Braja Bala Devi
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Brajabala Devi

A time when nobody would think about women’s education, women were religiously kept away from books, not even allowed to move out freely in the presence of other men. In the midst of such a social scenario, a girl from a Gaura Brahman family, studied in a missionary school; she assisted in the imparting of lessons from Bible, played Basketball and received the rank of a ‘blue bard’ (in those times, the girl students of missionary school got the rank of ‘guide’, if above 16 years and girls below 16 years were ranked as ‘blue bard’). This brave Brahmi girl was Brajabala, not a ‘Gopi’ (shepherdess) of Mathura but a resident of Nagaon, Axom which glimmers with the aura of her enchanting personality and self-confidence.

Brajabala was born in the year 1919 in the auspicious day of ‘Raspurnima’. Her father was Anandaram Bhattachrjee, a resident o Amolapatty, Nagaon. An expert I Sanskrit and astrology, he was also the owner of vast tracts of land and other assets. As the gifted girl of a talented father, Brajbala also learnt the science of astrology and reading horoscopes which she practices till date. From her young age, Brajbala had listened to her father reading the Gita, Mohmudgar, and chanting the holy ‘Slokas’ from the sacred Vedas, and Navgraha Slokas. As a result, she was able to sing and chant them all although she did not understanding their meaning. Her mastering of such difficult lines and verses was not a deliberate act. Owing to her extraordinary memory and retentive power, she learnt them automatically without much practice or any conscious effort. This rare quality helped her throughout her life in acquiring knowledge of various subjects without much difficulty, and helped her in composing new works of art.

The name of Brajabala’s mother was Satyapriya Devi. She was a daughter mother. She gave her utmost in grafting the bright future of her daughter. The seeds of a literary career were sown, at an early age, in Brajbala as she began to show interest in tales heard from her mother of Mahabharata, Ramayana, the poems of venerated Assamese poet Bezbaruah, and other children stories. ‘The home is the first and true place of learning for a person’-this proposition is proven true by Brajbala’s life. As the child of well-educated and knowledge parents, Brajbala always found a learning and creative atmosphere at home which contributed in opening up future avenues for her. Today, after the passage of more than seventy years of her life, Brajbala stands as a role model for the women society.

Born into a wealthy Brahmin family, Brajbala receiving education in a missionary school was a rare and bold step in those times. The decision to enroll her in a Christian missionary school reflects her parents’ broad outlook towards education. Brajbala finished her elementary education while staying in a Hindu boarding school. There was a separate boarding for Christian students. Brajbala regularly attended the Bible classes and minutely studied the Holy Scripture. While in school, she played Basketball, acted and also took training in scouts and guide. Thus, the privilege of liberal education, sports and tours, imbued her with a free-mind, daring, straight-forward, sincere personality. Brajbala’s clear, fluent and accurate command over Sanskrit Slokas and English language is a notable aspect of her character. One of her special talents is that while speaking or writing in Assamese, she would never use words from other languages.

Brajbala finished her M.E from Nagaon Mission School. News spread around that the high school section would be removed from the school, thus the teacher observing the intelligence of Brajbala and one other girl, made arrangements for their promotion to higher class.

Mr.Bhattacherjee, the father of Brajbala did not wish to get her married and wanted to make her a ‘scholar’ and keep her at ashram. But who can go against the rules of nature? Brajbala was engaged to a brilliant disciple of poet Durgeswar Sarma, veteran literary person Jogeswar Sarma, to be married later. Anandaram Bhattacharjee stood firm on his decision that until Brajbala completes her high school examination, she would not be married. In keeping with this, after two years, she appeared in high school examination as a private candidate, and passed the exam in first division with distinction in Assamese and History. She would be husband Jogeswar Sarma also passed his metric examination conducted under Calcutta University, in first division with distinction marks in four subjects: Assamese, Sanskrit, Advance Assamese, and Mathematics. He scored highest marks in Assamese and secured a good medal for his achievement. It was like god had arranged for the union of two precious gemstones together.

