Anima Dutta
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Anima Dutta

Anima Dutta (Nee Bharali) is a familiar name among contemporary writers in Assamese. She has enriched Modern Assamese literature by her lifetime contribution as poet, short-story writer and writer of miscellaneous prose. She has established herself as an outstanding story writer in the pages of the Assamese monthly magazine ‘Manideep’ of the sixties. After her marriage she came to be known as Anima Dutta and later as Dr. Anima Dutta. Shy of publicity she loves to devote herself solely to creative writing. She is an introspective writer by nature. People coining close to her are charmed by her sweet and soft speech and pleasing behavior. Love for the beauty of nature shaped her mind in her childhood and it is still to be found in her person not-withstanding the blows she may have suffered in life from time to time.

It is said that one is born as a human being after having earned the merit of several births as a living thing. All men may not acquire learning and among learned men only a very few are form with a poetical talent. If it is rare to find a man with poetical talent, it is rarer still to find one who has established himself as a poet, Anima Dutta has achieved all these things. She can be called blessed. Her life as a creative writer is indeed praiseworthy. It is worthwhile to make an assessment of the writer’s life along with her lifelong contribution to literature.

Anima Bharali was born to the illustrious Bharali family of Sivasagar on January 4, 1938. Her father Sahajananda Bharali was a distinguished citizen of that town. A talented student he went to Cotton College for higher studies, but having got himself involved in the Non-cooperation Movement of Gandhiji he could not complete his higher education. Later on he established himself as a very successful businessman. He was also the chairman of Sivasagar Municipality for some time and kept himself busy with various welfare work of the town. He was also a famous stage actor. He wrote a historical account of the Sivasagar Dramatic Society which was published in the year 1977. This book covers almost all the activities of the society from its inception in 1895 to 1977. Several critics have praised this work as a source book for the study of dramatic activities and research.

We can, in this context, remind ourselves of Anima Dutta’s great grandfather, the grandfather of Sahajananda Bharali, namely, Paramananda Bharali. Anima mentions him with great pride with sufficient reason. Hem Chandra Barua the renowned Assamese lexicographer of the nineteenth century in the early British era has mentioned in his autobiography how he was greatly helped by Paramananda Bharali in learning English under Captain Brodic of Sivasagar. Lakshminath Bezbarua has also referred to Sahajananda Bharali as an expert on the English language, in his autobiography ‘Mor Sonwarani’ (My Remeniscences), in the chapter ‘Matrimukh Darshan’ (At the Sight of My Mother) Bezbaruah’s contemporary Padmanath Gohajn Barua has described Paramananda Bharali as a wise patriot who built a bridge between the old and new ways of Assam.

Anima’s mother Jeutara was the fourth daughter of Benudhar Rajkhowa an eminent civil servant and writer of the Jonaki Age of Assamese literature. A lady of exceptional beauty and grace, Jeutara was elected several times as Secretary and President of Sivasagar Mahila Samity (Women’s Organization) between 1945 and 1960. She took a leading part in the celebration of Jaimati Festival on the precincts of Jaydol on the bank of Jaisagar, often spending from her purse. Love of learning and devotion to God were some of the special traits of her character. She raised all her children instilling in their hearts noble ideals and principles. She inspired them all to receive higher education. The eldest of her children is Sailajananda Bharali, former Director of Higher Education, Anima, the youngest is Professor (Dr.) Anima Dutta.

Her childhood days:

Anima was born on the bank of the beautiful Dikhow river which flows by the south east boundary of Sivasagar. That end of the town at that time was very beautiful to look at with all the bounty of nature. Poet Jatindranath Duara’s father Shyam Sundar Duara’s family also resided in those parts. The Bharali family possessed a beautifully laid out compound. Anima Dutta still remembers the pain of mango trees growing at the entrance to the compound, with various flowering orchids hanging from their branches and also the sweet sounds of the bird’s songs floating from them. She still remembers how along with other children of the family, she would enjoy rides up and down the river in the family motor boat in the evenings. At that time she was barely six or seven years old. Even in those days she learned to love Nature in all her beauty and glory and this love of nature helped in shaping her as poet and short story writer. Erosion of the river Dikhow soon drove her family from its lovely banks to the busy heart of the town. Sahajananda Bharali settled down with his family on Hospital Road where Anima spent the remaining days of her childhood and adolescence.

