Champa Kalita
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Champa Kalita

Homen Borgohain, one of the renowned personalities of Assam opines that a person, apart from being a creature of society, has his own identity with his or her own thinking and assumptions, aims and aspirations, determinations and knowledge. The aim of a man is to make full manifestation of his personality. Man has the right to fulfill his experience, aims and aspirations. Such men have failed to evaluate the values of human lives and creating history of their failure they cause indescribable loss to the society.

Many had shown examples to us to mould our life beautifully. But at present there is the degeneration of ideology. But disregarding all these, some people can stand firmly amidst adversity and overcoming the barriers they can shine in their lives.

Here I am going to describe the life sketch of a women who without having born with a golden spoon in her mouth could establish herself in society fighting against poverty, negligence and cruelty. Champa Kalita of Pabhoy, Darrang district is one of such women.

Champa Kalita was born at Jula Chuk Melamaati Village of Titabor. She was born in 1923 and her father was Lok Nath Kalita, a very poor peasant. When she was four years old she lost her father and her mother Kon Chuawali Kalita, a daily wage earner, admitted her and her sister to a primary school with the intention that they would be able to read the verses of the Kirtan. The mother like Kon Chuawali is worthy to be praised God has also helped in fulfilling the desire of that mother. With the inspiration of Ambika Charan Saikia and Chokreshwar Saikia, the freedom fighter and the then head Master of Titabor High School Champa Kalita read upto 8th Standard. After that she got her appointment as a teacher in Gumoti Devi Girls High School with a salary of Rs. 14 per month. But she was destined to be a nurse. She became interested in nursing education after 15th June 1947, when a Seva Dol Camp was organized at Golaghat by Chandra Prabha Saikiani and Padma Bhushan Bijoy Chandra Bhagawati. Against the interest of her dear mother and members of her family she got herself admitted into the Nursing School of Dubrugarh Medical College in 1948 as the first batch of students. After completing nursing training in 1950, she served in Assam Medical College, Rid Saint College Shillong,Gopinath Bordoloi Hospital at Guwahati and in Pabhoy Tea Estate after her marriage and from that Tea Estate she retired from service in 1988. Now she is an inhabitant of Pabhoy. Her first daughter Tribeni is a Research Assistant in the Department of Chemistry in Biswanath Agriculture University. Her second daughter is a doctor and she is married to Dr. Ranjan Gogoi. Her elder daughter, Tribeni along with her husband keep themselves busy to repay the debt of her mother. Now Tribeni is the companion of her life. Tribeni and her husband Jogen Bora taking all the responsibilities of the family provide her mother an environment to devote her time in works of art peacefully. Thus she is able to forget her old age.

Till the seventh decade of the twentieth century, the profession of nursing was not considered as a respectable profession in our society. Champa Kalita had to lose her mother’s affection by joining in that profession in 1950. Epidemics like Cholera and Tuberculosis created terror in our society till that time as there was no treatment for these two epidemics. If a TB patient was not cured at Shillong he/ she was to be shifted to Madras (Chennai) for treatment. Champa Kalita also suffered from TB and she was admitted to Rid Saint Hospital at Shillong. She was completely cured but the stain was not wiped out .So Champa Kalita in her poem “Anutap” expressed her feelings in following words.

 

Sharkhar kori nile jibonor joto asha

Narakhile baki ekuya

Rol mathu sangsarot ghrinit jibon eti

Kolonkor buja boboloi “

The English version is thus,

“Ruined all the hopes of my life

Nothing has been left

Only a life full of disgust

To bear the burden of stain”

But all these curses turned into blessings in the life of Champa Kalita. When she as a nurse, had to take care of Robin Dey and Kamala Biswas, her dormant artistic mind got awakened , She had learnt from Robin Dey the preliminary techniques of Art and from Kamala Biswas the technique  of Coloring . With this little knowledge of Art she can spent her spare time in pursuit of art in her old age.

Another misfortune came to her life in 1959. In 1950, a person named Panichandra Gogoi who became blind due to accidental acid burn was completely cured at her care. Being pleased at her treatment he used to communicate Champa Kalita. With letters and he became a source of inspiration for her. One day a proposal for marriage came from Panichandra Gogoi and despite the objection of her mother and members of her family she accepted the proposal and for this she had to remain cut off from her family for a long time.