While Brajbala was born and brought up amidst an open and liberal atmosphere in an urban area, Jogeswar Sarma belonged to a lower middle class family of the village Bogargaon in the Moujar Hamdai division Titabor district of Jorhat. Thus, after marriage, Brajbala had to move in to a rural place. In those times, no vehicles could enter the village of Bogargaon. Only bullock-carts could pass through the one way route. Just as water can take any shape or form, Brajbala, too did not fall depressed in the face of contradictory situations, and tried her heart and soul in adjusting to the new family environment.

Brajbala’s father-in-law, a devotee and employee of the "Auniati Xotra", Laxminath Dev Sarma, was a deeply devout and cultured man. Her mother-in-law Kokilwari Devi was a kind and affectionate women. Brajbala learnt the household works like cooking, weaving, etc from her mother-in-law. Initially she found difficulty in doing simple works like frying beaten rice, cutting betel nuts etc and would often hurt her hands or fingers. However she did not leave patience and kept trying steadily. Brajbala became the companion of her in-laws loneliness. Her mother-in-law took her wherever she used to go. She would feed her voraciously and affectionately, sometimes from her own plate. Very few would be blessed with such love.

In the article, "Jogeswar Sarma xotork banni", (Jogeswar Sarma: Life and Talent- edited by Jogendra Narayan Bhuyan, published by Nagaon Literary Association), Mr. Aljit Kumar Sarma mentions about Brajbala that "aunt was from Nagaon, and uncle from Jorhat. Poe Durgeswar Sarma acted as the catalyst in bringing them together. After marriage, aunt left her free-spirited life, graciously accepted her new role and devoted herself completely to her domestic life. At that time, the economic condition of this family was not very attractive. When the newly wedded bride entered the family, the monthly income of her husband was a marginal fifty five rupees. With such a negligible amount, the responsibility that she under took, is still managing with same ardor. She brought up four sons and a daughter, and also helped and assisted her husband in his study- oriented professional literary career". These words clearly describe the character and nature of Brajbala.

Brajbala’s husband Jogeswar Sarma joined the third college in Assam establishment at 1930 named as ‘Upper Assam College’ (later renamed as ‘Jorhat College’ and from 1935 onwards, came to be known as Jagannath Baruah College), and started his career as the professor of English. Brajbala was enrolled in the same college after clearing her high school exam. At its inception, there were no female students in this college- one of them was Brajbala Devi. Sadly, during the exams, her first child was born- and her academic career was over.

Between 1930 and 1940 Shri Jogeswar Sarma continued as the lecturer of Jagannath Baruah College, and later worked in the Sri Hotter Murarichand College for some days. Back home, he worked in Cotton College for twelve months and 1942 joined the Jagannath Baruahh College for the second time. In 1944, a college was established in Nagaon. Jogeswar Sarma joined as its first teacher. After joining Nagaon College in 1944, Mr. Sarma settled in Nagaon along with his family for the rest o his life.

A celebrated personality in the academic world of Assam prominent literary critic, ex-president of Assam Sahitya Sabha, Mr. Jogeswar Sarma became a figure of proud in contemporary Assam. Similary, his wife, too, worked, assisted and accompanied him in all his enterprises like a personal secretary, and must be acclaimed by the women of Assam.

Brajbala is the mother of five children- four sons and a daughter. All the children are well educated and well-placed in their lives. The elder son is the lecturer of Nagaon College, second son is income-tax commissioner, third works as the exclusive engineer, and the last son is a doctor- all of them are married. The daughter got married while pursing her master degree. Brajbala is happy and complete in her life playing the role of a good daughter-in-law, wife, mother, mother-in-law and grandmother.

