Monday, 15 October 2012

The Aura of Assam - III

the rickshaw puller with his customers
Thus far, one is bound to fathom for oneself, how life is lived the hard way out here, what with rains playing hide and seek every now and then, adding to the desperation of the village-folk. Unpredictable as the weather is, the menfolk take it upon themselves to have multi-tasking skills – they have lots of side businesses to keep their cash registers ringing. In some cases, it was a sad sight to see even teachers (from the noblest of professions) were forced to act ‘business-like’ to earn their bread and butter by the day, which was, so to say, the order of the day, here in this clime and weather.

When it comes to religious fervour, one can vouchsafe with all integrity that the Assamese would score much much higher on their RQ than their counterparts in most other parts of India. Every place of worship has people flocking by the dozens and chartered trips (often called line trips) are a craze here, when it comes to having darshans of their favourite deities. Sunday evenings were marked by bhajans and other related rituals which testify to their zeal and religious intensity.

Takes me back to the age-old views about India being seen as a ‘land of religion’ through Western eyes, as a land that promised ‘spiritual release’ from the fret and fear of mundane worldly life, which gives us the pride of place as having the richest and most exciting cultural traditions in the world. This was evidenced in the numerous places of worship that adorned the townscape of Dibrugarh. Especially in the Joysagar Shiva temple, (photos of our travel can be found in our fb page), which was constructed by a woman – Queen Madambika, wife of King Siva Singha. This temple is believed to be the tallest Shiva temple in India. Underneath its kingly age-old trees, one could find sages (sadhus) reclining regally with their typically long beards, doting the magnificent temple at all places, and giving their blessings to young and old alike for a modest sum. Girls (who expected a wedding on the cards) believed it very auspicious to get blessed by these old sadhus, who were peace-personified, having renounced the desires of the carnal world and its pleasures. Fifty meters away from this temple was the beautiful tank which had a lot of lotus leaves, blooming sprightly lotus flowers. Now, my mind could not but equate these great sadhus with the lotus leaves having a water droplets on its surface, having renounced actions, and untouched by the sins and bondage whatsoever. The freedom that they enjoyed was envious. The sadhus were found sitting alone, with no one for company. Yet, they enjoyed their solitude as if it were bliss! At times, solitude in itself is bliss!

No wonder, India is known as the land of spirituality and philosophy, a myriad land famous as much for its piety as it is for its patriotism.

Reminds me yet again of McCoy’s Parable of the Sadhu! (do read it for yourself)

The only sympathetic sight was the presence of beggars in and around the temple waiting for alms all around the precincts of the temple. The women who lined up shops around the temple premises, were seen singing songs in Hindi (not Assamese!). When our friend Ramji who was quietly recording their singing (should I say a Professor Higgins in Pygmalion) quizzed them on their penchant for Hindi film songs instead of Assamese film songs, she had a lament in store (story) for us. She lamented the fact that there were no cinema halls in most of the towns and villages in Assam. They were either close down or faced a threat of closure in most places, and so, the already ailing film industry was, in her humble opinion, on the brinks of disaster. One heart-warming episode is that, very recently, the Assam government stepped in to plug the breach, by resolving to open 100 cinema halls which have closed down in the past few years. The question is, will state-run cinema halls prove disastrous in the long run, with political bias determining the screening of films? Much remains to be seen! A case of Big fish gobbling up shoals of little fish!!

Goat rice or feed rice is another peculiarity in this part of Assam. Most shop keepers, even while opening up their shops in the mornings, make it their duty to feed the goats that have queued up over the hours in front of their business establishments. One could also see doves cooing around these shops for their share of the pie! Since this was a peculiar feature in many villages of Assam, we wanted to enquire about this curiosity, but couldn’t get any convincing explanations behind this ritual.

Rickshaw-wallahs were a common sight in almost all interior regions of Dibrugarh. My colleague Ramji (he’s from the Mahatma’s land – Gujarat) took time to remind me of the Mahatma’s disgust for rickshaws as he said that, "it was thoroughly disgusting for him to sit in a vehicle pulled by human beings".

to be contd...

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