Bimal Bhagawati
 
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Bimal Bhagawati

One of the prominent names among the famous women writers who enriched the horizons of Assamese literature with their writings is Bimal Bhagawati. She achieved fame with her translations of Hindi and English works into Assamese. Translation studies have tremendous importance in world literature. In Indian literatures also, the influence of translation works is noteworthy. However in Assam, the scope of translation studies is still limited. Shri Bimal Bhagawati, by translating the works of some of the greatest writers of the world and writing the biography of some powerful women figures, unknown to the people of Assam, took a commendable initiative in this regard.

She was born on 17th December, 1924, at Polofield, Bamungaon area of Tezpur. She was the daughter of Late Kamalakant Sharma and Late Pareshwari Devi. Her mother was the nice of Madhav Sarma.

She spent her childhood in Tezpur. On 25th February, 1936, at the tender age of 12, she was married to Bijoychandra Bhagwati, patriot, idealist Gandhian leader, honored with Padma Bhusan award, elder son of Shri Durgeswar Sarma Bhagwati, a resident of Sotiya, Tezpur. For the rest of her life, she was blessed with the co- operation and inspiration of her idealist husband in all her creative ventures.

Mrs. Bhagwati had her early education in Tezpur, and passed her matriculation in 1942 from Tezpur Girls High School. In the midst of her cuties and responsibilities as a house wife, she took out some time to study and passed Intermediate in 1945. As a diligent student, tried to continue her degree studies but due to family responsibilities, she could not finish it.

They had four sons all the four sons receiving higher education, have established themselves as reputed professionals working on high posts in different sectors. They are:-Dr Ashok Bhagwati, Shri Patanjali Bhagwati, Shri Jaimini Bhagwati, and Shri Satyakam Bhagwati.

Amidst the family responsibilities, Bhagwati invested her time in literary pursuits. As a result of which she has successfully published nine books up till now. Of these nine books, four of time is translation works, three books are collections from different foreign languages, and remaining two is her own creations. Before moving on to the brief discussion of her books, here is a chronological list of the books and their subject- matter:-

Dekhantoror Xadu( stories from across the world)- published 1959- collection of translated stories from different parts of the world.

Bator Puhor (The light of the path)- published 1959- Biography

Byortho Bilap( Useless mourning) published 1963- collection of poems

Gandhikotha (voice of Gandhi)- published 1968- collection of speeches of Gandhi

Aximor jatri ( Travelers of infinity) published 1972- autobiography

Xamajik Kranti aru naari (social revolt and women)- published 1978- biographies of world’s greatest women

Jatiya Congressor Konodhaan Xokol (Precursors of India National Congress) published 1985- life account of the presidents of Indian National Congress

Tipu Sultan- published 1988- life portrayal of a national figure

Yayati- (published 1990) –Life account of legendary character Yayati from ‘Mahabharata’.

 

The first published book of Mrs. Bhagawati is "Dekhantoror Xadhu". As the book deals with collection of heterogeneous stories from world literature, it is reply entitled "Dekhattoror Xadhu" i.e. "Stories from Across the World". The stories are written in a manner so as to delight the children, in order to create interest among them and fulfill their love story reading. Every child lives in a world of fantasy. Once a child develops the habit of reading or listening to stories and fantastic tales, the little heart always desires to hear new things. However, the work of publishing a new edited version of the same errors. Therefore, the work of publishing a new edited version of the same is presently undertaken by the Assam Publication Council.

In her second book "Bator Puhar" (Light of the Path), she gives a biographical account of four great persons of the world with the help of an English book. This book deals with the world with the help of an English book. This book deals with the life of Socrates of Greece, sage Vishwamitra of India, the great spiritual teacher Confucius of China, and sir Gyalahad of England. In the biographical account of each, the contemporary times, the lifestyle of those countries, the thinking and beliefs of the people, their ideals and opinions, religious trends, are also described in a simple, lucid language. In the discussion of the life of the enlightened and noble Socrates, Mrs. Bhagwati also details on the contemporary traditions and rituals in Greece, the superstitions, the false beliefs among Greek people. Through an account of the life and journey of sage Vishamitra, she gives a portrayal of areas where ancient sages used to go for penance and accordingly, achieved ‘Sadhnas’ that is, esoteric powers through their severe penance. In the discussion of Confucius of China and Sir Gyalahad of England, she has tried to provide accurate information of China’s social life and the medieval knightly system in England, the role and importance of Kings and so on.

