Adarmoni Das obituary

Other lives: Author and Labour party member who overcame her lack of schooling, learning English, Gujarati and Hindi

My mother, Adarmoni Das, who has died aged 91 of Covid-19, moved to Britain from India with almost no English and went on to become a published author and an active member of the Labour party in Salford.

She was born in Nanpur, a village in the Indian state of Odisha, to Rama Devi, a housewife, and Bipra Mohanty, a forest ranger. It was a traditional household; instead of going to school, Adarmoni stayed at home, learning to cook and look after family members, the skills required for marriage. Undaunted, she used her younger brother’s school books to pursue her passion for learning, often insisting on doing his homework.

In her late teens Adarmoni married Bhagabat Das, who served in the British Indian Army Medical Corps. His was a much larger family: from early morning till late in the night she would be busy cooking, feeding and washing up. But, no matter how tired she was, she would stay up to read books and write poems and short stories. She eventually plucked up the courage to send her writings off to magazines and some were picked up. She was a voracious reader, of books in her native language Odia as well as Bengali.

Adarmoni Das, circa 1947
Adarmoni Das, circa 1947 Photograph: UNKNOWN

Nearly eight years after marriage, she was able to live with my father when he secured a civilian medical appointment at Bhuban, a village in Odisha. She enjoyed entertaining and playing hostess, but, barely four years later she was alone again with her two children when my father left for Edinburgh to study medicine. For 10 years she shuttled between villages, caring for my grandparents, her own parents and other members of the extended family.

In 1968, my mother took my brother, Satya, and I to join our father in Warrington, now in Cheshire, where he was a geriatrician. Within a year we moved to Eccles, now in Greater Manchester, where we settled. She enrolled at the adult education institute to learn English, then embroidery, and also taught herself Gujarati and Hindi. My father was a Guardian subscriber and she would read every issue, especially the editorial, annotating it diligently with the help of the Oxford English Dictionary.

Adarmoni took an active interest in the Indian senior citizens’ centre that my father founded in Manchester, contributing to publications and going on trips. My parents were members of the Labour party, and my mother continued to attend the local meetings after Bhagabat died in 2012. She nurtured her flair for writing and wrote a book about her experiences in Britain, and two works of fiction, East West (short stories, 1983) and Deep in Dream (a novel, 1985), all published by Vidyapuri.

Four years ago, Adarmoni developed Alzheimer’s disease and moved to a care home in Norwood, south London, to be near Satya and me. We survive her, as do four grandchildren, Shaun, Amrita, Sabrina and Prita, and a great-granddaughter, Amba.

• This article was amended on 6 August 2021 to clarify that Warrington is now in Cheshire and that Eccles is now in Greater Manchester.

Prodeepta Das

The GuardianTramp

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