Thursday, April 14, 2016

Rongali Bihu: A very Happy New Year for me.

I started the first day of this Assamese Year 1424 by touching the feet of my parents, asking for their blessings; and giving them small gifts of love. I am blessed to have got this opportunity for the second time in my aware adult life. But when I look around, there are not many old parents and not many children who are as fortunate. They live far away from each other.

Families in Assam are separated today, separated for economic reasons looking for a better life, for a better livelihood. We separate for a better education, and then for the lack of an employment opportunity in our home towns. I separated from my parents at the small age of 11 years when I got admissions to study in the prestigious Sainik School Goalpara in 1987. From then, till January 2014, I stayed away from my parents and my close family in almost all the festivals. The separation was became starker after I had started working in a full time job from 2001. The separation is temporary when you are away from your family for higher studies. It becomes semi-complete when you start working separately from your family, and then becomes complete when you marry and raise your own family away from your parents.

It is only when I had quit my job in Mumbai, shifted to a small town called Duliajan in Assam, and started staying with my parents, in the house built by my parents, that I started understanding and appreciating the significance of a simple family life with your parents and neighbors. It is surprising that the idea of progress has somehow become an anti-thesis to a happy joint family life.


Everyone needs a house to live in, but a family of elders and children inside makes it a home. A home is where one learns the softer aspects of life. A school gives us technical education in various subjects. It makes us eligible for a career. A job gives us experience in doing a particular commercial activity, and gives us money in return. A home and a family gives us love, gives us unconditional support and teaches us the values and frailties of human life.

Our home and our family teaches us the values of tradition, of relationships, of money, of happiness and sadness. It lets us experience old age through the eyes of our grand parents and then our own parents. It makes us modest about the inevitability of the disabilities that comes with age. Most importantly, our family helps in binding us to the values. We may dislike the binding that a family builds around you when we are young and rebellious, but my impression is that we will cherish those bindings and strict rules, as we grow older and wiser.

Surely, our families cause a bit of heart-ache as well. For instance, I have come to realise that in every dispute between parent and child, both cannot be right, but they may be, and usually are both wrong. Interestingly, it is this situation that gives family life its peculiar charm.


There is no denying the fact that it is difficult to earn a good living in a society which is not doing well in terms of a healthy business environment. Assam and its economy could not flourish to give its citizens enough jobs and business opportunities. Secondly, our education made us 'un-suitable' for agricultural handwork and income. Agriculture being our primary occupation traditionally lost its charm as a career avenue and that caused a lot of strain on our societies and families. It became one of the major reason for the separation in our family systems. It led to 'un-naturally rapid' work-led migration from villages to urban areas in the state and outside the state.

Economic life in a village, staying with your family, was centred around cooperation and coordination. It was based on sweet (sometime sour) relationships. The whole village was a well-oiled support system for an individual in his economic, social and spiritual journey of life. In contrast, life in an urban area is isolated, individualistic and materialistic. Materialism after a certain threshold becomes competitive and leads an individual away from the cosy comforts of a family.

Also, the economic life of a village could not connect to the markets of the urban economy and the produce of a rural economy couldn't demand its rightful value in the globalised economy of today. As a result, the rural economy didn't get efficient. Adding to that was the land availability for a growing family. This was a concern in the smaller towns and villages closer to towns where land ownership was not enough for a growing family. Children had to move out in search of a career to other regions of the state, and mostly outside the state.

Lastly the manufacturing and the service sector didn't mushroom in our state due to various reasons which could have created many jobs for the youth of our families.


I want to tell my story in a small town with no family land, after living the life of a highly paid MNC employee in the most urban of urban cities, Mumbai; with a hope that perhaps it can be a thinking point to leave the logically obvious lucrative urban individual life.

It is quite obvious that I feel quite strongly that it is more fulfilling to be with your parents and your children growing up with your grand parents, grand uncles and aunties. I would never go back to Mumbai. I have been refusing lucrative job offers that have come my way to take me back to Mumbai.

