Amulya Kumar Chakravarty: A Father Of More Than A Lifetime!


 Paying homage and tributes to my father (Deuta) Amulya Kumar Chakravarty (1928-1991), an unsung writer-author from Assam, on his 29th Death Anniversary today. He had translated the greatest epics of the world: Greek Poet-Legend Homer’s epics ‘Iliad’ and ‘Odyssey’ and Roman Poet-Legend Virgil’s Latin epic ‘Aeneid’ into Assamese from the respective English translations. All these three books had been published by Publication Board, Assam. His other translations include the autobiography of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (copies not available with us at the moment) and a compilation of a few tales of Decameron by Italian Writer-Poet-Legend Giovanni Boccaccio. Amulya Kumar Chakravarty’s original works in Assamese are ‘Karim Munshir Char’ (a compilation of short stories), ‘Bishbriksha’(first volume of an incomplete novel) and ‘Jaji Noi Bhotiay’ (an adventure novella for children).  His larger family had instituted a memorial Trust in his name in 2002 in collaboration with Panjabari Sahitya Sabha, and has been conferring a biennial Translation Award on outstanding Author-Translators of Assam since 2003.

Deuta never got what he deserved in life. A voracious reader of world literature from school days he developed an interest in writing too, and ideally wanted to join the academic line to devote himself to writing. After completing his BA in English Literature from Cotton College he went to Kolkata (then Calcutta) to do his MA. However, he was called back to Assam because of family issues midway through his PG course there. The simple and amiable young scholar came back as directed, and later had to join Assam Civil Service under pressure, and started his career as a Sub-Deputy Collector, his professed writing aim now secondary, not forgotten though. As an efficient, dedicated and honest officer he had always been busy with his work and his regular transfers; but he kept on with his writings: an occasional short story apart from his main objective of completing the translations of the world epics. My mother, Urmila Chakravarty, helped him in  her part-time role as his secretary, copying every page that he wrote in her beautiful handwriting, meant for the publishers. In our school days, we remember seeing him writing on a narrow wooden table under the flickering light of a kerosene lamp, and during the sticky summer evenings mother trying to cool him with a hand-fan, when, in those times, a ceiling fan was a luxury, and electricity much more used to playing the game of hide and seek.  

Deuta taught us valuable lessons in life that always stood us in good stead, till today: simple living & high thinking, it was a constant struggle for him to run the family of six with meagre but pure and honest monthly earnings; developing a sense of responsibility, although he did take absolute care in our studies and health issues, but left to us to take major tasks/decisions ourselves like preparing for/writing the exams or choosing the type of courses/subjects we wanted to pursue; to choose the fields/professions for future employment on our own which is unthinkable for modern-day parents; principles of unshakable honesty and integrity in work; never to indulge in self-promotion or flattery and never to crave for publicity; always to act and work with a strong sense of social commitment.

We salute him for his outstanding knowledge and depth in Assamese and in English languages. His constant advice to us and all: read, read and read as many books as possible of world literature which would increase your depth of understanding the lands and the people, and if you develop an aptitude, this would also help you start creative writing in your mother tongue and in English or any foreign language of your choice; if you find it extremely difficult to read with understanding, do not despair, instead, keep a dictionary ready by your side while you read. Whatever I am capable of writing in Assamese and in English today I owe it fully to him, for his painstaking efforts to train or at times to goad us on the right path.  

At a relatively mature age we were awestruck by the collections of his books, almost all of the world classics and others, at his native home at Teok in eastern Assam. When my grandfather, Indreswar Chakravarty who was a farmer but still a writer, found it not viable enough to continue with his farm, and decided to sell off and shift to our home in Guwahati, we took stock of all the books, transferred those to Guwahati home and catalogued all of the books with a seal ‘Home Library’, specially made to preserve his loved treasure. On all his transfers, his immediate task had been to make four cards for the district libraries there, and hand over those to us. We regularly visited the district libraries and borrowed invaluable books in English and in Assamese. Irrespective of whether we borrowed or bought the books home, Deuta always had the exclusive right to have the first read. He saved every paisa in his hard student and working days to buy books, and we too adopted this practice throughout our days, till now.

Amulya Kumar Chakravarty, a father for whom our primary emotion was fear in our early childhood days; a father we started respecting from a relatively mature age; and a father who became our perfect friend in all respects at a mature age, guiding us, enjoying with us and celebrating with us. Having a father like him, well, is the ultimate blessing in our lives. I was fortunate to be able to visit Deuta in his pre-retirement posting as Director of Official Language Implementation at Dispur. On my every visit I was thrilled to discover his workplace as more of a centre of scholarly discourses than a typical government office, and the way the officers and staff admired and respected him. 

Unfortunately, Deuta’s intent desire to revert to full-time writing after retirement was also not fulfilled. About two years after his retirement he passed away on the 6th of October, 1991, under doubtful circumstances at a nursing home in Guwahati. He contracted diabetes at his early forties and as in those days there were not many effective methods of treatment the disorder took toll on his health, and it started failing him from just when he was thinking of himself as a free man. He also agreed to work for about a year as Principal Secretary, District Council of Karbi Anglong after retirement, at his beloved family friend’s earnest request, and during that period he met with a near-fatal road accident in Diphu in 1990 which contributed towards further deterioration of his overall health.

 

As fond memories of him keep flooding in we cannot help but take solace in the fact that he is up there to take full care of our youngest brother, Dr. Ashwini Kumar Sarma (1961-2020), whom we lost on September 18, 2020, in a very shocking and untimely way. Ashwini or our beloved Sunny, was as good a child to him, probably more, as the four of us. Although much later in his life, the bond of love and friendship between the father-in-law and the son-in-law was something that defied the traditional family textbook patterns, with Sunny taking absolute care of Deuta also as a physician till the last days. Great souls, we need not intone ‘rest in peace’; they will indeed be in eternal bliss, and our unwritten bonds of love, compassion and a range of emotions will cross all borders of the real to the ethereal. God bless all.

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