Rituparna Goswami Pande
There are a hundred and one reasons why I love my city, my Guwahati: one being the fervour with which we Guwahatians celebrate each and every festival that comes our way. After the carol singing, partying hard with the bright Santa caps and decorating our Christmas trees we kept our fairy lights on to ring in the new year. So 31st night saw us in our dancing shoes clubbing with our dear ones or perhaps snug at home with a barbeque going around a cozy bonfire clad in our pyzamas. Some revellers in our neighbourhood had a karaoke night and danced away the night screaming "Happy New Year "to anyone who cared to listen. And with the dip in the temperatures our overcoats and boots are having a heyday indeed. Guwahatians know how to dress up and when to dress up and therefore the streets of wintry Guwahati sees us in our fashionable best. And as we stepped into a brand new year the first few days are booked for picnics around our favourite river. The river banks and the sand bars in the river presents the perfect spot for picnickers. And every other Guwahtian had a picnic planned with friend or family. It became a regular sight to come across busses full of revellers with music blaring in the loud speakers speeding away to their favourite destinations. And he favourite destination of all being the natural lagoon of Chandubi near Chaygaon and Hatishila in Chandrapur.
Incidentally, this year a record number of visitors in Hatishila had crowded the picnic spot. Many cars and busses were stuck in the muddy road and the district administration had to intervene to rescue the vehicles which were stuck in the mud till past midnight. Many people including small children and women were stranded on the sand bars as they were unable to get out of the area. As a result of which entry into the picnic spot had been restricted indefinitely. Moreover, it had been announced that all picnic parties should leave the river banks by four in the evening.
Not just festivals we Guwahatians seem to just wait for an opportunity, any opportunity to go out and have fun. The Book fairs that are organised during the end and of the year also see a large number of footfalls causing traffic snarls and inconveniences. But we just like to ride the waves of occasions and celebrations that come our way. Be it a Cricket match in Sarusajai Stadium, a football tournament, a rock show, winter carnival, momo festival, the trade fair...you name it and we are there taking it all in our stride.
No, the revellers are not necessarily confined to the young generation alone, even elderly people are seen equally having a great time.
And after doing our bit of revelry now we await Bhogali Bihu. The Christmas caps are now packed and stored away as the shops gear up to kick in the Magh Bihu celebrations. Magh Bihu Melas are now the order of the day. And trust us Guwahatians to permeate these melas bargain hunting for that perfect bua mekhela saador, ready made til pithas, narikol laddoos and all that comes with bihu. Apart from villages many households in the city set up bhela ghors and mejis to mark the bihu celebrations. Community bhela ghors and mejis are set up in certain areas and fields where the local artisans showcase their indigenous craft in the design and making of the beautiful bhela ghors marking the arrival of the harvest festival. Most bhela ghors are designed on iconinc Ahom monuments. As the men
dedicate their time into the making of the bhela ghors the women folk are busy rustling
up bihu delectables at home.
Uruka is a major part of every one's celebrations. The night before Bihu we indulge in a grand feast around the bonfire with our close ones. The preparations for Uruka begin a few days before the uruka night and people throng the markets to buy the biggest fish available. Local fishes like Chitol, Rohu, Bahu,Sol, Barali and Ari are the hot favourites though many prefer sea fishes like sardines., etc. Collecting firewood and arranging a barbeque is a major attraction in Uruka as people sit around the bonfire till late at night singing, dancing or exchanging gossips. I remember how we used to invest in a VCP, a video cassette player which were available on rent those days and get cassettes of horror films to watch through the night! Then there were some who wood guard their wooden or bamboo fences as people often stole those in order to light their own bonfires!
Uruka is a night of fun and food indeed. And then the next morning in the wee hours of Makar Sankranti we all take our baths and crowd around the meji. It is lit with a bamboo flame and people pay obeisance to the holy pyre seeking blessings and offering pitha, lentils, sesame and sweets etc. After a hearty meal of Luci, bhaji, Sira, doi we often visit our relatives and pay respect to our elders.
However, rapid urbanisation has forced many of us to live in high rises and cramped areas where erecting a meji is not just possible but incidentally last year we saw mini bhela ghors in the market to enable such people to have a feel of the original rituals. Nothing is impossible these days if one really sets ones heart on it. So if you have been feeling left out and sorry to have deprived your children of a real Magh Bihu this year go on and get one of those mini bhela ghors to celebrate Maghor Bihu in the real sense of it. And when we are done with all the celebrations and feasting no need to feel blue as
Valentines's Day and Holi are waiting in the sidelines to take us through the months of February and March till April arrives with all the dhol pepa gogona to give us yet another opportunity to indulge in what we do best.... party of course.