She became interested in literature from 1956. She took pride as being the first lady of Biswanath Chariali to publish a poetry book named “Herua Din” in 1988. She was inspired to write poems by poet Premadhar Dutta. She also received Premadhar Dutta Memorial Award which was offered in his memory in Sonitpur District. Her poems were also published in Seuj Prakash, a souvenir of Tea Tribes, Maha Jati (a newspaper) and many local magazines. Though her poems are full of individual disgusts and sorrow, yet her feelings social consciousness, political instability, nature and patriotism are praiseworthy. She gets mental satisfaction by composing poems in old style. Extract of a stanza of one such poem is:

“Pore ne manat sakhi                      saidina ekeloge

Jamuna tirot goi bohisilu Kodom tolot

Rosisilu ekeloge                 jibonor joygann

Eshari eshari Kori jibonr sunali porot”

The English version is:

“ Do you remember friend          on that day together

We sat under a Kodom  tree across the Jamuna

    Composed together           songs of praise of our life

One by one in the golden moment of life”

 

Seeing the burning problems of the state, the poet with disgust sings that

“Nedekhai Ai

Sobikhoni

Etya jen eta norokonkal hoi gol”

The English version is:

“The unseen picture

Of my mother

Becomes a human skeleton now “

Though the words of her poem cannot express the proper meaning yet it can be said that the words used by her are simple and easily understandable to all. Her poems with rhythm make people romantic for a moment. Her poems, which are full of sorrow and grief touch the heart of the readers. Champa Kalita has also translated some of the  stories from Upanisad and from Seven Indian Classics edited by Tirthapati Dutta and other works like Brahma Darshan, Jonok Rojar Sobhat Jagya Valka , Jogya sobhat  Gargi” and Pranor Joy etc. She has also composed some of the articles full of humour and one article regarding her experiences as a nurse. Though her writings are very valuable yet she has no desire to publish these. She presented her articles in the seminar organized by “Sodou Asom lekhika Samaroh Samity” at Tinsukia. We hope that one day or other her unpublished articles will get recognition.

While she was a nurse  she joined in All Assam Employees Conference as one of the female members and also as President of Employers Association Pabhoy Branch. At present she is associated with many social works of her region and also with Paipor a manuscript magazine of “Pabhoy Lekhika  Samaroh Samity”. She also was the executive member of Sodou Asom  Lekhika Samaroh Samity.

One of her traits was her respect for humanity. While acting as a nurse for long 38 years she gave topmost priority to her service. As a nurse she became closely associated with the patients. The patients were also highly satisfied at her amicable behavior and lovely words. At that time most of the nurses were Christians and she was inspired by their ideals, She always followed the examples of Sister Josephina and Sister Sisilia. She remembers even today how with love, affection and sincerity  she cured a patient suffering from Septic.

Whoever came into contact with her could know her simple and gentle nature. It is a matter of proud that her two daughters inherited her mother’s nature.

At present her husband Pain Chandra Gogoi has passed away but she has been gifted with two flowers. She prays to God for these two flowers as thus-

“Hey Matri-

Tumi ashirbad kora

Sai dupahi pushpo jen

Othole najai’’

The English versions is:

“Oh Mother

Bless me

These two flowers do not become useless”

These two flowers (daughters) are the source of inspiration for her. Even after her retirement when she could not create an environment for her artistic work, an opportunity has come automatically to her. Sri Khagen Bordoloi, one of the colleagues of Tribeni took some pictures drawn by her to be demonstrated on the occasion of the foundation day of Charu Kala Parisad held Biswanath Chariali on 22nd October 1992. The inspiration and courage got from her daughter Tribeni she took up the art pencil in her hand and has drawn portraits of five great men like Mahatma Gandhi, Subhash Chandra Bose, Jawahar Lal Nehru etc. Seeing these portraits both the mother and her daughter were very pleased and they arranged an Art Exhibition  at State Art Gallery on 24th and 25th Feb 1995, with more than 40 pictures drawn by Champa.

At a time when people cannot think of women education and when they have to face problems in having education, Champa Kalita was never tired of working. She continued to draw the pictures of tea plucking girls and girls busy in transplanting paddy in fields. If Champa Kalita would have an  opportunity to come into contact with renowned artists like Subha Brahma and Podum Chandra Buragohain, the trend of her life would have been a different one.

Shantanu Bhattacharjee, reporter of the newspaper “North East” compares the Art works of Champa Kalita to Italian Artist Job Gnayani. She just like Jod Gnayani draws the pictures with some lines (Rekha Citra) and through these lines she reflects the simplicity of the village life. While drawing the portraits of individuals of the village life. While drawing the portraits of individuals she tries her best to reflect their personality also. She also tries to reflect the personality of Doloi Lama the Tibetan religious saint. She always carries a bag with pieces of paper and whenever she desires she can draw the portraits of people. People cannot believe these things without having seen her.

