Contempt for rituals is also
evident in Goswami’s soon-to-be-published novel, Chinnmaster
Manuhto (The man from Chinnamasta), in which she opposes
animal sacrifice at the Shakti-peeth Kamakhya temple. It has
already stirred a hornet’s nest, to say the least. But the
author sticks to what she wrote once: "I believe in a
Divine Power but wholeheartedly reject rituals and regard them
as a disease afflicting our society."
into a privileged family and educated in a premier English
medium school in Shillong, Goswami never lost touch with the
ground — the focus of her writing has remained the suffering
of the disadvantaged sections of society. Not for her the
chronicling of the lifestyle of the rich and powerful. If this
aspect comes into her fiction, it is as a contrast to the misery
of the other half.
stories are not just etchings of depression; they also sustain
belief in the basic goodness of human beings, though it is
constantly challenged by opposite forces. Goswami’s style, as
she was budding into a promising writer in the 1960s, was
branded as ‘daring’ perhaps because even though a ‘woman
writer’ she was not coy about talking about sex. Her writing
has a basic honesty, even when talking about herself. In the
autobiographical Adha Lekha Dastavej (Life is no
Bargain), she talks openly about her obsession, since she
was young, with "the thought of taking (my own) life".
Goswami did attempt suicide after a broken relationship. She
survived because she had her writing and later learnt to love
again. Tragically, her husband died in an accident. However, the
autobiography, serialised in a popular periodical, shocked the
prudes. Hate mail was equal in number as the congratulatory
letters. But her literary skills have repeatedly found
recognition through several awards: Goswami had earlier won the
Sahitya Akademi Award for Une Khowa Howda besides a slew
of other awards. She is also a well-known scholar of the epic Ramayana.
The locale of
Goswami’s novels is varied, often far away from her native
Assam. But the empathy and deep understanding of the common
people make her writings easily acceptable. Even when she was
blissfully happy by the river Chenab, and wove her first novel Chinavar
Srota (As the Chenab Flows) around it, she looked at the
life of the labourers who were building a bridge over the river.
more for her novels, Goswami has gifted Assamese literature with
some unforgettable short stories. In Sanskar (The
Offspring), Goswami takes an ironic look at the caste
system. Damayanti, a poor Brahmin widow has to make a living by
selling her body. She agrees to bear the progeny of Pitambar, a
childless rich man who is obsessed with continuing his lineage.
But ultimately, she aborts the foetus because she cannot bear to
carry the seed of a low caste man. The story ends with Pitambar
digging the grave of his unborn child: "I’ll touch that
flesh with these hands of mine. He was the scion of my lineage,
a part of my flesh and blood. I’ll touch him."
short story Udang Bakach (The Empty Box)
protagonist Taradoi lives on the edge of the cremation ground.
She finds the huge wooden box in which her once-rich lover, now
dead, is brought in and she drags it to her ramshackle hut.
"Taradoi touched the box. The bakul flowers carved on the
wooden surface seemed to come alive. She let her cheeks feel the
flowers. And then, as she did every day, she huddled into the
cavernous bottom of the box," says Goswami in the story.
"A writer must write
something every day — a discipline I follow rigorously,"
Goswami said once. Writing has helped her to come to terms with
her own tragedies, to squash suicidal thoughts and now, with the
passing of years, her writing is getting mellower. Though she
would rather not be stamped a feminist or a reformist, it is
increasingly evident from her recent works that Goswami,
consciously or otherwise, has taken on the mantle of an