REMINISCENCES RESURRECTED

AN INTERVIEW WITH PADMASHREE, SHRI MAHIM BORA


Interviewed by: Debojit Hazarika
Translation: Bibekananda Choudhury


What are the issues that make you feel happy or gloomy?
I have recorded many such things in my book ‘Pakhi Loga Din’ (the winged days). Readers would be bored of repetition if I narrate the entire things. But, still, I’d like to say a few things. Once while in ‘kha’ class (present pre-primary section preceding Class 1) I was chanting along the contents of the textbook titled ‘Bohagi Bihur Suwaga Naam’ written by respected Mitradev Mahanta. I still clearly remember the opening line ‘Chotai e dhol bale dhiniki dhiniki Bohagi ahise buli…gosoto matise kuliye..’ (Chot – the last month of Assamese calendar and Bohag the first, dhol – drum, dhinik-dhinik – drumbeats, kuli – koel, gos – tree; gosoto – on the trees too) it was thought to be a Bihu song by a section. My deceased bordeuta (father’s elder brother) informed the school headmaster that I was singing merrily Bihu songs at home and bunked school. That day I missed school for some reason and tried to catch up with my studies by memorizing the song loudly. Next day Gosaidev Mahanta, the headmaster, beat me up so cruelly that I soiled my pants. And for one week, I could not even remove my vest as it got stuck along the stains of the lashes. I could return home only after washing my pants and myself on the river Kollong and drying it under the Sun all the while wearing a gamosa (a handwoven towel) taken on loan from one my benevolent classmates staying nearby. The memory of this painful incident make me cry even today. But, in the BA and MA classes Bihunaam, Biyanaam, Dhainaam etc. was there in our curriculum and still is.

The sorrow of my mother’s illness followed by death would stay with me forever. The grief of loss of my wife and son, siblings, parents, parents-in-law and other relatives would end only with my last breathe. During last thirty years some maleficent elements has been dug up in my compound. Those consisted pieces of human nails, bones, hair and pieces of clothes worn by family members and many other things. Those thirty years the house was in such a state of turmoil that I actively thought of leaving the ethereal world. Some twenty people practicing witchcraft and black magic visited my place and said that these had been the cause of untimely demise of my wife and son and my long illness.

The source of my happiness were marriages of my sibling’s two sons born to me and my wife and their proper education, and of course, my marital union. The help and compassion of my relatives, specially my brother-in-law Lambodar Bora and his wife, my wife’s sister Bina, respected Apurba Sarma and his wife Runu – all their help and support made me stay alive to this day. The company of my grandchildren too makes me forget all my sorrows. Awards and honours like Padmashree have given me immense pleasure. The response of the people towards my writings and their unconditional love gives me pleasure and fond memories to cherish. Myself adorning the seat of President, Asam Sahitya Sabha, Nagaon District Sahitya Sabha and Nagaon Banch of Sahitya Sabha has put a new lease of life in me. The thought of indulging in literary activities had always been playing in my mind. But I never ever dreamt of being elected President of Asam Sahitya Sabha. I got the chance to pay my respect to various tribes including the tribes of Coochbehar and Nagalad area. a hitherto unknown mesmerising facet of mother Assam got exposed to me. I consider it to be the ultimate success of my life.

You are an intellectual-litterateur; but not an activist in a sense. As an intellectual-litterateur you certainly expect that your creativity become a tool for change in society. How can this materialize?

I made an earnest effort to reflect the happiness, sorrow, expectations and longings of our village folks through my literary creations. Along with short stories I wrote novels, about thirty odd poems including for the youngsters, thirty odd articles, some 4-5 novels, children’s literature also. But I was never satisfied. My family life had been in such turmoil that I practically got little time for literary activities. My health too, suffered because of hard labour. But still my writings are well accepted by the present generation. That gives me immense pleasure. This will last till my death. Whether someone found anything towards social reforms – I leave the issue to my readers.

In the near future (next ten-fifteen years) do you foresee any hope in political, social, and economic field. Then what is the basis of such hope?
Political, social, economic, cultural, educational – all these factors are turning more ominous every passing moment. Though we lost our freedom to the English we did not suffer in identity crisis – our existence had never been threatened - the way it is today. Our language, literature, culture took a certain shape. But the division of our country after independence followed by Chinese aggression, series of battles with Pakistan shook our foundation. The refugees of East Bengal (now Bangladesh) created a sort of quake in our foundation of literature, literature and economy as well. Though initially all had been Hindu refugees literally the entire burden had to be taken by Assam which, in fact, shared by entire India. Then there are also some loopholes in our Constitution that has made us unstable. The foreign aggression is there and unhindered infiltration from Bangladesh has put the future of Assam and at stake. That’s why I told in an earlier interview that a federal structure should be adopted in case of all the North eastern States of India. This federal structure is possible keeping the character of Indian Union intact.  This area needs to be converted into an impregnable fortress for infiltrators. The governor of the individual States may be picked up from various tribes, say, every three years. The smaller tribes should also be empowered for veto. Now I think India has jeopardised its security in an effort to keep Kashmir as its part. Nehru should have made sincere effort to maintain cordial relation with people of Kashmir. Go should go for a referendum and those who desire may be allowed to move to PoK. The Kashmiri Pundits who are now pushed to the status of refugees spending their life in makeshift tents should be relocated with proper security and privileges to stay safely in their original abode in Kashmir. We must also develop good relation with the three countries US-UK-Russia. All of them helped during our hard times. Relation with countries like Burma (Myanmar), Vietnam. Korea should be strengthened. If China builds dam across Brahmaputra, it would affect North Eastern States of India specially Assam directly – in all fields economic, cultural, agricultural, commerce, demography. We should be very cautious. Scientists must be engaged to find out ways to salvage Brahmaputra. I am not for any particular political ideology – I am expressing my feelings as a response to your question.

Another thought that crosses my mind is that a universal world government formed by like-minded nations and run by United Nations. Then only we can stand up against those unholy forces. This envisaged government need to have its own military forces. The countries with small population should have equal say and power to veto unjustified decisions. Not only India but the entire world would have to emphasize more in the field of literature and culture. So that people are drawn towards Indian culture. The womenfolk has a leading role to play here.

How hopeful are you with the new generation leaders in the social and political field?
The new generation is playing a key role in every aspect. Our education system should be such that every educated person is capable of shouldering any responsibility for the country as and when called for. We must prepare our new generation with deep sense of love for the country, inclination towards knowledge and learning, for thinking about inventions and new innovation in every field of life.

We would get a new government this year. How do you expect the new government to be, or, in other words, what should be the characteristics of a welfare government?
A corruption free, transparent, clean, welfare government is my dream. The government that is always sensitive to the needs of the people. We want a government that shares the happiness and sorrow of the people and renders its service for which it is put in place. We do not want a government that sits in the comforts of Dispur just to loot the exchequer.

Note: Translated from the original Assamese published in Sadin, January 1, 2016 on personal request by Shri Bora to Shri Choudhury. Interviewer: Debojit Hazarika.

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