Satya Brata Saikia ( Maina) has led a multifarious life as an engineer, university lecturer, consultant, tea gardener, travel agent and entrepreneur.
After completing his Senior Cambridge in St.Edmunds, Saikia joined Jadavpur University and, after four years, enrolled at the University of Wisconsin, graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. He obtained his Master’s degree from Lehigh University in 1963. He started working for a power company in Allentown.
Saikia was prevailed upon by his parents to return home. He worked for a couple of years at the Jorhat Engineering College.
He set out on his own as a consultant before joining, after a couple of years, the newly opened NE branch of The General Electric Company of India at Guwahati. Although the regional office closed after a year, Saikia was retained as the Resident Engineer for the North-east.
In 1975, his family requested him take over the family tea estate. He expanded the estate into a sizeable group by acquiring four more properties
In 1980, seeing opportunities in the travel business, Saikia established Pelican Travels at Jorhat 1980. By 1988 Pelican had offices in Shillong, Guwahati, Kolkata, Siliguri and Durgapur besides a sub-office in Bhutan. Two other travel companies which he promoted, SPEEDBIRD TRAVELS & TRAVELAID, continue to flourish.
In between, in 1984, Saikia promoted an electrical consultancy company, the first of its kind in the North East.
1985 saw him expand in a different direction. He established one of the first building promotion companies in the North East. Although currently the company’s construction activities have been suspended, the Company has not been wound up.
Saikia’s life took a different turn when, in 2006 his wife was diagnosed with cancer. She passed away in 2008. The event led Saikia to review his life. He decided to retire and sold off all his businesses.
However, after a career filled with energy and drive, Saikia could not remain idle for long. So when his close friend, Dr. Bimal Phukan, could not find a reputable publisher for his book, Srimanta Sankardeva, Saikia took up the challenge. The challenge witnessed the birth of KAZIRANGA BOOKS.
He was thrilled- and grateful – when world-famous Sarod maestro, Amjad Ali Khan and class mate, Jimmy Lyngdoh, agreed to launch the book at the State Museum in Guwahati.
Fate dealt him another cruel blow, when he lost his 48 year old son in November 2014. We pray that he recovers the zeal and zest for life that this event has robbed him of.
Books published by Satya Brata Saikia (Maina) under the banner of Kaziranga Books, Guwahati
1.Srimanta Sankaradeva Vaishnava Saint of Assam. Author-Bimal Phukan. Published in English, Assamese and Bengali
2. Across Borders. Author -Shuvashree Ghosh. Published in English 1962. Translated from the Assamese by Deepika Phukan. Published in English by Nanda Talukdar Foundation and Kaziranga Books. Also available in Bengali
3. History of Assam from 1945 to 2000, a five volume set, by Mrinal Talukdar Kishore Kumar Kalita and is being translated from Assamese into English by Dipanka Sarma.
Foreword by:Ustad Amjad Ali Khan
I was pleasantly surprised when the book Srimanta Sankaradeva: Vaishnava Saint of Assam by Dr. Bimal Phukan came into my hands. In 1976, I became a part of this beautiful state of Assam when I married Subhalakshmi from an illustrious family of Sivasagar. Despite our different religions, ours has been a happy union of music, dance and our strong belief in the religion of humanity. In the bargain and with time, I received lot more from Assam. People from Assam welcomed me with open arms, and I was ushered into a land so rich in culture, traditions and ever-lingering warmth.
During my many visits to Assam, I have always been aware of how much Sankaradeva’s thoughts and value judgments influence Assamese life. I have seen how his songs and verses, his philosophy permeate every strand of Assam’s social milieu. I felt greatly honoured when I was given the Srimanta Sankaradeva Award for the year 1999. Our sons, Amaan and Ayaan, paid tribute to their Assamese heritage by playing a piece based on Sankaradeva’s bargeet at a function in Delhi in 2003.
This book gave me the opportunity to satiate my long-standing desire to learn more about Mahapurush Sankaradeva. If fulfils the need for a concise book in English tracing the life, times and works of the great son of Assam. Written in simple prose, its focus is on his multi-faceted genius. It is remarkable that this slim volume is a storehouse of information about the poet-saint ranging from his naam ghar to Vrindavani Vastra.
I am sure people from around the world would find the book useful and read it with as much pleasure as I have.
Amjad Ali Khan
Comment by Khushwant Singh in his column in The Telegraph
IF you had asked me last month what I knew of Sankaradeva, I would have pleaded forgiveness for my ignorance. Then Satya Brata Saikia, who I had met in Guwahati many years ago, presented me with a copy of the first publication of his publishing house, Srimanta Sankaradeva, Vaishnava Saint of Assam, by Dr Bimal Phukan.
Sankaradeva was one of the Bhakta saints of the 15th century along with Chaitanya Prabhu, Kabir and Guru Nanak. They taught people that the best approach to divinity was prayer and service to humanity. I quote a few lines:
Thine eyes like lotus petals;(Thy palm is like the lotus;
Thou art the consumer of worldly afflictions;
Thou art the sleeper in deep forest).
