Saurav, Peeshee, and Poonam Aunty

This is a picture diary from my friends’, Anvita, Krystof, and their son Adi, visit in March 2019 to Boisahabi. It was a breath of fresh air me and my family because even while being cradled in the beautiful valley of Assam, the air can and does get heavy between human beings, more so than other beings, perhaps.

For me it was especially significant because for the first time friends were visiting me after I had made a conscious effort of returning to Assam after having spent most of life outside it so that I could get to know it.  I was nervous as to what I would show them — I felt like I had myself only just begun my conscious interaction with Assam. I said, well this is it, I will share with them whatever it is I know. This acceptance also allowed me a personal sense of a familiar relief — I have often reached stages of life where I had to accept what I know and did not know so that I could speak-listen-act-think deeply and confidently, whether it be before a presentation of my research or to get on to the next step of life. This acceptance felt more like the latter because as I thought of the Assam that I would share with my friends, it also helped me note what I knew and did not know, and this put in a knowing-not-knowing perspective the Assam I wanted to know and work with, and gave me a particular clarity of my next steps. It even allowed me a break from a deeply immersive experience of working-observing-exploring so that I could take time off to disengage a little bit, relax myself, and create some open space-time in my being to receive my dear friends and spend quality time with them. I took a deep breath with the relief that came with this acceptance and introduced my friends to my family, to Boisahabi, and to Majuli.

I will fondly remember this week in March and that point of acceptance and the lovely time we all had together. I will fondly remember being with Anvita, Krystof, and Adi, and the joy they brought to my parents and for a while cleared the heavy air between them for a livelier energy. I will remember sharing with them whatever I knew of Assam and the few friends I had made. I will remember the awareness with which I felt the presence of this livelier energy at lovely evening dinners, breakfasts, and lunches. I will remember Peeshee and how she helped us explore the banks of the river Luit in Majuli and how she made herself a part of our little family. I will remember our visit to Saurav’s family and how with this visit my friendship with a family that I had met only once before, but where I had felt the presence of a love that always attracts me and draws me back with an old familiarity, become more tangible.  I will remember the serendipitous visit to Dakhinpat Satra in the evening and experiencing the evening nama with the young bhakats of the satra and being invited by the young monks for their special Shivratri prayer, and later walking on the cool mud floor of the long porch of the monks’ dwellings in the stillness of the evening, following the young bhakats as they one-by-one entered their respective dwelling, with an especial chuckle and excitement because of young Adi around, and then saying farewell to the last bhakat as he entered his dwelling, who in the light of dusk and his white robes and an earthen light in his hands moved me in a deeply reverential way, and to whom I expressed my deepest sense of gratefulness for being made such a wholesome part of their evening ritual. I will remember how we then learnt of a bhaona happening in Bongaon late at night and deciding to go for it to complete our Majuli experience — just the day before we had visit Chamaguri Satra and observed the mask makers at work, especially Anvita who also got to know more about the process in such a wholesome manner —  and how after a few minutes into the performance, Anvita returned saying the acoustics were too loud for her! (I was in the car, working hard to stay awake so that I could keep a watch over sleeping Adi so that Anvita and Krystof could enjoy their bhaona experience. I cracked up when Anvita, ever so humbly and even apologetically, expressed that the acoustics drove her out of the nam ghar!)

Last but not the least, I will think of Poonam Aunty, the sparkle in her eye and the joy in her heart to have such lovely company at home. It made me note even more deeply her resilience (she perhaps is one of the most resilient people I will ever know) and how despite having lived in such a heavy air for so long, having lived against her nature for so long, had lost none of her life’s energy as she continued to adapt and always did her best in every situation, and whenever life gave her the opportunity, her eyes, smile and her entire being did a dance of joy that any beholder would be drawn to. My words here may sound romantic, but I feel like its more of a cool observation of truth of a resilience whose depths I continue to feel in awe of.

My stream of consciousness can flow endlessly in reminiscence of this week in March, and it is all wrapped up in Adi’s refrain, which ever so often comes to my mind just like a breeze that picks up almost out of nowhere, that he must introduce all his friends in Prague to “Saurav, Peeshee, and Poonam Aunty”.