Neelima Dutta
 
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Neelima Dutta

‘Keep writing’ is merely a two words sentence. But it became a treasured asset for this woman. Till date, she preserves this asset in her heart. With a lot of efforts, she was successful in handling the copy of her first published book to the world- famous, eminent scholar, one of the leading figures of Assam, Krishnakanta Handique. Only these two golden words came forth from the mouth of this reserved man who is inaccessible for interviews and meetings. These two words aroused life-long inspiration, amazing courage. Whenever she would take rest from writing for two- three days together, her ears would wring with that clear, loud and straight yet grim and melodious voice-------- ‘Keep Writing’. Order, request, or an affectionate demand, in response to those two words, simply, quietly, secretly in an unheard voice her heart says---------- ‘ I am writing; I will keep writing’.

 

‘I am a woman

In the grip of my hands

Lies the power of creation

Of this great world

I am the woman

My power

As the destroyer of all evils

In the courage of society’.

(From ‘Janoni’)

To destroy the dark, evil forces of society, the woman who takes the form of divine power, holds pen as her potent weapon to capture the fleeting life. To protest against the injustice-corruption, exploitation, in the society, she sharpens this mighty auspicious weapon everyday.

‘You, mother

Hiding, unnoticed

With your invisible both hands

Bless us with the gift of peace

‘Wiped away affectionately

Tired body, drops of sweat on the forehead

At your heart stands my

Green house of hope…"

The speaker of this poem is a rightful heiress to a dutiful, long life. In order to enjoy life, to transport into art, to provide a mission to life, right from her youth, this woman has done a hard penance, and struggle. It is not that she had remained immune from the troubles and tribulations, bitter realities of life. At those times, the tender heart of a poet sought consolation in the verses of her poems, and found solace and tranquility of mind and body in the peaceful company and love of mother nation. Restoring the lost zeal and desire, once again the poetess occupied herself in her creative works with determination.

‘Again, spreading the new wings

Like the bloody hibiscus

For the created life

Crushing the already destroyed dreams

The heights of the sky

In the long spread green fields

The radiance of determination

This time, in the sweating forehead…’ (From ‘Prostuti’)

A rainy afternoon of summer, with scared steps, I approached the lady. In simple attire with that familiar smile, she came and sat by me. What is she writing presently? How does she keep herself busy? ----- In the garb of these questions, I could extract from her some information on her past life. Implausibly, she narrated the beautiful, amazing experience of her foreign tours. In between the conversations, her wandering heart rambling in the hills and mountains, takes and sea, would momentarily get lost in the different corners of this world. Unblinking gaze in the far, distant areas a bright face which shines with the light of her talent. I remembered the lines of one of her poems…

‘This river, flowing, excited

..…………………Both sides

Attracts one for undisturbed meditation

The sunrise in the East

Bright with light

With your love eternal’ (From – Buddhor Proti)

I took out pen and paper to note down some things while in conversation. She steadied her look, and asked me in an angry voice, ‘What are you doing?’ What will you do with the knowledge of my humble life? Don’t write biography. I feel shy of these things’. With adulated respect, I handed the paper to her and said, "Madam, knowledge of these details, will give inspiration and courage to win over the battle of life for the next generations.’’

 

Proud less, unserious of publicity or fame, author of 25 A books, a life-long pursuer of learning and education, is Neelima Dutta. At the thought of self-publicity, self-parade, she behaved like a shy, bending creeper. In reality, this woman is not as light as a creeper. Strong-Willed, patient mind, extremely hard-working, her personality resembles a hard…..Tree. The root of this tree lies deep inside the soil which forms a distinct region.

