The qualities which make human life beautiful are said
to be kindness, sacrifice and a sense of service to the society. Usha
Bhattacharyee, one of the pioneers in the field of women’s education and
welfare, possessed these qualities in abundance. She spent her entire life
with rare dedication for spreading education among the women. She remained
unmarried, So that family life does not stand on the way of her service to
the society. She was convinced that without education women cannot stand
on their own legs. It was for this reason that she gave priority to
women’s education in her scheme of things. With profound knowledge of
Indian Philosophy and the essence of religion, Usha Bhattacharyee’s face
is illumined by a bright ray of wisdom. Moreover a charming smile in her
lips gave her personality a here distinction.
Second child of Agnikabi Kamalakanta Bhattacharyya and
Sumitra Devi, Usha Bhattacharyya had a religious bent of mind and a
tendency to search for beauty and truth. Her parents were attracted
towards the Brahmo Samaj-a product of 19th century Bengal
Renaissance. In the house hold there were frequent discussion of religion
and other related matters. Since her early childhood Usha Bhattacharyya
had the opportunity of listening to these serious discussions.
Born on 26th December, 1916, Usha spent
her childhood in Kolkata. It was natural that she knew Bengali language
and culture. She could speak Bengali so fluently that people took her to
be a Bengali Lady. But she had profound knowledge of Assamese language
and literature, and wrote a number of articles in both Assamese and
Bengali. She was equally well versed in English Language. Her elder
sister Snehalata Devi was a writer of considerable repute. Besides
Snehalata, Usha had her elder brother Tarun Bhattacharyya and two
younger brothers Prabhat Chandra and Karuna Kanta. Theirs was a happy
family with an ambience congenial for intellectual pursuit.
Kamalakanta Bhattacharyya, Usha’s father, was a
genuine patriot and through his writings, mostly poems, called upon his
fellow country men to rise to the occasion and to serve the cause of the
nation. He was member of the Brahmo Samaj and accepted their religion.
According to the Brahmo Samaj, there is only one god and he is formless.
They therefore, kept themselves away from idol worship Usha
Bhattacharyya was also initiated to Brahmo Samaj.
Usha completed her school education in Kolkata and
came back to Guwahati and got herself admitted to the Cotton College,
from where she took the B.A. degree with honors in Philosophy. She again
went to Kolkata for her postgraduate studies. In 1937, she obtained her
M.A. degree was and was placed in the first class. While she was
studying in the Calcutta University, she was fortunate enough to come
into contact with great scholars like Dr. Radha Krishna. In the mean
time she took the B.T, degree also.
Usha Bhattacharyya inherited certain virtues like
patriotism, study of literature, courage, noble thoughts, high ambition,
independent nature and devotion to god. To obtain higher education and
pursue the path of wisdom was her goal of life. She joined the Lady
Keans Girl’s College, Shillong as lecturer in the department of
philosophy. At that point of time Shillong was the Capital of undivided
of Assam. In 1932 the Lady Keans Girl’s High School was established and
the College was established in 1935. Joining the College in 1937, Usha
Bhattacharyya did everything possible to build-up the new College.
Incidentally this was the first Girl’s College in the entire North East.
St. Mary Girls’ College came up two years, to earn
the distinction of being the second Girls’ College in Shillong. In those
days Shillong had a population of only twenty thousand.
Subhash Chandra Bose, the then President of India
National Congress, came to Shillong in 1938. He attended a student’s
meet at the Opera Hall; Usha Bhattacharyya led a team of students from
Lady Kean College and played an active role in organizing the meeting.
At the initiative and invitation of Usha Bhattacharyya, a cultural
troupe from Viswa Bharati came to Shillong and presented a programmed at
the Opera Hall. Since her joining the College in 1937, Cultural
functions became a regular feature.
In recognition of her dedicated service to the
College, she was elevated to the position of the Principal of Lady Keans
Girls’ College. Through her untiring efforts she could raise the College
to a prestigious institution. Her educational activities, as far as
women’s education was concerned, were not confined to Shillong, but was
extended to other parts of the North East, she also got a residential
Complex constructed for the benefit of the girl students coming from out
side Shillong. During her stay in Shillong she came into contact with
Gopinath Bordoloi, Bishnuram Medhi, Humayun Kabir, Dr. Shyma Prasad
Mukhurjee, Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy and such other eminent personalities.
There were fourteen students on the roll in Lady Keans Girls’ College
in 1936. During the Principal ship of Usha Bhattacharyee it rose to two
Usha Bhattacharyya an able administrator and knew when to be tough
and when to the king. Her motherly treatment towards all endeared her to
Usha Bhattacharyya was an admirer of Aurobinda, and
followed his teachings in right earnest. Though she spent most of the
time for the cause of education, she made significant contribution to
literature. Her articles were published in such prestigious magazines as
"The Banhi" and "The Awahan" her articles on philosophical matters were
deep and provided food for thought.
India became independent in 1947. Meghalaya was given the status of
separate state in 1972. When Meghalaya was separated from Assam the
principles of all the colleges of the new state founded a Principals
Council, of which Usha Bhattacharyya became the first President. Her
command over three languages- English, Assamese and Bengali made her a
good Orator. After serving Lady Keans Girls’ College for forty years,
she retired from service in 1977.
Usha Bhattacharyyee died in her own residence in
Shillong on 8th September, 1981 and left behind the ideals of
sacrifice and great deduction for future generations to emulate.