Today morning, was reminiscing on how my world that I was born in and grew up to expect has changed for however good or bad.
Lakua, my ancestral hometown, is a small village which contained our ancestral home. It was a ritual or a done thing to visit this place annually, typically during our winter vacations. Shillong had long winter vacations and my folks would take me to Lakua,
Lush green paddy fields, bright orange sky due to ONGC operations happening night and day and the soil yielding oil, the smell of sweet humid air, and little hut like shops, one shop in particular where I would go and sit and get some candies to eat just because he knew my family.
I was the only girl child then and in the line of more than 5 boys.. So I could very well do as I wished.. Not to far off though. There was always someone who would be keeping an eye on me wandering off around the property.
Mornings, I would go to the nearby “Pukhuri” or the pond and watch the fish flit around hither thither. It was fascinating. Though the whole house was “pucca” built but the kitchen like any traditional one would be made of mud and thatched roof. In my head that was one of the most interesting places where all the daughter in laws including my mom would be busy doing something or the other.
I remember my granny would cook for herself and her food would be the tastiest.
I would find my corner in the warm clean mud floor and make my space and it was never cold. It was as if the earth would hug my body and keep me warm.
The house was big and at that time, TV was not yet upon us.
I would skip along the different rooms of the house, sleep a little, play a little and dream a lot..
We would be having our breakfast of milk from our cows and home grown rice items.. And filled to the brim, I would skip around.. The portico was long and airy and it had some antique bits along with my late grandpa’s painting. I would spook a little when there was no one and I would like to build my own dream castles.. Walking and sitting and humming a soft tune to myself… after a while I did feel comfortable about the painting.. It seemed to protect me.. So well, off I would go via the portico door to the yard which would be full of beetlenut trees. I would just love to wander.. Around.. Listening to the silence, then filled with joy at the singing of a bird… it was my fantasy world.. My very own space..
I would skip to and fro and then go to the back yard which had rows and rows of vegetables. Nearby was the Assamese version of the barn. Inside the barn I would chase the chickens.. And then smile to myself.
I came to know a tall dark lady ” Sobi” who would be in charge of our animals and our garden. She seemed scary to me and did not speak our language but she was ageless and timeless, it seemed. She was mystical to me and I would love to go and speak to her and run behind her asking her questions which she would patiently answer. Of course, it was all about the animals and their babies..
She would bring the cows and the buffalos home. She would gather the milk and the eggs the chicken laid and she would also sit by the corner at the end of the day and chew on some wholesome tobacco and I have this memory of her standing at the big gate and looking far away.. As if in a different world. She did not have any family and she just stayed with us.
Sometimes, it would be a warm wintry sunny day when Grandma would want to make “Gamusa”, the traditional handcloth/towel that Assamese people use. I remember her walking round and round the implanted bamboo sticks and weave this cloth.. It fascinated me.
We had the loom too but then I guess I was too young to appreciate that.
It would be a grand day to celebrate days important to us with group gathering at our temple where the villagers would gather to sing the praise of the lord with synchronized clapping and cymbal beating. It put me in a kind of trance. We did not worship the idol on my Father’s side so it was all very different from my Mom’s side who were pure idol worshippers. I would try to sing along with them and clap my hands with them, and without realizing be in a trance along with the group..
Festivals at home would be fun with family rushing around. Many people coming in and out, specials being made. A little me would did not have enough time to stop and wonder. I was too busy flitting from one activity to the other.
There would be an all night kirtan/bhajan “naam” singing with the singers actually dancing with their dhols..
No one would fall asleep and it would last the whole night to the early morning.. Singing songs in the name of the divine, dancing to the name of the divine and then eating… in the name of divine..
Rice would be roasted in bamboo hollows and jaggery and home made butter and curd would be distributed. We would also have meat specials later on.
I would go with my friends to visit different houses.. And all would be extremely hospitable. They would call from afar and invite me home to treat me with their homemade goodies and ask me questions which I would generally answer with a shy smile, looking at my friend to help me out. She was my confidante and my kaleidoscopic looking glass to the village. She would take me skipping with her across fields.. And show me around.. Take me to her small hut and give me savories… and laugh with me and my accent. I generally loved being with her since she seemed to know so much and more so because she was patient with me.
She would show me tamarind trees where ghosts lived. Tell me stories.. About it and a haunted house would make us shiver.. As we walked by.. She would make it real with “real” stories.. I loved it..
She would teach me how to grind rice with our traditional “dheki” and how to scale the “koi” fish with ash. Sometime, I would have leeches stuck to my hand while sorting greens from our backyard to which I would scream and she would laugh and quickly get salt and have the leeches drop from my hand..
Oh joy !! The very memory lightens the mood and transports me to a joyous euphoria… !!
It was always a special time for many years.. And I was loath to go back to Shillong where all things “modern” awaited..
FAST FORWARD to present!!!
We stopped visiting Lakua sometime after my Grandma became sick and everyone shifted to the town house in Sibsagar. Slowly, as the family shifted base, it was as if the life was sucked out of that place. It grew old and shabby in days.. It seemed…
I got busy with my studies and the life started deteriorating back there. Many people died being a part or a victim of the outlawed group.
It was as if a shadow of death and dissent dawned upon this one beautiful place and made it sucked all the juice of life and living literally.
My dear friend is a mother of 3, still has that house but is abused by her husband.. and still living.. she has grown old by many years it seems and the child is lost..
People still live there, farming still happens there but the feeling of being one with the earth is missing.
Money has corrupted many a mind… outlaw activities for the sake of misleading goals corrupted many a house and took away many a professions.. And well it is like just another place..
Last I visited our family home.. It was rented, to some stranger, it was cemented all over.. Made into a modern living quarters, The pond was full of scum and well it was very empty of life..
I understand that we all have to move forward in life.. But have we thought of what we leave behind, our legacy, our very roots that we come from.. ?
Sometimes, I wonder, is it worth all this to leave behind the very connection with nature and earth who so lovingly sustained us and allowed us to grow in it without wasting any part of it.
Sometimes, its nice to be in that ” Once upon a time ” where needs were few, joys were many and life was long !!