Cultural Environment at Home:

Anima had grown up in the healthy and beautiful atmosphere created by the efforts of writers and artists like Padmadhar Chaliha, Jatindranath Duara, Parvati Prasad Barua, Phunu Barua and others. The Calcutta based poet Jatindranath Duara, poet Padmadhar Chaliha of Phulani (Flower Garden) fame, and Anima’s close relative, poet and critic Dimbeswar Neog often visited her Sivasagar home. Kirtinath Sarma Bardoloi, the famous musician of Jorhat used to be a frequent guest. Among the famous ladies whom she used to meet at home as guests were some well known leaders like Chandra Prabha Saikiani, Rani Sabita Devi of Bijni, Rani Manjula Devi of Sidli to name only a few. The great socialist leader Jayprakash Narayan stayed with her family in December 1946 during a town in Assam. Thus even as a child she enjoyed an inspirational environment at home. When she passed M.A. in Assamese as a First Class First of her batch, from Gawahati University, she had the fortune of being congratulated at home by no less a person than the great artist Bishnu Rabha.

 Her Education:

Anima Dutta had her school education at Phujeswer Girls’ High School of Sivasagar. She had shown promise of academic excellence from her school days. In 1955 she passed the Matriculation Examination of Gauhati University in the first division to earn a merit scholarship. In the same year she was admitted into the Intermediate Arts class of Handique Girls’ College of Guwahati. In 1957 she passed the Intermediate Arts Examination of Gauhati University in the first division. From the same college she had her BA.Honours Degree with a first class in Assamese. As there was no facility for teaching Honours Course in any subject in her college, she availed herself of the facility of attending Assamese Honours classes started in the building of Old Law College situated on the eastern bank of Dighali Pukhuri. There she had as her teachers there celebrated scholars like Dr. Birinchi Kumar Baruah, Dr. Satyendranath Sarma and Dr. Golok Chandra Goswamj. She regarded herself a lucky student to have had the opportunity to learn at their feet. In 1961 she passed her M.A. in Assamese from Gauhati University with a first class deploring and earned a gold medal. Even since the establishment of the university in 1948, she was the first student to have passed with a first class in the literature group of Assamese.

Her Career as a Teacher:

Immediately after passing her M.A. Examination she taught for a few years in Sivasagar College and Sivasagar Girls’ College. On January 7 of 1966 she joined the Assamese Department of Gauhati University as a lecturer. I have learned from her students that she taught and discussed the literary work of the two great writers Sankardeva and Madhavadeva in the most lucid but systematic manner. Her exhaustive study of the writings of these two authors as well as her teaching of the same greatly helped her in her research work. In 1985 she received her Ph.D. degree for her research work, “Lakshminath Bezbarua His Contribution to the Study of Religion and philosophy”. In the same year she was appointed Reader in the Department of Assamese in Gauhati University. In the month of September, 1996 she was appointed Professor of the same department. She has been serving since then in the same capacity. She has earned a name as a successful and popular teacher among her students. 

Her Conjugal Life:

In the year 1967, a year after her appointment in Gauhati University, she was married to Hirendra Nath Dutta, Lecturer (later Professor) in the Department of English of the same university. Professor Dutta is a renowned Assamese poet and critic. They have two sons - Priyankar and Rupankar. With their two sons and their elder daughter-in-law Mala, it is a happy family. Anima and Hiren Dutta are both serious writers in Assamese. Though always busy with her pen, Anima Dutta is a good housewife and excellent cook with a keen eye on new recipe which she carefully copies down in her kitchen note book. She also possesses a sweet voice. In her childhood she received music lessons at home from a private tutor. As a student of Handique Girls’ College she once secured the first position in Borgeet competition.

Her Literary Life:

Professor Dr. Anima Dutta of today was then a teenager, a student of class VI or VII. The joy of watching the beauty of nature in the backyard of her home the two-storied wooden bungalow built by her ancestors on the bank of the Dikhow and the joy brought to her heart by the trips up and down the river, created in her heart a poet rich in imagination and feelings, which found expression in a few stealthily composed poems and stories. Loving encouragement and opportunities provided by her family and others gave her courage. While she was in class VIII, ‘Husari of Mantu and others’, a short story by her was first published in ‘Mau Kunwari’ the childrens’ section of the Assamese daily, Natun Asomiya. There after many other stories came to be published under the section.

