Hemalata Baruah
 
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HEMALATA BARUAH

Hemalata Baruah was a woman of many parts .She stood out as a quintessential modern Assamese woman, able to strike a fine balance between personal obligations with the societal ones with consummate ease. In an eventful , life, she donned the many roles of writer, a social worker, an organizer, a home – maker par excellence, a food enthusiast, a passionate weaver and many more .


She was born to Ramakanta Barkakati and Pabitri Barkakatri in Charing, town of upper Assam. Her father was a well known literature, who along with the three others, was credited with the first Assamese translation of Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors. She was brought up in Kolkata, where her father worked. The Calcutta of 1900’s was bustling with the activities related to reforms in the field education. The Western influence was gradually percolating the classrooms of schools, colleges and Universities. Hamalata Baruah’s liberal ethos can be attributed to this influence during her students’ days in Calcutta. She couldn’t her education due to her early marriage to Bhabani Prasad baruah at the age of sixteen. However, her quest for knowledge did not diminish and she went on to harbour a life long passion for literature. Her siblings, Sudhalata, Sukhalata and Shantilata, were, however able to achieve much academic success. Sudhalata was to top her class in M.A honors with the first class and later went on to become the principal of Crosthwaite College in Allahabad. When Sudhalata Passed away in 1928, Professor Rai Bahadur Dinesh Chandra Sen. penned a book named "A memoir of Sudhalata Duarah" to commemorate her academic contributions. Sukhalata, after completion oh her MA went on to teach in different colleges of Delhi and Lahore. Shantilata, another sister of Hemalata was the Principal of Delhi’s Lady Irwin College for eleven years .Shantilata later embraced a spiritual life and came to be known as Swami Shanta Nanda. She authorized a book for children named Aamar Bapuji during these days. The academic pursuits of these three sisters of Hemalata need to be examined in the context of the prevalent conditions for Women’s Education at that period, the early 20th century. Their contributions were undoubtedly significant in that they were oriented towards strengthening the fabric of Women’s Education in India during those times.

Although Hemalata was not able to complete her education, she devoted her energies to social work and women’s empowerment activities. She was actively involved in the organizations who worked for greater emancipation of women at Sivsagar and also in all parts of Assam. With the inspiration of her aunt Kamlaya kakati, she worked Mahila Samitis and Sipini Bharals. Weaving was her favorite activity and she devoted a lot of her time to teach youngsters to weave and understand the finer nuances of the activity. Her diligence and knowledge made her stand apart. A decade of her lifetime was fully dedicated to the noble cause of the heartier welfare of women. An idealist whose perspective was sustained by an acute understanding of the world, Hemalata was able to leave her mark and gain prominence in the society. She was revered by her peers and the members of new generation alike. As the chairman of the reception committee, she ensure the success of a grand conference of Women held at Sivasagar in the year 1955 with her organizational skills for which she is still commended. In marriages and other religious functions, her advice was indispensable for the people of Sivasagar.

Hemalata also made some significant contribution to Assamese Literature. She wrote two books named Namati Sarai and Grihinir Sararthi.

Namati Sarai is a collection of devotional songs in the praise of deities like Krishna, Shiva, Durga and so on. This book was written to document the oral songs, which otherwise, she thought would be lost to the younger generation. Grihinir Sarathi is a cook book where different recipes ranging from kahudi kharali to korma kofta. The book also contains the rules and rituals to be adhered to in marriages and other religious and traditional functions. Her easy style of writing makes for easy learning. This type of books is a rare contribution to this genre in Assamese Literature.

As a person, Hemalata was a strong woman who remained unperturbed by the vagaries of a crisis, which she was to face in the early days of her marriage with the sudden demise of her husband. The immediate responsibility of her husband and children fell upon her shoulders. She was able to deal with this sudden turn of events with patience and determination. She reposed her faith in god and nurtured her children with affection care. Her eldest son, Girija Prasad Baruah was not only a renowned tea planter but also chairman of Sivasagar Municipality Board and an active social worker. Her second son, Bijoy Prasad Baruah is also a Tea Planter and a retired Indian Administrative service officer. Her third son, Lakhi Prasad Baruah is atop ranking officer Refineries Limited. Her three daughters were married to Krishnakanta Baruah of Guwahati, Dr. Jatin Baruah of Golaghat and Krishna anta Duruah respectively. All her children were successful in their own ways and well settled in life.

Hemalata Baruah was an amiable lady who lived a full life she much indulged in Garroting and thought her family members the value of time. The lessons from her life will continue to guide and inspire new generations. A perfect embodiment of a modern woman, she set high standards for herself in personal and public life the essence of which is relevant even in the 21st century. In emulating her, the women of the future will lend her posterity and the memories of her enduring life would linger on forever.

 

 
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