Arun Goswami is an important writer who appeared in the sixties. His ‘Mashmariya Chowalir Laj’ (The shamefastness of a fisherman’s daughter) shows a strong sense of social consciousness and a courage to choose a strong theme. Ila, a poor fisher woman’s daughter loves to wear clean clothes and carefully washes her only frock and keeps it clean. She has to look after her brothers and sisters after her mother’s death. Her teachers are worried to find her absent from the school. One day her teacher finds her near a tube well and discovers that her only frock getting threadbare she does not have the means to cover her semi-naked condition. The irony of the situation is in the fact that a girl who loves to go with clean clothing does not have sufficient clothing to cover her nakedness. Though the structure of the story is not impeccable, the story is eminently readable, because of the inherent truth of the situation. The detached attitude of society to the human conditions hurts the sensitive girl again and again. Our writers bewitched by western modes of exotic expression will do well to take a lession and write about the human situation which is knocking at their doors seeking expression.
Kumud Goswami is another talented writer of this generation. His sympathetic understanding of people, and his power of observation are praise-worthy. His stories move round the pitiable condition, hopelessness and sufferings of lower middle class life. He lays stress on passive suffering rather than on resistance. His ‘Urmila’ is a fine story woven around the life of a young working girl who struggles hard to find a place in the household of her choice, but class stands in the way, and deprived of much coveted minimum status she disappears into the background like Valmiki’s Urmila. Goswami desires to speak out the truth about the life he knows.
The emergence of Pranabjyoti Deka as a story teller in the sixties is a memorable event in the history of Assamese short story. He seems to have revolted against the stagnant nature and the middle class attitude of his seniors. His strength of form and its identity with his theme are unforgettable. His style is powerful and realistic. His intellectual indirectness of criticism based, on a judicious application of irony and sarcasm is also highly praiseworthy. He has refused to look at life through a Romantic prism. Deka’s ‘Bewaris Las’ is a remarkable story. Moti, a prematurely aged and ailing driver suddenly dies in front of a beetle-nut shop. The dying Moti and his dead body creates different attitudes in different persons. The shop keeper closes his shop for fear of the harassment of the police who are sure to ask for money. His erstwhile lover Chajina Begum sees him and cannot desert him in this condition. The young policeman Dasarath is in charge of the dead body and he flirts with the elderly Chajina. The O.C. asks for a claimant. It is known that Chajina lived for a time with Moti as husband and wife, though they were not properly married before she took to prostitution. Now the police offers the dead body to her for disposal. She refuses at first for fear of the cost of funeral. She changes her mind when she is told about the possibility of disposing of it in a hospital in return for an amount. There is no doubt about the humanity of Chajina. Her condition deserves compassionate understanding. One is reminded of Shakespeare’s Pompey in Measure for Measure-“I am a poor man, sir, that would live”.
Deka has depicted the consciousness of an age oscillating between romantic consciousness and realistic consciousness. He here matches the best of Malik whose Romantico-Realistic world he reshapes in a style of stark realism. His spoken rhythm is attuned to reality in a manner rare in Assamese short story. The sarcastic abuses of Chajina Begum which she uses as a shield are like tape recordings of actually uttered words. He does not want to prune and polish the romantic quality, and truth of the words uttered by his characters are inimitable. With their help Deka has illuminated the underworld of the city life of his knowledge. When seen against the glare of his flickering sarcasm much older short stories will appear sentimental.
Apurba Sarma, who made his first appearance in the Manideep like Pranabjyoti Deka is also a writer with a bright future. His stories have been well received with enthusiasm, because of the truth of observation and the power of expression. His stories encourage resistance against exploitation and repression. He is a dramatic story teller, who never allows cumbersome preachings to stand in the way of his art.
In the mid-sixties, the sense of complacency that worked in the minds of writers and readers in the post-independence period disappeared speedily. Poverty and exploitation rear their ugly heads and can be ignored no longer. The effects of the Second World War and the partition make their turdy but effective appearance. A small nationality without the benefit of the Indian Industrial Revolution has to bear the burnt of two wars. Young writers see only the picture of poverty and want. Anger and frustration affect their lives deeply. Their imagination is caught by revolutionary themes like resistance of corruption and exploitation. At this time, there emerged a batch of writers commited to Marxist ideals.
Resistance to injustice and exploitation is the central note of Bipul Khataniar’s collection of stories Khojar Sabha. In his stories Khataniar expressed compassion for the oppressed and anger against the oppressor in powerful language. He has a keen eye for details and can draw memorable characters. His depiction of a youth with unlimited vitality, struggling to establish his rights in ‘Kabal Tejar Babe’ is convincing. His picture of the life of the labourers in the valley including those of tea gardens is praise-worthy. Khataniar’s use of the spoken language is remarkable. He can easily etch the background, and create the proper atmosphere.
Debabrata Das’s Arpitar Erati is a remarkable collection of stories of this period. The hypocrisy and treachery, oppression and injustice which has rent society to pieces, in the last two decades and more, have been the targets of his criticism. In Deonat Ejan Pratibhu, Achin Chaharat Moi Athaba Elis and other stories he has painted a grim picture of the shortcomings of society within under oppression. He has tried to uncover the masks of hypocrisy under which the snug middle class society hides its features and to thus rouse the conscience of his generation. Debabrata finds the traditional plot structure inadequate to voice his protest. So he avoids the conventional plot. His stories are situational. He creates surprising situations and illuminates them through fantasy. His use of the spoken rhythm is appealing. In his stories, the scene changes abruptly as in a cinema soreen and, often conflate three or more fragments as in a cubist picture. He has given a new dimension to the concept of Romantic Ralism.
Communual disturbances have recently shaken the fabric of Assamese society to the roots. Young writers like Arupa (Patangia) Kalita, Purabi Barmudoi, Bhagawan Sarma, Debabrata and a host of there have thrown light on this traumatic experience. Arupa Kalita shows in ‘Barasun’ (The Rain) how communal disturbance destroys the common folk, keeping the security of the rich in tact. Purabi Barmudoi has tried to throw light on the problem from the standpoint of a simple common man who does not understand politics.
Among traditional writers, Birinchi Kumar Medhi, Riju Hazarika and Mohan Mahanta have written a few memorable stories. In ‘Galita Nakha Danta’ Medhi attempts to depict the vulgarity attending the fast transformation of values through the symbolism of a ‘Sewali’ tree. Nayana Kumar Medhi is able to show in the ‘Padakshep’ that even poverty stricken working woman can gather great courage to resist evil. Among resistants we have such important story writers like Madan Sarma, Udayaditya Bharali, Kamala Borgohain and a host of others. Yeshi Dorji Thongsi’s ‘Dapon’ is a remarkable story about his homeland Arunachal Pradesh. The author of Rang Milir Hahi, Rong Bong Terang has also written one or two significant stories about life in the forest and the hills.
The enumerations are illustrative, and by no means exhaustive. This shows that some intelligence is still at work in the field of the short story and the gener has a bright future. But, when we come to achievements, we must say that the idealistic effeussions of many young writers have entered blind alleys for want of a deep devotion to their art and insufficient attention to the genius of the language. It seems that the great achievements of the post-war short stories must be located in the ‘Ramdhenu Age’ and its vicinity.