Indira Goswami: Commemorating the Literary Luminary of Assam
Indira Goswami, affectionately known as Mamoni Baideo and recognised by her pen name Mamoni Raisom Goswami, stands as an exceptional Indian writer, poet, scholar, and professor, imprinting an enduring legacy on contemporary Indian literature. Her extraordinary journey from a Vaishnavite Brahmin family in Assam to becoming a celebrated author is a tale of resilience and literary brilliance.
Early Life and Education
Born on 14th November 1942 in Guwahati, Assam, to Umakanta Goswami and Ambika Devi, Mamoni Goswami was deeply rooted in Assamese culture and literature. Her literary talents surfaced during her schooling in Guwahati and Shillong. Majoring in Assamese literature at Cotton College in Guwahati and earning a master’s degree from Gauhati University, she laid the foundation for her future literary endeavours.
Mamoni Goswami’s literary journey commenced with her debut collection of short stories, “Chinaki Morom,” penned while still a student. Kirti Nath Hazarika, an editor, recognised her talent, publishing her stories when she was just thirteen years old.
Depression and Resilience
Despite personal struggles, including her battle with depression, Goswami found solace in writing. Her autobiography, “The Unfinished Autobiography,” candidly addresses her youth’s suicide attempts. Tragedy struck when her husband, Madhaven Raisom Ayengar, passed away in a car accident. This led to severe depression and addiction to sleeping tablets. Writing became her anchor, and she expressed that it was her writing that kept her going.
Life in Vrindavan
Seeking peace, Mamoni Goswami moved to Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh. During her stay, she authored “The Blue-Necked Braja,” shedding light on the plight of Radhaswamis facing poverty and exploitation. The novel explores the challenges faced by young widows, navigating moral dilemmas tied to their religious beliefs.
Life at the University of Delhi
Relocating to Delhi, Goswami joined the University of Delhi as a Professor of Assamese. Her tenure saw the creation of significant works, with Delhi as the backdrop for short stories like “Hridoy,” “Nangoth Sohor,” and “Borofor Rani.” Beyond teaching, she advocated for a Chair in the name of Assamese saint-philosopher Srimanta Sankardev at Delhi University, showcasing her commitment to Assamese literature.
Notable novels like “Pages Stained With Blood” and “The Moth Eaten Howdah of a Tusker” addressed societal issues. “Pages Stained With Blood” delved into the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, while “The Moth Eaten Howdah of a Tusker” highlighted the struggles of Assamese Brahmin widows.
“The Man from Chinnamasta,” a controversial work, critiqued the tradition of animal sacrifice in the Kamakhya Temple, resulting in threats to her life. Goswami argued for worshipping the Mother Goddess with flowers rather than blood.
Mamoni Raisom Goswami’s literary contributions include novels like “The Chenab’s Current,” “Ahiron,” “Budhosagor Dhukhor Geisha Aru Mohammed Musa,” “Udaybhanur Choritro,” and “Thengphakhri Tehsildaror Tamor Taruwal.”
Autobiography, Poetry, and Non-Fiction
Beyond novels, Goswami explored diverse genres. Her autobiography, “An Unfinished Autobiography,” poetry collections like “Pain and Flesh,” “Pakistan,” and “Ode To A Whore,” and non-fiction work on the comparative study of Tulsidas’s Ramayana and the Assamese Ramayana titled “Ramayana from Ganga to Brahmaputra” showcase her versatility.
Awards and Recognition
Mamoni Raisom Goswami’s literary prowess garnered awards such as the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1982 for “Mamore Dhora Tarowal” and the Jnanpith Award in 2000. Beyond awards, she played a pivotal role in mediating between the United Liberation Front of Asom and the Government of India, contributing to peace efforts.
Goswami’s works transitioned to film, with “Adajya” and the film “Words from the Mist” portraying her life. Her fearless writing, commitment to social change, and dedication to her craft solidify her as an iconic figure in contemporary Indian literature.
Mamoni Raisom Goswami passed away on 29th November 2011, leaving behind a literary legacy that continues to influence and inspire generations. Her ability to navigate personal struggles and channel them into powerful narratives reflects her enduring impact on the literary landscape.