Side by side with Assamese, she also ventured writing in English as well. She found an atmosphere of learning English at home. She took advantage of the same and was soon able to express herself fluent in English. In the Children’s League - a children’s column of the Assam Tribune - a few poems and essays were published. Four poems so published were ‘The Glory of Rose’, ‘To a Rose’, ‘To a Water lily’, ‘If I were not Myself’ and ‘My Beloved India’, besides a number of essays. While she was in class X, she received the first prize in an essay competition held on the subject, ‘The Book I love Best’. Her essay was written on the Kirtan Ghosa.

As she came to Guwahati for her higher education, she got a wider field for her literary activities. She regularly wrote short stories in the magazine section of Natun Asomiya and the Ladies Corner of Asom Bani. In 1959 she was elected secretary to the literary section of the Students’ Union of Handique Girls’ College and she became editor of the college magazine for the same year. Though fewer in number than her short stories she wrote some good poetry as well. In the year 1959, she secured the first prize for her poem ‘Senehi Asom Mor’ (My Dear Assam) in the literary contest held by Handique Girls’ College.

Free rendering of a few stanzas of the poem is given below:

I           Dear Assam, you are the very Elysian garden of Nature, full of all pleasant odors and charming beauty, from whose lap had sprung flowery and glorious history.

Ii           As the coming springtime thrills the greenery of your places, Nature happily causes her embroidered flowery chaddar to flutter in the wind.

III         The thorny shrub of Keteki throws open her lovely flowers to fill the air with fragrance; and the sweet smell of the light hearted Tagar flower fills the heart of humans with bliss.

Iv          Mother Assam, oh my Goddess of plenty, endowed with all auspicious signs, you are the very blissful garden of Nature, your beauty since ages past has been beyond comparison. My dearest Mother Assam, you are indeed very beautiful.

In the sixties five poems written by “Anima Dutta were published in Manideep, a literary magazine edited by Dr. Mahendra Bora.

While pursuing her post graduate studies she stayed in the girls’ hostel of Gauhati University where she got herself acquainted with a woman story writer. Anima soon got friendly with her and there grew a sort of literary competitions between them for short story writing. This new woman fiction writer was none other than Nilima Sarma, who is now the Head of the Department of Philosophy of Gauhati University. As a post graduate student Anima Dutta wrote many short stories for ‘Manideep’ which established her as an eminent short story writer. She also wrote stories for other journals like Amar Pratinidhi, Himachal, Nilachal, Uruli, Ramdhenu, two annual publications of Gauhati University Students’ Journal and in all the annual volumes of The Short Stories of the year published by Munindra Narayan Dutta Barua.

After she had begun her research work under Gauhati University, she could not spare much time for short stories and other creative writings. She had started studying and teaching the works of the two great Assamese Vaishnava Savants, Sankardeva and Madhavdeva, besides writing articles on them in both Assamese and English. Notwithstanding her busy research schedule, she continued writing short stories. She has more than one hundred and fifty stories to her credit. Some of her selected short stories were published in two volumes - “Beliphular Sapon’ (The Dream of Sunflower) in 1963 and ‘Kanchanjangha’ in 1991. The second volume was published by the Dibrugarh based booksellers and publishers Students’ Emporium. In 1996, she was presented the Basant Devi Memorial Award of Assam Sahitya Sabha in its Bokakhat session and gave her literary prominence as well as glory.

The volume Kanchanjangha includes some of Anima Dutta’s choicest short stories composed between the sixties and eighties of the last century. The central figures in ten among the eleven short stories in that selection are strong willed women, through whose characters the writer depicts the multi-faced emotions of the women’s heart. In ‘Avagahan’ we have a glimpse of the greatness of a woman’s heart and also her tender feelings; in ‘Bisanna Bisnai’ the writer brings out problems arising out of love; in ‘Uttaran’ we see the conflict arising out of love; in ‘Swarthapar’ the writer depicts selfishness. ‘Nijaswa’ presents a picture of the helpless distress of a woman caused by suspicion. In ‘Jivanar Dinbor’ we see the picture of a feeling of loneliness caused by family disconnect. Anima Dutta’s women characters are all strong willed souls who refuse to remain as playthings of man.

All the stories in the collection Kanchanjangha seem to present an intense feeling of sadness mixed with the delighting sweetness of the autumn moonlight. It is a sadness arising from love, alienation caused by generation gap and unpleasant memory. These stories also reflect certain romantic inclinations. Based upon the soft background of tender feelings and emotions, the stories often attempt to poetically present an intense feeling of a certain moments use of poetical lives in such stories often heightens the literary effect.

