I was deeply saddened to learn of Indira Goswami’s death on November 29.
I first met Indiraji in Delhi in the 1980s. She was one of the kindest and most nurturing people I have ever known. I had the deepest respect for her, as a writer and as a human being.
Some years ago I had occasion to write the following lines about her:
“Indira Goswami is one of the pre-eminent literary figures in India today. She is also a woman of remarkable courage and conviction. Born in 1942, in Guwahati, Assam (in North Eastern India), Indira Goswami writes in Assamese and has played a significant role in bringing the tribulations of her troubled region to national and international attention. Her books include the short story collection, Shadow of Kamakhya; and the novels: Man from Chinnamasta; Pages Stained with Blood; The Moth Eaten Howdah of a Tusker. Her books, which are widely available in English translation, have won universal acclaim in India and have won all the most important awards in the country, including the Sahitya Akademi Award, and the Gyanpith Prize, which is India’s single most prestigious literary award.
“But apart from being one of India’s most important literary figures, Indira Goswami is also a courageous social and political activist. Assam is one of the most troubled states in India, with a long-running insurgency, and Indira Goswami has for many years been one of its most powerful voices of peace and reconciliation. Indeed she has become one of the most eloquent interlocutors of the Indian government on this subject. Her efforts in this regard are well-documented and can be easily looked up on the Net. She has also been an important voice in championing women’s causes, and has done much to highlight the plight of widows. In short, Indira Goswami is one of those rare figures whose achievements as a writer are closely paralleled by their accomplishments as a social and political activist.”
As an activist Indiraji had the rare gift of being able to heal and reconcile. Aruni Kashyap, the young Assamese writer who informed me of Indiraji’s passing, said in his email: ‘Already, thousands of people have started flocking her funeral. Very few authors are so loved by people from all sections : from ULFA rebels to Chief Minister.’
Reading this I was reminded of the day of Satyajit Ray’s death – April 23, 1992 – when all of Calcutta was plunged in mourning. I am sure that November 29, 2011 will be remembered in the same way in Guwahati.