An Identityless Identity

“Going to my native…….,” is a phrase that I often hear in my office. The word “native” is commonly used in Bangalore, which simply refers to one’s home. Sometimes, it is used in the context of one’s ancestral home, usually a village or a town, that maybe located in the same state or another state. The popularity of the word “native” in Bangalore is natural, given that half the city’s population constitute people who have migrated here for jobs from other places of India.

In my understanding, the place you’re born and brought up in is home to you, you may or may not be a native inhabitant of that place. Hence, Shillong is home to me. But I often find myself in a dilemma when asked questions like, “Where is your native?”; “When are you visiting your native?”. Shillong is my home but is it my native? No, I don’t think so. I am not an indigenous tribe of Meghalaya. I am a Bengali. So, is Kolkata my home? Or maybe some other place in West Bengal? No, certainly not! So where do I belong?

Often times, my Kannadiga, Malayalee, and friends from other parts of South India are unable to comprehend the fact that I am Bengali, yet West Bengal is not my home. I have had to get into elaborate explanations to drive home the correlation of being a Bengali whose home is Shillong and not Kolkata. I once told a Kannadiga friend, “If you were born and raised in Bihar, would you call yourself a Bihari or would you be still be a Kannadiga?” He remained confused. While we are all Indians and such discussions may seem petty, we cannot ignore the wide diversity of our country.

Today I bring to you Shatavisha’s story in connection with my earlier post on my hometown. The experiences she’s had throws a glimpse into the identity struggle of the Sylheti Bengali. Some of the things Shatavisha experienced is exactly what I have experienced. Hence, this is my story too.

Shatavisha’s story was originally published in an online magazine, Ishan Kotha. The editors of the magazine have been kind enough to let me use the story in my blog.

Read on…

Shatavisha Chakravorty’s Story

“Where are you from?” asked my mentor. The year was 2013 and the question was asked to an eighteen-year-old me.

“Shillong”, I answered.

“Ceylon?”

“No Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya. A state in the North-Eastern part of India”,  I tried to explain.

“Ah, I see. But your admission slip says that your mother tongue is Bengali.”

“It is, Sir”

“But, if you are a Bengali are you really from Shillong?”

I didn’t know what to say to this. For as long as I remember, Shillong was the only place I would associate with the word ‘home’. It felt like it is here that I belonged; and yet deep down the teenager, I knew that the place did not consider me it’s own.

To be honest, the first realization of this happened somewhere in my early teens. My parents were looking to get a place of residence. We have always lived in a rented place. As the housing search began (as an 8-year-old I got comprehend only bits and pieces of whatever was going on), everything seemed to center around Kolkata.

“Ma, why are you looking for a place in Kolkata? Why not here?”, I asked.

“Because we cannot buy houses here. Meghalaya is a sixth schedule state, my dear. Only tribals can buy land in most parts of the state. Yes, there are some European Wards like Jail Road or Oakland. But property prices there are just too high.  And moreover, if we take a flat in Kolkata, we will be more easily accessible to you when you grow up and work.”

Things the 8-year-old me comprehended out of this conversation .

Shillong is not my home as I had thought it to be. It is not providing my parents with a conducive environment to set up a place of permanent residence despite having spent almost all their career here.

I had to go out of Shillong to make my career.

Fast forward to a couple of years from the day of this conversation, I became active in various co-curricular activities. I would ace the debates, science seminars, essay writing competitions, and others at the school level. This would make me qualify for the district level events. And that’s when the divide started to show up. I would not go past the district level events. Even if I did manage to make it to the state level, never would I be selected for national-level events.

I started to lose hope, believing that something was lacking in me. That’s when elders (parents, teachers, and others) reached out to me and pointed it out that this has nothing to do with my talent and the people qualifying are all tribal residents of the state. The state does not consider us, the non-tribal Bengali as its residents and hence the step-motherly treatment .

Once it was pointed out to me, I started noticing the pattern. It was everywhere. Meghalaya did not consider me its daughter. I had no option but to accept this. This made me firmer in my resolve to study out-of-state and with that, a few years later, I found myself in the conversation we started this article with .

Today, its been 7 years since that conversation. Let’s talk about 2017. Some 4 years since that conversation, I find myself with an engineering degree and two job offers. I join my present organization as a bubbly 22-year-old girl. And that’s when I have my first encounter with non-North East Bengalis.