A former professor of the philosophy Department of Guwahati University, Mrs. Dutta is a poet, novelist, children fiction writer, short story writer and an essayist. Spreading education and literature are the ambition of Mrs. Dutta’s life; she was interested in literacy activities from her student life. As a student, she attained the blessings of famous poet Raghunath Choudhury, Nalinibala Devi, Dharmeswari Devi Barua, and many other famous, unknown writers that motivated her for literacy service. Nalininbala Devi was the greatest inspiration of her life. ‘You can write poems’-these lines from Nalinibala Devi created a wave of excitement in her young heart. It is worth-mentioning that as a student, she had composed certain poems which she referred to Nalinibala Devi. She made the above quoted remark after reading those poems.

A close friendship developed between Shrimati Kamala Medhi (wife of the retired rector of Gauhati University) daughter of famous, linguist, Shri Kaliram Medhi and Miss Dutta. Their friendship is firm and intact till today. The two intimate friends would discuss various topics, among which literary discussions gained prominence. In fact, their letters consisted of serious discussions on various issues. Marked with reason, fact and evidence, those letters took the form of short essays, remembers Miss Dutta. In this manner, her literary interests began to surface and gain ground.

Miss Dutta won a medal in an English debate competition organized by the institute of ‘Modern Student’, Kolkata. This medal excited her, and gave her the confidence and faith that she could write. Subsequently, in the magazine ‘Jayanti’ edited by Sukleswar Bora, her first poem ‘Bandha’ was published in a periodical. Her first full- length book ‘Xixu Bikas’ was published in 1956. A series of books appeared following this including text books, increasing the store- house of Assamese literature.

Children books: ‘Xixu aru poribekh’ (1957), ‘Xixu aru Xuna kotha’ (1958), ‘Mahat Lokar Lorali Kaal’ (1957), Narir Mukti(1957).

Philosophy:

‘Kalkir Anubaad’ (Sarve Palli Radhakrishnan, 1970), The translations of Rene Descartes and Spinoza from ‘Introduction to Philosophy’, Science of Indian Logic (1975), A excerpt from Social Philosophy (1975), An introduction to Western Philosophy (1975), An introduction to Western Philosophy (1975), A chapter on Indian Philosophy (1988), A second chapter on Indian Philosophy, Logic and Indian Philosophy (1991), A Quest in Philosophy (1982).

Fiction:

Aakashbani (1967), Soilsikhar (1969) , Moi aru Aami (Children Fiction, 1985), Pransikha (1987), Dhumuhar Khekhot (In publishcation).

Poems:

Xex Naai (1967), Andhakup (1970), Provakar(1977), Khur or Sobi Aru Pranor Sur(1988).

Some other books related to philosophy:

A Brief introduction to Greek Philosophy (1990)

Sarve Palli Radhakrishnan--- Ideals and Philosophy of Life (1991)

‘In the world of Education’ is in manuscript form. It is about her experiences as a student and then, a teacher.

‘While in Abroad’--- Travelogue

On the verge of turning 70, Neelima has not stopped till date. The ink of her pen is still going on. At this age also, she wakes up at three o’clock in the morning, and sits down to read and write. Presently, she is busy translating Will Durant’s ‘Story of Philosophy’. This work, when finished, will be a special contribution to Assamese literature. A novel ‘Dhumuhar Pisot’ (After the Storm) appears serially in the monthly journal ‘Prakash’ published by Assam Publication Association. She is also writing an article ‘Luitore paani jaabi o boi’ (Like the water of Brahmaputra, you will flow away’) where she writes about the childhood and youth with a sense of nostalgia for the journal ‘Kishor’ edited by Homein Borgohain. In this article, the golden doe of the childlike heart of water flies to the other side of the Luit River breaking away all the boundaries: "… The ignorance of the incomprehensible loneliness of my golden childhood would often draw me to the heart of nature. Alone, I would go to the bank of the river, collects the pebbles strewn at the river side, and throws them, one by one, into the river. A rippling sound, an echo of my soft voice, would stir the broad heart of the river. Amazing! I was thrilled with wonder. I see the touching flow of life in the heart of nature. As if I was hugged tightly by two invisible hands…" (Kishore’, 1st year, 1st edition, p.10) Dutta’s ‘Praanshika’ has been published by Bani Publication. In the advertisement of the novel, in one of the places, it is written:

"The events of this scholar lady’s novel are taken from a true incident happened in the 70’s. With the magic of the writer’s talent, the crude story has been molded into a from of art. In the development of the theme of the novel, the delineation of characters, handling of dialogues and choice of setting, the author has been astonishingly successful. Since she is a master of philosophy, the influence of philosophy is evident at the different stages of the story, and in the growth of the characters. The continual flow of the consciousness renders a natural movement, speed and realistic touch to the novel. The narrative technique is inartificial and original".

 

Some lines are quoted from the novel to prove the truth of the above mentioned lines: ‘…… After Bandana and Anju went out of the house, Dr Duwarah quietly tried to think about the future of Anju. For the healthy future of Anju, Bandana has to undergo the ocean of pain and sufferings. There is a rising surge of pain lies in the sense of not being able to acquire while Bandana’s pain consists in losing all one had acquired. This pang of loss brought tears into the eyes of Bandana which upset Dr Duwarah.; (P. 89). The language of Miss Dutta’s fiction is not only descriptive; it is evocative which helps in analyzing the actual the reader. The following lines illustrate the above mentioned fact- "The love- thirsty, soul- stirring wailing of Arun jolted the body of Sudhanshu. Sudhanshu looked towards the sky with surprise. The star- studded sky was ablaze with a childhood image. The murmuring sounds of words somewhere, as if somebody just narrated the story of moon. Below the Tulsi plant a deer is feeding on the grass, a magical deer is dragging him towards an imaginary place. Leaving aside these imaginary stroll, he became alert suddenly’. (P 94)

The action and event of the fiction moves forward in a normal speed, and the characters described in the fiction preserve their personal space.

The scholar of philosophy Miss Dutta published ten books on philosophy, and proved her intellectual superiority in this field. There cannot be any comparison of this contribution of Neelima Dutta to the students of philosophy. Her mastery lies in describing the serious principles of the Indian Philosophy book, she discuss the general rules of the different branches of Indian philosophy, and three agnostic schools- Buddha, Jainsm and Sarvaak philosophy, and the three agnostic schools--- Buddha, Jainism and Sarvaak philosophies are also discussed. In the second and third unit, she discuss the branches the discussion of modern Indian philosophy. Almost forty years of teaching in philosophy filled her with specialized knowledge in this field which led her to write so many fact- filled, important books on philosophy. The harmony of the subject- matter blended with the attractive writing style which makes her work interesting and remarkable.

Burdened with worldly responsibilities, this sincere woman managed to publish her self-written books, and also organized the haphazard writings of her scholar husband Bhabananda Dutta, and presented before the reading public. Edited by Shivanath Barman,Ranjit Kumar Dev Goswami Parmananda Majumdar, the book ‘The Life and Works of Bhabananda Dutta’, consists of an essay ‘Bhabananda Dutta’ written by Atul Chandra Baruah. He writes of this dutiful, conscious woman in this way: "It has to be accepted that just like the Sati Bihula went to heaven with the dead body of her husband, and brought back the life of her husband; similarly Professor Neelima Dutta searched and organized the works of her husband published in various journals and magazines, arranges them chronologically, and binds together in the form of a book, and publishes it to confirm his immortality in this mortal world."

Keeping to her name, this learned, intellectual woman was born at the historical place of Koliabor, Silghat under Nagaon district in the year 1925.The name of her father and mother are Sakiram Hazarika and Malati Hazarika. Neelima started her journey of education in small primary school of Silghat. Later, she is admitted to Silghat M.E. School. In 1941, she passed the elementary exam in first division with distinction marks in Sanskrit and History. Sharp-brained, diligent student Neelima Devi achieved excellence in all the exams of her life. Form primary school to the final year exam of university, she was able to secure competitive scholarships. Regard and interest for education was cultivated in her by the teacher of her primary school, Indreswar Goswami.

