Snehalata Devi
 
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SNEHALATA DEVI

Snehalata Devi was born in Tezpur in 1912. Her father was the famous Agni Kamalakanta Bhattacharya and her mother was Sumitra Devi. Usha Bhattacharya who was the Principal of Lady Keane Girlsí College was her sister. Her elder brother was Tamn Chandra Bhattacharya and she had two younger brothers namely Prabhat Chandra Bhattacharya and Karunkanta Bhattacharya. She was married to Sarat Chandra Barua.

Her father who was a literary figure inspired her to be familiar with Assamese literature and culture. Snehalata Devi spent her childhood in Dhubri. She had shown interest in her studies and went to a primary school though she had to walk a long distance to school. There was no high school in Dhubri during those days. She therefore had to stay in a hostel for further study in my mensingh near Dhaka. Bengali literature and culture deeply influenced her thoughts and she picked up the language so well that she could write articles on various topics in Bengali. She was however proud to be an Assamese and fought back to defend Assamese art and culture when any of her classmates said that there were no good stories and novels in Assamese. This comment of her friend hurt her so much that on her return to her homeland during the holidays, she spent a lot of time searching for such books but in vain. She then decided to contribute towards writing in these two literary forms of the novel and the short story to till the void.

Snehalata Deviís failure in the entrance examination did not prevent her from success later. She was during her school days, excelled in Mathematics getting the highest marks in the examinations. She also worked as a teacher in a Middle English School for some time while she was still a student. Her father and her uncle Sharbeswar Bhattacharya inspired her most in education. Her articles were published in the magazines of the period. The enterprising businessman Sarat chandra Barua came to know her thought her writings and he congratulated her after reading her articles and gradually they became good friends. Sarat Chandra Baruah hailed from Tezpur but carried out his work as a businessman at Saikhowa in Dibrugarh. He was a loving man and he first met Snehalata Devi during one of his visits to Guwahati. Kamalakant Bhattacharyaís economic condition was not very good. Sarat Chandra Barua knew this and he came forward to help Snehalata Deviís families in getting her books published. The relation between the families became a cordial one and Started visiting Guwahati to meet Snehalata who in turn went to stay in Baruaís house with her elder brother. This relationship resulted in Snehalata's marriage with Barua in a few months time it was with her husbandís support that she could pursue and complete the l.A. course in Benaras Hindu University successfully. But she couldnít carry on with education as she was suffering from asthma and related physical disorders.

Snehalata Deviís father was a disciple of the Bramhmo Samaj. He was socially aware and spelt out his feelings clearly without any hesitation or fear. He was popular among all classes of people and also got due respect from both the rich and the poor. It was because of his good nature that the Bengalis of the Brahmo Samaj also started liking him. The rules of child marriage were quite strict in the days they lived but these rules didnít have much of a role to play in case of Snehalata Deviís marriage who married quite late compared to other girls of the period.

Snehalataís father and uncle traveled to Narayanpur and Tezpur for the purpose of business and Snehalata's elder brother Tarun Chandra Bhattacharya played the role of a father for her and she loved and respected him from the core of her heart. She while staying in Calcutta (now Kolkata) with her father who went for earning his livelihood showed her love for Assamese art and culture. She wove beautiful garments on the loom to carry on the Assamese tradition and the Bengali girls could not help appreciating her expertise in this rich art of the Assamese people.

Snehalata Devi after marriage came to stay with her husband in a rented house in Jorpukhuri at Uzan Bazar of Guwahati where she came to know Nalinibala Devi and she also became friendly with the well-known family of the Bordoloi. She gave birth to two children who were both boys. The second one was born two years after her first son came to her lap but the beautiful family relationship with husband didnít last long. Problems in the family arose three months after her second son was born and she after tolerating situations for some time walked out to the streets leaving behind her five year and three year old sons at home.

It was the period of Non Co-operation Movement in India and there was the feeling of impending danger any moment. Snehalata Devi went away to stay in Dehradun. She traveled a lot within India after this and went to Shantiniketan for sometime in search of peace. After her long stay in Dehradun Snehalata Devi returned to Chenikuthi to her residence to spend the last days of her life with her husband. She had also met Mahatma Gandhi at Wardha when she was traveling from place to place and devoted herself to selfless service for the nation under his influence. Snehalata Devi in her novel "Sathor" narrated the beauty of Kabiguru Rabindranath Tagoreís Shantiniketan.

Snehalata Devi took great pride in being the daughter of Kamalakanta Bhattacharya but she was not happy with the kind of relation she had with her mother. Her life after marriage was also not able to give her the kind of happiness she desired and all these shook her mental balance and she fell sick. Her eldest son lndrajit Barua took active part in the freedom movement of Assam and was an engineer by profession.

Snehalata Devi was born at a time when child marriage was in practice and women education received no importance or attention. But under the influence of her progressive minded father kamalakanta Bhattacharya, her paternal uncle Sarbeswar Bhattacharya and her younger sister Usha Bhattacharya, she learnt a lot about not only her own cultural tradition but also about eastern and western culture. Her understanding of oriental and other cultures in no way obstructed her love for her very own Assamese culture and her respect for her own people. The environment in which she was brought up made her an ambitious, courageous, independent and broad-minded lady.

A section of the people among whom she lived could not appreciate her good teste that was reflected in her dress, behaviour and other things very easily. Snehalata Deviís decent manners were perhaps a result of her familyís close relation with the royal family of Gauripur during their stay in Dhubri where she had spent some valuable years of her childhood.

Snehalata Devi had just stepped into her teenage at the beginning the non-cooperation movement. The messages of Mahatma Gandhi were spread in the nook and corner of the villages of Assam. Snehalata Devi at that critical juncture started writing in order to serve her state and country. She however did not get the desired kind of satisfaction as far as writing or her creative literature was concerned. She managed to write the novels - Bina, Bemejali, Amar Bihu, Sathor which are great contributions to Assamese literature.

Though Snehalata Devi was more familiar with city life, she could beautifully draw pictures of village girls and how they caught fish with traditional Assamese fishing equipments like Jakoi. She exposed through her novels the foppishness of people who considered them to be superior to others in the society.

Snehalata Devi in her novels reflected the social situation of Assam in those days, the plight of the poor, the spread of Christianity in the tea gardens, the ill effects of the foreign rule, the impact of the Bengalis on Assamese an and culture, the lack of interest of the intellectuals of Assam to read books in Assamese, etc.

Snehalata Devi spent the last days of life at her Chenikuthi residence after the death of her husband. This lady who had a life full of struggle breathed her last on 24 April 1971 at the Gauhati Medical College Hospital.

 

 
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