At first, it was a matter of great excitement for them to have spotted a fellow Bengali. Having been brought up in a cosmopolitan setup, the last name of my friends did not mean much to me. But to them finding a ‘Chakravorty’, ‘Bhattacharya’, ‘Ghosh’ or ‘Sen’ in a land that’s 1000 km away from their home meant finding gold.

Again, the same set of questions. “If you are a Bengali, how are you ‘really’ from Shillong?’. By now I had grown used to this question and knew how to dodge it. But what followed in the next few months is something I was not ready for.

It started with making fun of my Bangla. Everything from the use of an English word in a Bangla sentence to being completely unaware of the technical terminologies in my mother tongue came under the scanner. I was a subject of ridicule among the ‘Bengali group’.

In the initial days, I would be upset about it. Befriending other people at work (a cosmopolitan group consisting of people from all over the country) made me realize that nothing was wrong with me. Yes, I did not fit in the ‘Bengali group’, but that does not hamper my confidence.

Yes, I am a Bangal. My place of birth is Shillong. My father’s was Silchar. My mother’s is Imphal. This is a fact. All three of our passports say the same. If my maternal or paternal grandfathers were to be alive, theirs would say ‘Part of undivided India’. So would that of my great grandfathers’. This is my lineage. And , I am proud of it.

If the fact that visiting one’s ancestral village every Dol, Nababarsha, or Bijoya is what it takes to give him or her an identity, then I do not need such an identity. My identity is that of an Indian. An Indian Bengali.

My place of birth is Shillong and the place has given me 18 years of beautiful childhood memories. These , I will cherish for a lifetime. My place of residence is Bangalore today. It can be Kolkata, Delhi, Chicago, or New York tomorrow. For me, home is where I live, where my family lives. So is Shillong was my home yesterday but is not so tomorrow, I have no regrets. I have my priorities sorted and more than 2/3 rd of my life in front of me (hopefully!) to carve a name for myself on the foundation of Indian Bengali – an identity passed on to me by my parents and ancestors.

The Place I Belong to, Yet I Don’t

Shillong is my home. No other place, I can ever call home. Though I live in Bangalore now and have been here for the past 10 years, after having spent a couple of years in Kolkata and Hyderabad. Bangalore can be my second home and for two reasons at that – first, this is the longest I have stayed at any place outside Shillong; second, this place has given me a job and I have invested in buying a house here. My heart however beats only for Shillong – the place of my birth and the place where I grew up. My parents still live there.

But every so often, in different ways, I am told that Shillong is not my home. The reason being I am a non-tribal. More importantly, I am a Bengali – a Sylheti Bengali. Why? Because certain thoughtless leaders had decided my fate by signing some papers, years before I was born. They had conveniently divided the country into two nations, which later became three (India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh). Everyone knows about the great partition of India that had happened through the two provinces of Bengal and Punjab. Hardly anybody knows about the third province, which was also affected by partition. The province of Assam. In this case the wrath of partition fell upon the Hindu Sylheti Bengalis. A lot has been talked about the sufferings of the people from Punjab. Not many are aware of the sufferings of the Bengalis from Sylhet.

Who are Sylheti Bengalis: The Sylheti people are a Sylheti-speaking Bengali sub-group which originated from the Sylhet region of the Indian subcontinent. Current population is divided between the Sylhet Division of Bangladesh, three districts of the Barak Valley and in the Hojai district of Assam in India. There are sizeable populations in the Indian states of Meghalaya, Tripura in North Tripura district and Manipur. (Courtesy Wikipedia)

The merciless act of drawing a line across the map of East India affected the sub-community of Sylheti Bengali like no other. That the line was drawn by cheating the community at large, based on what suited the vested interests at that time, is a different piece of history altogether. While the country jubilantly celebrated its independence from 200 years of British Rule, this small community had lost everything. Hindu Sylheti Bengalis, belonging to Sylhet district of Bangladesh, were displaced from their homes and became refugees in their own country. Not only did they lose their assets like property, homes, and other material wealth, they had lost their identity. Their sufferings had just begun. Many of them had moved to the state of Meghalaya (part of Assam at that time), as that was logistically the easiest. Moreover, in many cases, friends and relatives were already living there. Meghalaya became a separate state in 1972. Just a few years later, trouble started with the indigenous tribes wanting the non-tribal Bengalis out of their state. The Bengalis suffered atrocities and alienation in many overt and covert ways.