She received motivation from Rajbala Das in the high school. An illuminating model of women education in Assam is Handique Girls College. Neelima passed her I.A exam from this college under Calcutta University securing highest marks in logic. In this regard, she recollects the support and guidance of the founder principal and lecturers: Rajbala Das, Umakanta Das, Rajnikanta Sarma and Hem Barua. Educationalist Umakanta Sarma took especial notice of Dutt’s study. ‘I feel proud of you’-These words generated the thought of more hard work in her mind. In 1945, she completed her degree from Ashutosh College of Calcutta. In 1947, she completed her master’s exam in second class from Calcutta University. She also qualified for two exams of law, but falling into worldly trap, she could not appear for the final year exam. She had to struggle hard in these years of education. A time when the daughters and daughter-in-laws of Assam were struggling with confinement, she went to Calcutta to peruse her academic career. The state of Calcutta became red with violent communal riots, and conflict between government and common public. Some places of Calcutta were threatened with the fear of death.

In this anarchical, disordered state of affairs, she kept intact her attention, and earned her education. It was a strange experience of her life. Struggling with various difficulties and hardship, financial crisis, etc. she did not lose her interest and zeal for learning.

From the month of July in 1948, Srimati Dutta started her teaching career in Handique Girls College. While teaching in college, she made many attempts for the cause of women’s education in Assam. Not limiting herself to only imparting education, she also paid attention towards the healthy physical and mental development of the female students. Thus, a prominent person of education department, had remarked-"You are not only teaching, but working for the liberation of Assamese society." While she was teaching in Handique college, the ‘Assam College Teacher’s Association’ was formed. She was closely associated with this association.

Putting another step forward in the career, she reached the campus of Gauhati University in 1966. Truly, the growth of her learning career developed in Guwahati University. Apart from participating in seminars and discussions on Indian Philosophy organized in different parts of the country; she also earned the pride of being chairperson of the same. In 1972, she participated in the seminars and discussions on Indian Philosophy organized in different parts of the country, she also earned the pride of being chairperson of the same. In 1972, she participated in the seminar organized in Kanpur, in 1975, January, delivered a lecture on ‘Buddha Jayanti’ on the eve of Diamond Jubilee of the Indian Philosophy Organization in Hyderabad (The Development of Zen Buddhism in Japan), in 1975, she became the president of the Metaphysics branch of the Indian Philosophical Organization. Besides, she had been attending various seminars and conferences organized in Delhi, Banaras, Jabalpur, Pondichary, etc. She earned the appreciation of the ascetic and priest society after delivering a lecture on the relevance of Buddhist Philosophy in the intercommoned philosophical meeting held in Kanchipuram. She also got a chance to participate in the meeting of Pan Indian Languages of philosophy held in Calicut, Mysore.

The praise and acceptance earned in this meeting opened the door of international seminars and conferences. In the 16th meeting of World Philosophical Society held 1978, Prof Dutta went to Germany to represent India. She also found an opportunity to participate in the 17th meeting of World Philosophical Society held in 1978; Prof Dutta went to Germany to represent India. She also found an opportunity to participate in the 17th meeting of world Philosophical Society held in the month of August, 1983, in the city of Montreal, Canada. Again, in the seminar on the topic of ‘Ultimate Reality’ held in Toronto, 1985, she graced the occasion as the chairperson. From Toronto, she gets an opportunity to visit France, Switzerland and England. The company of foreign scholars, acquaintance with different persons, boosted her inner confidence and also provided her an incomparable joy. This is the reason why recollecting the days of foreign tours, an unusual brightness emanates from her face. As if that is an illuminating episode of her life.

