Tituraj Kashyap Das
(The writer is a communication professional)
It was not a pleasant day when I first arrived in Delhi in 2004. The summer sun was oppressive as I tried to peep out from the iron window of my sleeper compartment as the good old Brahmaputra Mail slowly chugged into the iconic Old Delhi railway station. The balmy wind of my home – Assam – was missing from what would be eventually my second home – Delhi. As an economic refugee, I was part of an exodus so gigantic that it became a folklore now.
Life in Assam in the 1980s and 1990s was tough. I was born at a time when the Assam agitation was at its peak. My childhood was spent amidst the din of sloganeering emanating from the streets of Nalbari. On my way to school, we saw freshly stuck posters of a rising Sun on the roadside walls, and, of course, ‘picketing’was not an alien word especially for students from Assamese medium schools, as it is today. We belonged to an unfortunate generation who did not have the freedom to breathe and celebrate happiness without fear, or day-dream without boundaries. It was but impossible to find a day when the newspaper was not drenched in blood and tears. It was mayhem then – the society went into a shock. Those who could send their kids outside of this cauldron. In the process, we oustees became part of a lost generation – who would run around in their memory land to find an elusive moment of joy, free of fear and anxiety.
Fast forward to August 15, 2018. My social media feed is full of notifications saying how people of Assam – including my peers from the lost generation – are embracing freedom and Independence Day so warmly that it is infectious. The joy of hoisting your national flag in your own courtyard, the pride with which people would wave the tricolor, the celebration of this pious occasion through musical ‘Freedom Jam’ session at the popular Commerce College bus stop et al are now becoming a new normal – breaking away from an old abnormal of Bandhs and Protests mired in violence. So many human lives have been lost from all sides; i.e. men in uniform, disgruntled youths as well as innocent lives. This is almost like a déjà vu moment from the tales that our parents would tell about their childhood of celebrating independence – fearless in the gut, joyous in heart, proud of what our forefathers achieved by banishing the mighty British. Such is the magic that people – especially millennials – have created a positive atmosphere we have so desperately longed for. For bringing back this whiff of optimism from the brink of obscurity, the lost generation would be forever thankful to their younger brethren.
After a prolonged struggle on multiple fronts, by God’s grace, my second home, Delhi, gave me a job in 2007. The pay was far from handsome but, at least, it gave me an opportunity to look forward to a future of hope. Before this, my sincere wish to return to my home; i.e. Guwahati met with a prompt demise as the economic opportunities remained grim. Corruption in securing a job or limitation in creating a positive business environment prevented most of us from returning home. We remain what is known as economic refugees. In the meanwhile, this swarm – that I am referring as the lost generation -toiled hard with blood and sweat to make a mark in a ruthless, cut-throat world. Some of us reached where none had reached before; some of us reached where only a few others had whilst some of us continue to climb through this hard and treacherous yet challenging and alluring road to milestones of success. Yet, we had an emptiness in our heart, because of our inability to believe in the resurrection of hope in Assam. I am thankful that I have been proven wrong now. Yesterday, the fluttering tricolor across the roads of Guwahati – in the hands of common people –defeated that pessimistic fixation.
Some of us believed in the winds of change and courageously moved back, giving up lucrative opportunities to prosper professionally. More than an emotional investment, it was a question that everyone of us – who wish to come back and be a part of prosperity –had about the economic viability that the state has to offer. Yes, the crackdown on the corrupt job racket has been a welcome step. But, is it enough or is it too little too late to be of any good? There are lots of questions that need answers. Peace and tranquility are unquestionable conditions for an economy to prosper. It is so heartwarming to see the youth of the state remain steadfast in their quest to get justice for the unfortunate Abhi-Neel tragedy. They have been vocal but persisting with a democratic and peaceful way of keeping the pressure on authorities for justice. The young generation has confidently expressed their faith in the state but without being silent. Are we finally on our way to a vibrant democratic society? Is the time ripe for an aggressive economic pitch about Assam?
Delhi has a tradition of flying kites on Independence Day. As a youngster who only saw bandhs on this day all through his childhood, my first Independence Day in this mega city was an eye opener as I saw people celebrating their pride for the country on the streets, as well as around India Gate. Today, I can safely say that the people of Assam have renounced any idea of regressive politics based on hate, marginalization or historical baggage. A confident bunch of youngsters are now ready to have a healthy competition with their peers and are ready to emerge victorious. They now demand vociferously a politics of development that has remained elusive. The millennials have shown us – the lost generation – how to give up our inhibitions and help build a better tomorrow. For them, champion Hima Das is not an aberration or a fairy tale but an example to follow suit. It is for us to take this piece of inspiration from our youngsters and start building our home again – strong, prosperous, proud and most importantly, happy. I believe this is the best gift that a person can give to another – the gift of freedom from uncertainty as we await the next Independence Day.