The community, docile and meek by nature, silently accepted all the atrocities and humiliations hurled upon them. They never protested about being made to feel like encroachers in their own country. Instead, they chose to focus on the upbringing of their children, provide them with good education, and equip them with all they could for a better and brighter future. Fighting the stigma of being refugees and facing hardships with their limited resources, they were putting back pieces of their lives together as they tried to settle down. Starting life from scratch, some managed to buy land and built their own homes before the Land Act was passed (according to The Meghalaya Transfer of Land Act, 1971, only tribals are allowed to buy land in Meghalaya).

Their choice of selecting meekness to aggression did not quite work in their favour and the ghosts of partition continued to haunt them. Over a period, in the hope of finding peace and to protect themselves, many left to other parts of the country. Those that had to leave their own houses and property lament that they lost everything for a second time just in two generations. Many preferred to stay on, still facing alienation and humiliation, as that is home to them.

It’s been a little over seven decades now. The ghost of partition still rears its ugly head every now and then. The Hindu Sylheti Bengali remains displaced forever. They are Indians that are strangers in their own country and have no place to call their own. The community continues to struggle in their 3rd and 4th generations down the line.

Recently, I came across a couple of blog posts that are individual stories of this marginalized community of people. I will share a couple of them in the hope that some of you will care to read even though you might not completely relate. They’re written by other bloggers, but they are my stories – stories that I would have told.

Click the links below to read the stories:

Curiosity Kills Cats, Not Squirrels

It was morning, not very early though. I was still in bed, neither fully asleep nor fully awake. I could sense my sister was up and was at my bedside jabbering something rather frantically. My half-asleep state didn’t register a word but gathered that something needed my immediate attention. While it appeared urgent, it didn’t seem serious. I turned over and decided to sleep for a little while longer.

A good 30-45 min later as I got out of bed, there were tiny oval grayish pellets strewn all over the floor of the house. It took me no time to recognize these were squirrel droppings. So, this is what my sister was trying to tell me. All the doors and windows remain closed at night. How did they manage to get an entry? And, when did all of this happen? I don’t remember hearing any noise at all. My sister declared that she did hear some mild rattling as dawn was breaking in, but she was too sleepy to bother.

It did not take me long to piece together what could have happened. The chimney in kitchen hadn’t been cleaned for a while. I usually call in for a service expert twice a year. At other times, I do the cleaning myself. So, I had removed the flap that absorbs the fumes, scrubbed, washed, and left it outside to dry. The flap also forms a barrier between the exhaust pipe and the hob.

Tuntuni, the garden squirrel who lives in the tree just outside the kitchen would have once again entered the chimney pipe. Over-inquisitive as she always is, she would have accidentally fallen onto the kitchen counter. I am not sure if she was alone or was goofing around with her siblings. The confusedness that would have followed is only left to my imagination! She would have felt trapped having no idea how to get out. She would have agitatedly gone around the house trying to figure a way out. Droppings all over the floor and the dining table are tell-tale signs of all the commotion that would have happened.

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I cleaned the droppings – dry pellets, nothing messy. Heaving a sigh of relief and not realizing that the mess was yet to begin, I opened the kitchen sink tap. Water gushed right into the kitchen floor and there I was suddenly marooned in a sizeable pool of water. While trying to escape and looking for an outlet, Tuntuni had damaged the sink drainage pipe. That was not the end. Bewildered, she had even managed to extract some kitchen waste from the garbage bin, which is usually kept below the sink. All that foul-smelling unwanted waste material was now floating on the pool of water.

Certainly not the best way to start a day for the cleanliness freak that I am! That aside, the plumber had to be called and dealing with plumbers is something I loathe to the core. With zero knowledge on the subject, I always feel cheated and exploited. It has never been a pleasant experience.

All of this just for some unadulterated and pure squirrel happiness. Phew!

I still have no clue how she might have escaped. The same chimney route is all that I can think of, which would have again been an accidental discovery. And what relief that would have been! It’s all the fault of the Myna, who had built a nest in the chimney. The squirrel until then had no clue about this hideout. In all her innocence, Tuntuni is just a hyperactive and playful little curious squirrel.

[Click here for a previous post on the squirrel.]