Mrs. Bhagwati’s collection of poems, ‘Byortho Bilap" (Useless Mourning), is an outpouring of the feelings and emotions rendered in a poetical form, and conveyed in a simple language. The volume consists of sixteen poems. Nature, affection for mother earth, the strength and courage of human heart, description of the beauty of a young girl to the portrayal of women in the pristine times, and the horror of death, are some of the themes that has been dealt with in this volume. There is no influence of modernism in these poems. In the poem ‘Natun Diganta’ (New Horizon), the strength and power of the human heart is being described:

"Of this world,

Everything is surrounded by blackness

Give sacrifice, there is no fear

Do away with the worries of the heart".

In the poem "Moi Bhalpau" (I Love), she describes natural scenes, autumn, spring seasons, Rama’s sacrifice, Sita’s devotion to her husband, the Gopis’ Love and devotion for Krishna, the religious principles of Lord Buddha, the mother of hundred sons, Gaandhari’s profound speech------- "Victory is where dharma is", and in the poem ‘Xei Je Suwalijoni" (That girl), she appreciates the beauty of a woman:

"Drawn from the colorful brush of imagination

Truly, she is a living poem

She is the sleeping beauty

Again and again, she whispers into the ears the ears

My introduction to the world

The woman of the ancient times I am"

In the poem "Moi Bhalpau" (I Love), she describes natural scenes, autumn, spring seasons, Rama’s sacrifice, Sita’s devotion to her husband, the Gopi’s love and devotion of Krishna, the religious principles of Lord Buddha, the mother of hundred sons, Gaandhari’s profound speech---- "Victory is where dharma is", and in the poem Xei Je Suwalijoni" (That girl), she appreciates the beauty of a women:

"Drawn from the colorful brush of imagination

Truly, she is a living poem

She is the sleeping beauty

Again and again, she whispers into the ears

My introduction to the world

The women of the accident times I am"

In the poem ‘Mrutyur Kotha’ (The talk about death), she describes about the horrors of death:

"So many memories and emotions

Cruelly separated with insufferable pain…

O death, you are so brutal

How do I surpass"

There is no complexity of language in the poems.

On the eve of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary, she published the collection of his speeches with the help of translation, entitled "Gandhikotha" (The speeches of Gandhi). The book contains Gandhi’s speeches at Banaras Hindu University on 1915, the article published in Gujrati ‘Nabajeevan", in which Gandhi talks about the principle of Swaraj, that is, self- rule from foreign domination, and the overcoming of the fear of death, the sad story of the tragic Chaura- chouri massacre published in young India the written account by Gandhi of his court trail in Ahmedabad on 10March, 1922 regarding the speech given by Gandhi to the students of Malabar Always Union Christian College, the speech at an inter- communal meeting in Ahmedabad on 1921, his article published in Harijan Hind Swaraj, and many other valuable collections. All in the, thirty different collections are translated into Assamese and published in his this book.

Another remarkable translation work by this writer is "Aximor Jatri" (Travelers of Infinity). The book is the biography of one of the very close disciples of Mahatma Gandhi, Medicine Slade. "The book is a translated version of the original English source "The Spirit’s Pilgrimage". The three hundred ninety pages long book deals with the following:

The daughter of a British naval OFFICER Medeleine came to stay in India for some days. She had no knowledge or idea of the India people, their life, hopes, aims and goals. During her stay in London, she became spiritually inclined after reading the book ‘Ja Christ fa’ by the writer Romalaro. Madeleine became intensely occupied with spiritual thoughts. Once in a meeting with Romlaro, she was told by the latter about her book her on Gandhi and India to which she replied that she knew nothing about Gandhi. Romalaro answered her in one sentence-------- ‘He is another Christ".

After this meeting, Madeleine was inspired to inspire to read the book on Mahatma Gandhi written by Romaloralo. She was fascinated to learn about the principles and ideas of Gandhi, and India. She was so mystified by Gandhi’s vow to set India free from the oppressive forging rule that on reaching India, she renounced her wealthy and luxuries life, and joined in the freedom struggle of India. She was renamed in India as Meera Ben. She learnt weaving, and gave up non- vegetarian food along with wine and other beverages. She left sleeping on comfortable cushions, and started sleeping on ground. Meanwhile, she also studied the writings by Gandhi from Young to Gita and Rigveda published in Parse language. After one year of rigorous training, this brave and courageous lady was allowed to serve as a disciple to Gandhi. Her strict penance finally proved fruitful to her.

