GUWAHATI, Sept 29 - Soon she would be honoured with one of the highest awards conferred for contribution to public affairs, but as on earlier occasions, while her admirers rejoice she remains unaffected by the attention. Shakuntala Choudhury, among the most eminent Gandhians of Assam, if not the country, continues to be as self-effacing as she has been throughout her eventful life.
Described as "the esteemed elder of the Gandhian community" by social worker Natwar Thakkar, Choudhury will receive the prestigious Jamnalal Bajaj Award on October 28 in Mumbai.
The latest in a string of recognition and honours, the award identifies her as one of the Gandhians who helped effect crucial positive changes after overcoming great odds. During her long tenure as the guiding force behind the Kasturba Gandhi National Memorial Trust, Assam Branch (KGNMT), and other initiatives, she managed people and resources and effected social development in several ways.
Mentored by Amol Prova Das, and trained by Vinoba Bhave, she was responsible for managing and guiding 22 sewa kendras across the North East, which helped spread information and skills to seriously disadvantaged people at the grassroots.
According to Hema Kakoty, a senior Gandhian, "Baideo continues to be a force in promoting Gandhian values by her work and ideals".
The transformation of a young woman into a strong willed and utterly dedicated Gandhian social worker was itself an interesting process. Born to a family based in the Pan Bazar locality in 1920, she had her education in Dhubri and in Guwahati. A brilliant student, who excelled in dramatics, she showed special proficiency in Sanskrit and Assamese literature.
It was while working as a teacher in TC Girls' School that she was spotted by Amol Prova Das, who was among the foremost Gandhians of her time. She acted as a guide to the young teacher, and introduced her to the development model promoted by Gandhi.
In a short time, she gained the confidence of the elder Gandhian and helped manage and expand the KGNMT's operations in Assam and other North Eastern states.
Her selfless dedication was abundantly evident to all those who came in contact with her. Pritikana Das, who joined the KGNMT in 1954 portrays her as a rare blend of love, empathy and professionalism. "Her dedication to work is an inspiration, and her love towards her juniors is exemplary," a combination that earned her many followers.