Another influence of Neelima Dutta’s life is Rabindra literature. Fortunately, the person whom she acquired as her life partner was also a devotee of Rabindra literature. She got married to Bhabananda Dutta, an eminent scholar of philosophy, literacy personage, in the month of July, 1949. A foreign returned, highly educated, Bhabananda Dutta, made her life sweetly happy. It is remarkable that this marriage was arranged by Raghunath Choudhury. He was not only a well-wisher to their married life, but acted as a guardian to them. The name of their sons: Moloy and Niloy are also decided by this great poet. In fact, in the construction of their house, the respected poet took especial interest. The unconditional love of this great man was the life long inspiration of this couple.

Post marriage, in some unnoticed, carefree moments of happiness, Mrs. Dutta was singing a song of Rabindra. Her husband was mesmerized to hear the song. The very next day he bought a book of Rabindra poems and gifted it to her. On another occasion, her husband gifted her book of poems by kalidasa. He was not satisfied with presenting her with these gifts; he made her recite the poems regularly, being an ardent fan of Sanskrit language and literature. In the ten years of married life, she got the same amount of love and guidance.

On the 3rd August, 1959, Srimati Dutta’s husband died struggling with a fatal disease. Although the glow of her life was lost, she was not somebody to accept defeat. She moved ahead in her life with the responsibility of her two sons. One by one stepped ahead in the intellectual world. Touring around the world, she established the sharpness and brilliance of her intellect, and brought pride to the entire country.

The matter of intercommoned meetings, experiences of foreign tours made up the content of her articles in contemporary magazines, and with an eye for minute details, the tourist also writes in the form of travelogues. This travelogues are immersed with the stories of love friendship, the voice of peace, the glimpses of world history, and the tale of small-high many people.

In between, the interest of this lady in the literature of children has come to the fore. The close attachment with her children and a conscious mother inside brought her closer to the literature of children. In her own words---‘When I look at the faces of my two sons, I can see the laughter of innumerable children.’ This is the all-pervading, uncorrupting love of a mother. The following lines of deep love marks the children literature of Mrs. Dutta----

"Mother, why should I call you, mother

When father calls you Moni?

Even I also like this name Moni

Mother, Do you know even I love you

Like my father?"

(Child and Common Talks)

The writer has established an psychological tie with the heart of the child. One of the critics of the book ‘Child and Common Talks’ comments: "Besides, the writer explains the mysteries of the sky in a scientific manner against common beliefs in a simple language." ‘The childhood life of famous persons’, I and Us’, are remarkable works of children literature. ‘Child and Environment’, are two remarkable books on the mental and physical development of the children.

The reading of psychology in addition to philosophy created a grave impact on the mind of Dutta. Thus, to create an awareness of the subject among laymen, and to impart knowledge on trivial matters of day-to-day life, Mrs. Dutta collaborated with some working ladies and formed a ‘Psychological Society’ in 1969.

In different parts of the capital, the society organized talks and discussions. These talks were participated by Dr Birendra Kumar Bhattacharjee, Dr Bhaben Saikia, Dr Goluk Goswami, Giridhar Sarma, Krishna Prasad Borah, Dr Anandeswar Borthakur, Dr Kankeswar Barua, and such famous of literary society of Assam.

In 1980, Dutta acquired the first class degree in Tamil language (Certificate Course). After learning Tamil language, she writes Tamil articles and poems, and an Assamese article on Tamil epic poetry from an analytical perspective.

Mrs. Dutta has also published writings in Banglali language. Her poems and essays have been published in Bangla magazines and journals. In 1975, she reads an article on Srimanta Sankardev written in Bengali language in the ‘Banga Sobha’ organized in Calcutta. This is another creative side of her life. She has huge respect and firm faith in the different languages and religions of this world. She has no narrowness or qualms over any language or religion. An equal and liberal outlook has provided her with such mentality.

One of the world classics gave her immense pleasure at her young age. She became acquainted with this book in an interesting manner. The young Neelima Dutta took the heavy responsibility of reading the proof copy of the book ‘Tolstoyor Xadhu’ (Stories of Tolstoy) translated by Surendra Mohan Das. At that time, she was merely a student of 9th standard. In this manner, an unending relation was established with an exceptional product of world literature.

