Uma Baruah
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Uma Baruah

Known for her glamorous beauty and literary talent Uma Baruah occupies a distinct place among the women writers of Assam.

Daughter of a noted tea planter Keshab Ch. Baruah and Labanya Baruah, Uma Baruah was born at Chenikuthi, Guwahati, in 1926. Her pet name was ‘Titi’ It may be mentioned that her mother Labanya Baruah was the daughter of Kanaklal Baruah, the author of “Early History of Kamrup.’

A brilliant student since her childhood Uma Baruah had her early education at a convent in Shillong and Gokhle school of Calcutta and read up to the senior Candridge Standard. She was married to Mriganka Baruah, the eldest son of playwright Jogendra Nath Baruah.

Uma Baruah’s father Keshab Kanta Baruah was very keen for doing whatever he could for the development of Assamese language and literature. Establishing “Jayanti”, His worthy daughter Uma Baruah was endowed with quite a good number of enviable qualities. Despite her blue blood and her education in English medium School, she could adjust herself within-laws family having the traditional way of life.She had the opportunity of meeting people from different walks of life and was at home with all of them. As a matter of fact she still remains a role model of a perfect housewife.

It is generally noticed that most of the women after marriage sacrifice their own likes and dislikes, individual taste and respond to the new environment of the in-laws family. But Uma Baruah did not allow herself to be lost in the humdrum of family life and retained her own identity. Despite her being educated in English medium school, she made valuable contribution to Assamese literature.

Uma Baruah was deeply interested in reading books. Her favorite writer was P.G. wood House. She retained this habit of reading book till the last days of her life. Her literary talent found expression in two novels she wrote in Assamese. One was ‘Siene Nadir Dhou’ (Waves of the river seiene and the other was ‘Nisar Andhare Awari’ (engulfed by the darkness of the night). She has to her credit a collection of short stories tilled ‘Sesh Surujar Rengoni’ (Last rays of the Sun) Besides writing a good number of poems and articles, she edited a monthly magazine ‘Ajanta’ Since publication of a magazine needs financial support, she personally went from office to office for collecting advertisement.  After 5 years the publication of the magazine came to a halt, possibly due to financial constraint.

During that period she had the opportunity of coming into contact with the ‘News paper publishing Association of Assam’. She was elected president of the All India Federation of Small and Medium News paper, Assam branch. For sometimes she served as  the President of the All India Association, Uma Baruah was closely associated with the ‘Sodou Asom Lekhika Samaroh,’ a premier Literary and cultural organization of Assam. She was a member of PEN (play wrights, poets, poets, Essayists, Novelists) International and made Assam proud by her participation in literary seminars, held in London and Helsinki.’

Uma Baruah was the Secretary for a few years of the Assam branch of the Indian Council for child welfare. She led a team of five hundred children for the International Children’s Meet, held in Delhi. Her organization skill was admired by all. She participated in the famous Assam Movement launched by the All Assam Student’s Union. Under her initiative ‘Assam Women’s vigilance Committee’ was formed. When her husband died in 1982, she gradually kept herself away from public work. Her husband was the source of inspiration in all her public activities. Though her public activities were waning, yet she was far from being self centered and did whatever she could for solving the problems of the family and her neighbours as well. Generous and Cultured, Uma Baruah was free from all prejudice and superstitions. The most noticeable trait of Uma Baruah’s personality, was her organizing ability, This trait came to light when she participated in the famous Assam movement.

Despite the fact that she was extremely beautiful she was not proud. A multifaceted personality, Uma Baruah left her mark as a successful creative writer. She traveled both Europe and America and tried to understand their culture and their way of life, well versed in English and Assamese language, Uma Baruah wrote quite a good number of poems and articles in both the language, But these writings are not readily available Extensive travel in Europe and America provided her an opportunity of experiencing various aspects of human life. When she visited the city of Paris and stood on the banks of the river Siene she flew on the wings of imagination and that imagination gave birth to her celebrated novel ‘Sicne Nadir dhau’ as mentioned earlier.

When she saw the Latin quarters dwelling place of the artists, she expressed her feelings as follows-

“The EL .Dorado of the artists

The refuse of broken hearts

Under the garish Quarters

The artists gather

Some seeking fortune

Others to barter their very souls”.

When Uma Baruah, engaged herself to write ’Sciene Nadir Dhau’ she saw in her imagination hundreds of young lovers roaming around on both the banks of the river ‘Sciene’.Her imagination created ‘Vasanta’.– the artist- the hero of the novel ’Sciene nadir Dhau’. Written in three parts – in simple and lucid language, the novel is so absorbing that one feels like finishing the reading of the novel in one sitting. It was published by Bivhitra Narayan Dutta Baruah of Lawyers ‘Book stall and the first edition description of the Congress session held in 1958 at Jalukbari.  

With a stipend awarded by the govt. of India, Vasanta Chowdhury, the protagonist of the novel, went to Paris to study the art of painting.

At a second hand book stall over the river Siene in Paris, he was enamored by the indescribable beauty of Blanchi. He fell deeply in love with her. She was, as it were, a golden ray illuminating his soul. But when he let her know that he cannot give up art for her sake, she left him. Blanche lingered in his memory throughout his life, and could not take Alaka’s genuine love easily. On these one hand he had indomitable interest in painting and on the other hand his financial crisis. Alaka was disappointed to find that her deep love was not properly reciprocated by Vasanta. With a broken heart she ultimately died. The description of her tragic death was very touching.

All the characters of the novels are carefully depicted, in the central theme of the novels is a conflict between an artist’s love for his work and his longing for his beloved. Uma Baruah’s second novel – Nisar Andhure Awan’ was published in1967, by Bibhubhusan Chowdhury, Chapala Book Stall.The novel deals with the sufferings and disappointment of a woman confined to jail. Surabhi, who tells the story, how she was enchanted by the tune of flute played by Parag, just as Radha indulged herself in love for Sri Krisna, who played the flute.

Despite her deep love for Parag, she could not get him as her husband. Instead, she was married to a tea planter, His weakness for alcohol, and his longing for Violet – the dancer made Surabhi’s life miserable. She developed a sense of hatred for her husband so much so that she when back to her mother’s home, with her child. She felt happy when she found herself near Parag. But as bad luck would have it, Parag suddenly died. Surabhi thought that the ill natured woman was responsible for Parag’s death and killed her. She was charged of murdering the women and was sent to jail. Surabhi’s husband tried to get her release by pleading that she was mentally unsound. But Surabhi confessed everything and wanted to free herself from the bondage of life.

Both the novels show the defeat of women and end with their death. They surrender themselves to God being unable to bear the ‘Stings and Sorrows’ that affect their lives.

Uma Baruah’s ‘Sesh Surujar Rengoni’, a collection of short stories, was published in 1965. Altogether twelve short stories found place in the collection, two of which are translation – one from English and the other from French. Though the stories cannot claim any technical innovation, yet they capture some emotional moments, and loneliness of a few characters.

The number of woman coming into contact with the people of other countries is very few. Uma Baruah had that opportunity and her novels and short stories are replete with her experience of human nature. No doubt, she made valuable contribution to enrich Assamese Literature.

On the fateful day of 10th September, 1991, Uma Baruah left for heavenly abode, due to massive heart attack. But she will remain a role mode for us and will be remembered as a successful creative writer.

 

 
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