Hariyali chahake bagaan,
ke...e jabe chhariye Assam
These are a few lines from an Assamese folk song that reads, "Oh Dear, why will I leave the lush green tea gardens of Assam?" However, better education and opportunities have brought many people from Assam to the national capital. They now live here and call it their home.
Adrita Buragohain, 22 (Student of MA History, DU) says, "I miss the clear blue skies, the tea garden in front of my home, the greenery and of course the food - "masor tenga" (a fish dish) , pork with bamboo shoots."
Rajat Roy moved from Assam to Noida almost six years ago for his work. Two of the biggest challenges he faced initially were the language barrier and food. Over time, he got accustomed to the taste and slowly found comfort in the Assamese community in Delhi.
Over the years, Roy mentions a cultural amalgamation that is visible when he looks at his sons.
"Both of my sons are fluent in Hindi. They both can speak Assamese but cannot read or write the script." Roy further claims that though it sometimes gets difficult to hold onto the culture when one is away from their homeland, the Assamese community in Delhi-NCR celebrates Assamese festivals and keeps their culture intact.
The Assamese community in Delhi is one of the most vibrant and united. The credit for this goes to the associations working toward preserving the culture. The All Assamese Students' Association (AASA) is a student-led association working towards making the Assamese students feel at home in Delhi. AASA was established in 2009 as a students' society, but it has grown ever since. Students who graduated remained in touch with AASA making it a large Assamese community in Delhi. People from other communities also take part to experience the rich traditions.
Angkur Das, General Secretary of AASA says, "One of the biggest challenges that Assamese people face when they shift to Delhi is food. We have different taste buds and the traditional food that we eat has different flavours."
He continues, "Some of the traditional vegetables are available in the local vegetable market while for some, we have identified specific markets and places where they sell Assamese food."
Seven Sisters PG in Delhi's North Campus, Kanakalata PG in South Campus, Assam Food Stall in INA Dilli Haat, and some stores in Vijay Nagar are the places where one can find the delicacies Assamese delicacies served.
AASA operates from the heart of Delhi's educational hub- North Campus, but it has managed to expand across the universities of Delhi-NCR, including Jawaharlal Nehru University, Jamia Millia Islamia, Amity, etc.
AASA also organises several sports meet and thus have ties with many universities across India, giving the Assamese students a common interactive space. At the beginning of every academic session, AASA conducts an ice-breaking session for students to help them meet other community members. Further interactions happen through the mode of weekend sessions. Apart from community building, the students are taken to many places around Delhi to familiarize with the city and make new friends.
AASA is one of the most active Assamese societies in Delhi that operates on students' initiatives. This comes with a lot of responsibilities too. Sanjib Kalita, Vice President of AASA, says that AASA organises various events like Freshtivals (Freshers), Blood Donation Drives, and Sports meet, allowing them to know people better.
Unlike CR Park- Delhi's Bengali Colony, the Assamese community in Delhi does not have a colony of its own. However, the Swagatam Guest House at Safdarjung is a common place for get-togethers. Among other events, Assamese festivals become a time for celebration for the students here. Bihu and Saraswati Puja in February are some of the major festivals here.
Bihu is a major festival that the Assamese community of Delhi looks forward to celebrating, far from their homes. Both Kalita and Das have stated that organising Bihu in 2022 was one of the biggest challenges that they have faced. "Many seniors who were post holders of AASA earlier have now graduated, and juniors did not have any experience as they never attended any event before due to Covid. Thus, the responsibility fell upon the shoulders of very few. Nevertheless, the event was not only a success with over 2,000 people as turnout, but it also attracted people from other communities!"
This year, AASA successfully celebrated Bohag Bihu, which was put on halt for the last two years due to Covid. Bohag Bihu is celebrated in April during the Assamese New Year and is considered one of the most important festivals of Assam. There are three types of Bihu celebrated in Assam: Bohag Bihu in April, Kati Bihu or Kongali Bihu in October, and Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu in January.
Though festivals like Durga Puja are also celebrated on a big scale back in Assam, in Delhi, this is when most of them visit their homes. Durga Puja is also celebrated by the Bengali community of Delhi. Roy says, "We attend the Bengali community's Durga Puja if we are not visiting home at that time."