In an intellectually lightened life, Mrs. Dutta has achieved honor and awards from many institutions and organization. She shouldered the responsibility of being the President, Secretary, Invited speaker, on different occasions and ceremonies. On returning from abroad, she was graciously welcomed by the professors and students of philosophy department from Gauhati University. In the golden jubilee celebration of Handique Girls College, she was honored for her ‘dutiful and unconditional’ service.

Her participation in the special discussion (Assamese society during war-time period and changes in the creative literature) of the annual meeting of ‘Assam Sahitya Sobha’ held in Abhyapuri in 1977 made her especially respectable the intellectual society. She worked as the Secretary in the workshop organized on ‘Children literature’ by Assam Sahitya Sabha in 1985. She was honored in the Poets’ meeting organized in Jorhat, 1986 by Assam Sahitya Sabha. Considering the intellectual achievement of Mrs. Dutta, she was given a heartfelt honor in the open session of Assam Sahitya Sabha held in 15th February, 1987 at Pathsala.

Mrs. Dutta chaired the eighth Annual meeting of ‘Kampur Sahitya Parishad’ held on 29th January, 1977 at Patasharkuchi.

She also graced the President’s chair in the open field meeting in Nagaon of the fourth annual gathering of Sadou Assam Lekhika Samaroh’ on 14th October, 1978. On many occasions, she has undertaken the heavy responsibility as the secretary, president of Poets’ Meeting, literary meets held by Sadou Assam Lekhika Samaroh. Thus thoughtful, venerable lady is entrusted with different roles in the various gatherings, and organizations of Assam.

Escalating heights in her intellectual life, this lady has achieved glory in her social life also. Accepting cruel widowhood as a guide, she embraced the two little kids in her heart, became a traveler of a lighted path, and moved ahead alone in a thorny material life. Troubles came and humbly bowed down, storms came to find courage, and the hollowness of material life could not devour the highly ambitious and effortful heart. She makes her sons highly educated: the elder son Dr Moloyananda Dutta is the professor of Computer Science department of Gauhati University, and the younger son is a lawyer in the Gauhati High Court. Both are daughter-in-laws are highly educated. The elder daughter-in-law Dr Jayshri Dutta is a professor of Physics in the B.Barooah College of Gauhati, the younger Dr Biju Dutta is an associate professor in Gauhati Medical College. Mrs. Dutta has set an example of equality in son- daughter-in-law relation to Assamese Social life. It can be said that the family life of Mrs. Dutta has become a beautiful garden with her four grandchildren: Piyankar, Mala, Awanti and Mala. Their child life prospers under the affection and care of their grandmother’s broad heart.

Including the grandchildren, each member of the family enjoys complete freedom. Each of them understands each others nature, respects it and never hesitates in giving acceptance. The celebrated lady, thus, achieved success in her personal and social life also.

With the lifelong devotion, this lady along with her own life has also enriched the cultural life of Assam. She has glorified the cultural-traditional history of Assamese women. The knowledge of Dutta’s life will be path showing to the generations of Assamese women. Turing a depressed life into a trespasser, this brave woman crushed the futility of mundane life and leaped towards a bright future. I dedicate a respectful ‘Khorai’ to this women, and wish for her healthy, string dutiful long life.

At the end I would like to conclude with a few lines from her presidential speech given at the eighth annual ceremony of ‘Kamrup Sahitya Parishad’ in Patasarkhuchi:

"The progress of literature and culture today depends on the well- researched scientific outlook of the creative people, and social awareness. The artists should portray, fearlessly, the habit of plugging a weak, helpless person out from the depths of troubles. Like a ‘dumb girl’ the dumb public should raise their voices, this principle should be approached optimistically by the writers. And there is no end to the many needful things to be done for the common public, to be considered consciously by the devotees of literature, arts and culture".

 

 
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