These lines end with a prayer of submission:
Jagadaha mapahara bhava bhoya tarana
(Thou art the saviour from the earthly grief;
Thou art the given of final bestitude;
O, lotus-eyed Lord;
I worship Thee).
Comment by Harendra Nath Das
“Srimanta Sankaradeva (1449-1568) is not known outside Assam because literature on his life and works is scanty in English and other languages. It is in this context that Bimal Phukan’s concise but comprehensive work entitled “Srimanta Sankaradeva, Vaishnava Saint of Assam” has to be viewed.
It would be unjust to say that the book is only an introductory one. I feel that it contains all the necessary facts and, if expanded, can become a major treatise on Sankaradeva.”
First English book on Sankardev launched
Report By Dipanjan Sinha
Every story is born an orphan. It needs a storyteller for a name, nurture and recognition. The story of Srimanta Sankardeva was born within Bimal Phukan from the time he moved out of Assam to study engineering in Calcutta and was nurtured since for the recognition it got today at the Calcutta launch of its book Srimanta Sankaradeva — Vaishnava Saint of Assam at Oxford Bookstore.
A little before the launch, Phukan spoke of how an engineering scholar turned into a storyteller.
“Sankaradev was as socially or religiously significant in the 15th century during the Bhakti movement as Nanak, Chaitanya or Kabir but unfortunately very few people outside Assam know about him. Even in Assam Sankaradev is now an alien to the younger generation,” he said.
The fault, however, he feels is with the people who know his story but have not conveyed it in a language that can cross the barriers of culture and age. An incident which influenced him was when Satyajit Ray was conferred the Xankaradeva award in 1975 he was unaware of even the saint’s existence. “When a man of Ray’s erudition is unaware of such a colossal social figure from a neighbouring state you realise there is something seriously wrong. Even Khushwant Singh who wrote a very positive review for my book admitted that before reading the book he hardly knew of Sankardev,” Phukan said.
“This is in a way the first English book on the saint’s life. Before this there have been books written in Assamese or scholarly books which the common reader finds difficult to associate with. I hope this book can even get the NRI Assamese child interested in the guru whose picture he saw at his grandparents’ house,” he said.
The book since its Assam launch in 2010 has been quite a success. A copy of the book can be found in reputed libraries in India and abroad. The British library, British Museum library, American library of Congress, London School of Eastern Studies and the Indian National library are some among the noteworthy ones.
“I was so apprehensive of response from scholars that I would hardly ask them about the book. But I was surprised by the overwhelming appreciation,” he said.
The book launch here was attended by poet and novelist Sunil Gangopadhyay and chairman of the World Poetry Festival, Ashis Sanyal. Sanyal stressed on the importance of translation to enable people across the country to read literatures of the country.
The title of Shuvashree Ghosh’s debut novel, “Across Borders”, is significant in more than one sense. The launch of her debut novel Across Borders, equally, was the launch of her “most cherished dream”, said Shuvashree Ghosh, while introducing the tale of her roots to Chennai audiences at a recent Madras Book Club gathering.
It represents her own crossing of borders from her various managerial roles into her passion: writing. Ghosh had taken a big step to achieve this dream — namely, a break from a professional career that spanned 19 years and included managerial roles in companies such as Jet Airways and ITC Sheraton Hotels. It had then taken her 15 months to write Across Borders.
The novel begins in a small Assam town in pre-Independence India and follows the story of Maya, whose life crisscrosses between political and geographical borders. The seismic changes in her life are brought about her father’s second marriage. The novel tracks Maya as she grows up with an uncle near Dacca, and her trials and tribulations in the years leading up to Bangladesh’s war of liberation. The 1964 communal riots are a prominent presence in the book.
Explaining her motivation to write the book, the author said, “Both my parents come from erstwhile East Pakistan, and I have grown up with stories about the circumstances which led to their coming over. I have always wanted to write, and since I have grown up with these stories, and I am familiar with these circumstances, it was a good way to start I thought.”
“All of my characters are real, I have just recreated them. To me they are all living people, people whom I have spoken to…maybe they are not related each other, but I have strung their stories together to form the novel,” she added.
The book was launched by poet and editor Sudeep Sen, who has spent some time in Bangladesh and had read the manuscript over a year ago. “I was struck with the urgency of the writing, the panache, the brioche…its relevant to the times now with the political situation in Bangladesh. The other aspect of the book which drew me was the extreme immediacy of her voice, which is quite reminiscent of Hardy,” he said, and complimented her for taking up this subject.
Also present was Brigadier B.K. Ponwar, who participated in Bangladesh’s war of liberation, and is now the director of the Counter Terrorism and Jungle Warfare College, Kanker. He took the audience through a slideshow, comprising maps and pictures, of the Indian Army’s strategies during the war.
