Writing on her own terms
Jnanpeeth Award winner Indira Goswami's works deal with contemporary issues and are masterpieces in their own right.
WHO DOES not know Indira Goswami, who is responsible for elevating Assamese literature and imparting glamour to it? A writer who has reacted to many issues in her own way, a humanist who has lived life on her own terms, a traditional Vaishnavite-born who retains her passion for pet animals, whose obsession for writing resulted in her winning the Jnanpith Award, whose scripts are filmed, and despite her pre-eminent status, is still down-to-earth.
Indira Goswami writes under the pen-name Mamoni (meaning `Mother's jewel') Raisom (the name of her husband). A professor in the Department of Modern Indian Languages and
Literature in the University of Delhi, she has produced long and short fiction of the highest quality, and a truly memorable autobiographical work. The available English translations of her work do not perhaps reflect the glory of the original. But with Indira Goswami now winning the nation's highest literary honour - the Jnanpith Award - her work will presumably begin reaching a wider readership that it richly deserves.
Indira's oeuvre spans the major gamut of Indian life.Indira has received many other literary prizes including the Sahitya Akademi award in 1982 for her novel Mamore Dhara Tarowal (meaning ''The Rusted Sword''). Among her other major novels are Nikanthi Broja (1976), Ahiron (1978) and Tej Aru Dhulire Dhusarita Pristha (1994).Indira has also written many short stories. She has more than a thousand stories and about 45 books to her credit.
In the city for the inauguration of the All India Telugu Women Writers' conference organised by the Potti Sreeramulu Telugu University, Indira Goswami, spoke about women and literature. "There is hectic activity in Assamese literature, especially feminist literature. There are good, intense poets like Arupa Patanjia, Nirupama and Anuradha. But the big publishing houses are not keen on works in Assamese. The Assamese writers and even their translations are neglected,'' she feels. "I was recently delivering a lecture at the Kolkata Book Fair (the largest in Asia) and there to my surprise, I came to know that Assamese and Bengalis account for the largest number of book readers,'' she adds.
Indira has always been a lover of literature. "Perhaps I was born with a pen,'' she quips. Indira started writing early, as a 12-year-old school-going girl, though her intense and persistent involvement with the craft began when her husband died in an accident in 1967, barely 18 months after her marriage. From that day she has ceaselessly used her pen to overcome the adversities."Emotions are embedded in one's heart, but somebody has to bring them out,'' she emphasises and it was Kirtinath Hazarika, her mentor who was also the editor of a newspaper who encouraged her by publishing her stories.
About her characters, she said, "Most of them are from real life - like the young widowed cousin of mine who dared to love a Christian missionary and was burnt alive for it, or the widowed aunt who worshipped her husband's chappals all her life, or the Sikh auto driver in Delhi who carried me to and from college, who was killed in the anti-Sikh riots in 1984. I must feel, touch and live those characters. But, I do mould them.'' What is her message to the young women writers? "They should be committed and should not ignore writing. And writing should not mean intellectual jugglery. They should have a big storehouse of vocabulary. Matter, not style, is significant. One has to be totally involved to write about an experience," she replies immediately. Indira Goswami is currently working on two huge novels - one on Bodo Militancy and the other on the exploitation of silk traders of Assam and for the information of the readers, Assam silk has been very famous since the age of the Mahabharata. And as an icing on the cake of her popularity, she was the only woman writer, who not only escaped the wrath but also got the applause of V.S. Naipaul, the nobel laureate, in the recently held International Women Writer's meet in Rajasthan.
How does she feel about Hyderabad and its people? "I love Telugu people and their language. It is sweet and hospitable like them,'' she replies.
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