As being associated with books’ trade for past three decades I quite know where the shoe pinches. So, with reference to a shocking claim that “Small time booksellers of Meghalaya should not be given preference over reputed publishing” I would like to question how dare the book publishers from outside the state spell doom for the local? How on earth should the local publishers be winked at, sidelined and thus discouraged by the academic board like MBOSE? Is there any state’s policy that seeks to dampen the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship of the local wannabes?
What if the ‘Shillong Chamber Choir’ was not patted on the back by the local folks during its trying time? What if the pop songs of UK and USA were allowed to drown out the song of Neil Nongkynrih and his dedicated team? Could it then have brought so many laurels for the Meghalaya?
My few days of dispassionate investigation gave me the real insight into MBOSE. It dawned on me how the board went about so far as the books selection exercise is concerned. Yes, MBOSE felt much need of the changing the old textbooks which were existing for past almost Nine years. So, it called for a series of meetings and conducted symposiums. It posted on its website the “questionnaire” to seek opinions of the concerned public. Ninety-nine percent people urged MBOSE to change the old textbooks.
Well, having taken a cue from the past “misunderstanding” and unwarranted uprising, the MBOSE adopted this time all precautionary measures in the book selection process. Yes, it drove home the point that it will not budge an inch on the quality of the manuscripts. It informed the publishers that their books must measure up to the set standard and laid down syllabus. The Chairman and his team also humbly demanded from all the publishers that the books from Class-1 to 5 must be designed on Meghalaya theme, well-customized, with sufficient inputs on the state’s culture, tradition, and values.
In order to achieve the set goal impeccably, the MBOSE conceived the ideas and methodology so that utmost transparency and secrecy is maintained. All the names of the authors, labels of publishing houses were removed and systematically codified so that no review subject experts reviewing the books would know about the authorship and ownership of the submitted manuscripts.
Great, MBOSE in a span of the short period could rope in over 350 experts to review the books subject-wise. On their part, having thoroughly reviewed the submitted manuscripts, they presented their “verdicts” in the most confidential manner. As sincerely informed by the academic team, even the “Chairman of the BOARD” was not aware what books have been selected by the respective review committees.
But now, to the sheer annoyance of everyone, a few of the publishers, particularly from outside Meghalaya, throwing a tantrum. Since they are doubting the integrity of the review experts many local people have been feeling quite humiliated. Most of them already visited the MBOSE offices wanting to know why their sincere efforts and service were being doubted. One teacher on condition of anonymity remarked – ‘How a few dissatisfied and greedy publishers hold the future of our student to ransom. The government should know that businessman would never admit that his item is inferior’. Another teacher laments “ we did not know which manuscripts belonged to which publishers. Since our sincerity is being questioned we shall not participate if the board calls us again for the books review”.
Incidentally, I don’t want to speak much about the history of ‘Student Publication’ of Shillong but I can’t stop myself from praising the proprietor’s determination to hunt for a proficient English teacher to write English textbooks for MBOSE. Yes, providentially, this publisher met with one writer of international repute – Ms. Sarita Dasgupt who happens to be the product of our own Shillong’s Loreto Convent. Ms. Dasgupta, who now lives in Kolkata, is also the resource person of ‘Orient Blackswan and Macmillan’ companies. Till recently, she was a GESE Examiner for “Trinity College”, London. Her short poem for Class -3 on “Meghalaya” itself captivated my heart and I am sure this rhyming poem will lift the spirit of not only tiny schoolkids but the whole teaching community of Meghalaya. Should we not take pride in this good products of Meghalaya?
Should the Government not be pleased with the local publishing houses who picked out the “gems” from the crowd and paraded them before the state academia? Why do we have to import the “roses” from outside the state if we can plant and grow them in our own backyard? I pray, may we have more flowers of the talent blossomed here within the state so that fragrance of Meghalaya spread across the nation. Let’s learn to be self-reliant than being dependent…..