Padmakumari Borgohain
 
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PADMAKUMARI BORGOHAIN

(1913-1987)

Padma Kumari Borgohain, born on 24th Feb 1913 in Shillong belonged to the family of last Ahom Swargadeo Purandar Singh who ruled Assam independently from 1818 to 1819 and from 1832 to 1839 jointly with the British. Among the six children of Siddeswar Gohain Padma Kumari was the fifth one. Padma Kumari’s father Rajkumar Siddeswar Gohain was an employee of Assam Secretariat then at Shillong. Her mother Rajkumari Subhadra Aidew belonged to the Borgohain family of Messagarh, Sibsagar. Due to some clash regarding property Siddeswar Gohain was called to Guwahati and from that time on he started to live at Rajabari of Guwahati.

Rajkumar Debeswar Gohain, the elder brother of Padma Kumari Gohain was an advocate of Guwahati High Court. Her another brother Rajkumar Sureswar Gohain was the additional D.P.I of Assam and he retired from Nagaland as D.P.I. her elder sister Nil Padmini Gohain was married to Suren Gohain, the Superintendent of excise. Her second elder sister Surabala was married to Kanak Gogoi, a high ranked officer of police department. Her younger brother Rajkumar Kumudeswar Gohain, was retired as vice principal from Moran H.S. School.

Padma Kumari spent her childhood days in Shillong. At that time in Shillong there were only few schools and the medium of instruction of those schools was Bengali. Besides this, the sending of girls to the schools was not socially recognized. Both in Guwahati and Shillong Padma Kumari had to spend her childhood days without going to school. But there was provision for children belonging to royal family to receive education up to Matriculation level under private tutors at Rajabari Tol of Guwahati. There was also the prevailing system of learning Tai Ahom language and literature under the patronage of Ahom pandits or scholars. It is to be mentioned that Dr. Surya Kumar Bhuyan and Dr. Bani Kanta Kakoti also learnt Tai language from those Ahom pandits and later renowned as eminent historians. One of her uncles Jamider Nogendra Narayan Chowdhury of Lakhimpur was a man having an imaginative mind, who had great interest in music. At his initiative regular rehearsal on music and caricature was continued at Rajabari of Guwahati. Many of the renowned artists like Parbin Phukan, Lakhyadhar Chowdhury, and Kamal Chowdhary assembled in this rehearsal programmed. It cannot be denied that they contributed much to the life of Padma Kumari in the field of music, art and culture. Gathering of such eminent personalities made the teenager girl Padma Kumari courageous and created in her mind a feeling of cultural aristocracy.

At that time girls belonging to aristocratic family were not allowed to marry according to their own choice. The decision of elders was given priority in case of marriages and accordingly Padma Kumari was given in marriage to Jogesh Chandra Borgohain, an inhabitant of Dhemaji and an advocate of Dibrugarh court, at the consent of her elder brother in-law. Padma Kumari in her husband’s residence also got the opportunity to continue her same royal and aristocratic life style. Her husband Jogesh Gohain was a M.L.A of east Dibrugarh constituency and so she got the chance to enter into to the politics of independent India. Thus to royal aristocracy and courage were added a modern mind and she even before independence became a ward member of undivided Dibrugarh District Local Board. She was the first lady of Assam to become a member of Local Board. Not only this, she went a step further by contesting four times as M.L.A from Moran constituency under the banner of Indian National Congress and she won the seat for three times.

 

Because of her loyalty to party, and gift of the gap, she as a minister could run her department very efficiently during the tenure of chief minister Bimala Prasad Chaliha and Mohendra Mohan Chowdhury. She kept her ideology and loyalty to the party up to the time of her death. In the later part of her life when she was unable to attend meetings she observed Gandhi Jayanti, Independence Day and Republic day in her house lightening an earthen lamp before the portrait of Mahatma Gandhi. She was accustomed to the hearing all radio news given in English that started at 6A.M and to all the news given in Hindi, Bengali, and English up to night. She read all the leading news papers and got herself acquainted with modern Assam, India and world politics. She even gave guidance to her only son in law Keshab Chandra Gogoi, ex chief minister of Assam, in all political matters. She was a very straight minded and out spoken lady and she pointed out the mistakes committed by high and low officers, colleagues, friends, relatives and criticized them all. She even was prepared to correct her own mistakes if somebody pointed them out.

Her organizing capacity was praiseworthy. That she was the president of undivided Dibrugarh District Congress Committee from 1954 to 1962 was a glaring instance of it. During her tenure as president the ‘Congress Bhawan’ of Dibrugarh was constructed which till today remembers her past life.

To the end of her life Padmakumari spent a very busy life. She not only engaged herself in politics but also in many social organizations. At her initiative the transport and communication system of Moran was much improved. At her initiative many organizations of Moran received govt. Grants. She herself constructed an M. E. School at Silputa in memory of her husband out of her own income.

