DR RATAN BHATTACHARJEE

Finally this year the well-deserved Sahitya Akademi Award 2021 came for Anuradha Sharma Pujari’s masterpiece ‘Eyat  Ekhon Aranya Asil. Pujari is one of the most popular writers of this generation in Assamese literature. “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader” wrote Robert Frost. In going to read the novels of one such writer in the Northeast is no one else than Anuradha Sharma Pujaree, the most eminent female editor whose golden pen did not stop for the last three decades. More important is that her popularity is never on the wane.

The exhaustion of the 28th edition of her book Kanchan and the eighth edition of her Sahebpurar Boroxun very well justify this claim about the increasing popularity of this female writer cum editor of Assam. After her Masters in the Dibrugarh University, she successfully did her diploma in journalism at Kolkata where quite unexpectedly under the inspiration of Homen Borgohain almost under pressure she had her fictional debut with her book Hriday Ek Bigyapan, which can be called a trend-setter in the world of fiction dealing with contemporary Corporate world which very few in the North East or in Bengal without the exception of only Bengali writer Sankar in  Bengali literature at that time could write so well.

A female writer of Northeast did this wonderful job and the legendary writer-editor no other than Homen Borgohain inspired her calling this novel’ a contemporary classic’ as it raised some basic questions about modern Assamese life and the complexities of the glamorous corporate world that no other writer had raised before her in fiction.

First published in 1997 in Assamese, Hriday Ek Bigyapan, was an instant bestseller, selling thirty-two editions in the next ten years. It posed some questions about modern urban life, which few Indian novels have been able to. The novel at once established her position in the world of fiction as a writer and the book went on to printings of 14 editions, granting her an unparalleled critical and commercial success and remained her bestseller till today in Bengali and English translation.

The other remarkable experience that shaped her world vision as a writer was the invitation from the USA Government as a writer cum journalist to visit the continent and get exposure to remarkable people of the media world including the Editors of New York Times or Washington Times in New York, California Florida and other places and in the workshops of Columbia or Iowa University.

She was one of the two writers from India and one from Pakistan and Nepal as an invitee with her.  She recorded the priceless experience of her growing up as a writer with world vision in her travelogue American Charaikhanat in 2008 with one from Pakistan and one from Nepal.

For the neutral outlook as a writer and editor, she inspired writers of all colours to contribute to Sadin over decades to preserve the dignity of the Third Estate without compromising with injustice. Perhaps she is the only novelist in Assam whose books did not get book-launch publicity or ever needed any such formal promotion by eminent writers except for the last one Eyaat Ekhon Aranya Asil organized by the publisher. Her popularity is the real reward that came from the readers of all age groups and a wide range of her subjects may be one of the secrets behind her stunning popularity over the decades which is never to wane also in the future.

Born in Jorhat, she studied sociology at the Dibrugarh University, and though it is not a campus novel proper,  in Nahoror Niribili Cha (Shadows of Nahor)in 2005  for which she got Basanti Bordoloi Award her experience is fictionalized and nine out of ten students of the university have a familiarity with the novel out of enthusiasm and the fascinating storyline. This can be termed as the diary of the writer while she was reading at Dibrugarh University.

In a recent article one writer suggests that all newly married couples should read Nil Prajapati (Blue Butterflies) 2013 to understand the complexities of love among the married couple and all students should read her book Son Harinor Chekur( Race of the golden deer),2012 which is dedicated to the youth who are very serious and tensed about their career and often commit suicide when they failed. Life is a very interesting journey. It is too precious to be idled away.

The book gives the message that the youth should dedicate themselves to what they like. Like  Emily Dickinson reading was her pastime in her lonely hours of childhood as her father’s sudden accident caused a long separation from her parents when her father was taken abroad for long treatment leaving behind for her a huge library of books.

Journalism became her passion and she had the diploma at the Birla Institute of Liberal Arts and Management Sciences Kolkata and her long decades of journalism brought her Asom Renaissance Award. Her versatility and dynamic nature led her to take interest in drama and films besides music. At that time she came in contact with great personalities of drama theatre and films like Bibhas Chakraborty, Mrinal Sen and others. She gained popularity with her column in ‘Letters from Kolkata’ in Asom Bani weekly and she won fame all over North East with her novel in English The Heart’s a Showbitz published in 1998.

Ajon Eshworor Sondhanot (In Search of a God) was also published in 1998. Her popularity can be guessed when we see Kanchan published in 2001 has till today got 28th editions which depict the life of a girl named Kanchan who is incessantly cheated and sexually harassed by some narrow-minded men folk., Sahebpurar Borosun (Rains of Sahebpura), 2003 is another novel that exposed the adventurous journey of social workers especially in a village named sahebpura.,Boragee Nodir Ghat (The Banks of Boragee River), published in 2004., Raag-Anurag 2007.,Mereng in  2010 which is a wonderful story of a strong woman named Mereng or Indira Miri.  This book is full of many small problems and love between couples.,Jalachabi published in 2014 translated into English twice  Ashes Still Whisper by Prof Bhaswati Parasar and also by Dr. Santana Saikia as  In The Shadow of Light depicting how the problem of Alzheimer creates a gap between old parents and their children. The narrative of Jalachabi is heart-touching and reveals the social commitment of the writer.

Her Short story collections Boxontor Gaan (Spring-song), 1999.,Ejon Oxamajik Kobir Biography (An Unsocial Poet’s Biography), 2001,Catherinor Soite Eti Nirjon Duporia (An Afternoon with Catherine), 2005,No Man’s Land (short story collection) have won the heart of readers of all ages for their so marvelous focus on varied social issues which arouse the interest of the readers. Claude Mckay said: “Idealism is like a castle in the air if it is not based on a solid foundation of social and political realism.” In the novels of Anuradha Sharma Pujari all sides of life, the prismatic hue, the multidimensional perspectives are available.

Ratan Bhattacharjee teaches English at Dum Dum Motijheel College, Kolkata. He is also a poet and columnist and may be reached at profratanbhattacharjee@gmail.com

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