Runu Baruah
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Runu Baruah

The present generation may not have heard the name of Runu Baruah, a writer in the era of ‘Ramdhenu’ of Assamese literature. But the renowned writers like Sneha Devi and Runu Baruah always attract me even in my tender age. Especially the novel ‘Nizan Ghat’ of Runu Baruah fascinated,me in such a way that I was eager to meet her, Fortunately,  a sudden meeting with Runu Baruah ended my curiosity. Her simplicity and politeness surprised me. I could not talk to her much on that day. This sober and great lady rather compelled me to think whether she is the writer of ‘Nizan Ghat’.

During that time a number of celebrated literary personalities frequently visited our home. They discussed various literary topics till night. So from my childhood days I have a perception that the literary personalities always talk about literature or writings. Among those Runu Baruah was an exceptional one. My sister, Aroti Boiagi usually told me’ Runu is a high minded writer. If she continues writing in this way, she will surely be a topmost writer in near future’. Her works impressed me and also delighted me when she asked me to write about her life sketch.

Life and Education::

Runu Baruah was born on 9th Jaunary in 1930. Her father Dabendra Nath Baruah was a noble religious man of kohral ancestry. Manik Chandra Baruah, the pride of Assam was also from the same ancestry. Her mother Subarnamala Baruah, a related sister to lyricist Parbatee Prasad Baruah was from Sibsagar, a place which is situated at the river bank of Dikhow. Daughter of an honest, religious sakta family, Subarnamala became the daughter-in-low of late Nara Nath Baruah of Nagaon. Nagaon is also the birthplace of Sankardeva, which is situated at the river bank of kalong. Nara Nath was a man of Vaishnava religion. It is known that the ancestor of this family came from kanouj. As a family of sakta religion they pompously observed the festivals like kali puja and Durga puja.   After her marriage Subarnamala became and adorer of Vaishnava religion. She thought that there is only one God and people worship Him in his various forms. Thought there are several paths but the goal is one-keeping this idea in mind, Subarnamala with a pleasant and upright manner practiced the percept of her husband’s family. Later she tried to educate their children to follow the same track. Both husband and wife were cultured, honest and also interest in education.

Runu Baruah passed her early childhood at Tezpur, the working place of her father. He was the Head of the Revenue Department in a ministerial court. Tezpur, a place with a historical background gradually attracted her mind. The beauty of the Lotus Pond, the Agnigarh Hill etc. added to her creativity and she became more imaginative. After staying a few years there, the family shifted to their original place at Nagaon.

Coming from Tezpur, her mind was shattered. The unlikely ambiance of Nagaon sometimes distracted her mind only the sight of the running Kolong prompted her to think of a new life. She was astonished to find out the various moods of the river. Sometimes the river bank was full of tumult, at other times there prevailed silence. Bit by bit the river became friendly to her. It gives her the trace of a new path. Within a short time she was able to regulate her disorderly mind. She was also thinking of the renowned poets like Devakanta, Nabakanta and the Sewali Poet, Ratnakanta, who were also born in this place. In this way the mind of the dispassionate little girl was kindled with unknown feelings.

With a background of alluring river – Kalong and Borduwa, the birth place of a great personage sankardeva, Runu Baruah started her school life. Her father, open and kind hearted religious fellow taught her the fundamentals of religions. Though the home tutor taught her occasionally, it was her father whom should be regarded as the founder of her education life. Her father studied religious scriptures daily. He taught his children the Upanisada, the significance of the Gita in their early stage. Runu had keen interest in learning religious matters. During that time late Gunabhiram Baishya, a maternal relative of Devendra Nath also extended his hand in this translated work. In due time, the Srimadvagavata Gita was published.  This unique translated work had an impact on her mind.

