In the twenty-four odd years of my life so far, I must have visited Dibrugarh, what, ten times at the most. Besides being my Mamma’s birthplace, Dibrugarh also happens to be where my Jethai (my Mamma’s elder sister, my Aunt) and recently my Mama (Mamma’s elder brother, my Uncle) have their homes. I have vague recollections of the Assam Medical College, where my Jethu (Jethai’s husband) had had his operation before his demise almost a decade later. I must have been five or six, and Mamma says I would make regular rounds of the wards decked up in my best white cotton chemise, performing (yes, performer I was even then) the famous Pan Pasand advertisement (Shaadi, aur tumse? Huh! Kabhi Nahi!) in front of anyone who requested me to do so, and come back hours later with my hands loaded with the loot of the day (biscuits, toffees and oranges) gifted by amused patients and their patient attendants. I should have given a thought to social service in the entertainment business, honestly speaking. I have a feeling I would have done great.
But coming back to Dibrugarh. I can’t help thinking that it was that very place where I rode my first bike (my cousin’s Pulsar 180cc) last year, or that the early morning ride to Bogibeel in bone-chilling January cold is something that I won’t forget for the rest of my life. Seems amazing how at that point of time I had thought Dibrugarh couldn’t possibly give me more joy than it already had. How wrong I was, and how happy am I to be proven wrong this time!
To begin with, I was traveling by car with both my parents, which was a first in a long time. And the weather was just right for a long journey. Isn’t there a saying about a perfect destination beginning with a perfect journey? If there isn’t, then there should be one. Because I believe my trip to Dibrugarh this time showed signs of awesomeness right from the journey across numerous tea estates, with trees in symmetry wearing drapes of creepers in uniform. Or maybe it was the brilliant hues of the flaming red Krishnosuras, blushing pink Radhasuras, sunshine-y yellow Xunarus and most of all the pretty purple Ejaars, which were in full bloom and splashed amidst lush dark green trees. Whoever says that spring is the only season of colors should seriously consider making a road trip from Tezpur to Dibrugarh in the month of June. I couldn’t sleep, didn’t want to sleep, just because I wanted to watch just how far the colors splashed into the horizon. It was almost like the Ejaars were trying their best to overpower the green, so much that it made me want to go and ask, “What’s up with you?? Why do you bloom this crazy??” and I know I am not crazy to want to go talk to the flowers because my Mamma said the same thing.
Refreshed and invigorated, we reached Dibrugarh just in time for sunset. And sweet lazy Nirmaligaon embraced me in the warm evening with outright palpable affection. Between visiting my Mama’s place and my Jethai’s place, all I did was bask in all the love, and then some more. And when night came, I tucked into my bed from where I could see this huge field right outside my window.
Come morning, I spent almost half an hour trying to come up with something I could DO. Having found nothing, and contemplating going back to sleep right away, I almost managed to tuck myself in again when I realized I was under a full blown attack by my nine year old cousin. Searching my recollections of the previous day to come up with some instant when I might have dropped him the hint that I was a human punching bag and failing for the second time since the moment I had woken up, I surrendered (like I had any other option anyway). A little later I found myself flat on my tummy, with him perched on my back, impersonating alternately a bike rider and an aeroplane pilot, depending on his whims and fancies. Did I mention that while my left leg was his brake, my right was his accelerator, and my hands locked behind on his tummy, his seat belt? Please don’t try imagine the situation. Just thinking about it gives me a back ache.
Relief came in the form of my Mama who asked us if we wanted to go get jamus from the tree in our backyard. And just like I used to when I must have been nine myself, I readily got up, rushed outside and followed my Mama with my cousin in tow, a long bamboo pole our aid in plucking and picking ripe jamus. I found myself giggling like a little girl while chasing after truant jamus which fell far away from the tree. And had you been there, I am sure you wouldn’t have been able to tell us apart. My nine year old kid brother and me.
In stark contrast to reliving my carefree childhood during the day, in the evening I underwent a complete transformation into a mekhela-sador clad “about-to-get-married” woman, accompanying my Bou to the Naamghor to serve tea to the people involved in the Bhaona Akhora (Bhaona is a religious form of drama, where mortals take on the roles of the Gods, and enact scenes from mythology, Akhora means rehearsal, Naamghor is the traditional place of worship for the Assamese). While my Jethai kept muttering blessings about how I was looking like the perfect Assamese buwari, my Dad kept sighing about his daughter finally growing up. And me? I was overwhelmed when I visited the same Naamghor that my Mamma had spent hours in as a child herself.
But if I had to choose one, just one Dibrugarh moment, it would be that night, or rather the wee hours in the morning, when sleepless and restless, I opened up the window facing the field, and couldn’t stop myself from gasping out loud. I sat there on my bed in front of the window, transfixed, at four in the morning, when light and dark were playing their own game of hide and seek. Crickets sang in unison like it was the end of the world, and only their singing could save us from imminent doom, while a lone cuckoo sang its solitary song as if it had forgotten that spring was long gone, and nobody bothered to break the news to it. There was a single tree in the huge field, and the field itself stretched on till it seemed to touch the horizon. A few lights from the distant towers of the radio center, and the TV center flickered rhythmically, but lost my attention when I witnessed my first dog star in ages. I don’t know how long I sat there. When I finally tried lying down and closed my eyes it was dawn already, and the angry blue clouds that spread out as sharp streaks in the night sky had softened to become swishy patches with the quintessential silver linings. And even though I was absolutely sleep deprived, I knew, I just knew, that I had fallen in love once again.