|HER WORLD||Sunday, May 9, 2004, Chandigarh, India|
is a trial by fire
Kanchan Mehta describes how the award-winning novelist managed to transcend personal grief and turn a social crusader
ACCORDING to Indira Goswami, the Jnanpith Award winner from Assam, modern living is stressful, solitary and directionless. It is creativity, strenuous search for definite truths and philanthropy that play a vital role in alleviating the afflictions of modern life. Her autobiography, Ardha Lekha Dastavez originally written in Assamese, was translated into English by P. Kotoky, with the title An Unfinished Autobiography (2002). Indira or Mamoni Raisom Goswami, the pioneering novelist and crusader from the North-East, is one of the leading writers , with several laurels to her name.
Her life-story makes a thought-provoking narrative. The real worth of an autobiography rests primarily on account of the inner shaping of a personality. A genuine autobiography inspires and prepares readers to confront crucibles of fate with resilience. An Unfinished Autobiography fits into these parameters of an autobiography. It recounts and traces the metamorphosis of a sensitive soul. Indiraís life celebrates predominance of courage over calamities of fate and adventure over the love of ease. It is heroic to hug oneís sorrow and resolve not to be consoled. The best way to learn swimming in lifeís tide is to plunge courageously into waves and be buffeted about by them.
It was the death of her beloved father, who she was extremely attached to, left her shattered. Persistent thoughts of suicide haunted her. Each succeeding bereavement left her in an ever-lengthening chain of tears.
The articulation of subliminal depths of womanís psyche adds fascination to this autobiography. The process of husband-hunting turns out to be a trying time for a woman was the unfair barbs pinch her, after she crosses the marriageable age. Often, a woman considers herself a burden. The same happened with Goswami. She experienced the whole phenomenon of husband-hunting so dismal that she married somebody on an impulse. However, she got the unconsummated marriage annulled. Finally, she married an engineer from South and enjoyed a short period of conjugal bliss.
Her husband Madhu, an encouraging companion, brought to her life charm, happiness and prosperity. An abrupt end of that state of togetherness caused a great blow to her. Tragedy plunged her into isolation. She confined herself to her solitary cell in a residential school at Goalpara and later in the crumbling basement in Vrindavan. She engaged herself in teaching, creative writing and introspection.
Being a single woman and a struggling soul, she was propositioned several times in that period. She recalls:
"They were all men ó looking for a chance always to enjoy the company of a single woman. One of the men who had declared himself to be well-wisher of mine, left behind on my table some such vulgar pictures, which filled my mind with disgust against all males... then I was firmly convinced that the measure of animality in man was much more than in women".
She buried herself in her search for a distant and elusive spiritual beauty, connected with the divine. It was the thirst for the infinite, timeless that triumphs over the finite, even death.
In pursuit of her research project, she had to stay for two years in a dark, airless room teeming with snakes, totally bereft of any facilities. It was an uncommon step for an upper caste girl to live in a squalid dwelling. During her research, she witnessed the most sordid condition of the abandoned women and widows who crowded the state. Her keen observation of the miserable plight helped her to reconcile herself with her own grief. She found the essence of life in the realisation that: "The justification of our life lay not in itself, but in our earnest endeavour to live for others."
An identification of her personal
sorrow with the agony of mankind resulted in harmony of warring forces
within her heart. A changed persona emerged and Indira was convinced
of the healing power of compassion. "Humanity alone was the prime
consideration... nothing else..." From a mere litterateur and
scholar, she was transformed into a social crusader. That is one way
of transcending the limits of oneís personal fate and personal
WHEN she was born, she was comforted by that familiar soft voice. She opened her eyes to a tender touch and looked into a kind, loving gaze. She knew it was her mother's. She felt calmed and went back to sleep, reassured that this angelic face would be there to tend to her when she woke up again.