The first story of the volume Kanchanjangha is ‘Avagahan’ which presents an educated middle aged foreign lady who has fallen in love with Assam, and it describes her loving motherly care beloved on a sickly orphan child. The short story ‘Uttaran’ can be called a great achievement of writer who describes the emotion of first love growing in the heart of an adolescent girl, and her guilt complex and the mental conflict created by it, and her determination to free herself from distressing memory of her failed love. Here is also an attempt to sublimate her earthly, physical love to a heavenly of spiritual one. In the story ‘Kanchanjangha’ bearing the same title to the volume, the author seeks to present the title character as a woman whose heart is as tall and pure as Mount Kanchanjangha. In the story ‘Anekaya Jibanar Dinbor’, the author presents the feeling of loneliness of an educated middle aged woman arising out of her futile attempt to reconcile herself with the changed way of life of her grown up children and conflict growing out of that. The woman who once loved to write poems cannot concept the materialism of her busy bureaucrat husband and the ultramodern ways of her children, but is trying her best to get adjusted to their ways. The conflict arising out of that is beautifully described. Thus the feeling of loneliness suffered by all women at an age of their life is painted for all time to come.

As Anima Dutta climbs down from her romantic heights she gives us many scholarly articles. Whether from a sense of necessity felt by her or under pressure from outside, she has authored many research papers and scholarly treaties. From the time she joined Gauhati University as a teacher, she has busied herself by studying and teaching the work of both Sankardeva and Madhavadeva. Therefore she has written most of her essays on the literature left behind by these two great Vaishnava savants. Her articles have been published on many anthologies. Her published scholarly treatises include:

(i) Assam Vaishnavism, published in 1989, is a scholarly work on the religion and philosophy of Sankardeva and is part of her research thesis - Lakshminath Bezbarua : His Contribution to the Study of Religion and Philosophy.

(ii) Her second treatise, ‘Asomor Uaishnava Sahitya Aru Darshan’, published in 1995 contains nine articles. All articles except ‘Madhava Devar Namghosat Rahasyavad’ (Mysticism in namghosa) have been published in different journals. In all the other articles except the one titled ‘Sankardevar Darshan’.

Kavyat Vrindavanar Prakriti’ (Nature in Vrindabana) she has tried to assert that the philosophical basis of Sankardeva’s Ekasarana Nam Dharma is Adaitya Vedanta and also to come to the conclusion that Nama Dharma is the best form of religion, by citing copiously from the writings of Sankardeva and Madhavadeva.

Mahapurusa Sankardeva has given the Assamese people a simple religion based on the worship of one God that is Vishnu identified with Sri Krishna, simply by uttering His name and lestening to discussion on His greatness and listening to His praise. It has not yet been settled whether the religious philosophy of Sankardeva is Advaiavad or Bishistadvaitavad. The debate is still going on. Whatever be the outcome, if we judge her articles on their intrinsic values, we will find them each presenting the depth of her study, her capacity for keen and intense analysis methodical arguments and her lucid expression.

Besides her research work in Assamese, she has a number of books in English to her credit. A few of these are stated below.

1.    Folk Songs of Assam

2.    Namghosa: Literary Expression of Bhakti-Dharma

3.    Lakshminath Bezbaruah’s Studies of Upanisad

4.    A Teller of Tales of Tiny tots

5.   Lakshrninath Bezbaruah’s Exposition of Bhakti and Nam-Dharma.

6.   Ideals of Sankardeva as interpreted by Lakshminath Bezbarua.

7.   Vaishnavism: A Living Religion of India

8.   Lakshrninath Bezbarua, The Exponant of Assam Vaishnavism.

Her husband Professor is a renowned poet and outstanding critic and as such the couple can he called complementary to each other. After writing out an article or a poem he asks Anima Dutta to prepare a copy of the same. Being the first person to read his compositions she suggests corrections or alternation here and there if she thinks that necessary for a better effect. Mrs. Dutta also seeks her husband’s advice in order to make her expressions more effective. He goes through her English articles before they get ready for the print. But in so far as her short stories are concerned she always remains in her own universe. Professor Dutta gets to read them after they have been published.

Anima Dutta edited the 1996 number of Anwexon, the annual research journal of the teachers of Guwahati University. I pray to God to give her a long life enabling her to enrich Assamese literature with many more valuable articles and ongoing short stories.


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