With all her experiences gathered during her childhood she could adjust herself to any situation however adverse it might be. He was not disheartened at the death of her husband but tried her best to make their children worthy and efficient. She was an expert weaver and she wove not only cotton clothes but also pat silk. The instance of her artistic mind was revealed in the floral designs made of silk in the pat silk clothes. She was also an expert cook. In the midst of busy schedule she was fond of entertaining her guests by cooking various items of food with her own hand. It can be said that her character was a strange mixture of experience and taste.

Her contribution towards the field of literature was also noteworthy. If political and social life did not hamper her she could have contributed more and more to the field of literature. She was the life member of ‘Asom Sahitya Sabha’. Her first story book captioned ‘Madhuri’ was published in 1934 but it is a matter of regret that not a single copy of this book can be traced. Her published books were ‘Hindu Nari’ (1952), ‘Ghoror Lakhimi’ (poem), ‘Runjunor Sapun’, (children stories) and ‘Monuram’ (collection of stories). From 1960-1968 she was the editor of a women’s magazine ‘Sarathi’ and from all these her sincerity, patience, interest in literature can be guessed.

The writer herself comments that her book ‘Hindu Nari’ was not a novel but a story. But analyzing the salient features of this book it can undoubtedly be called a social novel. The story described in the novel was based on Assamese social life. The story centers round a harlot named Rama who was the beloved of Hakim Mahim Baruah in the prime of his life. After long 15 years both of them met each other, one in the guise of Hakim and other as harlot Malati. Malati became emotional and revealed her own identity.

At that time Hakim Mahim Barua was the father of two daughters. Before feeling of repentance came to the mind of Hakim Baruah after meeting Malati, Hakim’s wife Karuna went to her mother’s house along with her two daughters leaving Baruah alone. Baruah did not even get the chance to satisfy his arrogant wife. Taking the chance of their temporary detachment a rumor was spread that a social worker named Madhav Barua came in close contact with Karuna. Hakim Baruah became aimless and left home writing a letter to Karuna. Then only Karuna could realize her mistake and she became repentant. She returned to her husband’s home and spent her days along with her friend Arati and Uma who took a part of their house on rent. Karuna’s deteriorating health was gradually improving at the care taken by Arati and Uma. At the suggestion of Arati and Uma Karuna decided to go to Shillong for a change and there at Shillong she accidentally met Hakim Baruah who was then bedridden and at the suggestion of Malati (Roma) Karuna had brought back her husband to their own home.

Along with the story of Karuna and Mahim Baruah the story of Chandra and Arati simultaneously continues. As Arati was a barren lady she had to tolerate all sorts of harsh treatment meted out to her by her mother in law. In spite that her husband married a second wife she regarded him not only as husband but as God. Through the character of Karuna the writer clearly depicts the womanly qualities like love, patience and courage. Again through the marriage of Madhav, the social worker with Uma the purity of character of Karuna was revealed.

The words uttered by Karuna in this novel had its great significances because at the critical juncture of woman emancipation there is every scope to analyses them. Those words are ‘I being a daughter –in-law of a Hindu family instead of trying my best to bring my husband back to the right path resolve to take revenge on him and for this ………………..’ ‘Look Arati, I have promised that I shall show the right of women upon men’.

According to the interpretation of the writer Ghoror Lakhimi’ is a poem composed in the style of folk songs like Bongit and Bihugit. Her aim of composing such poems was to enrich Assamese language and literature. Through this poem the poet depicts the character of a real and actual Assamese housewife who has to perform all household duties from morning till night. She has to wake up before the cock craws in the morning, sweep her courtyard, take her bath, wash her clothes, and prepare breakfast and so on. Besides during the time of Bihu she has to weave Gamucha, make different kinds of Pitha and Jalpan (Tiffin). She has to look after her children, take care of her husband and in laws, domestic animals and even to go for fishing. In spite of her busy schedule an Assamese woman tries her best to keep herself clean and beautiful and she never forgets to take vermillion on her forehead. The use of old Assamese words and phases in the poem is also noteworthy. The time of the composition of ‘Ghoror Lakhimi’ is described by the author in the following way.

‘Open sky open air

Open heart’s sullenness

Spreading of peacock’s tail laughter of stars

Independent Assam state.’

The Assamese version of the poem is

‘Mukali Akash Mukali vayu

Mukali hiyar pesh

Murar shali torar hanhi

Swadhin Asom desh’

Manoram, a compilation of ten stories can be judged as one of the new additions is to Assamese literature. Through most of the stories of this book she reflects not only Assamese middle class society but also relation between men and women, triumph over truth, debate over excepting non excepting of other’s children as her own and many of the problems faced by the Assamese society. The themes of many of her stories are based on Shillong. It is due to the fact that political purposes compelled to spend most of her time in Shillong and for this she got the chance to come into contact with many people of Shillong. All these facilitated her to collect diverse plots for her story.

Her remarkable gift to the children of Assam who are very much fond of hearing the tales of fairies is ‘Runjunor Sapun’.

Padma Kumari breathed her last on 25 April 1987 at Dibrugarh. With her death Assam has lost a silent social worker, shrewd politician, efficient organizer. Litterateur and a patron of art and culture, we hope that the rare and extra ordinary personality of Padma Kumari BorGohain be a source of inspiration to all women of Assam.

 

 
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