I am happy. It is surprising even for my wife and so it may surprise you as well. I need to tell you that  that simple reason why I am happy is because I have made my life simpler, easy. My easy life like everybody else's, revolves around a few beliefs. My beliefs are just simpler and basic.
  1. Knowing to keep yourself busy is the first step to happiness.
  2. Although it is better if you get to do what you love, to earn a living, yet there is nothing worse than not doing anything for the want of doing something you love.
  3. Handwork and focus guarantees your objectives in life within a justifiable time frame. No point in getting impatient. 
  4. Your life is as good as the good that you do. Being good is about trying to be truthful, not thinking ill about anybody and not doing anything that may harm any third party emotionally or physically.
  5. Believe in the dignity of labour irrespective of the kind of labour that you put in. The society loves or hates you because of your character or nature; definitely not because of the kind of labour that you do.
  6. You become a better person if you can sacrifice your immediate happiness to take care of your parents and elders.

These are easy beliefs that everyone is aware of and the good news is that they work.

I had my plans when I left Mumbai. They didn't materialise, given that the complicated planning was done in Mumbai without studying ground realities of a small town, and my own abilities to organise a business. When you work for someone, you only acquire skills. You do not become enterprising. I didn't learn to become a businessman.

To keep myself busy, I had my fallback options ready. We had a small shop with a tailor and a few embroidery machine. My parents had established that shop to retail school uniforms and to take orders for embroidery. Since my parents had practically retired from the business, the shop was making losses. I was never involved in the business, but without a second thought, I started attending the shop. With time, the shop had its own ways to keep me busy. It gave me ideas that can be tried. I didn't care about the tag of being a shopkeeper and started investing time and money into the shop. I had the advantage of knowing computers that helped us plan better. I had the advantage of language and experience of living in Mumbai to get supplies directly from manufacturing hubs, in order to offer a competitive price for school uniforms. I could understand the intricacies of the business within no time and the business peaked up after the first 6 months.

It was easy and I was less stressed. More than that I was having breakfast, lunch and dinner at my home with my family: my parents, my wife and my two dogs.

I am happy with my easy life. I even take a nap in the afternoon once in a while. Even when I am busy, I am busy with my own work that matters to me directly. I get time to clip the nails of my parents, shave my dad's beard, visit my relative's place and get to know about my family history. These are small pleasures of life that completes your life.

Embedded below is a video of Jon Jandai who had given me inspiration about leading a simpler life and a happier life.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Bangladeshi Immigration is a non-issue for Assam.

A garment factory in Bangladesh
This Assam Elections will perhaps be the last election that will be fought on the issue of Bangladeshi immigration to Assam. In fact, I would stick my neck out and opine that we should not vote for people whose only agenda is against Bangladeshi immigration.

The reasons why poorest of the poor Bdeshi(s) had been coming to Assam, have ceased to exist. Why do I think so?
  1. Assam was a top 5 economic power when India got independence. Partition, high population
    density, cyclones, poverty had therefore pushed people to a more prosperous and proximate region, Assam. Today, Assam is in the bottom in terms of economic development.
  2. Earlier, land was easily available in Assam. Social resistance to accept them were lesser. Not anymore. Also, micro-agriculture is no longer as profitable. Perception wise, Assam does not offer opportunities anymore. It is not attractive.
  3. Other Indian regions like Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad offers better opportunities for Bangladeshi immigrants than Assam in terms of jobs.
  4. Bangladesh is now the garment manufacturing hub globally. It is the 5th largest exporters of bicycles to Europe. BRAC has done wonders for employment. Enormous job creation and its percolating benefits have started working in Bangladesh. Assam (and India) is practically nowhere in comparison.
    A happy woman worker in Bangladesh
  5. Women employment (36%), women literacy (86% of males) is better than India's; fertility rate, most interestingly is lower than Hindu women in India. All social indicators of B'desh is better than India's which will have long term positive effects. (Interesting because lot of us think Muslims have higher fertility rates..haha!)
Hence I think it will be foolish to vote for any party which is claiming to stop B'deshi infiltration. It has stopped already.. To add, if VISA restrictions are lifted, Assamese will go to B'desh to work in those manufacturing factories as labourers.

So Vote Wisely. PS: I am not an anti-national singing paeans for a different country. I love Assam and India. I am just giving out information to prove that Assam needs development and jobs, million times more than a rhetoric of stopping Muslim B’deshi immigration, and accepting Hindu B’Deshi.

Bhagat Singh's 'Long Live the Revolution' and its relevance today.

Bhagat Singh - Long Live the Revolution
Shaheed Bhagat Singh always argued for the phrase 'Long Live the Revolution' (Inquilab Zindabad).

