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Tracing my ancestors

How amazing it is that babies grow up in the blink of an eye!


Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  15 May 2022 10:30 AM GMT

Kamal Baruah

(The writer can be reached at

How amazing it is that babies grow up in the blink of an eye! While little Tikli called me Tojo I was wonderstruck by such a Japanese tag on me from her favourite ad on the TV. It gave rise to that occasion as time passes. Perhaps the sweetest sounds we ever hear are the babbles and coos through feeding bottle and one fine day it turns into 'ma-ma, da-da' for joyous parents. It's all because infants make first sounds 'm', 'b' and 'p' easily with the lips that quickly followed by 't' and 'd'. The next time you call out 'mom' outside home, check this out and watch how many mothers turn around. Besides fun, my inquisitive mind began exploring an atypical response from a toddler.

The Tojo incident planted doubts about our origins and I was sorely tempted to know about ancestors from whom we've inherited and I had even tested through demographics face recognition to predict ethnicity. Funnily enough, it's from the timeline of Hideki Tojo, a general of the Imperial Japanese Army and convicted war criminal who served as PM of Japan and President of the Imperial rule, and was responsible for ordering the attack on Pearl Harbor. Now another Hitler (who's blamed for the Holocaust) is resurrected. Putin bet everything on war & conquest and now celebrated the Victory Day for marking the defeat of Nazi Germany. The end is uncertain for this largest European conflict now in Ukraine since World War II and might face a disaster of its own making.

History is filled with many examples of wrongful blame and finger pointing by certain groups. War films portrayed Japanese soldiers as ruthless killers but untold stories are different. Grandma told us some fascinating war anecdotes of her time. Tales about the cruelty of Japanese wasn't true. They never harassed people and even paid for carrying rice. Their full-scale invasion of Manipur and Nagaland suffered immense losses. Japanese retreated to Burma but some decided to stay back. Much before Japanese U-Go offensive towards Brahmaputra valley, Mong-Mao prince Chao-lung Sukaphaa entered Assam in the 13th century from Yunan in China. There are other tribes especially, the Sutias, the Morans and the Kacharis who were living in the pre-Ahom era.

The origin of the North East tribes is shrouded in mystery. The generally accepted as part of a great Mongoloid wave of migration towards North East from China. People living in the hills are basically Sino-Tibetan except Khasis of Meghalaya who fall under Austro-Asiatic group. Another language family Tai-Kadai found in Tai people. People living in plains of Assam are mostly Indo-European. It is possible that Mizos came from the banks of the river Yalung in China. Some believe that Manipuris are descended from an Indo-Chinese stock, with Aryan blood. The Naga Hills are occupied by warrior tribes of Mongoloid origin since centuries. The history of Sikkim begins with indigenous Lepchas contact with early Tibetan settlers. Tripuris and Arunachalis are mostly Tibeto-Burmese.

There were few written records/manuscripts of prehistory across time and cultures. That fact never entered my thoughts until the little baby called me Tojo. A chart showing lineage has provided real eye-opening data. Soe-Thura (thura means brave, gallant), Myo-Thura, Nao-Maung (young brother - Mong-Mao prince Chao-lung Sukaphaa), Nander, San-Shein(Aung San – the Burmese leader) were earlier generations of our ancestors.I belong to the 8thgeneration. If the average period of a generation is considered about 20–30 years then my ancestors probably came during the 18th century uprising in Ahom Kingdom-Moamoria rebellion.

Queen Rani had once ruled by the side of the Garo hills at the same time of Ahom rules. My grandpa was part of the kingdom for khajana (revenue collection), thereby becoming 'Baruah' after 6th generation. It was a sovereign territory stretching from Brahmaputra to the Garo hills. The kingdom with its capital Patgaon lost its status and converted into Mouza (revenue circle of Dakhin Rani, Chayani and Ramsarani) during British India. The kingdoms do no longer exist today.

People of North-East in the national capital have witnessed mystery riddles about their descended origin. Contemporary scholars trace their roots to the eastern world. Maung (young brother), Ma (girl), Ko (elder brother), U (elder man), Daw (elder woman, Bo (army personnel), what is in a name? The lists are endless. The saying goes, and perhaps I feel this more than to establish our lineage back to South East Asia, undoubtedly a Burmese connection.

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