Deepsikha – When facts are stranger than fiction in a saga of commitment

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By: Dr. Ratan Bhattacharjee

Some stories are capable of changing lives, addressing some of the same problems and issues one confronts in daily life: problems of poverty, violence, and alienation, issues of culture, race, gender, and class. In the Corona-induced lockdown, she searched for a positive vision and found in Deepsikha, the plot for her motivational stories of real commitment which weaves the fictional structure of the novel that seems stranger than fiction.

Dr. Nabami Gogoi, Assistant Professor, Department of Assamese, Golaghat Commerce College had her fictional debut in Swarnalipi magazine named as ‘Quarantine Centre’. She authored Tai-Aiton-Axomiya-Ingraji Hobdokosh (2018) and Aiton Bhaskar Rupotatatwa published by Publication Board of Assam (2019). Her emergence as a novelist occurred with RCC2 published by Assam Book Trust (2020). Deepsikha is her second novel in which she creates a magical world that is not off in a distant land but here, now, and accessible, formed by the “magic” of friendship, art, community, and social activism.  For anyone with a library in her head and love in her heart, this difficult task is possible. In this novel where she presents the wonderful activities of a real NGO Deepsikha in the form of four different stories related to the cancer patients, she carries on the flame to a new dawn of hope. In fictionalizing the philanthropic activities, she sends a sunny smile in all the pages of her narrative. It speaks to our soul in a wonderful way and that may be called ‘magic of realism’ rather than magic realism in fiction.

Dr. Gogoi is a writer with an exceptionally creative flair known no less for her social commitment. She knows how real-life events can be fictionalized in the most aesthetic way where facts cross the barriers of fiction. The novel begins with the story of the Minat Nomal family and the sickness of their only son Asim. The narrative is so heart-touching when it includes the anguish of grandfather Dhaneswar. The story inspires flashes of hope and expectation for human survival. There is also an engaging description of the train journey and the wonders in the eyes of these poor village people when they were travelling to Mumbai. Even language problem has not escaped where the writer beautifully analyses the importance of Hindi, English, or Bengali language in communicating with people of states outside of Assam. The focus is on costly accommodation or treatment of cancer patients in Mumbai which poor people cannot afford and herein lies the importance of NGOs like Deepsikha comes to the help of the needy and the poorest of the poor.

The novelist has focused on the psychology of female patients of tender age and this is one very important feature of the narrative. In the third chapter, the pen picture of filial love is significantly portrayed through the character of Sibasish in Asom Bhavan as a father while in the earlier chapter it is the bond between Minati and Asim. Sometimes we see Sibashis musing deeply on the meaning of life so philosophically. His character is based on a real Mr. Sarmah who is the life spirit of Deepsikha an extended counterpart of Asom Bhavan. Through the character of Chinmoyee, the writer raised a huge question – “Who says women are weak, helpless creatures?” There is a bright horizon also in this saga of fight and resistance – the love between Nabajyoti and Alphool. Fatal diseases like cancer cannot be the barrier to true love.

What is important in the stories related to philanthropic activities is the point of positive direction to the social activism of some persons in the society who can donate land or property for the distressed. The book is a documentary and so vivid in realistic details that one may miss its aesthetic value. But the four-winged plot gives the novel a cinematic flavour and things flash on our mind’s eye because of the narrative skill of the writer. Dalai Lama once said, “It is not enough to be compassionate, you must act.” Sibasish in this novel is one such person in pseudonym who is the life spirit of Deepsikha. He shows how to act for the welfare of mankind. More motivational books of this type should be written in these critical days of Pandemic. (The author is a senior academician and trilingual columnist cum poet and can be reached at [email protected])

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