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Dr Indira Goswami, who writes under the pen-name Mamoni Raisom Goswami, was a celebrated writer, novelist, editor, poet, scholar, and litterateur and peace activist from Assam. She was popularly known as Mamoni Baideu among the people of Assam and her fans.
Indira Goswami was born in Guwahati to Umakanta Goswami and Ambika Devi on November 14, 1942. She completed her primary education from Guwahati and Shillong, and obtained her Bachelor Degree from CottonCollege in Assamese Literature. Later she secured a Master’s degree from GauhatiUniversity in the same field of study. She was married to Madhaven Raisom Ayengar who died in a car accident after eighteen (18) months of marriage.
Adha Lekha Dastabej (The Unfinished Autobiography) is her autobiography. As mentioned in her autobiography, Goswami had suffered from severe depression since her childhood. During her youth she engaged in several suicide attempts. After the sudden death of her engineer husband in a car accident in the Kashmir valley, she became addicted to heavy doses of sleeping tablets. Once brought back to Assam, she joined the SainikSchool, Goalpara as a teacher.
After working at the SainikSchool in Goalpara, Assam, she was persuaded by her teacher Upendra Chandra Lekharu to go to Vrindavan of Uttar Pradesh where she was involved in Ramayana studies. Later she joined the University of Delhi as a lecturer under the guidance of Bhabananda Deka who was subservient in the introduction of Assamese Language in MIL Department of Delhi University (DU). After relocating to Delhi to become Head of Assamese Department at the University of Delhi, the most glorious phases of her life begin. While at the university, she wrote most of her greatest works.
In 1962, Mamoni Raisom Goswami published her first short-story collection Sinaki Morom when she was just 13 years old. She wrote various articles, novels and short-stories on different trending topics and with some solid attempt to structure social change through her writing.
The Daantal Hatir Une Khoa Howdah (Moth Eaten Howdah of a Tusker), regarded as a classic in Assamese literature and excerpted in Masterpieces of Indian Literature (Sahitya Akademi) is a novel about the plight of Brahmin widows in Sattras of Assam. Nilkanthi Broja (The Blue Necked Braja) very powerfully projects the lives of young widows abandoned in Vrindavan by their families, which perhaps is the first novel written on the plight of Hindu widows popularly known as Radheswamis in Vrindavan.
Tej Aru Dhulire Dhusarita Prishta (Pages Stained with Blood) is a first person account of the Sikh-riots of 1984 in Delhi. On the other hand, Chinnamastar Manuhto (The Man from Chinnamasta), is her most controversial and subversive novel which is a protest against the practice of animal sacrifice in the ancient Kamakhya Temple, in Guwahati, Assam. Pain and Flesh is her only published poetry collection in English. Mamoni Raison Goswami wrote about (twelve) 14 novels and nine (9) short stories in her lifetime.
Dr Goswami’s work has also been performed on stage and in film. The film Adajyais based on her novel Daantal Hatir Une Khoa Howdah won international awards directed by Dr Santana Bordoloi. The film, Adajya was awarded the Silver Peacock award in the National Film Festival in 1998. Words from the Mist directed by Jahnu Barua is one of the many biographical films made on her eventful life.
She received the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1982 for Mamore Dhora Tarowal. In 2000, she received the Jnanpith Award, India’s highest literary award, for writing about the subalternsand marginalized. In 2008, she became India’s first Principal Prince Claus Laureate. In 2002, she was awarded by Padmashree Award that she refused to accept, saying that after winning Jnanpith it was too late to get a Padmashree.
Besides all of her achievements and success, she also came to limelight for her role in acting as a mediator on behalf of People’s Consultative Group (PCG) to find a peaceful solution between the Central Government and banned armed militant group United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) and even if the talks failed, her efforts were highly appreciated and widely acclaimed in the society. She referred to herself as an “observer” of the peace process rather than as a mediator or initiator.
She passed away on November 29, 2011, at 7:46 AM, at the age of seventy (70) in the GauhatiMedicalCollegeHospital due to multiple organ failure.
‘Her death has created a void in the literary scene in India,’ Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said.
In recent announcement on November 14, 2012, Assam Chief Minister Mr. Tarun Gogoi said that the prestigious Asom Ratna awardwould be conferred upon eminent litterateur Mamoni Raisom Goswami posthumously. He was addressing a function organized by South East Asia Ramayani Research Centre with support from the Directorate of Cultural Affairs to mark the birth anniversary of the noted litterateur.