Runu Baruah was inspired by Usha Barthakur, the then headmistress of a high school and also a politician later. She passed her matriculation examination from Nagaon Girl’s High School. In the mean time she lost her brother Birendra Nath Baruah. This brother was a torch bearer and friendly to Runu. His devotion to literature instigated Runu to follow his path. Though there was an age gap between them, both treated themselves as friends. Both studied Assamese and Bengali literature. The sudden demise of her brother was a great shock to her. From that time onwards she became emotional and philosophical and started reading about death.

Runu Baruah took her graduation in Economics and philosophy as her core subjects from Nagaon College. After her graduation she joined as a teacher at Nagaon Girl’s High School. Then she married to Bhudhar Baruah of North Guwahati and left Shillong, the working place of her husband. Bhudhar Baruah had only one brother and there was none in their family. He lost his parents young age and started his married life with Runu Baruah. Runu on her part was taking care of both her husband and brother-in-law Punyadhar Baruah.

Love of literature:

Her immense love for literature began from her early days. When she was at school, she wrote a moral story which was published in ‘Asomiya’ edited by Devakanta Baruah. That was her first appearance into the literary world. She contributed to children literature by writing short stories and articles in the name of Deepa Baruah. Afterwards her short stories and articles were published in ‘Asomiya’ edited by Kirtinath Hazarika. Her father noticing her interest in short stories said that-“the short story is the medium of many things to say. One can send message through it and you will try your best to do the same.” Following this valuable advice Runu Baruah gave concentration on literature and that was reflected later in all her writings.

The life story of well known film actress Greta Garbo and dancer Damayanti Jyoshi influenced her much and the result was the birth of a new short story titled ‘Shakuntalar Diary’. It was written during her stay at Shillong and perhaps with this story she made an effort to enter into the world of Assamese short stories. Her endeavour in this regard was successful and the readers of Assam loved and accepted this. All India Radio broadcasted this story first and later published in Assamese news papers. From that onwards Runu Baruah paid utmost attention to writing short stories. Basically, the theme of her story was women. As a sensitive writer she observed the various crisis faced by women and portrayed them in her writings. In this way, she had written a number of stories and fictions. Though her writings were published in journals, magazines and radio broadcasted, a very few were published as books. By nature an introvert one, she did not like her publicity, so her writings remained only in magazines and journals. Amongst those ‘Nizan Ghat (fiction) ‘Shakuntalar Diary’ (collection of stories), ‘Jatugriha’ (fiction) and ‘Sarbarir Swapna’ (collection of stories) etc. were published by her husband. ‘Kingsok Malini’, ‘Hironmoyee Usha’, ‘Santa Sarashi’, ‘Ejopa Gosor Sant’ etc were scattered in magazines published on the occasion of Puja festivals only.

Kirtinath Hazarika, a renowned litterateur and journalist inspired her to write a large number of short stories. Her creativity stopped for a while, when her husband had been transferred to Kohima (Nagaland).

Various problems:

Generally a woman supposed to face many problems at the time of her creative works. She has to engage herself in household duties as well as social work. Under such circumstances, the creativity of a woman is obstructed. So many of our gifted women writers were disappointed and at last they left their literary career. Therefore it is seen that if someone is deviated from her literary world, there is no reaction in society. The prevailing thought and perception of the society towards women is responsible for this. In other countries a woman can establish her excellence by virtue of her talent, but in our country it is not possible to do so. The writers of Amrita Pritam and Ashapurna Devi were exceptional indeed. In case of Assam, the condition is painful. As though, no one wants to give importance to women in literary field. Those who were engaged in the service of literary work, recognized as writer only at the cost of hard work and sacrifice. Runu Baruah was also among those personalities. Overcoming all the obstacles, she with a firm belief continued her journey.

Literary Achievement:

Runu Baruah gave company to her husband while he was at Dibrugarh, Sadia and Nagaon. During her stay at Kohima she had collected the stories that were scattered in various magazines and newspapers. Thus, at the inspiration of her husband and well wishers, she was preparing her ‘Sakuntalar Diary’. It was published at Sadia. After that, her second collected story book – ‘Sarbarir Swapna’ was published.

