Whether the India- China stand-off escalates or not, Modi has too much to gain from it. Whether India humiliates China or the other way, it would allow them their ongoing project of making India a Hindu Rashtra easier. Even in 1962, during the war, Delhi was able to force the Dravida Movement into submission and the Tamils had to surrender fully. In 2017, with Hindu Rashtra is no longer any distant possibility, an Indo-China war would be the final seal on our coffins of a Secular Democratic Republic.
The village of Dawki in Meghalaya is one of the many border crossing between India and Bangladesh. The Bangladeshi village of Tamabil lies on the other side of the border. It was my first ever visit to an Indian border town.
Armoured with a notebook, a lousy phone camera and a few overnight clothes, I nervously left Shillong alone and drove down to Topatoli in the Nagaon District of Assam, in order to re-enter Meghalaya from Raid Nongkhap,which spreads from Ri Bhoi District into Assam. I left with a thirst for narratives, of people, of nature, of existence in this space whose identity as a periphery was intensified and galvanized in the 1970s, post the formation of the Meghalaya statehood. This was when the river Umsiang was identified as a natural boundary between Assam and Meghalaya and when cultures in the region were starting to fracture, at least on paper.
“As kids we would go in a big group every night and watch jatra,” quips my maternal uncle. Then he launches into telling me about how jatras or Bengali folk theatre used to be the main attraction in Raas melas.
A few days ago, I found myself among 50 odd listeners, soaking in the field recordings, narrative-snippets, perceptions and emotional responses of singer-songwriter Moushumi Bhowmik…
I grew up in Shillong in the 1970s.
My sister went to Loreto, me to Pine Mount, and in that insular world of ours all that mattered was the grades we got in school and the prizes I won for the (mostly Bengali) songs I sang at Ananda Sammelan.
Then we left.
Then we chose to leave.
Then we had to leave.