Pratibha Devi
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 Shovaneswari Devi Goswami  



(1911 Ė 1932)

The word Pratibha, which means talent, was enough to tell what the personality of the lady who carried this name would be and she had traits to suit her name. We live in deeds and not in years and this were so true for Pratibha Devi who proved it by living only twenty Ė one years of her fruitful life on earth.

Pratibha Devi was born in Nalbari Satra, the holy place of her forefathers. She was born on 7th April 1911. Her mother was Bhubaneswari Goswami her father was a government officer by profession and he was posted at Jorhat for quite some time. It was because of this that Pratibha Devi spent most of her childhood in Jorhat.

Receiving formal education in schools was neither so easy nor the norm of the day for girls living in those days and Pratibha Devi did not hat the opportunity to go to school. The people were not familiar with the habit of girls attending school and often considered this to be almost a crime.

Her father arranged a tutor for Pratibha when she was six years old. She was so talented that she was able to acquire within a very short period the amount of learning that students of upper levels of minor schools needed to master. She was taught Sanskrit, Assamese and English at home and she received education in the real sense even though she never went to a formal school. Her father bought selected books in Assamese and Bengali for her and she used to read them eagerly as she was a great lover of books.

This habit of regular reading of books motivated her to write creatively. She was able to write both pieces of prose and poetry. She and her brother Prafulla Goswami edited a hand written monthly magazine called "Naibedya". She wrote various articles for the magazine and her writings reflected her deep knowledge and love or literature. Her poem "Tumi found a place in school textbooks.

The world of women was encircled by gloom in those days when women were what could be called second Ė class citizens compared to their male counterparts. The influence of such a male dominated society was a sort of curse for women of those days and even a woman born in a wealthy family was not spared from this. This was applicable in case of Pratibha Devi too though she came from a well to do family.

Child marriage was in practice in the past and the Brahmin families strictly followed it. Pratibha Deviís family was no exception to this rule and so this ten year old girl had to be a victim of such a superstition. Pratibha was married to Uma Kanta Goswami, M.A.B.L of Garemari Satra. She stayed with her parents for three years after her marriage. During the period she started reading a number of good books from the library of Normal School, Jorhat. Many of Pratibha Deviís articles from the magazine "Naibedya" found palace in the magazine "Prabhat" published by normal School, Jorhat.

She gained deep knowledge from her father while she learnt many a household chores from her mother. This went into making her a good housewife. This went into making her a good housewife. Pratibha Devi learnt to weave pat and muga clothes during the period when she stayed in her maternal home after marriage. She not only learnt to do some embroidery, but also learnt lessons in music from a teacher engaged by her father for the purpose. She also developed the skills of speaking and writing English during the same period.

Though Pratibha Devi was a busy acquiring various skills during her stay with her parents, she translated the novel Don quixotic from English to Assamese.
The name she gave to the Assamese version was "Keku Dangoria". The first edition of the novel came out perhaps in 1926. She was the first Assamese woman to try her hand at translating. She then left for her in- laws house. Her husband was a professor in Cotton College and Earl Law College then and she lived in Guwahati with her husband for a few days.

Pratibha Devi gave birth with to a baby boy but her son dies after two years. Her husband was transferred to Muararicharan College in Sylhet and she too left for Sylhet with him. She later gave birth to a boy and a girl. She returned to Jorhat and started showing her interest in household chores and in reaching books and learning to play the musical instrument Eshraj.

Pratibha Devi loved her country very much the life and culture of her nation attracted her a lot. Her love for her country could be seen in everything she said, did and wore. She used only things produced in her country and her discussion with her father, husband, brother, uncle and relatives proved that she was politically aware. She was a member of quite a few women organization in Sylhet during her stay there. Her simple and humble nature made her popular among the educated women she met. The famous personalities like Nalini Mohan Shastri, Banamali Bedantairtha and others treated her like their own daughter. She never denied favor to anyone who asked her one. A poor boy once narrated his sad story and she provided him shelter in her own house and sent him to school .The boy later stayed with her husband and studied in Cotton College.

Pratibha Deviís letters were not ordinary ones. She in her letters talked about society, country, language and other matters of grave concern. It is known that her husband preserved her diary and her letters to him. Her letters bore the stamp of her personality Ė her ambitions, her purity and the feelings that made her an ideal lady.

She wore simple dresses and she was not very interested in wearing ornaments. She therefore didnít like to receive dresses and ornaments as gifts. She would be happy to receive books as gifts from her father instead of things that were considered very valuable.

Pratibha Devi was a role model of a dutiful and loving lady who understood her responsibilities Very well. She could manage time to serve her country through the women organizations she was associated with even after working sincerely at home of her family members and others . She did not stop writing even amidst her busy s schedule. Once in 1926, the Assam Sathiya Sabha gave an announcement calling for books on cooking. Pratibha Devi wasted no time. She after discussion with her mother started writing a book and completed it within twenty Ė five days. She named the book "Khowa Bowa".

Pratibha Devi breathed her last on 2 October 1932 at the age of 21 after she gave birth to her child. She had discussion with her father, Uncle Madhab Chandra Bhattacharya and a few other persons on a monthly magazine even the night before she died.

Pratibha Devi in her short span of life played her role successfully as a mother, housewife, social worker and writer. She can be called a successful lady when many like her were suppressed and prevented from taking formal education. Pratibha Deviís though not allowed by nature to continue blooming on earth till long. Will remain a source if inspiration for all of us in Assam for years to come.


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