 

After this meeting, Madeleine was inspired to read the book on Mahatma Gandhi written by Romaloralo. She was fascinated to learn about the principles and ideals of Gandhi, and India. She was no mystified by Gandhi vow to set India free from the oppressive foreign rule that on reaching India, she renounced her wealthy and luxurious life, and joined in the freedom struggle of India. She was renamed in India as Meera Ben. She learnt weaving, and gave up non-vegetarian food along with wine and other beverages. She left sleeping on comfortable cushions, and started sleeping on ground. Meanwhile, she also studied the writings by Gandhi from Young India to Gita, and Rigveda published in Parsee language. After one year of rigorous, training, this brave and courageous lady was finally proved fruitful to her.

The affection, respect and complete devotion of Meera Ben towards Gandhi is revealed by her in her first meeting with Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in Sabarmati Ashram:

"By this time, I had lost any sense of physical being all was concentrated in the thought of what was approaching… As I entered, a slight brown figure rose up and came towards me. I was conscious of nothing but a sense of light. I fell on my knees. Hands gently raised me up and a voice said. ‘You shall be my daughter." I saw a face smiling at me with eyes full of love, blended with a gentle twinkle of amusement. Yes, this was Mahatma Gandhi, and I had arrived".

From 1925 to 30th January, 1948, the fateful day Gandhi’s assassination, she remained by his side as his most faithful and devoted disciple. During this time, she actively participated in all the major national events: the famous Dandi March and revolt against Salt Act, the Round Table Conference, Second World War, and broadly seeking, the struggle for freedom by Indians.

At the request of many formidable personalities of the then times, Meera Ben finished writings her autography. In between the details of her life, she has portrayed the figure of Gandhi as one of the most noble, genuine man of the world. She assisted Gandhi in all most noble, genuine man of the world. She assisted Gandhi. Just as Meera Bai devoted her whole life to worship Krishna, Meera Ben dedicated her entire life to the noble cause for which Gandhi was fighting. As a result, many female ascetics gave her the accolade of ‘Meera Bai’.

"The Sprit’s Pilgrimage" has been rated as a book of superior merit by the critics and reviewers. Various characters, difficult narrative technique, Gandhi’s valuable letters to Meera, form the heart of the book. In the Preface to the book, Mrs Bhagwati has written: "As per our knowledge, only drama, novels, can best entertain a common reader and leave him glued on the book until it is finished. But, to my surprise, this book has kept me spellbound more than any other drama or novel. The writer has been successful in handling the subject-matter with vivid character portrayals along with rhymes, captivating narrative style……. While reading the book, various references, accounts almost aches the heart; accounts of various events thrills the heart and tears well up in the eyes automatically. The end part of the book creates a kind of plan in the heart as if one is reading a sad poem".

Mrs. Bhagawati has been translating the book "The Sprit’s Pilgrimage" in a simple language in to Assamese. In the revised version, there are additional details on Meera Ben’s childhood, youth, family life, while traveling abroad with Gandhi, on a ship, the picture of their images as reflected in the seawater, the account of Romalorao and other famous persons ages, further increase the attraction of the book. Some lines from the translated version are as follows:

"Now the month of May and June of the year 1947, the feelings arouse in the heart of Bapu that in this India, there is no place for him. He had started expressing these feelings in several ways. He was not the only one who worried at the thought of division of India. According to him, Independent India, should take path of decentralization of powers and enlistment of traditional Indian trades like handloom, handicraft, etc. But, to see India emerging as an industrial nation was unbearable for him".

At the hundredth birth anniversary of this extraordinary woman, born on 1892, known for her devotion, moral integrity, high principles, I pay my heartfelt homepage to this great lady.