It is already mentioned that right from a young age, the seeds of literary talent had been cultivated in Brajbala at her parent’s home. She was drawn towards English literature by listening to her elder brother Pramodram Bhattacharjee’s recital of English poem and translations. She also liked listening to Bengali poems. She liked reading the compositions of famous and greatest Bengali pot Rabindra Nath Tagore. Brajbala herself writes poems and essays. Her first work was published in the newspaper ‘Janxixa’ in the year 1944. Other newspapers include Janxixa, Ramdhenu, Bordoishila, Xoptxu, periodicals published by Sahitya Sabha, Smritigranth, Moina Parijator Smritigranth, all Assam Women Writer’s periodicals, etc her writings regularly appeared which include historical and social articles, plays, travelogues etc. she has travailed to famous north-Indian places like kurukshetra, Brindaban Mathura etc and penned down her memories and experiences in travel stories. Her articles like ‘Xopun’ (Dream), ‘Milantirtha’ (Sacred place of Union), ‘Aximor Xokulu’ (Everybody from infinity), and other one- act plays like ‘Gantanatra’ (Republic) published in different newspapers. The one-act play ‘Xopun’ (Dream) was enacted on the stage of Nagaon College. Other plays were also performed in different places. In the play ‘Milantirtha’ (Sacred place of union), the story of Akbar’s court is narrated- how even after Tansen’s soulful music presentations, the emperor tried it bring the blind, devotional singer Surdas; a proposal rejected by Surdas. According to the play, the emperor Akbar himself went to meet the singer sitting at the pyre of temple, singing a song in praise of Shri Krishna, and told him: "I will build you a house so that you are protected from rain and heat". To which Surdas replied, "I am sitting below the roof of the creator’s own house. Why would I need any other roof to protect me? Sitting below this roof, I can enjoy the beauty of nature and this world. It provides immense peace to my soul which I cannot make you understand. If you do not command me to join your court, I will always be grateful to you".

Such beautiful expression of feelings in such simple lines can be expressed by only a proficient artist.

In the essay written about Joymoti, she portrays the life of Joymoti, and has also highlighted the administration during Ahom rule, the art and architecture of then period, religious views politics, language and culture etc. she read this essay in the district library of Nagaon as the president of Local Women Organization in the Joymati Festival (celebrated 1984).

Her only published book is ‘Parijaat’. In 1979, Pragyan Kumar Sarma (third son) published this book. The five rupee book tells about the marriage rituals, and its meaning, the views made by bride and groom to each other during marriage, rendered in a simple, comprehensible language. This fifty-nine pages long book is worth-reading for all Indian women. The fragrance of ‘Parijaat’ is beautifully expressed in these two following lines:

Jat narjasta pujyanta remante tatra devta

Jatetasta na pujyanta sarvastrafala kriya

Which means "The house where a women is honored is venerated by even gods? And the house where a woman is dishonored that house is permanently damned ".

Santosch parmanthyay sukharti xanjato bhavato

Santoshmulanga hi sukham dukhmulam biprajyay

Only patient and contentment man can be happy. Contentment can bring happiness, and ill- contented is always unhappy.

(Instruction to housewives: page 24)

Brajbala’s ‘Parijaat’ enlightens the mind of its reader. Those who have not read this book remained ignorant of such divine creation.

Much of Brajbala’s unpublished creations have become old. In the book ‘Vishwa amar bondhu’ (The World is our friend), she has collected stories from miscellaneous sources which makes it an introductory handbook to a reader unaware of world literature. This book includes fable from Panchatantra, story of disciple, an account of great poet Kalidasa, a brief account of the three great books ‘Meghdoot, Kumar Sambhav, Raghuvansh, origin of European literature, account of classical epic poet like Homer, Virgil, and other Greek poets, tales from Bible, introduction to Chinese literature and Chinese stories, Araban tales and stories, etc.

Brajbala adopts a simple and elegant style in writing. One never tires of reading her works. Her unpublished works, if gets published, will be extremely beneficial for north male community- especially the female society will be more delighted. To publish these books is her main desire. A writer feels a kind of divine pleasure when his/ her work is published is same to what a woman feels when her child is birth. When that creation is acclaimed by the readers, it provides great satisfaction to the readers.

Brajbala earned support an encouragement from her husband’s family in pursing her literary career. An intellectual and scholar, bookworm Mr. Jogeswar Sarma’s home was no less than a huge library. In the article ‘Jogeswar Sarma’s Warning voice’, Mr. Ajit Kumar Sarma mentions thus:

"Their living room was small. There was no drawing room. Whenever I used to go to his home, I would find him sitting or lying in the bed in his room and reading a book. The whole room was surrounded with books and papers. From all the corners of the house, the attack of books were so profound that it was very difficult for aunt to keep the home organized. On reaching, he would greet with his well-known smile and immediately after, the discussions started. In these discussions, he would interpret difficult topics in a simplified manner. And give dynamics suggestions. Aunt would also participate and put forth her opinions in these discussions only after completing her kitchen work."

