The Journey

Homen Borgohain – the name spells familiarity among people from different walks of life in Assam. His identity as a man with a pen and passion for writing is well-known. He has actually been a towering figure among writers of different genres – especially for his ability to reach out to the people through his creative writings such as novels, short stories, essays, articles, autobiographical works and even poetical verses of his youth and journalistic writings as a columnist and editor of an Assamese daily. He is also known for the amazing quality of creating a world, observed in his surroundings through his writings.

Born on 7th December 1932 in Dhakuakhana of the undivided Lakhimpur district, Homen Borgohain had a caring and protected upbringing by his father Indradhar Borgohain and mother Aaita Borgohain. His autobiographical writings reveal that his life was greatly influenced by his father who introduced him to the ways of the world and instilled a deep interest in the world of books from a very early age. After being initiated into the school life and completion of the primary and M.E. school stage in Dhakuakhana, he had studied in Dhakuakhana High School, North Lakhimpur High School and finally in Government High School, Dibrugarh. He passed matriculation examination from Government High School, Dibrugarh in 1950. All through his school stage his teachers could recognize his brilliance in many aspects. However, his life at Dibrugarh for three years had become a bit wayward and he became addicted to films, books outside the syllabus and popular magazines. As a consequence he faced trouble managing time for studies and faced some sort of financial problems too. These were coupled with his guilty conscience and he lost his peace of mind. He had to pay heavy price for such an unruly life and shocked his teachers and parents alike when his matriculation result was beyond their expectation and he somehow managed to secure a simple first division. His teachers were greatly disappointed and a few of them even commented that he had ruined the reputation of the school and the he would not be able to cope with the pressure of studies in the science stream in the higher secondary stage. He should better try to come with flying colours in the arts stream. This kind of comment had a challenging effect in his life and he became determined to prove his worth. Thus in spite of his inclination and interest in the arts stream, he got admitted himself in the science stream in Cotton College, Guwahati and passed in the first division in 1952. However, after the intermediate stage, he had made up his mind to study English literature as his honors subject and thus probably took the first step to pursue his passion for writing. After completing graduation in 1954, Homen Borgohain had served as a school teacher in Dhakuakhana for a brief period. In 1955, he qualified himself for the second category of Assam Civil Service and joined as the Sub Deputy Collector in Chaigoan.

In 1958, at the age of 26, he married Nirupama Tamuly, a very popular Assamese writer of his age. She began her literary career as a short story writer and also established herself as a novelist with human and social commitment. She is well known for her writings as a journalist and columnist too. Simultaneously she began her professional career as a lecturer in English in Nalbari College in 1958 and it is in this town that she met Borgohain who was then serving as a Dub Deputy Collector.

In 1968, Homen Borgohain decided to leave his job as he became disillusioned with the corrupt bureaucratic system. A new chapter began in his life after taking a stride in the world of journalism as he joined as the founder editor of an Assamese weekly Nilachal the same year. He continued his association with this weekly till 1977 and gradually took up some other assignments as the founder editor of magazines like Samakal (1987), Sutradhar (1989) etc. In between, he widened his horizon of journalistic experiences by being associated with various other literary activities too. In 1981, he was appointed as a special correspondent for the Bengali daily Aajkal, published from Calcutta.

Among his creative writings and published works mention may be made of a few collections of short stories such as Bibhinna Chorus (Different Distinctive Chorus; 1957), Prem Aru Mrityur Karane (For Love and Death; 1958), Swapna, Smriti, Bishad (Dreams, memories and sadness; 1967), Galpa Aru Naksha (Stories and Design; 1966), Ashtitwar Jyotirmoy Chetana (Illuminating Sense of Existence). In 1963, Homen Borgohain published his first novel Subala which delineated the heart touching journey of the life of a prostitute. The book was an instant hit in spite of the bold theme and some negative criticism because of the so-called taboo subject in the contemporary environment. Tantric was published next in 1967.

After resigning from his government job, Borgohain had renewed his focus on writing novels and a few of his very popular novels were published during this period. Kushilava was published in 1970 followed by Puwar Purabi Nishar Bibhas in 1971 which was jointly written Homen Borgohain and Nirupama Borgohain – the couple, and it is known to be the only Assamese novel written jointly by two authors. Haladhiya Caraye Baodhan Khai came next in 1973, which depicts the heart rending story of a poor illiterate peasant. This novel got rave reviews in the press and also a film was made with the story by the famous Assamese film director of international repute Jahnu Baruah. The film had won the Swarna Kamal Award. Pita-Putra was published in 1975 which won the Sahitya Akademi award. As the name indicates, this novel tells the story of chiefly two generations with the struggle for independence of India as the backdrop. This novel drew attention of the readers and the critics alike. Another novel Timir tirtha was published in the same year. Astarag, a story on the predicament and deprivations in old age in the contemporary materialistic society and busy life style of the new generation was published in 1986. Matsyagandha, which was published in 1987, brought into focus the social imparity through realistic depiction of sufferings, oppression and exploitation of the low caste people by the so-called upper castes and the rich. This heart touching story had been dramatized and presented on stage by various amateur theatre groups of Assam. An Assamese film was also made with the story. The same year Borgohain’s autobiographical novel Saudar Puteke Nao meli Jai was published. His next novel Nishangata was published in the year 2000, which was based on the real life story of a popular Assamese poet Anupama Basumatary. Two more novels followed with the titles Bishannata and Edinar Diary, which were published in 2002 and 2003 respectively.

