Never did I think in my wildest dreams that a place I had known only through my high school Geography text book and a bit of googling would turn out to be so memorable. Being unfamiliar with the territory and culture turned out to be a boon in disguise, as in addition to a bunch of memorably hilarious experiences I got the opportunity to explore and understand how rich India actually is in terms of beauty and diversity. From enjoying the bewitching view of the Brahmaputra in the mornings and evenings, to losing our way in the criss-cross lanes and using Google Maps to find our way back, to coming up with interesting experiments with breakfast at the guest house (special thanks to whoever came up with Toasted Maggi Sandwich), to being jolted awake at night by an earthquake, this trip had it all. Being terrorised by non-rent-paying houseguests (read: bumblebees and not-so-tiny cockroaches) was a priceless experience – I am sure the helpers at the guesthouse are still laughing remembering us. I can also safely say that I understand a few of the woes of hostellers – handwashing clothes really is a task…and where do those clothespins disappear when we need them the most!
The very thought of Guwahati makes my eyes light up. I have been more than fortunate to meet and interact with amazing people in my journey and have learnt that the tiniest of things make the greatest of differences. Everyone was so welcoming and kind that the six of us posted there needed barely any time to adjust. The most eventful part of the experience was planning our weekend explorations – EVERYBODY (including our colleagues, people we interacted during our field visits and even the cab drivers!) who came to know that we weren’t familiar with the North East helped us plan out our weekends and optimize our limited time. I loved that people in the North East were happier in general – almost everyone we met was cheerful and greeted us with a beaming smile.
Speaking of weekend explorations, the road trips are perhaps the ones I will miss the most, right from the “international breakfast visit” to Bhutan to seeing the one horned rhinoceroses sway their tails at Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary. The abode of clouds, Meghalaya, holds a special place in my heart – I will miss the amazing liveliness of Shillong, zip-lining across the green valley of Mawkdok/Dympep in Cherrapunji, enjoying the blissful paradise at Dawki and gaping in awe at the living root-bridge Mawlynnong. I am surely going to be back for more soon.
Being a mythology enthusiast, I was excited to explore places in and around Guwahati with a link to Hindu mythology, especially to Lord Shiva. In addition to Kamakhya I was intrigued to learn more about the Peacock Island in the Brahmaputra, which is the smallest riverine island. Also known as Umananda, the island is fabled to be created by Lord Shiva for Goddess Parvati’s pleasure.
Lord Shiva lived on the island in the form of Bhayananda and is said to have reduced Kamadeva to ashes by opening his third eye, thus giving the island the name Bhasmachal (hill of ashes). We learnt from the colleagues at the office that the island is home to six golden langurs which are looked after by the priests. The tiny island can be reached by a short boat ride (Speaking from experience, I would strongly suggest going with groups and not a private boat).
Guwahati has taught me a valuable lesson in adjustment – especially to the cuisine. After facing a few issues in the first week I learnt to stick to the tried-and-tested masala omelette and vegetable salad, while slowly adjusting to the local food. We discovered that there is more than enough to try.
I will miss having steaming hot vegetable and cheese momos with the spicy chutney at Prem Cold Centre in Fancy Bazaar and the perfect chhole tikki at the stall nearby. I smile at the thought of enjoying a tender coconut on our way to Khushboo Restaurant to have the most amazing melt-in-your-mouth cheese masala dosa. Another instance that I found really baffling was the pricing of food in the restaurants – having eaten at Udupi restaurants all my life, it was slightly shocking to observe the burgers and sandwiches priced lower than idlis!
Speaking of food-related memories, I fondly recollect celebrating my first salary with a medium Dominos’ Pizza along with a colleague and friend, and carrying our pizza boxes back to the guest house as neither of us were able to finish more than half of it. I still wonder at times how the lunch menu at the office and the dinner menu at the guesthouse was synchronized almost every single day, and developing a liking for Rasgullas after having had them twice a day (and how I have learnt to crave for desserts after lunch).
During our tiny stint we learnt that time is our enemy – we all have limited time in our lives, and despite our best effort, we miss out on things and experiences. Having tried to explore everything possible during our short stay, we visited a number of places in and around Guwahati. Even though we planned our best, we couldn’t visit a number of them. I regret not being able to visit Bellevue Point, Jagaran and Paradise Biriyani among others due to lack of time. I also feel to some extent that I could have planned my project better had I more time. Having said that, I do feel happy and contented about doing the best I could. As Deepika Padukone famously said in the movie Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani -“Jitna bhi try kar lo life me kuch na kuch toh chootega hi.”
In the brief span of a month, I attempted to gain an understanding of the telecom sector in the North East. After interacting with over a hundred people in various parts of the supply chain, I discovered that I have barely scratched the surface of the tip of the needle point! My Guwahati experience has essentially taught me to stay hungry and stay foolish. In conclusion, I would love to thank everyone who took out time to interact with us in the Assam Circle Office, especially Rakhi Ma’am, Mamoni Ma’am and Sayeed Sir, who really made our training a lot more special. I hope to be back in the North East soon.