Book Review: My Life's Reminisce

Review by Aziza Ahmed (Saquei)

My Life’s Reminisce by Lakshminath Bezbaroa
Translated by Navamalati Neog Chakraborty
Notion Press Publishers (December 2018)
Rs. 375, Pages 386, ISBN-13: 978-1644298749

In the foreward to 'My Life's Reminisce', the translated version of Sahityarathi Lakshmnath Bezbaroa's 'MorJibon Xuworoni' Sri Ramkumar Mukhapadhyay has said that 'an autobiography itself is the record of unknown workings of a creative mind and a passionate soul' and bound to be emotionally truthful.

Translating someone’s intimate work content and accounts of personal emotions and reactions into another language is in itself a daunting challenge, one that engages and stretches the translator's faculties to the utmost; for the translator has to take infinite care to be as accurate as possible and do justice to the spirit and content of the autobiography. Navamalati Neog Chakraborty (the translator in the present case) initially expounds her belief that Lakshmnath Bezbaroa’s ‘MorJibon Xuworoni' was most comfortably written in a language which can be described as 'Aairmukhor bhaxa' unspoilt by the harsh impositions of change. His was neither the baritone nor the voice of the neo-cultured. Navamalati further maintains that Bezbaroa’s writing was empowered by his inner reserve and the blessings of the Maharishi. It flowed straight from his heart in a style that is uniquely 'Bezbaroaesqe'.

Aziza Ahmed
It is worth noting that it is this aspect together with the simplicity of Bezbaroa’s diction that she has attempted to maintain throughout with as much consistency as possible.

As we read the early chapters of 'My Life's Reminisce’ we virtually move alongside the young Bezbaroa partaking of the activities and memorable escapades. The eventful boat journeys in all their thrills and hazards are a case in point So are the numerous occasions at the familial social and religious levels. Colourful images and vivid descriptions of life around him come up live and real .In fact almost all of such recollections recounted in the autobiography in the air of trivial everydayness have found correspondingly explicit rendering in the translated version.

In order to make her readers connect and identify with the picturization of Bezbaroa’s’ life and times as well as to grasp the sheer quantum of information, the translator has adhered to a literal rendition of the unique sense and sensibilities of great writer and the original flavours of his crisp Oxomiya which is so characteristic of his writings. The readers drift along with the flow of the writing in gay abandon partaking of the fun and the joy, the sadness and the sorrow, the expectations the shocks and resentments as they come and go. The writer brings out at length and detail the formative influences during the impressionable years of Lakshminath. In the manner related in 'MorJibonXuworoni’, the English version ‘My Life's Reminisce’ also maintains that the combined strength of his deeply ingrained religious faith and his inherent pride in his native mother-tongue that enabled him to assert his Oxomiya identity even as he imbibed the Bengali language and culture during his college and business days. None of the details of such accounts, as and when they appear, have been overlooked.

Lakshminath Bezbaroa grew up in an age when the society fed upon the religious and cultural teachings and precepts of a religion handed down by earlier generations. At that time ‘naams’, ‘kirtans’, ‘bhaonas’, were regularly performed with utmost fervour. The Naamghars Kirtansabha were the centres of such sanctified and solemn observances. Every home had a Goxaighar and Thapona. Ritualistic cleansing ceremonies were also held . Bezbaroa makes profuse use of shastriya phrases and words or even pieces of verse with a colloquial flavour. It is but clearly understandable that these expressions have no equivalents in English. Navamalati Neog Chakraborty therefore retains the original wordings, thereby allowing her readers to savour the true fervour and appeal. For the same reason she makes no alterations in the other songs and poems which occur in the original.

The latter half of 'My Life's Reminisce' presents aesthetically, yet chronologically, Bezbaroa’s college and university life, his business ventures, the growth of a personality and the emergence of a creative writer. It has been the translator's focused attempt to capture the breezy, articulate and easy-flowing language of the renowned writer as to produce in the readers a legitimate experience of moods and emotions and thereby have a clearer picture of the man behind the works. Then there are several accounts which enlighten us about the impact of Bengali language and culture on Lakshminath Bezbaroa. In the Calcutta of that time he came into contact with and under the influence of a galaxy of eminent personalities from both Assam and Bengal. Such associations in social, business and political spheres, as also in the various literary circles gradually enhanced his personality and transformed him into an accomplished and a more confident man. Such grooming together with his fluency in both languages enabled Bezbaroa to get along comfortably. At one point, we are told, that he frankly admits about his indulgence in materialistic pleasures and English habits which he realised were contrary to the religious precepts and ritualistic observances of his childhood and the teachings of Sankardeva that were so ingrained in him. Such passages are not only interesting reading but full of natural humour. The reader's interest does not sag at any point as the narrative unfolds the multiple facets of the iconic personality. His fearless and frank accounts of failures, interactions and confrontations during his Calcutta phase, in lucid English, tell us a great deal about the man he was . The forays into writing, the literary associations, the contributions to ‘Jonaki’ and ‘Banhi’ allow us to measure the distances he has traversed at the personal social and intellectual levels.

'My Life's Reminisce’ has hereby opened the doors to a wider readership; It is an invitation to celebrate one of the biggest names of Assamese literature, a man whose life and works are sheer poetry for us. Nurtured under the benevolent canopy of tradition and religious rituals and having time and again observed them within the safety and comfort of togetherness he truly breathed into the texture of his writings the very spirit and ethos of his life and times. In the English version we come across passages wherein Bezbaroa’s compelling raw energy spills over and others which bring out the palpable sense of pride that surfaced occasionally yet transparently clear. I hope this painstakingly done work is received well in reading circles, and be of valuable use as research material for students.


About the Translator

Navamalati Chakraborty professor, poet, critic, artist, translator has been engaged in the translation of literary great man of Assam and Bengal. Her translation of Lakshminath Bezbaroa, Birinchi Kumar Baruah, Birendra Kumar Bhattacharya, Dr Maheswar Neog, Indira Raisom Goswami, Harekrishna Deka and Jayashree Goswami Mahanta...prove beyond the stretch of imagination her persistence in bringing out to the forefront for the readers of the world Assamese literature in sync with the world's great writers. The excellence of her work and motivation is appreciated highly.

A resident of Kolkata, she last served as Guest Professor of Calcutta University in the Comparative Literature Department. She is the youngest daughter of Dr Maheswar Neog.

Bionote: Aziza Ahmed (Saquei) has a Ph.D in English Literature. She is a retired lecturer of Handique College, Guwahati, Assam, India.

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