When she sincerely draws a picture it seems that she tries to talk to God. She is also contemplating to draw pictures taking ideas from the Citra Bhagawat. Of   course she was already drawn the portraits of Basudev taking Lord Krishna to Mathura. Observing her pictures many used to address her as Grand Ma but these cannot disturb her. As her eyesight is becoming weak she adopts a new technique to paint different parts of a body of an individual. She completely closes one of her eyes and peeping through a hole just like telescope made by the fist of her other hand she minutely notices the special portions of her Art.

Today many of the artists are fond of symbolic pictures. Just like the world which seems to be critical, the Art of today are also becoming critical. But such kind of Arts is not for the general people . But the Art of Champa Kalita gives pleasure to common people . People instead of  observing critical symbolic art can achieve pleasure by looking at simple Art because this Art is as beautiful as rhythmic poems. The Art of Champa Kalita may not be up to the standard or may not be highly praised but her simplicity, feeling of devotion, personality, attempt in giving shape are noteworthy. She has also drawn some of the symbolic pictures but was not successful in this aspect.

From 1992 her works of Art are displayed in different places of Sonitpur District, in the conference of “Sodou Asom Lekhika Samaroh Samity” held at Nazira, in the annual conference of Sandhani Lekhika Samaroh Samity Bokakhat, conference of “Sodou Asom Lekhika Samaroh Samity” held at Biswanath  Chariali and in 62nd conference of “Assam Sahitya Sabha” held at Bokakhat in 1996. Her works of Art are even demonstrated in Assam Bhawan Delhi. Portraits drawn by her are preserved in the Trimuty Bhawan and at Gandhi Museum Delhi. All her works of Art can bring accolades to the people of Assam.

When I approached her for some data to write her life sketch she replied –“What will you do writing my life sketch now? I have yet many things to do”. Hearing her reply tears rolled down from my eyes. Her interviews are taken by All India Radio. TV etc. News regarding her artistic talent has been published in newspapers like The Assam Tribune, Sentinel, North East Times, Danik Assam, Assam Bani, Sadinia Sombad, Maha Jati, Ajir Hombad etc. In most of the papers her short biography and photographs are also published. We, all the women of Assam should try our best to possess a bold and strong personality like Champa Kalita.

It is of course necessary to preserve the portraits of individual drawn by Champa Kalita. But it is a very expensive task. Daughter Tribeni is interested but she cannot proceed with this work without Governments assistance.

Champa Kalita is not only an artist but also an owner of a multi faced personality. She is at the same time a poet, litterateur, orator and social activist, She is not hankering after money. That is why in spite of her economic scarcity she is able to keep herself busy in activities of Art. Champa Kalita spent her whole life working as a nurse of a Tea Garden and as a companion of her blind husband. She in the last part of her life takes up the art pencil and the color in her hand only for her daughters and has now filled her house with works of Art. She can be compared to Citra Lekha, friend of Usha daughter of King Bano who had her proficiency in drawing the portraits of individuals. Just like Citra Lekha who was the pride of Sonitpur in ancient days, Champa Kalita today is a pride of Assam.

Artist Nila Paban Baruah, singer Khogen Mahanta, reporter Ajit Bhuyan of “Sadin” was very much pleased seeing the portraits drawn by Champa Kalita. She not only draws the portraits of prominent figures but the portraits of Lady Dacoit Queen Phulondevi, controversial writer Taslima Nasrin, Kiran Bedi first Assamese actress Aideu Handique, Rameshwari Hazarika, Dharmeshwari Devi Baruahni, Nalini Bala Devi, Chandra Prabha Saikiani, Nirma; Prabha Bordoloi, Nelson Mendela (the National hero of Africa), Margarett Thesar of England, Mothe Teresa, Doloi Lama, Indira Gandhi, Roopkonwar Jyoti Prasad Agarwalla and Kala Guru Bishnu Prasad Rabha etc

She has drawn most of the pictures with pencils and only a few have been coloured, According to her- portraits drawn with pencil look very beautiful. She is not interested in using colors which does not match her life style. So she scarcely uses the technique of coloring that she has learnt from her patient Kamala Biswas at Shillong.

The life of Champa Kalita is full of struggle and conflict. The thorny path of her life sometimes breaks all her hopes and aspirations into pieces. The pain that she receives from society fills her mind with sorrow. She can never forget the treatment that her two daughters received from society for being daughters of a nurse and blind person. Though she feels bore living in society yet she is firmly determined to overcome all these strains and struggles of life.

It is a good sign that age cannot stand as hurdle in her path of success both as an artist and as a litterateur. Let her working zeal may be an inspiration to all.

   
   
   
   

 

 
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