Time passed, the peaceful baby grew up to be a gurgling toddler. Now she loved her mother much more. Her whole world centred around her ma. She approached her for all her needs. If she wanted that new doll, she pointed it out to ma; if her playmate was being hurtful, it wouldn't take her a second to report the matter to her guardian angel. She could hold back her tears in front of others but didn't mind bawling into her ma's lap. Her mother's soothing words and gentle chiding for being a mama's baby would make her smile through her tears, and she would be ready to join her friends again.
Years flew by, and this mama's baby grew into a gangly teenager. Now, friends meant the world to her. Of course, she cared for her mother too but found that her friends cheerfully accepted her as she was. Moreover, mom she felt treated the forgettable issues seriously but her acute problems insensitively. Hadn't her mother fretted for months over that friendship proposal made by that buffoon in the class? And, if she talked of testing out a much-publicised pimple remedy, mom merely brushed aside her worries. At times, when her mother didn't even attempt to understand her, she couldn't pity herself enough. Then why, she couldn't fathom, did she sooner or later end up confiding in her mother? And, why did her mother always outlast her friends as a confidant?
Several more summers rolled by. By then, the gawky one had grown into a gorgeous beauty. She had become an incurable romantic. Now, it was only her boyfriend she wanted to spend time with. Soon, the night-time chat sessions with mamma stopped. She spent those hours on the phone, exchanging sweet nothings with her beau. No doubt, she felt awful that she wasn't sparing time for her mom yet there was little that she could do. But it was not long before she turned to her mother again`85when she realised her boyfriend couldn't be the man in her life. Shortly, the chat sessions were revived, and her mom helped her love herself and the world around her again.
More time skipped by. The incurable
romantic was now a mother of two children. Her bonding with her mother
was now stronger than ever. Looking back, she now not only valued all
her kind words more but could also explain away the harsh
remonstrations. And, more importantly, she realised that the angelic
gaze she had first met had remained steadfast over the years. This
unfaltering love had made her cherish the mother-daughter bond, which
she figured couldn't be without its share of laughter and tears. Now,
when she had trying times with her own teenaged daughter, she was
confident that the loving gaze, which only a mother inherited from a
mother, could never keep her daughter far removed from her.
IT is Motherís Day today. For the clueless ó a fraternity that included me until spam mail thoughtfully upgraded my status to clued-in ó today is a chance that card companies have given you to express your gratitude to your mothers. Not that you arenít grateful to them the year round but it definitely helps to have a fixed day to say thank you. That way you can write it down in your planner so that you remember and, besides, the combined might of card and gift manufacturers will be hard at work making sure that you donít forget. After all, what is Motherís Day for you is the mother-of-all-marketing-schemes day for them.
Those who say that modern influences are felling at the roots of the Great Indian Family Tradition, will have to eat humble pie. The present-day marketing companies are doing at least as much as Ekta Kapoor, if not actually more than her, towards celebrating motherhood, if only for a day. Earlier you could have safely got through the year, perhaps even a lifetime, without being grateful, now marketing guys make sure you canít, unless you happen to live at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. Of course, I am assuming that no oneís yet thought of appointing a Regional Head of Sales, Bottom of the Pacific, but considering the omnipresence of marketing men, I might be wide off the mark. Web site pop-ups, newspaper ads, billboards and banners, all ensure that you canít get away from your filial responsibilities. Decades of marketing have done what centuries of mythology failed to accomplish.
If you thought that saying thank you to mommy was no big deal, perish the thought. Once upon a time ó a real long time ago, I might add, before mom started figuring on the mission statement of corporates ó a love-you-and-thank-you was a simple matter of a bear hug. Not so, any longer. Now you have cards, gifts and special Motherís Day sales. Itís a problem of plenty here, so much so that you might have trouble making up your mind about what to give. Even a seemingly simple proposition like sending an e-card has more to it than meets the eye. Before you can do this, you have to figure out whether your mom is a high tech mom, a tense mom, a merry mom, or any one of a dozen other mom kinds, so that you will be able to zero in on the card apt for her. If you, like me, have trouble making up your mind about what to gift, help is at hand. The ever-considerate Internet is a boon for indecisive souls. Pages dedicated to gift ideas make the task easier for you. The click of a mouse is all it takes to say the most eloquent thank you.
