Saving and Nurturing the Assamese in us and in our posterity

There is always a sadness about packing. I guess you wonder if where you’re going is as good as where you’ve been.
-Richard Proenneke

With globalisation and the changing trends of the world, with advancement in technology and emergence of a host of new and varied career opportunities, the need for relocation to a new city or country has fairly been common these days. This piece has been written keeping in mind this group of people and their families in general and the Assamese community in particular.

Visiting a new place as a tourist and living there for good are two very different things. The latter involves a lot of physical and mental preparations and comes with a host of new challenges. A home away from home is not easy to set up and settle down in. Though this mostly holds good for relocation abroad, even shifting within the country involves the four different phases of culture shock everyone has to go through in various amounts: honeymoon, frustration, adjustment and acceptance.

Now there are many of us who must stay in a different state or country for a long time, adjusting themselves to the culture around and watching the next generation grow in it from a tender age. Learning the local language and culture and adapting to it is appreciable and essential. But at the same time, the importance of keeping one’s own language and culture alive and passing it to future generations in an unadulterated form becomes paramount.

We, the Assamese people are blessed with a rich cultural heritage and an affluent language. We are proud of our assimilative festivals and delectable cuisines. The Assamese diaspora may not be able to reproduce all aspects of their motherland elsewhere, but we should at least always endeavour to retain and nourish those basic elements in our lives which form the backbone of our cultural and linguistic legacy. That way, no force in the world will ever be able to strip us off our roots and we need not have to fear any socio-political turmoil or demographic threats to ever wipe us out. But of course, the essential political steps to secure the geographical land we hold dear for our own language and culture to flourish must be actively taken and not ignored.

 Coming to language, it’s one of the primary elements which identifies and distinguishes a particular community. Keeping our language alive does not only mean the basic ability to speak the raw and colloquial tongue, but also yearning to learn its rich literary form in order to be able to read and understand the great works of the past as well as to be in touch with contemporary literature and music. And furthermore, to attain the proficiency and skill to pen in that language using correct vocabulary and grammar and thus contribute to the world of Assamese literature through any media at one’s disposal is an enriching reward to oneself and the community. For this, we must all strive to continually learn Assamese as a language and also teach the younger ones by reading ourselves as well as providing them with good works in the language, be it books, news articles, journals or websites. In my own personal experience, the young Assamese everywhere have become increasingly ignorant of our rich literary heritage and have driven far away from this noble pursuit which once was considered fundamental to the survival of our identity as a community. Many Assamese today who excelled in other academic endeavours and achieved great milestones in this world of science and technology struggle even to read a single sentence written in Assamese and they along with their guardians just laugh it off as a trivial matter. This attitude of negligence to our mother tongue, in my humble opinion, poses a far greater threat to our ethnic existence than any other force at work. Our young must read the same old books we once read, they must be introduced to the giants of Assamese literature, there is no alternative, no shortcuts. We owe this to them and our motherland or else we today will be the ones responsible for the decay of a great culture and civilisation tomorrow.

The same applies to other cultural elements and festivals. Our dedication should be sincere, unwavering. The young with us out of Assam must not be deprived of the experiences of their fellowAssamese in the mainland. They must not remain ignorant of what their peers back home knows. We must provide them with ample opportunities to taste the flavours of their homeland here. This is their birthright and we have no right to rob them of it.

In conclusion, i would like to take pride in stating that Asomi steps in right there. In Pune, Asomi is that mini-Assam, that platform where we can try to achieve all these and more. The various cultural events organised by Asomi, the Bihu celebration, the film festivals, the various co-curricular activities and competitions for the young are but few of the many ventures Asomi undertakes. We are all part of the organisation but at the same time indebted to it for its relentless and persistent pursuit to keep the Assamese in us and in our children alive and kicking. May Providence bless Asomi to keep achieving its goals and milestones now and forever. The banner-bearing hands may change, but till then, let’s prepare and train the coming generation enough so that when their time comes, they may hold the banner of Asomi strong and high. Jai Aai Axom.

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