Homen Borgohain’s only collection of poems entitled Haimanty was published in 1987.Borgohain has a long list of essays and articles to his credit, most of which are inspirational in character and his target readers are from all the age groups. In these writings he has focused on various aspects of life and scrutinized ways to face crucial situations throughout the journey of life. Significantly, most of these writings are marked by illustrations from the lives of great personalities of the world and Borgohain’s own analysis of certain famous books of great writers from different parts of the world. This group of writings reveals Borgohain’s sharp intelligence and strong memory power.

He also has edited a number of literary volumes which includes compilation of the best of Assamese articles, Assamese short stories, history of Assamese literature, Assamese Encyclopedia – the last one being a landmark work in the history of Assamese literature. He has contributed to Assamese children’s literature by writing on great men like Louie Pasture, Benjamin Franklin, Socrates and others. He is also credited with guiding children on various aspects of reading books to have their benefits. In those writings he has emphasized on dedication and devotion to acquire knowledge and intelligence.

Significantly, the man whose personality is identified with writings for a major part of his career is also greatly involved in social works. He has written a number of books on how to keep healthy and what benefits one can have from regular habit of physical exercises. He has actually been able to stir interest and create consciousness amidst the public about the matter. He is known to have developed the capacity to know the nuisance of human health and cares to be taken to cure different common diseases by studying books on those aspects.

Karunadhara – a charity organization for the differently abled people of the state is known to be his brainchild and now being managed by a group of very efficient people associated with different categories of jobs. The awareness created by this organization on a grand scale is taking his reputation as a social activist one step further.

Homen Borgohain’s four autobiographies have covered different phases of his life. The first one among them entitled Aatmanusandhan (self-introspection), was published in the year 1988 and instantly became one of the most popular writings in Assamese of that category. This was followed by two more autobiographies covering two phases of his life namely, Dhumuha Aru Ramdhenu (Storm and Rainbow), part I and part II published in 1997 and 1998 respectively. The fourth autobiography Mor Hriday Ekhan Yudhakshetra (My heart is a battlefield) was published in 2006. Borgohain had penned many other works which are autobiographical in nature. Among them mention may be made of Mor Sangbadik Jiban (My journalistic life); Jibanar Sadhana (Practice of life); Jibanar Madhuratam Samoy (Most enjoyable moments of life); Pragyar Sadhana (Practice of Wisdom); Swarga aru Narak (Heaven and Hell); Pathakar Toka-bahi (Note-book of Reader); Sukh-Dukh (Happiness and sorrow) etc. All these essays seem to reflect the multi-dimensional character and personality of the author. They also relate many experiences, incidents and memorable episodes of his life. According to Homen Borgohain, these autobiographical writings were received with overwhelming response by the readers and brought for him their appreciation, love and greatfulness, which he considers to be among the most treasured possession. For him they are more valuable than any other literary awards, he is grateful to his readers for their heartfelt responses to these writings which gave him immense satisfaction to learn this writings had created some impact on his readers. Such kind of overwhelming response was not only unexpected for him but also turned out to be an amazing achievement. Soon after the publications of these essays he received a large number of letters from readers belonging to different age groups. Most of them revealed that they felt a sense of oneness with him with his revelation of the guilty conscience and other problems of life and are overwhelmed by his determination and success in overcoming them. They now earnestly look forward to his help, compassion and suggestions to overcome their own crisis of life. He has added a few letters from among them in the second part of Dhumuha aru Ramdhenu. They provide a revealing insight into the impact of his writings on the minds of young and old alike and their faith in him as their friend, philosopher and guide in the guise of a writer. Borgohain believes that his autobiographical writings do not have much literary value but they certainly brought sunshine to the lives of many victims of depression. Without his conscious effort those writings became a source of strength, courage and inspiration for certain groups of people.

Homen Borgohain is known to have nurtured his capabilities as a writer from a very tender age as he himself reveals that except for his occasional childish desire to become a college teacher, his aim all along have been nothing but to be a good writer. However, on another occasion he confesses that earlier his only high ambition in life was to be a doctor. He regrets the fact that in spite of being selected for the medical course he decided to study English literature due to reasons best known to him. He thus missed the opportunity to pursue his much desired career of a successful physician forever. That he had a great interest in medical science has been mentioned by his wife Nirupama Borgohain in her autobiography. In this context she also has referred to an incident of illness of a member of their family when Borgohain had taken a lot of care to save his life from a serious condition. She often observed him studying a number of health related articles and journals with lots of interest. Borgohain had the confidence that had he studied medical science he would have been a good physician. His wife too believed so. If it could happen, possibly we would have missed the present Homen Borgohain – the writer which strong commitment to men and the society. However, according to Nirupama Borgohain, his ideology and aim in life since his childhood was to be a professor. Incidentally, she could fathom the extent of his desire to be a professor in the few books belonging to his childhood that she could lay her hands on. She had noticed in them in childish handwriting, the name of Borgohain mentioned as Prof. Homendra Nath Borgohain. Perhaps his attachment with books since a very young age had instilled in him such a desire.

Reading and writing have been his passion of life. He has created a dignified place for himself in the domain of Assamese writers, and he has devoted himself to various genres of writings such as novels, poems, short stories, articles on thought provoking issues and biographical sketches of famous personalities from around the world. It is true that, “The sprightly and confident 68-year old Borgohain strides into people’s lives, inspiring both mind and heath. Therein lies his greatness”.

The identity of Borgohain is certainly not restricted to being a writer alone but he is also known for his multi-faceted personality which has created different images in different fields of his activities. We know him as a writer, poet, journalist, social activist, a pioneer in creating awareness in many areas including health and charity and also know him for the significant contributions he has made as a reader. His writings, as-well-as his social activities have attracted attention of the public and many acclaimed critics alike.

Homen Borgohain had won the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1978 for his novel Pita-Putara, prestigious Assam Valley Award in 1991 and Asom Prakashan Parishad Award in 1975 for Pita-Putra.