In this manner, after finishing her household duties, she would participate in such intellectual discussions and devote her leisure in reading books without fatigue. She was closely familiar to Padmasri Nalini Bala Deviand Poet Dugeswar Sarma whose company filled her with inspiration.

Brajbala never did any job but fervently participated in social services. In 1950, she took charge as the editor of Nagaon Women Organization. From 1962 to 1968, she was the president of the same. While being associated with association, she worked to open similar associations in various interior villages of Nagaon, opened sewing and weaving classes for women, and other such progressive works for women. For the first time in Nagaon, Brajbala Devi introduced Japanese knitting machine in order to train the folks. That training is still continuing in the women association. During the non-cooperation movement, Brajbala was awarded for weaving works. Till date, she has been associated with Nagaon Woman Association and All Assam Women Writers Association, and rending her valuable support.

At the verge of turning of 70, mental or physical ailments have not been able to control Brajbala. She enjoys a busy schedule with reading newspapers regularly, praying with grandchildren, discussing national-international issues with daughter-in-laws, helping them in household activities, helping husband suffering from eye disease in walking, reading books to him or writing down his compositions for him; in spite of so many works, she takes out time for writing. Her ever-smiling face makes one feel that she knows no sorrows or sufferings. Sometimes, busy in discharging her household duties, she would not get time to write. But the zeal and fervor to write never got lost or lessened. Actually, being a wife of such a learned man, she had to immerse herself in household activities, and carry the complete burden of the family. She was competent enough to engage herself to other ventures even after doing so many duties. It is obvious that entrusted with so many homely responsibilities, there is little scope for the development of her individual talents and aptitudes. Her husband remained dedicated to academic knowledge in order to quench his thirst for intellectual knowledge, and therefore could not pay much attention to family life. At that time, nobody thought about the difficulty of the women of having to handle the house alone. Leading a successful conjugal life with an indifferent person like Jogeswar Sarma shows well the patient nature of Brajbala Devi. Patience, Sacrifice, Forgiveness- with these three qualities, a good housewife can deftly handle her family life, and at the same time, devote her to social works, literary pursuits and other creative tasks, is best illustrated by the illuminating example of Brajbala Devi. Keeping intact a large family, Brajbala is moving ahead towards her goal with slow moving steps. Brajbala’s charming personality and affectionate nature draws anyone in the very first meeting. One becomes attracted to her endearing personality. The students who frequented Jogeswar Sarma’s house praised Brajbala’s behavior towards them. She likes attending guests and pleasing them with her delicacies. In the words of their niece Ajit Kumar Sarma:

"His straight- forward, dignified nature increased my self-confidence, and so increased my attraction towards him. There was, of course, another reason also for the growing attraction towards her. One was listening to his simple discourses, and another was food prepared by aunt (Brajbala Devi). It was a two- folded attraction: the taste of his speech and her food." In the words of his favorite student Shri Atul Chandra Goswami:

"In comparison to the love and trust thrust on me by Sri Jogeswar Sarma, Madam (Brajbala Devi) loved me even more. When I won in the MLA elections, Madam said- Atul has won. He will arrive here any time. To which Sir replied: He came when he had won for the first time. Is it necessary that he will come to greet you every time he wins? Madam had replied confidently that Atul would not remain without coming to us. He will definitely come. Just at that time, I turned up, touched their feet and took blessings. With great satisfaction, Madam had said to Sir, "Look my observation is so correct".

The confidence and far- sightedness of his affectionate lady is worth- imitating. It would not be an exaggeration to say that not only the students but everyone loves her.

Born in the sacred day of Rashpurnima, the darkness of lunar eclipse never appeared in her life, and hope never will. On certain times, some light blows of wind might have momentarily upset the peace and tranquility but did not have the force to overshadow the ever-radiant brightness of moon. Brajbala’s domestic life, literary life and social should always remain bright and lightened. May Brajbala live in peace? May she become immortal?



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