 

 

 

An AC Hospital Experience

The New Normal…

At the entry, a security guard approached me probing the purpose of my visit. Besides gloves and masks, he sported a special kind of head gear that covered his entire face and neck with a transparent shield. The kind I had seen mechanics sporting in welding workshops. It’s called a face shield, I learn later. White squares were drawn on the ground at appropriate distances, where people waited for their turns.

Just before the entry door were a series of tables, again situated at appropriate gaps, that had forms and pens. There you need to fill in responses to specific questions pertaining to your personal information, like, name, gender, phone number, and generic health related questions. At the entry door, there were people wearing the same kind of welding headgear with a thermometer in their gloved hands. You hand over the slip, your body temperature is recorded, and depending on the reading you can proceed towards your destination.

A little bewildered, I stared at everything in amusement. I had seen such images in the Internet and in television news snippets. So, it wasn’t like I was seeing all of it for the first time. But, like everything else, experiencing something first-hand gives you a whole new perspective.

I was at Fortis Hospital yesterday where I had an appointment with my doctor for a certain health issue. The hospital is just 2 Km. from my home and it’s been my go-to-place for anything and everything for a very long time. This was the first time I was visiting the hospital in AC (After Covid-19) and every single thing was different and weird. Needless to say, it felt like I was in a Sci-Fi movie setting.

As I walked past the doorway, I cast a glance at my right where the reception is located. A transparent plastic sheath acted as a curtain between the ones providing the service and those seeking the service. I went to the basement section where the Out-Patient-Department (OPD) is located. Similar scenes there as well. You wait for your turn at the reception and billing on marked white squares. A transparent plastic sheath forms a barrier between you and the OPD reception. A small opening allows you to make the payment.

Outside the doctor’s chamber, the line of chairs for the patients to sit was no longer there. The alignment of the chairs had changed. There were very few chairs waiting in isolation placed at a distance from one another.

When my turn came, I went in to find my doctor sitting inside a transparent plastic sheath that formed an enclosure around her desk and chair. A small opening allowed my arm through for her to check my blood pressure. She asked me to lay in the examination bed for further investigation. The same transparent plastic sheath enclosed the bed. I accessed it through one end, which remained open. Again, a small opening allowed the doctor’s hands to examine me physically while the plastic sheath formed a barrier between us.

It was a very strange experience. Felt weird, like a dream. But no dream this was!

Moments of Small Little things

There’s immense satisfaction and happiness in small little things of life, and that’s no secret! The small little things that I could have always done but never did.

Evening Cuppa at the Balcony

It’s nearly evening, or should I say late afternoon. At this time the mellowed sun appears perfectly rounded and has moved to the far west. On the way, it has splattered subtle shades of yellows, oranges, and crimsons all over the western sky. Seated in my living room, I can see the familiar warm comfortable glow fill up my kitchen cabinets as some of the light trickles in through the window.

I put my laptop to sleep and walk up to the kitchen. Soon, I have two cups of hot tea. I call out to my sister, who’s working in the guest room. She just happened to be with me during the lockdown. We leave our laptops and phones behind and for the next one hour settle down in the balcony with tea and biscuits.

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My sister’s pencil sketch of us in the balcony.

The softening yellow ball of fire can be seen from one side. And, it’s time for the birds to go home. There’s the bunch of eagles soaring high up in the sky, the flock of tiny birds that glide a few feet below as if competing with the eagles, the squawking parrots that fly in small gangs one after the other, the unseen cuckoo that sings into the evening whose nest must be somewhere nearby, the cute little tiny sunbirds that perch here and there, the odd bulbul and the kingfisher that comes by sometimes, those few noisy mynas, a couple of ravens, and the irritating pigeons.

Amid admiring the birds and enjoying the changing hues of sunset, we talk about a hundred things – family, friends, books, movies, social media, our anxieties and worries, our travels, our jobs, Covid 19, lockdown, and anything and everything under the sun.

Now, we eagerly look forward to the evenings every single day. My home happens to be in a quiet corner of the apartment. The balcony was always there, so were the birds, so was the sunset but never did we spend time in the balcony. We were too busy, you see!

Mornings of Squirrel Cuteness

It’s about 9.00 AM. Breakfast time. Not just for us but for the squirrel family too.

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Peanuts – my favourite breakfast

A squirrel family has been visiting my home for the past 2-3 years. There are 3-4 of them and all of them look alike except for some minor differences mostly in their sizes. For the sake of convenience, all of them have been christened with the same name – TUNTUNI. They live in the tree that spreads across one side of my house through the balcony, the kitchen, and the guest bedroom.