Another book written by Mrs. Bhagwati is "Xamajik Kranti aru Nari" (Social Revolt and Women). The book is written on the question of the equal rights to women, freedom from domination, right to peace and education, and the principle taken by National Council in 1975 to be declared as the ‘year of women empowerment’ keeping in mind the progress and development of womenfolk. The book talks of the life account of various great women across the world collection from various sources. The knowledge of the position of women, their education, and social, political and economic status can help in forming an idea of the nation itself. In ancient times, women enjoined a superior status and commanded respect from all. From the Vedic times to the contemporary in this book, some of them are two of greatest verse epics of India: Sabri, Mandodri, Tara, Sita, Gandhari, and other respective legendary female figure are: Jahanara, Chand Bibi, Sultana, the daughter, Rajia, Rani of Janshi Lakhmi bai, Chintamani,Meerabai, the daughter of Assam Amrit Prabha, Joymoti Kunwori the brave warrior Mula, martyr Kanaklata, priest Ramabai Sabarmati, shri Sabarmati Devi, Kasturbaa, Dr S. Muthulakshmi Reddy, Sarojini Naidu, Indira Gandhi, Lata Mangeskar, the rebel Chandr Prabha Saikani. There are portrayals of some gifted western women: Eve, Debora, Virgin Mary, Sappho, Cleopatra, and Joan of arc, Queen Elizabeth, Corde De Aaram Ann Charlotte, Jane Austen, Macaulay Catherine, Queen Vectoria, Florence Nightingale, Helen Mery Wuerer, Helen Keller, Madame Curie, Anne Besant, Koretro Scott King, and Mother Teresa.

She gives a brief account of the female minstrels of the ancient times. They are: Vishvawara, Apala, Ghosa, Gopa, Lopamundra, Swasti, Romakh, Baak. Their compositions consist of hymns to various Gods including a description of their own life. The book contains a brief record of some of some of their compositions. In the compositions of Baak, Vishwavara, the power and strength earned through their devotion, highlighted in this book. Apart from this, a short account two female figures from Upanishad namely, Maitriyee and Gargee, are also given. To sum up, the book foregrounds the life of ancient, medieval and modern women of substance, along with the lesser known foreign females and thereby renders asocial message to everyone.

At the hundredth birth anniversary of this extraordinary woman, born on 1892, known for her devotion, moral integrity, high principles, I pay my heartfelt homage to this great lady.

Another biographical work by Mrs. Bhagwati is "Jaytiya Congressor Korndhan Xokol" (The Precursors of Indian National Congress). In the Preface she had started that although she didn’t get the opportunity to participate in the 1942 Quit India Movement, as an eyewitness, she had the desire to immortalize the memories of this great historic event in the form of a book. The book to India’s freedom and thirty two years following it, till the completion of 100 years of Indian National congress in 1985.

 

After the Mutiny of 1857, there followed an area of political instability of which the British took advantage and consolidated their rule over India. At this critical juncture, some learned men felt the need of a national platform to voice their protest at the changing political scenario. They decided to hold a national level conference. A high official British named Hume suggested holding a representatives meeting. Thereby, the team of representative members constituted the first ever Indian party named ‘Indian National Congress’ and organized its first meeting in Bombay in 1885. The first meeting was chaired by the famous barrister of Calcutta, Umesh Chandra Bannerjee, as its President. The roots of Congress party are filled with the story of its members who offered voluntary sacrifices and contributed towards the struggle for independence. This book offers a valuable insight into the life of the sixteen presidents of the Indian National Congress, and enlightens the reader about the great, extraordinary life of these men. Written in a simple yet animated style, the book highlights the life of: Umesh Chandra Benarjee, Dadabhai Naoroji, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Anne Besant, Punjab Kesari Lala Lajpat Rai, Deshbandhu Chittraranjan Das, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Mahatma Gandhi, Neataji Subhash Chandra Bose.

Mrs. Bhagwati has translated the life history of a national figure into Assamese from the original book Tipu Sultan" written by the famous historian and professor and professor of Mysore University, Dr. B. Sheikh Ali. It is written in the Preface to the book that "with the fierceness of a tiger and invincible will- power of a bull dog, Tipu Sultan fought till the end. The sole aim of his life was to drug the British out of his territory. In order to fulfill his own life". Set in the background of history, the book throws light on the character of Tipu Sultan, his determined and unwavering nature with the faithful descriptions of battles, and provides a full- fledged character sketch of this majestic king.

At the end of the book, the author, Mrs. Bhagwati has written: "The Character of Tipu Sultanis, undoubtedly extraordinary in our history. He was a man of an affectionate nature…… In the battles fought by him, no man with power, resource, character, had dared to betray him and join the enemy side.

