To Guwahati. . .

“The city is not a concrete jungle, it is a human zoo.”
—Desmond Morris

I don’t know for certain if I can rule out calling my city Guwahati a concrete jungle, and call it a human zoo instead.
At times, it has been both.
At times, either or neither.

They say cities speak to you. It’s walls, alleys, streets, buildings whisper stories all the time.

But, Guwahati for me has been like cinema – one that will end with my departure from here.

I have seen struggles. A scarred childhood, harsh winters.
Cruel people selling out souls for money.
I have been at the side of underdog, the under-fed, the honest, the good.

The city had been bad to them, for years, and then, it had smiled on them.
Hard work had given way to fortune.

I have seem bombs go off in my city. Once, the explosion was so loud I could hear it from my little home. I was very young then. I was scared. Dad was at work.

We feared the worst.
But no, I didn’t have to grow up without a father. It was a narrow escape. The city was kind enough. I thank her.

The alien city once decided to test my mother’s tenacity and rained fire on us.
Mother fought on. She was not the one to blink first. Then, the city gave up. And mother had her way.

I grew up. I fell in love with this city. It’s ancient history. It’s blood red river. The fact that it was growing to be a cosmopolitan. But, the growth was not uniform.

They called me a Bangladeshi for I spoke the Bengali tongue. But the city never ceased loving me. It understood.

It’s hills, the ancient temples, the river islands are still mysterious in my eyes. I still somewhat fear the fury of the red river.

Then, one day the bombs went off again. Extremism was not dead, after all.
I saw scarred dead bodies, severed fingers, and heard gruesome stories of the police’s disrespect towards corpses.

The city limped on to life. Culprits were nabbed. But somewhere justice got lost in red tape and protocol.

I have laughed here. Sometimes I’ve weeped. But, the river, the rain soaked soil, the hills have consoled me. And I have found comfort in their motherly embrace.

That’s the thing about a great city. It’s never too cruel. Never too kind.

If it doesn’t kill you, it sure teaches you how to live, despite the imperfections.

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14 comments on “To Guwahati. . .

  1. Regarding yesterdays post “a saddening revelation” – I think we all feel that hardness in our heart sometimes but that is the exact moment to lean in a bit more. This is the moment when we find where we have more work to do on ourselves. We see our limits and have a choice to open back up to whatever we are experiencing or just close down. Yes the fingers get callouses but the heart can soften in the one moment that we choose love over fear, You are gentle soul. Please don’t let the outside world harden what is true within you. It is your light that will soften the world around you.

  2. Excellent post! Thanks for the link 🙂

  3. arjun bagga says:

    beautifully expressed

  4. sonika says:

    Shubha (I’d like to call you thay way, if you don’t mind) 🙂
    Now for what you wrote, I think it is awesome. It seemed as if I was going through a tribute woven into a memoir. Truly, Guwahati will never lose its sheen no matter what and of course will grow with time. Much love

  5. I am longing to visit Guwahati… 🙂

  6. Beechmount says:

    I have never been to Guwahati, but close by. I worked in Bangladesh as a consultant advisor on ground water development and as such drove all over that country, especially the central and northern part. Once, on a trip around Jamalpur, we headed into India, crossing in on a road leading to Betasing. Most westerners know Assam only for its tea. At least, I have had the pleasure of feasting my eyes on some of the plantations. What impressed me most in Bangladesh was the poverty. The future seemed completely hopeless for millions, whose primary and often only concern was getting enough to eat. One must wonder what will happen when the ocean levels rise a metre or more. A lot of that country will be submerged or unlivable.

    Northern India is blessed with a lot of scenic areas. I hope the country will be able to continue to preserve those, in spite of pressure from an increasing population.

    I also went through much mayhem during my childhood. I was born in Denmark in 1938, and my country was occupied by the Germans for 5 years. I have some very bad memories of the last two years of the war, but like you, we survived-by hook or by crook, as they say. I moved to Canada in 1960 and using this country, which I love very dearly, as a base, I began working in many different countries as a geologist and hydro-geologist. Life has been very good to me in the last 55 years or so. I hope you will have the same love for India as I have for my adapted country, Canada. I live in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.

    Cheers from Canada
    Kenny Beechmount (my pen name)

  7. Hello there.
    Thanks for sharing your story. Sharing empowers us all.
    I would like to say that though I have lived under the fear of losing near and dear ones to bomb attacks, it was nowhere like your experience.
    I’m really glad that in Canada, you’ve found a home and solace.
    Yes, I’m in love with my country totally. I wouldn’t be the same person if I was born elsewhere.
    Once again thanks for stopping by and commenting.

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