It’s the common Indian Palm Squirrel, grey-brown in colour with a bushy tail, and characterized by three conspicuous white stripes that run from head to tail. Hyperactive and superfast, they had thwarted all my attempts of clicking them. I had since given up and just enjoyed their company. Not just me, they would entertain my guests too.

My sister had never paid attention to them before. Now she can be found chasing the squirrels and filming every act of squirrel cuteness. The renewed focus resulted in new-found adulation. I got a bag of peanuts for them even in the lockdown. Every morning we feed them in return for some unparalleled adorable and magical squirrel moments.

The Myna Nest

Talking about the squirrels, it’ll be gross injustice if I leave out the Myna couple. For the past few weeks, in fact even before the lockdown had started, we had spotted a Myna couple in and around my home.

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The Myna’s untidy nest. Don’t miss the two roses at the top!

It’s the common house Myna, which is sometimes identified as a pest in certain parts of the world. Little did we know that the couple had built a nest in my kitchen chimney exhaust pipe.

We had been noticing some noise in the pipe for a while now but did not pay much heed as this happens sometimes. We always thought the tiny sunbirds made their way into the chimney pipe. Recently, the activities in the chimney was nothing less than a ruckus. The Myna couple were seen busy with various activities through the day. Once they even angrily chased the squirrel and we could never figure out what what had happened. Two days back the babies flew off and the Myna couple have since disappeared – probably enjoying the graduation of their kids.

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My sister sketches Tuntuni, the squirrel and the Myna

And, I can’t help but wonder that these are certain things that I could have always done but I never did. It had to take a Covid-19 lockdown or else I would have missed it all.

Shit Happens to Others

Everything happens to somebody else, until it happens to you.

We can never truly apprehend the gravity of a situation till we are in it. This is true for every situation in life. And is more profound for the difficult situations or negative experiences of life. I am not too sure if this is applicable to life’s positive experiences. Happy situations do not have much room for analysis. It just leaves us high and we don’t think why this has happened to me or how do I deal with this – we’re just happy.

I can write about a ton of such life situations to exemplify this. In this post, however, I am focusing on illnesses of near and dear ones.

A Parent Diagnosed with Life-Threatening Disease

A close friend’s father has been recently diagnosed with cancer. He was a very healthy man, who was until now leading a perfectly healthy retired life with his wife (my friend’s mother). They would even go traveling every now and then. The latest one being just a few months ago when they traveled to Nepal. I even met them just after my Nepal trip to exchange travel stories when they were here in Bangalore, visiting my friend’s home.

The cancer news was just too sudden like a bolt from the blue. And the tumor is at a stage when operation is not an option. Surprising as he never had any symptoms. For the first time, I am experiencing the struggles faced by cancer patients and their families. Being closely associated with my friend, I am privy to all the happenings so much so that I can feel her struggles as my own – fighting emotions, running between hospitals and doctors, taking tough decisions, keeping faith despite all the adversities, handling her father’s sentiments and frustrations while managing a household, a job, and an overactive toddler. And, a lot more can be added to the list.

When I used to hear of the struggles of cancer patients and their families, I would just feel bad for the moment and then forget about it. This is the first time I am feeling the struggles. I can place myself in her shoes and feel the helplessness. I am unable to help her in any way and that bothers me a lot.

A Child Diagnosed with a Life-Long Medical Condition

A few months back, another friend’s adolescent son was diagnosed with Type-1 Juvenile Diabetes. Again, for the first time I witnessed the impact of an unannounced life-long medical condition of a child on a family. Their entire lifestyle went topsy-turvy. Adding to it was the emotional turmoil of seeing your child having to live a life of restrictions and inhibitions. There are so many aspects of such a situation that would have never occurred to me otherwise.

A Family Fighting Psychological Disorders

In my own family, I have struggled with close ones suffering from depression and anxiety. I know what it means to have a psychological condition and how normal life can get disrupted in no time. And how the social stigma associated with mental illness makes it even tougher. It’s only in very recent times that there is a lot of awareness in this regard and thankfully so.

For me the very word “depression” is uneasy. I find it utterly uncomfortable when people use the word loosely, such as, “The traffic in Bangalore depresses me.” To such comments, I find my mind saying, “Please find a better word than using the depression word so casually!” Then there are Facebook statuses saying things like – My door is open for you, please come talk to me if you feel down……blah, blah and blah – to which my mind says, “Do you even know what depression is? If talking would be so easy, they wouldn’t land up in this condition!”