The empowerment of women was one of the factors that Ghosh wished to highlight in her novel — and this was a subject discussed by senior journalist Sushila Ravindranath who received the first copy of the book. Empowerment, suggested Ravindranath, was essentially the creation of an environment where women could choose to lead the life they wanted — and remains an issue that has continued relevance.
To give audiences a flavour of the novel’s tone and content, Kaveri Lalchand read out two excerpts; first, from the early part of the book, when Maya’s father takes a second wife, an act that dramatically changes the protagonist’s life; next, a selection from the middle, dealing with the riots.
There was then time only for a couple of audience questions, the first of which was a query about the process of selecting the characters’ names. Ghosh replied that the issues she wanted to discuss were at the forefront of the writing, names didn’t matter as much. However, as “all of my characters are from real life,” she did try and pick fictional monikers that in some way matched the real names.
The other question dealt with her motivation in writing the book; Ghosh described how she specifically wanted to use a past historical situation to talk about issues from a woman’s perspective.
Finally, B.S. Raghavan, former Chief Secretary of Tripura, summed up the issues raised over the course of the evening, including the larger socio-political construct in which the book is set.
Thereafter, the author read from the book, and answered questions. Responding to a question about the multiple tonalities in the book, she said, “I am not a literature student, I am a commerce student. I have been doing things far from literary.I have subconsciously picked up all these styles, because I have not had any formal training in writing. If you ask me to analyse it I can’t. I am just telling a story.”
As for future plans, “I would like to return to a regular job but I have two more books in mind” — including a sequel to Across Borders.
The novel details how and why the Indo China conflict started. The books points out the faults in Nehru’s Forward Policy. The original in Assamese became a best seller. It has also been made into a movie
Extract from the novel
November 20, 1962, Tezpur.
On a normal day, one could hardly walk on Main Road, Tezpur. The gunny bags of dal and rice blocked the entrances of grocers, hawkers kept shouting their wares all along the footpath, The clinking of the cyclists bells rivalled the bird sounds from the electric wires, army jeeps weaved their way through slow moving cars.
But at exactly at five minutes to eight on November 20,1962, the eerie silence of the cremation ground pervaded the street
Indeed the whole of Tezpur was deserted
In the deathly quiet of the gloom, the jeep sped forward along the bend on the right of Mithapukhuri. Our long-serving and trusted driver, Rahimuddin, was at the steering wheel. Changkakoti Saheb sat beside him.
Slicing through the growing darkness for another 200 meters, the jeep swerved into the premises of Bora Saheb’s bungalow.
There wasn’t any orderly at the gate; nor any home guard. The darkness seemed to deepen the silence. Not a soul moved outside the bungalow. The doors were wide open. But inside the house there were people….
- K. Palit
- K. Lamba
And joining them now was Changkakoti Saheb.
The other inhabitants had all departed. Tezpur was almost vacant; deserted. Biswadev Sarma’s family from Doh Parbatiya and a handful of other families had not yet left Tezpur.
What was the cause of the utter panic? The probability of a Chinese invasion.
At 2 o’ clock in the afternoon, orders had arrived from Shillong. Tezpur had to be evacuated. The civil administration had already crossed over to the other bank of the river. Close behind them followed the important files, rations and whatever else could possibly be taken. All that remained now were a few officers. A few loyal and sincere drivers like Rahimuddin and a few subordinate employees. Yes, that was it. That was then the Assam Government at Tezpur. But then, at that time of peril, there suddenly arrived from Sillong.
- K. Sinha
Chinese troops were in the vicinity. Was this true, was it news or a rumour?
Indeed the Chinese had passed Bomdila. They had crossed Rupa and were in Chaku. Could anything halt their progress? There were no Indian soldiers. A mere stretch of 90 kilometers remained between them and Tezpur.
Any moment now, and they would be in Tezpur. A few one-tonner trucks of the Indian army lay ablaze near Bhalukpung. It was customary to torch them before they fell into the hands of the enemy. That was why they were set on fire.
Salanibari had been empty as well. What had happened to the Indian soldiers?.
Tezpur was about to fall
Venue : Tinmurti Bhawan, New Delhi.
Date : November 19, 1962.
Time : Approximately 11.30 p.m.
Around the mahogany table sat the Defence Minister Krishna Menon, the Chief of Army Staff Premnath Thapar and the Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
Nehru looked flushed, Krishna Menon kept looking outside the window, and General Thapar !
“Tezpur may fall any time Sir !” Thapar announced. Nehru looked through him He didn’t seem to hear General Thapar. The silence in the room was deafening.
“The Local Civil Administration had already been moved to the south bank of Tezpur” General Thapar said
Then, lips pursed,outstretched hand firm, the General said: “This is my resignation letter !”
Nehru seemed indifferent. In his mind’s eye a few faces and events seemed to roll back….
Bhola Nath Mullick
John F. Kennedy
The Cuban Missile crisis
What went wrong? What had gone wrong?
Just 15 years ago non-violence had snatched the country from the British. To think that our own imperialistic policy had placed India’s pride and self-respect in the hands of the Chinese !
Where did Nehru go wrong ?