By Debopam Purkayastha and Atanu Nath
It is very difficult to write about a place that is unknown even to most people of the state that it belongs to! Lala Bazar, a frontier town of Assam, also called the gateway to Mizoram. There is no consensus among the historians on when exactly was the town founded! Many believe that it was most probably somewhere in the decade following the year 1880.,
Before 1972 when it was declared a new town of Assam, Lala Bazar used to be a small hut (hence “Bazar”). The oldest educational institution, Lala H. S. and M. P. School was established in the year 1903. It is believed that the word “Lala” is a Kuki word. Maybe it was always a gateway or a “passage” (La) to the state of Mizoram, used by various Tibeto-Burman people and hence the name or maybe not!
According to the 2011 census, Lala Bazar had a population of 11,771, with a male to female ratio of 0.98 compared to the national sex ratio of 1.06, a completely opposite trend. Lala Bazar has an average literacy rate of 94%, much higher than the national average. Despite the fact that Bengali is the dominant official language in this part of the state, we have a significant proportion of Meitei or the Manipuri people. We also have a large community of tea garden tribes, they include various linguistic groups. And of course the Marwari people. There are other minority groups that are not explicitly mentioned here given the brief nature of this article.
It’s almost a decade after the last census, a lot has changed since then, both good and bad. Dynasties have fallen and risen, we have witnessed so many changes, but the question that we must ask to ourselves is & are we losing the very essence of this place?; the essence of being racially and religiously diverse and yet united and most importantly connected!
Lala Bazar used to be a place where everyone knew pretty much everyone else, we had a tradition of celebrating Rabindra, Najrul, Netaji Jayanti, Bir Tikendrajit & Gandhi Jayanti, Eid, Muharram, Milad, Durga Puja, Saraswati Puja, Jhulan Jatra, Janmasthami and holi were big. We even kept a few least known, exotic, and almost extinct festivals close to our hearts, like Mera-Meri, Rakhal Seva, etc. In the 90s, there used to be a strange festival of playing with mud just after the day of Holi, but this was only famous among the children of the nearby villages and in the edge of the town.
We could be small and insignificant in this vast world but somehow we managed to have a unique identity, unique foods, especially the Baro-Moja,& Shidol-Bora etc of our town are really mouth-watering. In fact our & rasogollas are preferred over those of Silchar, because they can do it the way we do. We never forget the names: Prabhashini Mistanna Bhandar (this place has been closed recently), Kamala Mistanna Bhandar, and Radhika Mistanna Bhandar, famous for two special sweets, the Roshmalai and Khirtua, these are among the most famous sweets of Lala Bazar.
Our geography and the history of it make it even more interesting. How many of us know the details of the river Dhaleshwari becoming Katakhal? Do you know that Katakhal got its name from the kata (cut/dug)” khal when Dhaleshwari was engineered under the British raj so that it bypasses the town sparing it from monsoon floods, this is a local myth that might have some or great deal of truth in it! It’s up to the young generation to dig out the truth through proper research by acquiring and studying official records of that bygone era. There are many such almost forgotten stories, waiting to get lost forever with the last generation as families go nuclear with no chance of grandparents transferring their wisdom and folklore to the children! The current generation, mostly growing up hooked up to smartphones and smart TVs are either not much bothered or are completely unaware of what is there to be bothered with!
So, here we reunite to establish a bond that will bring us together to discover the true essence of this small piece of land surrounded by rivers and beautiful tea gardens. Here we will seek inspiration from the past and the passing generations, by listening to their stories and by connecting with them. Here we will share our happiness, pain and pride as a family. We will fight for its growth but not at the cost of losing its identity and heritage.