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Assamese writer and journalist Homen Borgohain | Photo credit: Facebook,youtube u9 soccer drills

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Having lived not just a moderately long life, but a meaningfully productive one, Borgohain has left behind a massive body of work. He has to his credit five collections of short stories, thirteen novels and novellas, around fifty volumes of non-fictional prose, four books that are autobiographical, several edited volumes, and a single book of poems titled Hoimonti (1987). He won the Sahitya Akademi award in 1978 for his novel Pita-Putra (1999) but returned it in 2015 in protest against the Dadri lynching. Two of his other notable books of fiction, namely Matsyagandha (1987) and Halodhiya Soraiye Baodhan Khai (1973) were made into feature films, and the latter, directed by Jahnu Barua, won the national award in 1988. His Subala (1963) is notable not just for being the first ever work in Assamese literature on the life of a prostitute but also for being a decisive point in the development of post-war Assamese fiction, in the same rank as Birinchi Kumar Barua’s Jibanar Batat (1945) in waking up Assamese fiction from its long hibernation.

An esteemed journalist known for his thought-provoking and razor-sharp political writings, he was the founding editor of many weekly magazines like Nilachal (1968), Nagarik (1977), Samakal (1987), Sutradhar (1989). He also served as a special correspondent at the Calcutta-based daily Aajkaal, his work featuring in its North-East section, for a few years from 1981, where he wrote many pieces and was the first person from Assam to interview Mrs. Gandhi at length.

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A voracious reader himself, he did in the world of Assamese letters what the medieval saints did to the sacred texts by translating them from classical languages to regional ones, thus decoding these for common people and making knowledge open to all. Borgohain popularised the form of the personal essay in Assam, and applied his wealth of reading into these pieces, combining personal experiences and moments of introspection with allusions to and anecdotes from the worlds of literature, philosophy, civilisational history, etc. The 154 personal essays collected in the three volumes of Mor Tokabahir Pora (Pages from My Notebook) have reserved their due place in the canon for posterity. The index of contents from one of his earliest collection of nonfictional prose called Ananda Aru Bedanar Sandhanat (In Search of Joy and Sorrow) introduces the masses to names like Jorge Luis Borges, Edgar Lee Masters, Goethe and Charlotte von Stein, Heinrich Heine, Dag Hammarskjold. He was not the intellectual’s writer (although he had everything that it took to be one) but the people’s writer. Like capsules, he packed knowledge in the simplest of forms, making it accessible to the masses, that too in a pre-Amazon and pre-ebooks era when not just readers but even bookshops were numbered.

mikasa official volleyball,Borgohain had a gift for spotting fresh or obscure talent — and not just spotting but encouraging them onwards. Despite his busy schedule, he took time out to draft letters of appreciation to these young minds, sent for them from his office, or rang them up asking them to submit work. He provided platforms to new and emerging voices, put his faith in writers whose works were turned down by other leading magazines that played it safe by only publishing trusted and revered writers. While it is not unlikely that a senior and experienced writer anywhere in the world would help or guide aspirants in that field, what sets Borgohain apart from all of them is the sheer number of people he had helped take flight. In Assam at present, be it established or struggling writers, or journalists, academicians or intelligentsia, there may be few who, at one point or the other, had not been mentored by him or taken him as a role model. That measures the magnitude of the Borgohain effect.

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mach city cycle under 5000,I would like to end this write-up with my translation of one of Borgohain’s poems, ‘Smriti’ (Memory); more often than not death and art reveal their true merit only retrospectively.

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(Written with inputs from Bijit Borthakur)

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