Thursday, July 16, 2015

What’s in a Name – Well, it’s in the NRC!!!!

Juliet:  "What's in a name? That which we call a rose
             By any other name would smell as sweet."
Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare

Well, indeed what’s in a name? But, the recent NRC updating process in Assam surely has brought up this question. With thousands of people scampering to find the names of their ancestors in the NRC 1951 and Voter List prior to March 25, 1971, the power and beauty of names has come to the forefront.

Few weeks ago, I collected the Legacy Data of my grandfather online from the NRC Assam website ( The legacy data is part of the requirement for filling up the forms for the NRC updating process. My grandfather’s data was taken from the Voter List of 1971. At that time, he was a resident of Hoogrijan Tea Estate in Upper Assam. Just out of curiosity, I also made a search for the names of the residents living at that place during that time. While going through the list, I found out a bevy of ‘interesting’ names. I call them interesting because we don’t get to hear these names anymore. Some such names in the list were Ghasi, Dhonga, Fatu, Longa, Konde and so on. These names belonged to the Tea Tribe community. I too have grown up in a Tea Estate but these names were no longer in circulation in our times. But then I found some names in the list, the namesakes of which grew up alongside me in the tea garden. Such names were Etwa, Sukurmoni, Budhu and many more.

The list of names came to my mind again today after reading an interesting article in the Telegraph newspaper. The article, titled “Names apart, 'fast' track way to NRC - And Gerela comes home, safe & dry” (, also speaks about names found in the NRC. The article speaks about the abundance of the name ‘Gerela’ in the NRC in villages in Jorhat, Golaghat, Sivasagar, Morigaon, Nagaon and many more. It speaks about Assamese names which have slowly gone ‘out of fashion’; names like Golapi, Podumi, which are no longer being given to the children.

Another paragraph of the article talks about some more fascinating names. It states, “…..there are also the registered Jolokias (chillies), Jaluk (pepper), Bogori (the berry), Paikari (wholesale), even Pokor (the fundament of the human anatomy), Kukurekhoa (one bitten by a dog) and Kekora (the crab), one belief then, it is said, being that in the days when cholera was an epidemic, a name that could test the limits of human nomenclature could ward off the evil eye…”

Names are indeed mystical. You may hear your name being called many times a day by various people, but hearing your name from the lips of the person you love is altogether a different experience. Also, you may hear numerous names in a day but hearing the name of some ‘special’ person, your mind may drift away for some time.

Also, there are certain names which get etched in your memory. Even if you have no connection with persons with them presently, you tend to still remember them just for their names. In my case, I still remember two boys from the tea garden, who used to play Cricket with us when we were children. These two were brothers, the elder’s name was Laal (meaning red colour), while the younger’s name was Boga (meaning white colour). There were many other boys who played intermittently with us during those times, but after all these years I only remember these two boys, mainly because of the uniqueness of their names. 

This NRC updating process has indeed taken the people here into looking for names long forgotten.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

'Bagan Show’, Mithun Chakraborty and the Tingling of First Love

Spending the formative years of one’s life in a Tea Estate gives you a set of memories which is as aromatic as the smell of tea leaves. The memories are as vivid as the shades of the tea leaves during its different stages of growth. While my mind is filled with numerous such memories, here I would like to mention about one of the most anticipated events in a tea garden during my childhood and how it had an impact on me falling in love for the first time. The event I am talking about is the ‘Bagan show' – the screening of movies in the open spaces of tea gardens during the festivals, especially during Durga Puja or Kali Puja. It was an event all the residents of the tea garden eagerly waited for, especially the garden labourers. The movies were screened for two or three days, with three movies screened per day (rather night), starting from around 7 pm up to early morning. A white screen was put up and a portable platform built to accommodate the projector. Sometimes it was projected directly from inside a mobile van. The screening venue would be filled up hours before the film began. People used to bring chair, stools, etc from their homes to sit and watch the movies. There were many people who also sat on the ground and watched the films. 

Here I would like to confine myself to the events of the Bagan show during the year 1998, as it turned out to be most memorable and eventful show during my 16 years of stay at the tea garden. That year the Bagan show was being held for two days during the Kali puja. I was in Class Eight that year. Me and my friends took chairs from our respective houses in the morning and placed them at a suitable place. We tied the chairs together with rope so that no one can alter our sitting arrangements. Then we eagerly waited for the night.

The first film began around 7 pm in the night. It was Mithun Chakraborty’s film ‘Mard’. Those days Mithun was a super hero among the tea garden labourers (and even for us). His action movies were very popular. There used to be at least three movies of Mithun during such shows. We too grew up on his movies and till day I watch his films whenever it comes on the television.  The film began with whistles and thunderous applause from the tea garden audience. The movie continued. During one of the numerous action scenes in the movie, Mithun in a ghastly display of prowess ripped out one hand of one of the villains. More whistles from the crowd followed. The hullabaloo began soon after.

The films were divided into several reels and as one finishes, the next one is put on the projector. Now, after the reel containing the above mentioned action scene was over, the next reel was put on the projector. It went fine for some time. Then came a scene where it was seen that the villain, whose one hand was ripped apart by Mithun, now had both of his hands in place. The realization dawned among the audience. The film reels have been put in a wrong order. Shouts started emerging among the audience and soon all hell broke loose. The labourers were furious at what had happened. They stalled the screening. We were thinking that this will be the end of our movie experience for that year. But finally the things came under control and the film screening resumed. We watched that movie and came back to our home as we were not allowed to watch the other movies till early morning. 

The next day, we were accompanied by the mother of one of our friends. I was sitting right next to her. To my other side sat the sister of one of my friends. The first film of the night began. Again, as expected, it was a Mithun Chakraborty starrer ‘Military Raj’. The film had ‘A’ certification, but I guess no one cared really back then. But it surely put me in embarrassing situations throughout its running time. There were numerous scenes of physical closeness among the actors and whenever those scenes used to come up, my friend’s mother used to lower her face. I too did the same as I was sitting next to her. My eyes, however, made the best efforts to look at the screen surreptitiously. The whistles and catcalls followed all such scenes. It happened many times during the movie. I still remember the reaction of my friend’s mother when such a scene came up for the first time. 

And while we were busy watching these movies, something else began in the inner chambers of my brain. The flow of Oxytocin and Testosterone increased inside me and I fell in LOVE for the first time. My heart had fallen prey to the girl who sat beside me during both these days. May be Mithun da’s action and romance onscreen had made my heart flutter and fall for the cute, beautiful girl of my neighbourhood. I still vividly remember that after that year’s Bagan show I began giving more attention towards her. She became my girl friend later and though Mithun da had no role in her accepting my proposal, I still think that he had a played an important role in our courtship.