Once upon a time…

My previous post was on my hometown, Shillong, described in the context of Hindu Sylheti Bengalis – the community that has been left homeless since the partition of the state of Assam, more than seven decades ago. It’s a tragedy that most of my fellow countrymen don’t know about. I had mentioned that I would share few stories written by other bloggers. These are my stories. Stories that I would have told. My aim is just to raise awareness about this marginalized community through these posts.

Today I share Sharmistha’s story. Her story reminded me of my maternal grandmother’s family. They lived in Shillong for generations. My grandmother and her siblings were born and brought up in Shillong. Every single person from that family has now moved out of Shillong. The last member left just 2 years ago. Same is the story of an aunt (father’s younger brother’s wife) and several other relatives and friends.

Sharmistha writes, “Not in his wildest dreams did Baba think he would one day have to leave his home and hearth and become a refugee in his own land. There was no other place we could call ‘home’ and it wouldn’t be wrong to say that we felt dispossessed, displaced, homeless and uprooted. No matter how many words I use to describe our plight, nothing can truly express how traumatized we were.”

Read on….

Shillong: Reflections and remembrances

A book that I like to read time and again, specially in these troubled times, is Rahul Pandita’s “Our moon has blood clots”.Browsing through this memoir of emotional turmoil in strife torn Kashmir took me to disturbed times in my hometown,Shillong.

The year was 1979 ; it was the month of November. Although I cannot recall the exact date, I do remember that something happened on that day which changed our lives forever.For the first time in our lives we heard words like “outsider”, “non-tribal”, “curfew” – words which made the air heavy with hatred , animosity , confusion and uncertainty.

Schools had shut down, final exams were cancelled (We were in class 8 then ) and only ICSE examinees reached school amid heavy security . Curfew was imposed in the city and there was tension all around. The desecration of an idol of Goddess Kali in the Laitumkhrah locality…

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Author: neelstoria

Traveling, Gardening, Trekking, Hiking, Storytelling, Writing, Nature, Outdoors, Yoga, DIY

18 thoughts on “Once upon a time…”

  1. I recently read the book The Tea Planter’s Daughter which takes place in Assam. Although it’s about a British colonial tea planter, her descriptions of the countryside are so vivid, and her love for Assam is obvious, you may enjoy it.

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  2. Really interesting and sad. It just goes to show how many of the people we meet every day have stories we don’t know about and can barely imagine. So much of this happening around the world throughout history.

    And then there are those of us on the other side. Not long after moving to Canada I was walking in our neighbourhood and saw a man about my age in a wheelchair missing a leg. Our neighbourhood has a large number of immigrants from Afghanistan. And though I don’t know this particular man’s story, it made me think. I do know how much military activity in Afghanistan my country has been a part of both directly and covertly over the past few decades. Did my tax dollars pay for his injury? It may not have but it certainly has paid for others. It led me to think about all of the other people here from around the world – people who moved here to flee the Vietnam war, people who moved here from Korea, from Latin America and on and on. So there’s not a lot of persecution in our family history. Or at least not a lot of *being* persecuted. And thanks to that history we’re sitting on top of a lot of privilege at the moment. It is important to be conscious of where that comes from, and not to abuse it or take it for granted – and better still to find a way to share it and achieve more equity.

    Thanks for all of your recent thought-provoking entries.

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    1. We all are stories. Some are able to share while many aren’t, some are afraid of being judged or misunderstood, some just bury them and for them it’s living the pain all over again. You make me ponder that in many indirect ways we may ourselves have been responsible for the misery of others. Never thought of it that way. Thank you so much Todd, for reading these posts. Especially more as these are stories of people who are caught up in the internal conflicts of another nation, which in no way is connected to you.

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  3. A poignant tale indeed. We all pass through our life with our own stories; some which we have witnessed (of which we have a recall value based on the impact it had on our mind), and yet others which we are ourselves a part of. Those incidences which have happened with us leave indelible impressions, more so if they are filled with such horror and life-changing circumstances. As you right said once, only those who have actually lived through such dreadful times know the anguish and pain. But the stories have to be told – not to seek sympathy, but to let the world encapsulated in its own cozy microcosm know – that there is a world out there where people are struggling for their identity, to seek a simple living, ask for something what is rightfully their own. Thank you, Neelanjana, for sharing this tale of a stark reality.

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    1. Once again I am really glad that you read this story. You would surely know how much I appreciate it. As long as people like you read it, I feel I have done a tiny little bit for my community. These stories are just to bring to light that we aren’t outsiders in this land but we belong nowhere. As I mentioned before, we had deliberately chosen to forget it all and move on but politics of the region didn’t let that happen. I am sure nobody likes to live in turmoil, not even the people who call us outsiders. How can hatred and animosity bring about peace and happiness! There is perhaps no solution to this as the vested interests will continue to fuel the fire.

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  4. I’m glad you have taken up to write about things that no one does. It is disappointing to see how much media- all kinds are getting stronger but it isn’t often that we hear these narratives. As I mentioned before, I have never heard of this Bengali community before. In fact, we don’t hear much about NE elsewhere in India.

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    1. That is the problem, Arvind. Mainstream India does not know much about the NE. For several years NE was treated like it did not even exist. The central governments didn’t bother much about this region and its development. All they cared about was vote bank politics. It is only in recent years that people have gotten interested in NE, thanks to globalization and of course the Internet. NE is complicated as a whole. There are several other regions of erstwhile East Bengal, which have suffered in many ways. I am restricting myself to Syhletis as that’s the community I belong to.

      Can’t thank you enough for reading these posts. My aim is to bring these stories to people in rest of India.


  5. I can never comprehend the pain (only can understand it) of leaving one’s “own” homeland as I’ve never experienced it. Partition has ravaged the country not only in ’47, it continues to do so even now!

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