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A group of friends from Shillong journey to a remote part of West Khasi Hills to witness Ka Phor Sorat, the feast of the dead, a unique six-day-long funeral ceremony of the Lyngngams, a Khasi sub-tribe. It may well be the last time this ancient rite is performed. The ceremony—involving a number of rituals and the sacrifice of as many as fifty bulls—will conclude with the cremation of a beloved elder, a woman whose body has been preserved in a tree house for nine whole months.
By mistake, however, the group ends up reaching the secluded hamlet of Nongshyrkon seven days early. Stuck in the jungle for eleven days, they spend their nights around a fire in the middle of a spacious hut built especially for them, sharing stories and debating issues in what turns out to be a journey of discovery for all of them.
Funeral Nights is an unconventional novel—a vast collection of stories big and small, not so much about death, but about life, past, present and future, rural and urban, high and low; about admirable men and women, raconteurs and pranksters, lovers and fools, politicians and conmen, drunks and taxi drivers; about culture and history, religion and God, myth and legend. Inspired by the narrative frame of Boccaccio’s The Decameron and The Arabian Nights, but adopting a serio-comic style, this is intimate access to a whole world, spectacular in its documentation of a tribe’s life and culture such as has never been attempted before.
‘A closely-woven sequence of narratives that provides us a profound insight into the working of the tribal psyche where the borders of the real and the surreal get blurred ... Here is a book of rare scholarship that Mircea Eliade or Claude L vi-Strauss would have read with admiration and yet remains as accessible as fiction to the lay reader.’
K . SATCHIDANANDAN
‘This is the Moby Dick of Meghalaya, a novel of huge ambition and tremendous appetite. Or is it a novel at all?’
JERRY PINTO author of Em and the Big Hoom and Murder in Mahim
Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih was born and brought up in Sohra, Meghalaya. He writes poetry, drama and fiction in Khasi and English. His latest works include The Yearning of Seeds and Time’s Barter: Haiku and Senryu. He is the author of Around the Hearth: Khasi Legends and the co-editor of Dancing Earth: An Anthology of Poetry from Northeast India.
He has published poems and stories in Planet: The Welsh Internationalist, Wasafiri, The New Welsh Review, PEN International, The Literary Review, Karavan, The Sentinel Literary Quarterly, Cordite Poetry Review, Poetry International Web, The Indian Quarterly, Down to Earth, The Hindu Business Line, Indian Literature, The Oxford Anthology of Writings from North-East India, Pilgrim’s India and Day’s End Stories.
His awards include the first North-East Poetry Award (Tripura, 2004), the first Veer Shankar Shah-Raghunath Shah National Award for tribal literature (Madhya Pradesh, 2008) and a Tagore Fellowship (IIAS, Shimla, 2018). He teaches literature at North-Eastern Hill University, Shillong.