My growing up years in Guwahati, Assam is one of the best period of my life. We did not have an internet driven, very active social medium those days. Establishing and maintaining social relationships meant visiting acquaintances in their homes, called ‘ Maat loguwa’ in Assamese. Nobody needed to phone and take prior permission but simply walk into the houses of their choice people of the day! Unbelievable nowadays, isn’t it?
I remember accompanying my Maa to her friends and relatives houses sometimes, when she could catch hold of me. I always had a long list of excuses why not to accompany her, but sometimes they would fall on her momentarily deaf ears and there I would be 10 minutes later, scrubbed and neatly dressed, holding on to her hands with the face of an innocent lamb being led to slaughter. Maa would be busy exchanging niceties and notes with her friends or relatives( whoever it was that day), while poor me was left to fend for myself along with being on best behaviour. If lucky, we would go to a house with children, and my day wouldn’t be so bad. But if not, I would have to sit like a doll all throughout the conversations and gossip that invariably followed it without paying attention as strictly demanded by my Maa’s established etiquette code.
The hardest part was sipping those horrible ‘gakhir paani’ or watered milk which would be served to children then while the elders had their tea. And I hated it when Maa insisted I didn’t want anything to eat and turn down those delicious sounding omelettes, pitha or ni ki/singara. And when the hostess would compliment Maa on my good behaviour, my Maa would laughingly add….no no, don’t be deceived, mirror is turned now! Aha, I would smile at myself, say say, but unknown to you I have an updated list of gossip now! Wait till I share those with my friends! My parents friends and relatives as well as elders in the neighbourhood were considered guardians by us and we dealt with them respectfully. They too looked out for our welfare and wouldn’t hesitate in reprimanding us if they saw us going astray.
Those old neighbors and friends of my parents still hold a special place in my heart and even today do not fail to make me glad on meeting them. I am happy to have experienced such beautiful days of growing up and feel sad to see the plight of the children nowadays they have so much which again is really too little!
(The article is solely the opinion of the authors. The views expressed here are solely personal and not in any way connected to any organisation or any political party ).