Malabika Goswami
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 Shovaneswari Devi Goswami  




In despair I muse alone

You didn’t take me along,

For a downstream sail

I’ve no provision left

Malabika Goswami Baideo whom I saw for the first time on a day in 1964 or 1965 was in intimate terms with me- for almost a year. I first met her when I came to stay at Devicharan Barua Girls’ College Hostel as a student of first year degree class. Today this lady opens the closed door of my mind, heart and memory and takes me back to the past after a long interval or twenty two years. We were at that time, robust young girls and our warden, Malabika Baideo, a frail, elderly lady devastated by misfortune and cruelty of time. She was the adorable mother of Mela, our companion, and Milibaideo, a graduate by that time.

‘Young boys and girls, hope of the nation

Words are not enough to soothe ears,

Put on a new grab, discarding fear,

And save the honor of motherland.’

Lines from a collection of patriotic songs, Jagrihi composed by Malabika Baideo on the background of Chinese aggression comes to my mind. Patriotism germinates in the heart of a woman crushed by untimely widowhood and scores of problems. Indo China war took away so many lives, scattered about so many families even then she called upon the young people to fulfill the noble aim of worshipping the motherland in this manner—

‘Great worshippers of motherland.

Ore of hope for corers of people

May you come back victorious?

Annihilating the foes.’

I bow my head to the departed soul of this inborn poet and composer before reviewing her literary work so that any mistake inadvertently made by me in writing about her should be forgiven. In examine carefully the past and the present, our memory might fail. I endeavored to write something about her literary career but could not collect relevant data’s and so I don’t know how far successful I will be in doing so. She left for her heavenly abode beyond this world without giving us scope to know and understand her properly.

If a person suffers from economic hardship, and a mother has to perform the duty of both the parents, then her finer sensibilities are bound to die. Manners and expressions become harsh. At least I thought like that about Malabika Baideo. Perhaps it was my destiny to know and understand her and so our relationship was somewhat emotional.

The green grassy pitch of her personality was hidden under a lair of rough demeanor.

Malabika Goswami was born at Jorhat in August 1924. The famous physician Dr. Ruchinath Sharma was her father and Swarnamoyee Devi was her mother. At the time of her marriage she was relatively young. She tied her wedlock with late Rebakanta Goswami in 1940. He was form from a respectable family of Golaghat and was serving as a publicity officer in Darrang at that time. Even before she could fully realize happiness and responsibility of a married life, she lost her husband in the year 1947. On the other hand, her father died in 1942 and Malabika, as the eldest child had to look after her two younger brothers in the absence of their father. She did not attend school in the tenth standard. So, attending Chariduar High School and Jorhat Girl’s High school. She passed matriculation examination as a private candidate. In her school days, she attended various programmes of Asom Chatra Sanmelan and offended the school authority. When she joined Jagannath Barua College she was elected a secretary of the students’ Union.

To bear the heavy burden suddenly brought in by the death of her father and her husband let Goswami had trodden the uneven path of life accepting a life of struggle. At a time, when Assamese and Bengali Brahmins felt that their duty ended with marrying their daughters as early as possible, Malabika Goswami was shinning as a woman giving proper weight age to her qualities of heart and soul. She was determined to go a long way giving proper formal education to her two young daughters and two younger brothers. In the process she did not neglect her own study and finally joined the dignified profession of a teacher for her livelihood.

For sometime she was working as a teacher in Golaghat. Then she joined Sadiya High School in 1949 and during the earthquake in 1950 came back to Jorhat to teach in Jorhat Girls’ High School. She was working in Hunlal High School at Doomdoma till 1958. Then she went to Guwahati and staying with her brother took up the job of publishing an enlarged edition of her father’s book, (Gharooa Bhigyan and Swasthyaniti) "Domestic Science and Hygene". The book is an elaborate discussion in a very simple language of matters related to domestic science and health. It is worth mentioning here that in those days mathematics was not a compulsory subject in almost all the girls’ school of Assam. The girls had to answer more questions on domestic science and hygiene than on Mathematics. So, for not being able to offer mathematics in the matriculation examination many brilliant and willing girl students had to join the Arts stream. However, the book was quite beneficial to the students of that period who in their future life could use their knowledge as a mother and homemaker. The author and publisher of the book deserve gratitude.

Malabika Goswami published a collection of her patriotic songs written on the background of Chinese aggression in her days at Sarojini High School. She names it Jagrihi. Some of these songs were rendered to music by Deepali Borthakur and some other artists to broadcast from Akashbani, Guwahati.

During her stay at Kenduguri she faced some constraints and so informed Late Prasanna Barua about it. He assured her of an alternative arrangement so that she does not have to go back. Accordingly he appointed Goswami as the assistant librarian at Devicharan Barua Girls’ College. She had to live in the college hostel at that time and fell sick afterwards. Her brothers Dr. Mukunda Madhab Sharma and Manoj Madhab Sharma for whose upbringing she kept her nerves intact offered to construct a house at Jorhat town for her. But the people, who are attracted by their relatives, are generally drawn more towards the villages than the town. So, she asked her brother to construct a house for her at Charigaon in a pollution free environment. Actually that was the time when she could devote herself wholeheartedly to various creative writings. Her two daughters were very close to her heart and after their marriage she felt quite lonely as in the words of Jatindranath Duara- "I am lonely, lonely forever". Immersed in solitude, getting rid of endless problems she breathed her last on 6th July, 1977 at Dibrugarh.

"Myself all alone,

Solely in despair,

Your gaze did avoid

The secluded hut of the poor."

Why do we recall a person after death? Though we reminisces every person with respect, for some people we feel something more than that. Malabika Baideo was perhaps that kind of person, whose life was nothing but struggle. This lady lost everything at the death of her husband and father but she did not lose her hope and desire to create. Malabika goswami, who wrote a three Act play, Adikabi when she was in eight standards went on writing ceaselessly not for publicity but in the hope of recording the inner most feelings of her heart. Even now many of her students respectfully remember that she made her students enact the plays written by her. Sishu Gandhi, Ahalyar Shapmochan and Gandharir Abhisap are some of the plays written for All India Radio. She began to translate Kumar Sambhab even when she was ill. She wrote articles in college magazines. In 1936 and 1937 she regularly wrote letters to the editor in Saptahik Batori. Her letter supporting the agitation for establishing a university in Assam occasioned particular commotion.

Composer Goswami herself was a singer. The rhythm of music soothed her heart penetrating the surface of her rough composer. She regularly practiced classical music at Lakhara and eharidanr. Assamese people of high society at that time were connoisseur of music.

So, she did not forget music in her days of woe.

Premature sensibility can easily affect a strife-ridden life. An ailing person always feels upset. Even so Malabika Baideo was not a person to be defeated by bowing down before sickness and poverty. If a person’s real identity lies in her work then it must be maintained that she achieved a lot more in her life than then happy persons and got more than what others acquired. Rust of time dims the memory. So the details of the days of distant past cannot be arranged systematically. We can surmise only this--- Malabika Baideo, a good writer, teacher and ideal mother was really incomparable.


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