Once, a distinguished editor, Ramanand Chatterji ridiculed the slogan asking Bhagat Singh its exact meaning. He wrote, "when a desire is expressed for revolutions to live long, is it desired that the revolutionary process should be at work every hour, day, week, month and year of our lives? In other words, are we to have a revolution as often as possible?"

Bhagat Singh gave a brilliant response to this article which one must read, for it is relevant even today. He said, "Revolution is the spirit, the longing for a change for the better. People generally get accustomed to the established order of things and begin to tremble at the very idea of a change. It is this lethargic spirit that needs to be replaced by the revolutionary spirit. Otherwise degeneration gains the upper hand and the whole humanity is led astray by the reactionary forces. Such a state of affairs leads to stagnation and paralysis in human progress. The spirit of revolution should always permeate the soul of humanity.. old order should change, always and ever, yielding place to new, so that one good order may not corrupt the world. It is in this sense that we raise the shout: Long Live the Revolution. By long usage this cry achieves a significance which may not be quite justifiable from the grammatical or etymological point of view, but nevertheless we cannot abstract from that the association of idea connected with that."

In the age of the Internet, I see that we are moving away from revolutionary ideas to binary ideas: one or zero. Even though we know life is a shade of grey, we assume our beliefs in either black of white. Anti-capitalism is pro-communism. Pro-state enterprises is anti-capitalism. Anti-BJP is Pro-Congress. Pro-bangladeshi stand is pro-Muslim / a religious stand. Pro-kashmir plebiscite is anti-India. Not liking 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai" is Pro-Muslim or Pro Pakistan. Similarly, a short skirt means 'being available', and anti-short skirt means conservative. Having a boyfriend is not having a good ‘character’. Pro-housewife is against women independence. Pro-customs is against modernisation... and so on and so forth. These are kinds of binary justifications, Bhagat Singh believed, that make the society reactionary.

Bhagat Singh believed that Revolution can only survive in the shades of grey. Revolution survives in constant questioning of status quo. Revolution survives in finding those answers by reading books, debates and discussions. If we won't ask the questions then we won't find the answers.

Why a section of the students of one of the top universities find nothing wrong in the Azaadi of Kashmir?

What has led to the birth of ULFA, and why is it still alive after the Army (and political leaders) have used all its might, causing thousands of deaths, to annihilate its very existence?

Why is a private refinery, the biggest refinery in the Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic (Preamble) - India, when the top 5 profitable companies of the world are state run companies?

Why Muslims are considered a minority in the Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic, when religion should not have been a factor and when there are thousands of tribes and clans which are not only ‘minorities’ but also getting extinct by poverty?

What has made a nationalist Ahom (a royal tribe in Assam) not bothered about his long lost religious practices, but concerned about being a Hindu, which is not his original religion?

Why a general Digbol youth have not heard of ‘Raw Petroleum Coke’ when Digbol was the first plant in Asia to produce PetCoke?

Why is the Sericulture department of Lakhimpur College shut down, when Lakhimpur district used to produce the maximum silk (Muga) yarns for centuries?

Why is the FCI not buying a single kg of rice produced in Assam, citing higher moisture content, when distribution advantage within Assam of Assam produce far outweighs the storage disadvantage of high moisture rice?

What has made Bangladesh a garments powerhouse when its next door neighbour, (and a much less populated) Assam is languishing in its tears of poverty and unemployment?

With a broad objective held as sacrosanct, we have to keep questioning the status quo to arrive at revolutionary ideas to change the society for better. Bhagat Singh had equality of rights, opportunities, gender as his broad sacrosanct objective and dedicated his life to reading, questioning and sacrifice. A 23 year old Bhagat Singh once said, “Ma, I have no doubt that my country will be one day free. But I am afraid that the brown sahibs are going to sit in the chairs the white sahibs will vacate”. This I believe is the best example of an outcome that a 23 year old can achieve through ‘constant questioning’, ‘constant reading’ and with a ‘revolutionary spirit’.

Change is the only constant. Bhagat Singh said, “No change is possible without the destruction of the antiquated system. That was what stood like a wall in the way of progress. Philosophers had interpreted the world in different ways. But the real point was to change it. Revolution alone could do so”.

Long Live the Revolution.