to an old man. So how do we deal with this generation in this kind of situation to pass on what we have to the younger generation? One way is in writing, passing on in writing. So therefore story writing will be very important for this generation, and also the next generation, otherwise talking has become almost negligible.
We have come to understand that we should write the history of our family, It is very significant if we did not have any direct contact, still we have a long history of how our ancestors lived in this land and how they came to the Christian faith. There are very interesting stories, and also some very disturbing stories. I think I want to write it down not just for my next generation but for others, those outsider our community, or new Christians, or those who are third or fourth generation Christians. Whatever our history we can preserve will serve many.
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Mary Girard with Bishop Nirmal Minz and his wife, Parakleeta, two remarkable leaders of the Adivasi Christians of Jharkhand. They are writer's themselves and have encouraged me much in my pursuit as a writer and have inspired many others. I am an author of my first book that is seeking publication. Among the Original Dwellers: Remembering Ferdinand Hahn, tells of the life story of my great great grandfather who was a missionary from 1868-1910 in Chota Nagpur. In writing his story I discovered the story of the Adivasi of the region who were also impacted by his life. I am now committed to inspiring others to learn and write about their Christian Adivasi heritage.