Che In Paona Bazaar: A Review


Tales of Exile and Belonging From India’s North East

Before I talk about the book, I have a question for you. How many of you have friends who belong to North-East India?

Not many right?

That’s because we always consider them a separate community. We treat them as if they belong to a different planet altogether.  Remember calling them chinkis in college?

But no, they are not different from us and it is this prejudice that this book tries to abandon.

Kishalay Bhatacharjee says “North East India is not an imagined community…  It is as real as the violence that has torn the land apart, leaving people struggling for a normal life.”

It is this life that Bhatacharjee talks about in his book- Che In Paona Bazaar; the history of a part of our country that the mainstream media did not wish to cover. Bhatacharjee, a journalist himself, worked as NDTV’s Resident Editor in North-East India, struggled to broadcast the stories of this multitude because it wasn’t considered important. And perhaps that’s why he decided to write this book, to bring to light the reality.

Che in Paona Bazaar is a book of twenty-one different personal experiences and the images that form the real North-East.


“Violence is a fact and fear is an emotion that accompanies the daily lives of people here. But it is also true that post-conflict literature cannot be a testament of collective pain… Pain has no learning curve and one person’s opinion is often different from another’s.”

Two major conflicts that

Bhatacharjee, returns to his past journeys and recollects the stories by a roadside tea shop or an army camp or a trek through World War II supply line.

He creates a fictional character, Eshei, to tell the story. Eshei, is an embodiment of experiences of growing up, youth, love and loss in the backdrop of conflict, who also faces the trials of daily life. There are other fictional characters who pop up from time to time to narrate their own aspirations. However, the book is restricted to regions of Manipur, Guwahati and Shillong only.

The book shows that while the other Indian states are making rapid strides toward progress and development in all spheres of life, the North-East Region is still what it was a few decades ago. And I think you would be surprised to know that Manipur State Budget is less than the annual budget of one single department under the Andhra Pradesh Government. That’s not all, there is a lot to the history of this land that this book tells you about.

Apart from that you can also read the history on the following site (

Anyways, coming back to the book, the author uses the interplay of text and different genres to show the dispossession and richness of the fragmented stories of the characters. Che is Paona Bazaar, is Bhattacharjee’s personal interpretation of people who are wrongfully identified as xenophobic, militant, aggressive and different from the rest of “us”.

On the whole, the book is a collaborative effort of many voices, about the place and its people, about life itself; that should not be missed.

So go ahead, grab your copy today.

Shraddha Jandial

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