Sometime around 5.30 am when the sun rises in winter in Guwahati Assam, that precious time in the morning when all kinds of bird songs fill the air and a vibrant golden glow starts to appear in the north-eastern sky, one other very consistent sound accompanies the birds. It’s a steady swish-swish of a broom. It’s one of the early memories from my childhood Diwali vacations spent at my grandparent’s place in Assam – a picturesque Railway Colony, a short walking distance away from the banks of Brahmaputra1, at the start of a wild and untamed hilly area.
He ran away with his Swadeshi friends, leaving behind his young bride and didn’t stop running till he reached probably Calcutta and from there went to Guwahati Assam. After a long time when things cooled off, he sent for Bela Chakraborty his young bride, to join him in his new life without the security of a job, the protection of the influential family and absolutely no other relatives or acquaintances.
|Nani Gopal and Bela Chakraborty with teachers and students|
I never actually asked them how they survived, what did they do, so I can only imagine how difficult it must have been. The burning passion to do something for the country, the Swadeshi spirit, finally found a new way of expressing itself. Within a few years, they started a venture, a school for the Deaf and Dumb called BDS Deaf and Dumb School in the heart of Guwahati city in 1949. He was the Founder and Principal and she was a teacher and one who managed all administrative work. They trained themselves and then other teachers over time. There are stories my mother told us of grandfather playing football and all the other active games during school sports days, a very involved and hands-on Principal even by today’s standards. My grandmother kept an eye on the teacher training and financial side of things and her growing family (three children and a home). Those years must have shaped her lifelong habit of being in charge, being a leader and innovator. I was not just her grandchild when she told me about her life, but a young life that needed to be inspired.
Time passed on. They retired from active school duty, and eventually from this life as well, but the school still lives on, in a new location with almost the same name. It’s now called Govt. B.D.S Deaf and Dumb School. For a long time, it was the only school for the Deaf and Dumb in Assam. Here’s a picture of the school gate as it is now.
|The school gate|
I wonder if anyone there knows how this school began its life. Do they know that a certain Marwari7 investor donated money to the school and in return asked that the school be named after his mother Bhawree Devi Saraogi, hence the BDS in the name of the school? Do they know about the two passionate founders of the school who are not named anywhere?
Sushmita Basu Fernandes lives in Dubai.
- Brahmaputra, one of the longest rivers of Asia, runs through China, India and Bangladesh. It is the chief river of the province of Assam
- The manner in marriages were arranged in India. Members of the groom’s family came to ‘see’ the prospective bride and approve
- The non-violent Swadeshi movement which was part of the freedom struggle in India, began in 1905 and aimed at striking at the British economic power by boycotting British goods especially cloth and using everything produced by Indians in their country
- More than 1000 kilometres south of Guwahati, Assam
- An administrative unit in south-central Bangladesh within the division of Barisal
- Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was the first Prime Minister of independent India and Indira Gandhi, his daughter became the third Prime Minister
- Member of a business community in India