In the morning of December 12, 2019 most people around the Uzan Bazar, Ambari area of Guwahati had come out to see who had assembled at the Latasil field and hear some of the speakers they were sure would come: Zubeen, Samujjal and others who had been vocal in their opposition to to the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB). Before mobile internet services were shut down at 1900 hours on December 11, 2019, many citizens of Guwahati had updated their status to ask people to come to Latasil grounds at 1100 hours the following day. The messages had a ring of defiance to them. In an age that demands distraction via the world wide web, the status updates managed to help individuals focus on the event that they were coming out to participate in.
The feeling sank into my stomach like a stone. This wasn’t the city of my childhood vacations anymore. Had I grown up so quickly as to quietly absorb this pinching away of the dearest part of my treasure of memories? Or was this gross erasure an external change taking everything and everyone over elsewhere as well as in the city? I wasn’t so corrupted with knowledge then as now. As any child of eleven, I too didn’t bother to explain or philosophise. I only felt the difference with my senses: the cattle-touched smell of earth was gone; and it had taken with it a school-ridden child’s hyacinth and vine-covered paradise of her imagination and escape. I had lost something irretrievably. And it wasn’t even my fault.
Born and brought up in Guwahati, I have a bond as deep as an umbilical cord with the city. Living outside the city and the state for almost fourteen years now, I have been through my academic and creative pursuits in the recent past, trying to explore non-mainstream narratives of Assam. This is a project that I embarked on since 2016 where I am trying to map the cityscape through my camera.
The students across the four campuses of Tata Institute of Social Sciences: Mumbai, Guwahati, Hyderabad and Tuljapur have been protesting since 20th of February, 2018 against Privatisation of Higher education. There has been a series of demands that the student body has put up since the last 8 months. However, in the absence of acknowledgement of the demands from the side of TISS administration, the students boycotted the classes since 21st of February 2018.
It was an afternoon with colours of hope, pride and prejudices coming to a halt.
I kept wondering if the ISL match would have been possible in Guwahati even a decade ago. Would people have braved humid weather, dust, long lines and trudged to a stadium completely disconnected from the heart of the city? Would they have been as enthusiastic about the easy manner in which regional politics merged with national markets? Actually, I’m stretching the truth a bit. My colleagues and I skipped out of the stadium happy that we had won on the strength of a solitary goal, scored by a Japanese player and supported by a host of players of different nationalities.