At a quite atmosphere of Sadia, she had written her first novel ‘Nizan ghat’. The presentation and composition of the novel is pleasant and attractive. Her description of the tribal people, their manners and customs are superb. She was successful in presenting the mental conflicts of women, their hopes and aspirations. The book was published at Nagaon by her husband. The cover page was done by the reputed artist, Pranab Baruah.

The next working place of her husband was ‘Bhoi’, a place nearby Nongpo of Khasi Jayantia Hills. He joined his service there as a Block Development Officer. Due to frequent changing of places, Runu Baruah could not continue her creative work, though she had keen desire to do so. Next they shifted to Shillong. The school life of their three children began at this place. As there was no provision of Assamese subject in the English medium schools at Shillong, Runu Baruah taught her children at home.

During her stay at Shillong, she worked on another novel-‘Jatugriha’. The theme of this fascinating novel was her childhood memory of Kolong. It was also published by her husband.

Meanwhile an agitation had stared at Shillong to separate Khasi Jayantia Hills from Assam. In Delhi too, preparation was ready for giving birth to Meghalaya. In the meantime, Bhudhar Baruah had been transferred to three different places as North Lakhimpur, Nalbari amd Mangaldai respectively. When Runu Baruah was there at Shillong, she used to take her children to these places. With a great zeal she tried to study the life style of the local people of the respective places.

In her writings, Runu Baruah always gives her primary importance to women. She thought no one can differentiate women from women belonging to different status of a society. All women are same. With this reasons, probably she was interested in reading short stories of Sarat Chandra. Before Meghalaya had been accepted as a separate state, Runu Baruah along with her family shifted to Guwahati. It takes time to adjust herself in the new environment there. Afterwards she had written a number of novelettes such as- Hironmoyee Usha, Santa Sarashi, Ejopa Gosor Sant and contributed a number of writings to the weekly paper Asom Bani and a daily newspaper, ‘Dainik Asom’. Apart from this she also had written novelettes, short stories and article for Asom Bani and Dainik Asom, specially published during the time of Puja and Bihu. The article of Namghosha is worth reading. Moreover, the radio broadcasted her short stories and drama Kinso Malini, Jatugriha etc. occasionally. Bu nature, an introvert one, Runu Baruah was not interested to publish her writings as they should be. Besides, her publishers lost some of her manuscripts which she could not find out later.

In Organisational Arena:

After coming to Guwahati, Runu Baruah joined in Asom Pradesik Mahila Samiti. The president of the Samiti was Induprabha Baruah. Undertaking the various activity of the Samiti, Runu Baruah had conducted the library of the Samiti and also actively participated in the open discussion held on every Saturday therein. She was a co-editor with Devela Hazarika of the souvenir published by the Samiti. At the same time she had also taken the charge of editing a monthly magazine titled ‘Satsari’. It was published by a tea planter named Lakshmi Prasad Baruah and his wife Ulupi Baruah. The magazine was popular at the beginning but it did not last long.

Runu Baruah was also closely associated with All Assam Lekhika Samaruh Samiti from the date of its inception. Runu Baruah and Devela Hazarika, both were taking initiative in install the bust of Padmashree Nalinibala Devi at Paltan Bazar, Guwahati. She liked to give her service to the country and the people. Probably, disinterested of her publicity, Runu Baruah kept herself away from giving lectures in the meeting.

Language and the Philosophy of Life:

Runu Baruah had regularly contributed her short stories to a weekly paper ‘Natun Din’. Due to little circulation of the paper many readers were deprived of reading those stories. Her Assamese translation of a popular tale,Vogue in Germany also published serially in this paper.The base of this story was how a woman sacrificed her life to keep her vow.Though this was meant for the young, its unrestrained translated work fascinated others also.