Depression and psychosis affect not just the person concerned but an entire family. Relationships get disrupted and nothing ever gets back to normal again. All these become even more difficult when diagnosis is delayed – something which happens all too often. By the time you realise something is not okay, it already late.

Well, we really have no control on things that happen to us. This reminds me of something I read somewhere – In life we may control ship and sail, but never wind and wave.

Rambling Mind & Office Meetings

There are these office meetings where you have nothing much to do, many of you would surely know what I am talking about. You suppress your yawns that invariably appear as your eyes water, you fidget with your pen/pencil, or doddle away on a paper pretending that it’s your way of concentrating.

And, if you have ever been part of such meetings virtually, you know how that feels like. It only gets worse. Though you may argue that it is perhaps better as nobody’s watching and you are free to yawn or do whatever you wish. But remember, you are in isolation, limited by your laptop screen. Boredom strikes, your mind wanders, and if your name is suddenly called out when you aren’t paying attention, well then……embarrassing it is…

Now, if you happen to be in India working with a global team, it’s as torturous as it can be as most of these meetings will happen late in the evenings. A good lullaby to your half-asleep self.

Last week, during one such boring office meeting, I opened a Word doc and started scribbling. I didn’t pay much attention to what I was writing as half my mind was listening to the meeting conversations. I read what I had written later and it was yet another dark poem. Not again – I told myself. Why does this happen? I am not particularly unhappy or depressed. Rather, I’d like to believe that I am a very positive person. Sometimes, my enthusiasm about certain things in life drives my family and friends up the wall. Hence, strange that these poems become dark.

Here’s what I had written:

Rambling Mind

Into the never-ending dark abyss

The mind twists and turns

Worries and doubts and uncertainties abound

I had shut the gates, didn’t I?

Creepy creatures that they are

Ugly monsters that dwell in the dark

The mind, restless and edgy

One tiny slim ray of light, powerful and strong

Shimmers, gleams, and pierces through

They melt and dissolve, those creatures of the dark

The light was here, right here, just yesterday

I had seen it, didn’t I?

Vanished today, out of sight

The bright and powerful light, could it still be here?

Stuck with the nasty and the noxious

The mind that sometimes refuses to try!

Reminiscing 2019 – The Actual Year-End Post

The Year That Was

Emotions took the better of me when I had started writing my year-end post (read more about that here). Those emotions kept aside, 2019 has been one of the most beautiful years for me and in a very unusual way. The highlight of this year has been people and what better for the people person that I am!

Here are some of the top highlights of 2019 that I remain grateful for:

  1. Who says you don’t find real people in the Internet! I did. Through WordPress, I have met some of the best people and I am never tired of saying that. This year was different as I met so many of them in person. I want to say a BIG THANK YOU to each of you for the warm and heartfelt moments you have added into my life!
    • It started with Todd and Sage, when I met them in Bangalore during their trip to India in the beginning of this year. I even had the good fortune of attending a story-telling session by Sage.
    • Thereafter I met Debdutta, who decided to make me his family and call me his elder sister rather than a friend. Along with him and his friends, I spend a memorable weekend at Kōḻikōḍ.
    • Then I met Arvind – most of you would know him and I’d be surprised if you didn’t. We spent an entire morning sharing travel stories over innumerable cups of filter coffee accompanied by dosas, when he had visited  Bangalore earlier this year.
    • Last but not the least, Dilip and I became such great friends that I hosted him in my house when he stopped by Bangalore on his way back from his Leh cycling trip.
    • Note: I must mention two others though I am yet to meet them in person:
      • Hariom and I nearly planned a trip together but that didn’t happen. In him, I have found an extraordinarily special friend and it feels like I have always known him.
      • Narendra, with whom my connection went beyond WordPress and who has been a constant encouragement in so many ways.
  2. It was through Internet again that I met Ambrose Trueman – the cyclist, poet, writer, and adventurer. We connected through Instagram and met in person in Shillong this year. His gesture of taking all the trouble of getting me the traditional rice cake as I had never tasted it is something I cannot forget.
  3. A set of rather unusual circumstances led to my meeting the ultra marathoners, Banajit Burman and Asif Ahmed. Asif become a rather close friend and it feels like we’ve known each other for a very long time now.
  4. I have been busier than usual this year and all for the good reason of spending time with people. Almost every weekend I’ve had friends visiting me at home, some from other cities – no complaints! Just that it has affected the frequency of my WordPress posts.
  5. I got to spend more than a month in my home, Shillong, where I visited and explored several new places, including Mawlyngbna and Mawphanlur. Most importantly, my nephew, Abheeshek  and I spent some quality time together after a very long time. We even explored David Scott’s Trail together.
  6. During my visit to Sikkim, I made some special connections with people especially at Tingvong village of Dzongu Valley where we had spent 3 days. Living the Lepcha life, was an extraordinary experience almost making me believe I have some karmic connections with the people there.
  7. I had my maiden experience of trekking in Nepal with Annapurna Base Camp.
  8. I had started the year with a visit to Diu and travels have happened throughout the year with Sikkim and Nepal. I am in Varanasi right now and will be ending the year at Shalamun in Himachal Pradesh.
  9. I have discovered the goodness of meditation and have started practicing regularly. An addition to my regular yoga and jogging but it has become an activity that I eagerly look forward to every single day.
  10. I dabbled in poetry and dared to post some of them in my blog.
  11. I have finished off my home loan, a great burden off my shoulder.
  12. I have deliberately and consciously tried to live the life of what I can give rather than what I can get, tried to listen more and talk less, attempted to make people happy or at least not make them unhappy. Not that I have done so with a great deal of success but I know I wholeheartedly tried.

