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