Of Yellow Lights And White Bougainvillea

Ashish Kalita
Sep 11, 2020   •  0 views

The word ‘stagnant’ shouldn't have existed in the first place. Everything changes. Nothing remains the same.

Time is an artist - it mesmerizes us, makes us melancholy at times, and yet, it never ceases to awe-inspire us.

I grew up in the nineties, and I believe there is something special about it. Sometimes, without the slightest of warning, I go back to the time when I was a kid, when 'life' was just a four –letter word, when the woes of the elderly seemed cliche'd and irrelevant. It was those “all's- gonna- be- easy” times.

My childhood was also the time 'Guwahati' was emerging from 'Gauhati', like a product of slow metamorphosis. The air was cleaner, living was simpler, people were nicer - and such good things. One of the vivid memories of those days was the time I spent in my favorite holiday destination – Koka-Aita's place (grandfather-grandmother’s place). Pamper was something which I rightly believed was my birthright, more so as I was the first of the other grandchildren to come. My yet-to-be married aunts were my best allies.

The other memory is that of my grandfather’s black Ambassador, a vintage one with a Nagaland registration number. For me, it was no beauty. It was an ungainly looking machine, with sofa-like seats on the interior. I remember how it used to get terribly hot inside the car during the summers - greenhouse inside a black house. But there was an aura around it - occasional family trips and a plethora of memories.

There used to be long walks with Koka almost every evening; the fewer number of automobiles in the city made it enjoyable. The itinerary started from Rajgarh Road, via Commerce College, Chandmari flyover, Assam Tribune office and back home. There were many co-walkers, and there was the occasional meet-and -greet. The giant yellow streetlights overlooking the Chandmari flyover shone in glory, like sultans of a newly conquered territory. At times while walking on that flyover, I would stop and gaze with untamed wonder at those giant street lights. I would look at my arms and hands; they were all yellow - like that Coldplay song. What was I thinking back then? My first love for technology, was it? I don’t exactly remember what, but the yellow light was brilliant, its height uncompromising. Later, someone was to tell me that Bhupen da composed a few lines in a song as an ode to the newly installed neon streetlights in Guwahati : "neon sakiye aji soku tipiyai, xorot xondhya moha nogori xojai..." ( As the neon lights blink, an wintry evening in the city is beautified). Today, I can relate to what the Bard was musing upon.


(picture courtesy : Google images)

The area around Gauhati Commerce College - J B Law College witnessed a similar youthful evening crowd during those days too, although on a lesser intensity. Trellis of white bougainvillea hung from the wall of the Law College, and I remember bringing a handful home every time we went for a walk. Not many liquor shops on the way as these days, that I can recollect (or may be my interests were different back then). 'MOD'ernity is a post-modernist culture, I like to tell myself.

Singaras and Kasories were the all-time favorite evening snacks; momos et. al. were unheard of. Countable number of restaurants and popular tea stalls used to be patronized by people. Streets looked barren during an one-day international cricket match, and also on Sundays, especially during the telecast hours of Mahabharata on Doordarshan. Gully cricket was in vogue; so was kite-flying. One had to literally dial numbers on the telephone, the ones with the coiled wires attached to the handset. I don't remember Valentine's Day celebrations, but I do recollect Saraswati Puja - two completely different occasions, but a jovial day for college sweethearts. And hey! we didn't have Halloween back then.

I don’t live in the past, but the child in me keeps returning. It’s like when you open up an old photo-album, you start living those bygone moments without any deliberation. And while staring at an old photograph, you vividly remember the conversation which took place during that frame of time, a joke that someone cracked which made you laugh, and you inadvertently start smiling thinking of it. You find joy again; you declare your present condition as overrated.

Koka-Aita's place, that old Ambassador, the trellis of white bougainvillea, yellow lights over Chandmari - all these have become a part of me, like bits of photo frames in an old hard-bound album. And what purpose does an old photo-album serve, other than re-kindling nostalgia.

I grew up in this place, and this place grew with me. The black ambassador was sold long back, and Koka left us almost an year ago. The roads of Guwahati aren't safe for walking for average pedestrians, let alone septuagenarians with grandchildren. Real estate, shopping malls and pubs have replaced the human touch and empathy.

But I harbor no complaints. The past has been lived out; the present will also meet the same fate. Time will roll, events will pass. But these simplistic memoirs will remain; memories, for which I have a deep sense of gratitude. I am grateful because I grew up in the nineties; in this place, among the yellow lights and white bougainvillea.