……… unlike his father Haider, Tipu was not an illiterate. During his reign, a number of books had been written. He had mastery over various subjects including science, arts, medicine, religion, social sciences etc.

………..till the Tipu was alive, the British could not think of themselves as safe in India. Only after his death, they could raise the cry ‘India is ours’. Tipu’s reign was short. But, in India’s protest against British rule, he shone like a silver line amidst black clouds. He proudly stated once:" Instead of staying alive like a wolf for hundred years, live life like a lion, even if it is only for one day". Those who love their motherland must remember and follow these glorious lines".

Another notable work by writer is "Yayati". Mrs. Bhagwati has made an appreciative contribution to society by translating into Assamese the Marathi novel ‘Yayati’ originally authored by Gyanpeeth Award winner and noted literature Bishnu Sakhram Khandekar. The book consists of five sixty seven pages.

Mr. Khandekar had written the novel ‘Yayati’ based on the character of ‘Yayati’ from Mahabharata. The brief summary of the novel is as follows" Yayati was the son of the powerful king of Hastinapur, Nahush. He earned fame and repute by defeating the king of demi-gods, Indira. Like his father, yayati also grew up to be powerful man. He took the reign of Kingdom after his father’s death. He was married to Devyani daughter of the guru of the Asuras, Shuklacharya. As bad times befell on demon king Vrishparva, he was compelled to live a wretched life along with his daughter. Sharmista a close friend of Devyani. Khandekar has set the characters of Yayati, Devyani, and Sharmistha as the main protagonists of Mahabharata along with the legendary sage Katch also portrayed as a main character. Though Yayati passed his days amidst royal comforts and pleasures accompanied with his wife’s love, he was not altogether happy. The book also reveals a secret serious love affair between Sharmistha and Yayati. Later in his life, Yayati accepts Sharmistha’s son Puru as his own son, and leaves his kingdom to him. For the rest of his life he adopts Banprastha ashram and spends his days in the company of sage Katch as his disciple shunning all worthy pleasures.

In the cover page of Khandekar’s ‘Yayati’ published in Marathi, there are complementary remarks by writers, reviewers and critics. Durga Bhagawat writes in ‘Rahasya Ranjan’ in 1962: "Yayati is not only a popular, broad, valuable novel but it also encompasses within itself, the literacy techniques and styles from the Vedic times to the contemporary, of both Indian and Western literatures. It portrays in a vivid manner the human nature, encapsulating past, present and future in it."

Mrs. Bhagwati translated such a novel of supreme value from a Hindi version, and by doing so, had done a great service to our society. Her Assamese version of ‘Yayati’ received critical acclaim in the literacy world. The novel is enriched by the psychological handling of the characters, the remarkable dialogues, the descriptions of the conditions and situations in which the characters suffered. At the end of the novel, in the Assamese version, Yayati tells Puru:

"In good or bad times, always remember one thing. Duty and sincerity are the traits of a great man. It is a source of inspiration. But these traits are handled by our heart. It is difficult to ascertain at what time our heart might lead us astray, or away from our goal. Therefore, the helm of heart should be at the hands of Dharma (righteousness)."

Mrs Bhagwati earned wide fame by translating this novel.

The above discussed novels form the sum and substance of the writer’s literacy career. The translated works including the poetical volume and biographical work ‘Jatiya Congressor Kornodhan Xokol’ shows the simple and clear yet attractive, expressive style of Bhagwati’s writing.

Apart from her literacy activities, Mrs. Bhagwati is also associated with several social organizations. At her initiative, on 14th November, 1989, at the eve of Children’s Day, a library was set up at her own residence under the name ‘Xunjonmo Lambodar Bora Xixu Adhyayan Kendra’. The Purpose is to provide opportunity to the children to read the books of literature, biographies of great men, travelogues, etc and gain knowledge through them.

Bimal Bhagwati is also closely associated with the women association, Tezpur and offers social service by working for the enlistment and progress of women. Her husband had spent years in Delhi as an MP. Bimal Bhagwati had penned down some of the books while staying in Delhi.

Talented in creative writing and dutiful Bimal Bhagwati may continue to prosper and progress with her works in future also. With this wish, I end here this short biography.

 

 
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