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The Illustrious Batch of Cotton Collegiate

 

                                                                  -Avinibesh Sharma

There were certain batches in particular schools of Assam which produced some outstanding individuals who would later earn distinction in various fields. The Jorhat Govt. High School and the Cotton Collegiate School at Guwahati to my knowledge produced such batches of brilliant students at regular intervals from the late nineteenth century to the mid twentieth century. The 1865 Matriculation batch of the Cotton Collegiate School (then Gauhati Seminary),certainly,the first of the illustrious school batches deserve special mention.

 

This batch comprised of the first  Assamese Civil Engineer Boli Narayan Bora, world renowned Sanskrit Scholar and the first Assamese Civil Servant(the sixth Indian I.C.S. and the first to be promoted to the post of a Magistrate),Graduate & B.L. Anandaram Baruah , the first Assamese I.M.S. Colonel Shivaram Bora, the first Assamese  M.D. Colonel Jalnur Ali Ahmed(former president Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed's father), Rai Bahadur Madhab Chandra Bordoloi(father of Kormobir Nabin Chandra Bordoloi) and Kefayatullah who later became the Chief Sadar Amin of Guwahati.Here is a compilation of short biographical notes on them.

 

Boli Narayan Bora

 

There is no comprehensive biography of Boli Narayan Bora. His son Indra Narayan Bora had written a short biography titled, 'Bolly Narayana Bora'. Debeshwar Chaliha had written an article on Bora which was published in Uxa.Chaliha had plans for writing a biography which however did not materialize due to his untimely death.Recently historian Kumudeshwar Hazarika has also written a short article which has found place in his compilation of biographical essays on a few Assamese luminaries titled,Keigorakiman Bixisto Oxomiya - Smritir Xurobhi

 

Boli Narayan Bora was born at Guwahati in 1852.He passed his matriculation from the Cotton Collegiate School and travelled to erstwhile Calcutta for his F.A. During his stay at Calcutta he prepared for the Gilchrist Scholarship. The students who occupied the first two places received this scholarship for higher studies in Engineering/Medical abroad. Bora stood first in the examination and travelled to London for higher studies on August 25, 1872. He wanted to study Medical Science but due to financial constraints he opted for Civil Engineering. He passed out from the Royal Indian Engineering College (a British college of Civil Engineering run by the India Office to train civil engineers for service in the Indian Public Works Department. It was located on the Cooper's Hill estate, near Egham , Surrey. It functioned from 1872 until 1906.Source: Wikipedia)

 

Bora  returned  to Guwahati from where he was posted to Sylhet as an Assistant Engineer. He supervised the construction of one of the oldest existing railway lines in Assam-The one connecting Mariani and Jorhat. He encountered serious illness when he was posted at Kohima.The death of his wife during this period added to the grief. He got married for a second time, to the daughter of civil servant and reputed scholar Romesh Chandra Dutt (who would belatedly be recognized as one of the first proponents of Economic Nationalism by Bipan Chandra in his thesis).Bora also became a close friend of Barrister Jnandhabhiram Barua when he served as an Executive Engineer at Nagaon.Barua was the founder Principal of the Earl Law College and a renowned literateur(sadly whose identity is known now only through actress Sharmila Tagore, as the  maternal grandfather of the latter).Although he rose to the post of Executive Engineer,he was denied retirement as the Chief Engineer-an example of racial hegemony that the British practised at that time.Bora was conferred the title of Rai Bahadur and Raja by the British Government which he refused. He was later given the Kaiser-i-Hind medal (his name unfortunately does not find mention in the list of awardees stated in Wikipedia for reasons best known to the author)

 

Bora was a polygot and was fluent in Assamese,Bengali, English,French and Latin. He authored two texts,The Geography of India (English) and Bharotborxor Buronji (Assamese).He also published  a magazine named Mou (Nectar) which although short lived influenced the writings of the founders of the epoch making Junaki magazine.Bolinarayan Bora passed away at erstwhile Calcutta in 1927 and soon faded from public memory.

 

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