So donít miss the chance that May 9
gives you. It is, after all, an important day. And while you celebrate
the most important woman in your life, gift and card companies
celebrate the laugh-your-way-to-the-bank day.
THE new age feminism is not just striking a balance between home and work. It is excelling in both. Perhaps because centuries of playing second fiddle to men have brought this inherent need in women to always prove themselves. Not as equal, but as better than men, and more so in the traditional male bastions.
Ask Gurpreet Deo. An IPS officer of the Punjab cadre, and a true epitome of contemporary feminism. A woman who is not just revelling in her successful career as a police officer, but basking in her successful roles as mother, daughter and wife.
From a young girl for whom the thought of having to walk into a police station, to chasing drug smugglers and thieves - Gurpreet has transcended the barriers with grit. Do we call her a destiny's child, we ask. "Having cleared the Civil Services examination and being selected for the prestigious Indian Police Service, it was my own decision to join the police force. My family supported my decision; they were happy I wanted to carve my own destiny. I felt I was perfectly suited for the job and took the plunge," she reminisces.
Landing plum postings (read postings areas with high crime graph), this spirited young woman managed to ride on success each time, and give a set back to her detractors. If in her initial postings as Assistant Superintendent of Police Garshankar, Superintendent of Police Gurdaspur, she was chasing the drug smugglers; the white collar crime in Ludhiana and Jalandhar became more noticeable as she began booking the offenders during her stints as SP Headquarters there.
Her first stint as a district police chief came during her posting at Ludhiana in 1999. It was election time and Gurpreet managed to keep things under control- much to the bootlegger's and political bigwigs' discomfort there. From there she went on another successful stint as SP Vigilance Jalandhar, where she personally conducted many raids and was instrumental in unearthing the fogging machine scam in the Jalandhar Municipal Corporation. As Senior Superintendent of Police, Hoshiarpur, she initiated the setting up of a Community Policing Resource Centre in Hoshiarpur, with helplines for the elderly, children, women, NRI's and accident victims that brought her many laurels.
Ashi Prashar of Patiala won the Mrs Homemaker 2004 title at a glittering beauty- cum- personality contest on May 2. The contest was held for homemakers in the region, and 25 contestants were selected from over 500 applications that were received. Though a late entrant in the contestant, Prashar says that she her biggest asset as a homemaker is her perfectionism. " I like to be perfect in everything I do- from ensuring that my house is kept well, to tending to my husband, Colonel Neeraj Prashar and son, Rishabh Prashar's needs. I like to be there for them always," she says.
Courting domestic bliss
She ruled the courts once and tennis was the entire focus of her life. Five years hence she has no desire to reclaim that glory. Steffi Graf has ruled out a comeback once again, saying it would take her away from her children and she doesn't want to do that.
With two children, two-year-old son Jaden Gil and six-month-old daughter Jaz, Steffi has little time for former passion of her life.
Andre Agassi, whom she married in 2001, had last year asked Steffi to play mixed doubles at the French Open. The 'dream team' never took the court as Steffi found herself pregnant with their daughter Jaz.
Steffi won 22 Grand Slam titles. In 1988 she completed the golden Grand Slam,winning the Olympic gold medal in Seoul besides sweeping all the major titles that year. She retired in 1999 after winning the French Open.
Steffi will be inducted in the International Tennis Hall of Fame in New Port, Rhode Island, the USA, in July.
Indiaís friend in the USA
Democrat Senator from New York, Hillary Rodham Clinton, last week became the co-chair of the first-ever Senate caucus dedicated to the furthering of India-USA ties. The caucus, launched by 32 members, is bipartisan. John Cornyn, Senator from Texas, is the Republican co-chair.
Speaking at the launch, Rodham Clinton stressed the need for India, Pakistan and Israel to "define and anti-proliferation agenda" and said she hoped India and the USA could take the lead in the task.