The 58th session of An Author’s Afternoon welcomed Assamese poet and author Rita Chowdhury whose life has been a saga of struggles. The lady got into political activism early in life. After much socio-political turmoil and a few deaths of near ones, including that of her sister, transformed her view towards life.
The college girl who was motivated by a book on guerrilla warfare, participated in the Assam movement and got imprisoned. Later, it dawned on her that politics wasn’t her cup of tea as she failed to find her proper identity.
Call it a sudden turn of events or destiny, she went on to become an author and found her true identity. At the age of 19 she wrote her first novel. The second one came ten years later. The news of her imprisonment had made her novel popular overnight.
During her life’s journey, she went through many transformations – from being a political activist to a lecturer of Political Science at the Cotton University, Guwahati. But writing not only proved to be therapeutic but also fulfilled her life’s desire and purpose. What began with few characters and dialogues gradually took shape of a novel.
In her words, “every novel has its own mission”. Our archived history is very different from the reality. She was influenced by Shuktara magazine during childhood and in her adolescence it was Subarnalata and its author Ashapurna Devi.
Her book Chinatown Days tells the stories of Chinese-Indians who went to China during the British period and returned during the Sino-India war. For the first time in An Author’s Afternoon a documentary was projected. Makam, a documentary-feature, narrated the stories of the people who could return to their homeland with the help of this author, who has always harboured a never-say-quits attitude.
Rita Chowdhury is at present the Director of National Book Trust. Conversationalist, Anjum Katyal, the chief editor of Seagull Books, anchored the session flawlessly.