Guwahati is the biggest city in North-East India. In fact, it is rightly the capital of the seven North-Eastern States AKA the Seven Sisters. Guwahati is also my husband’s home, so it is now part of what I describe as my ‘home’. The rapidity with which the city is growing and developing is astonishing and at the same time disquieting. Being cursed or blessed with the love for anything old, my heart comes to life whenever I see old Assamese bungalows (mostly vacated and abandoned) tucked between multi-story apartment buildings. The owners of such houses are probably just waiting for the highest bidders and yet, I am filled with pride and respect.
Whenever I am in the city, I love to walk around as if it was my last chance (it is true in a way). Our home is in one of the oldest settlements in Guwahati (as I am told), Uzan Bazar. It is in the banks of the mighty river Brahmaputra which makes my walks ever so ideal. Just a couple of days into my marriage, I heard my father-in-law talking about the fish market of Uzan Bazar. It was just before Magh Bihu, a festival of the Assamese celebrated in January, and therefore there was a supposedly a huge rush to buy the best and freshest fishes. I was intrigued and scheduled a visit to the Maas Ghat (fish port where the market was) with him early next morning.
Around 6 am, we paced (not exaggerating) our way to the port to find the roads swarming with energy. There was so much of excitement in the atmosphere that for that one hour in the Maas Ghat, I forgot my miseries of leaving Kohima. The market was bustling. It is ridiculous how sometimes we find inspiration from situations we have no relations to. That fish market gave me hope and something to look forward to. I didn’t understand it then, and I still don’t understand it today, and yet it helped me.
I also love to stroll around the vegetable market. The sight of the fresh and colorful vegetables makes me miss the food already. I love the scent of old rice in jute bags as I pass the slowly dying local grocery stores. It reminds me that I am home. I enjoy standing outside a Paan shop and wait for my turn to ask for one (or three) and feel happy when the shopkeeper recognizes my face and remembers what I like to put in my Paan. The aroma of warm biscuits from bake shops or the samosas being fried in small tea stalls are sure to make me swallow my saliva.
Of all these things, my most favorite sight is the group of charming old men whom I see very often sitting on a bench outside the ‘oldest’ pharmacy (Ideal Pharmacy) in Guwahati. They always look engrossed in topics of great importance. Perhaps giving ‘Measurements’.
“…….. Just give measurements.
We shall think of the stitching later on.
Someone after us will measure anew
Saying that our measurements were all wrong.
Fresh new measurements.
When will someone stitch the garment to fit Man?”
From ‘Measurements’ – Navakanta Barua
This visit, my husband, after years of complaining to him, went out with me a couple of times on these walks. One day we stood at the fence of Latasil Ground watching school boys play cricket. We must had stood there for about an hour. The whole time, he reminisced about his childhood days, playing cricket on that field, the proud moment when they were allowed inside the pavilion, etc, and comparing himself to those boys. Another time, we walked from Pan Bazar to Uzan Bazar, passing Cotton College, admiring Nehru Park and then making a quick stop at Dighali Pukhuri War Memorial Park.
On the day before we were to return, a cousin joined us on our stroll. The weather was perfect. It was slightly cold and seemed to have put everybody to sleep. The roads were deserted but not the park. All its benches were occupied by lovers in each other’s arms (it was cold). The water in the Brahmaputra almost looked motionless and yet pursuing. We three, at several places, were startled to see how much the river had consumed its banks. I don’t know much but the water level was a lot higher than it should be at this time of the year.
We also paid a visit to the fish market that looked forsaken then but sure to come to life early next morning. Progressing towards the vegetable market, we hoped that the man who makes delicious mini jalebis was ready to serve. To our disappointment, he was just only getting ready with the oil. Impatient and thirsty for a cup of tea, we continued homewards.
Wandering on the roads without any mission or haste, we looked at each other, my husband and I. We smiled and knew that we were both reflecting on life with almost disbelief and with grateful hearts. How long till we can do this again “Lahe, Lahe”?