We who come from the north-east of India to feel a sense of guilt for reading English books, watching Hollywood movies and soaps and not regional cinema, let alone popular Hindi movies and for hearing and singing English songs. I also found myself sometimes, defending the fact that cinema halls in Darjeeling and Sikkim did screen Hindi movies, which were widely watched and that south Indian movies were much awaited and enjoyed as well. But to much dismay, this still did not alter the attempts at fitting in well to engage in the cultural dialogue that existed among the lower classes in mainland India.
“So where does your son work?” I asked; ‘Hajirabad’, replied Ghanshyam Thapa, a Nepali elder from Bhutankhuti village falling under Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC). Confused initially, I said that it’s Hyderabad, in vain though. “Yes, that place – Hajirabad” replied Ghanshyam. Later it dawned in my mind that the apparent linguistic travesty of Ghanshyam Thapa inadvertently represented the stark reality of Bhutankhuti along with most of the villages of the region falling under Baksa district in Western Assam. Hajira in Assamese roughly translates in English as labour, hence as Hyderabad hosts a large number of migrants from northeast India, it becomes ‘Hajirabad’ to Ghyansam Thapa. Bhutankhuti is the last village in India before the Bhutan border; lying 21 km north of the National highway 31. A random interview in the households of the nearby villages, across the different communities would provide similar narratives of out migration.