 

Reminiscing 2019 – The Unintended Year-End Post

Those Suppressed Emotions

It’s already the end of December!

This year too has passed off in the blink of an eye and as always I really can’t fathom where all the time went.

There’s something significantly different about the year end this time. The melancholic way in which the year is drawing to an end is not something I can ignore. The incomprehensible sadness and heaviness I feel in my heart weighs me down. Sometimes to the extent that I feel ill-equipped to handle it in a way that would keep my sanity in place.

I am just an ordinary citizen of the country and matters of politics has never affected my peace of mind. However, all the things that has been happening around the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) has been a different story altogether. I never thought this would impact me personally so much. Belonging to the community – a Hindu Bengali from the NE – that has been in the eye of the storm, this has directly affected me.

The events and happenings of so many years that I had chosen to forget came back with a bang. The feeling of being a stranger in your own home is impossible to comprehend unless you are in it. Growing up amid curfews and bandhs, living in apprehension and fear, facing discrimination and humiliation are not things one would like to remember. I would rather recall the green hills, the whispering pines, the freezing cold, the incessant rains, the warm wooden homes, the myriad coloured orchids, the chattering birds, the gorgeous butterflies, the cascading waterfalls, the gurgling streams, and every other beautiful thing of the place I call home. And when things had just started looking up in the past 6-7 years, there came another blow.

My grandparents and parents lived a life of apology and shame, being reduced to refugees in their own country after having lost all their wealth and property to partition. They silently suffered for no fault of theirs and accepted their fate without complaining. Historical wrong doings for satiating political gains has left an entire community of people suffering for generations. As a 3rd generation of that community, I thought I had left all that behind, so what that I still struggle to settle down to a comfortable life and that feeling of belonging nowhere comes in to haunt me now and then.

Is Shillong my home? Oh yes, it is. I am born and brought up there and no other place I can call home, my favourite place on earth………BUT………

My heart bleeds and I can explain my feelings to no one – nobody is ready to listen. I am the outsider, the encroacher.

Well, I don’t intend to be negative in my year-end post. At the same time, I have never felt this emotional in my entire life.

Note: I was writing my usual year-end post but emotions took the better of me and I landed up writing something else. My year-end post will follow.

Malicious Thoughts

art fingers foggy hand

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dark clouds spread across the sky

All romantic and gay, you’d think

Gloom and grey was all that was there

The mind strides into a world of its own

Spiraling thoughts jumble up from nowhere

Like wisps of curling strands of smoke

Rising from recesses deep within

Awakening from their silent slumbers

Creeping up, their wretched ugly heads

Thoughts that I struggle to leave behind

Wickedly they smile, mock my being

With renewed strength and new-found vigor

My strong self looks away, makes no eye contact

Their presence overpowers, grips me tight

I fall prey for the thousandth time

To their malicious intents and roughish ways

Alas, the dark clouds that filled the sky!