Runu Baruah generally used simple language and never thought of attracting people by using ornamented words. She tried to give a message in each of her short stories. In her writings, the characters she had projected were all familiar to her. Though the characters such as Manu and Samindra of ‘Jatugriha’ were imaginary, she made them real and lively. She once said that-‘the women characters of Jatugriha are all real characters of my birth place, whom I always met, love and speak.’ Another character named Amulya of ‘Nizan Ghat’ was also known to her, whom she met at Nagaon. The character of Champa is a mental image of the writer. The main character of ‘Hirenmoyee Usha’ is an abandoned woman working as a housemaid. In this way Runu Baruah tried to focus her character. In her own words-‘A character or an incident is playing in my mind for a long time and at times I make them in my own way. I never imitate others. The influence of others may have been my writing unknowingly or indirectly, that I don’t know.’ While she was asked about the writing skills of Jugesh Das, she did not say anything but mentioned only of the traditional writers. There was no chance of asking more about the new writers in the discussion.

Runu Baruah once was a voracious reader of Sarat Chandra. The reason behind this was that Sarat Chandra gives much importance to women and their mind. In her later periods Runu Baruah did not produce much though once her ‘Nizan Ghat’ and ‘Jatugriha’ gave pleasures to readers. Moreover, she was against publicity for which reason she is not known to present generation.

Runu Baruah had confidence in human love. ‘Men live with love.’ – she believed this concept of Tolstoy wholeheartedly. According to Tolstoy –“Enmity and hatred – these two things are sure to exist in the world, but we can win them by love.” She feels that the excerpt remained in the Bhagavata becomes true. ”As if we are approaching towards infallible state.”

“Jibaner parinati gihar andhakare” this particular statement is there in one of the novel of Asapurna Devi which Runu believed. She said-“no one knows the flow of life it seems as if we are guided by an invisible power.  Keeping this in mind one should work and proceed to reach their destination.”

Runu Baruah wants to know people intuitively. What is the inner message of woman? What does she want? Man does wrong, but that can be mended. The fault of man can be purified with love. There is sin in this universe, fall of man is also there, but along with them there is love.” Plunging into the ocean of love, one could be purified easily. Man does evil deeds, but why he does –a proper analysis is required.

Meanwhile Runu Baruah and her husband has prepared the way for their children to establish themselves in future life and inspired them to serve their society and the country as well. Their elder daughter, Maitreyi was a brilliant student of Guwahati University. Staying out at various places in India, she joined later at Bongaigaon College as a lecturer in the Department of English. Like her mother, she embarked upon the literary field and had started translating ‘Jatugriha’, a fiction by her mother. Abanti, the second daughter of Runu Baruah is also a lecturer in the department of English at Cotton College. The youngest one a son named Indrajit who took his degree in Geology from Dibrugarh University and joined his job at Oil India. Bhudhar Baruah was working for some time at Kolkata, Meerut and Delhi before joining his service in Secretariat at Shillong. He left Secretariat and joined in various departments like Planning, Panchayat and central development. After his retirement, he was appointed as an advisor of a renowned business establishment at Guwahati.

In the beginning of the year 1995 Bhudhar Baruah had a severe attack of disease. He was taken to Guwahati, Madras and Delhi for further treatment but in vain. At last on August 1996 his noble, ideal personality left for his heavenly abode.

Runu Baruah had to face many trouble and turbulence in her life. The death of her husband was a great pain to her.

Another shock she received, when her only sister Rina (daughter-in-law of Ex President of Sahitya Sabha, late Jyannath Bora) passed away. Probably such incidents impeded Runu in her creative ability. It seems as if her pen is in a moribund state. This suffering of men is not unnatural but a writer whose mind is engrossed in creative work may suffer a lot. Is it possible to create something with an unstable mind? Yes, indeed. Many writers established themselves by continuing their writing in that situation. It is to be regretted that Runu Baruah could not overcome the burdens of her life. As a result, there is a great loss of Assam in the field of literature.

The publishers of Assam should show interest in publishing the literary works of Runu Baruah. In this regard, All Assam Lekhika Samaroh Samit ialso has some responsibility. If there is a compilation of her writings, it will surely enrich the treasure of Assamese literature. Thus we pay homage to this elderly writer.

 

 
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