By Paul Lyngdoh
NOW that our collective paean to Keats’s “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” by way of the Autumn fest has finally been sung- although there was quite a bit of Axl Rose’s November Rain to punctuate it- a review is in order. Let’s quickly announce the awards for this year’s festival before we proceed to the main events and the tentative itinerary for Autumn fest, 2012:
The Best Attraction Award: Alternatively, it can also be called the War of Attrition Award for the heartburn and tug-of-war it caused. Without doubt, the best attraction was the volume of words spewed out for and against holding the grand finale on a Sunday, the venomous name-calling, the umpteen number of political parties, NGOs and Church bodies wanting to be heard loud and clear above the maddening noise rivalled only by the sounds of Diwali crackers.
The Best Road Show Award: Coming close on the heels of India’s first-ever Formula 1 in Greater Noida, ours was a road show with a difference: hundreds of vehicles stranded throughout Saturday and Sunday last in an attempt to hold the tourist’s attention longer than he would otherwise be willing to pay and make the experience truly “unforgettable”. In a fast-paced world, the gridlock served to remind tourists that here in Meghalaya things move at a leisurely pace and “there is time to stand and stare” after all. Look at the Leshka , the Assembly complex and the Shillong by-pass projects- to name just a few. Don’t they all serve to remind all and sundry that we move at a rhythm of our own choosing? What is a mere 12-hour traffic jam that one should get so worked up when calculated against the thousands of years of our ancient civilization since the days of U Sohpetbneng?
The Worst Loser Award: There simply is no claimant to the award other than the people of Meghalaya who, collectively, have lost face, sleep, a fair amount of goodwill and more than a fair amount of reason in the pre- and post-Carnival ruckus. The citizen was faced with a choice of whose side he was on in the debate between the two warring camps. One is reminded of George Bush Jr.’s famous quote during the War on Terror :”If you are not with us, then you are against us”. Many were simply left bewildered!
Here is a sneak peek of what awaits us in the next Festival…(Yes,the venue is finally being shifted from Umiam) .In the race for the 2012 itinerary are the following hot-spots :
Motphran: Shillong’s original war-zone which traces its genesis to the First World War in 1914 and whose war monument was erected to commemorate that event. Smaller wars have been fought here since then, right from the days of the hill state Movement to the latter-day pitched battles between the KSU and the police. Currently, we seem to be fighting a losing battle here against…well… squalor and stench, disease and dirt, what with rag-pickers , beggars , stray dogs and porters having appropriated half the width of the road for themselves. Surely a major attraction for environmentalists , Green Peace die-hards, dog lovers and Third World watchers. If selected, Ms. Maneka Gandhi will be requested to grace the occasion as Chief Guest.
Them Metor (Sweepers’ Colony): A few yards away from the famous war-zone, Them Metor is a marvel of Urban India where a bustling market thrives cheek-by-jowl with a rather loud and aggressive community of settlers brought here by the British colonialists. Interesting both for casual visitors as well as scholars of history, urban planning and modern development. The Father of the Nation blessed them with the honorific title of Harijan or Children of God. God , in turn, blessed them with free houses in the busiest part of the city, jobs that are handed down from parents to children as a matter of right for generations together, and the latest cars to hit the roads in town. Well, they certainly could not have been less privileged that God’s Own Children to be able to mindlessly contribute to the congestion and collapse of order in that pre-eminent space close to the biggest traditional market in Nort-east India . So far they have successfully resisted all attempts of being shifted elsewhere on one pretext or the other. Circumstances, the courts and their political godfather seem to agree on the need to preserve them in that hallowed spot so that they can “develop according to their own genius “, and brains (as sharp as their swords). A veritable spot of enduring interest sure to sweep you off your feet!
Iewduh : The original shoppers’ stop (long before the concept was born in the metros), which any tourist worth his salt should not give a miss, come hell or high waters. Political scientists and historians have continuously bombarded us with phrases like “A Clash of Civilizations”, but if one wishes to experience the phrase in a single space on earth, Iewduh- known to non-Khasis as Barabazar- has to be that space. A proud centre of trade, Iewduh represents the victory of” traditional” Khasi democracy over everything else and is run by a business cartel fronted by a Syiem (King) who has, in true democratic style, never summoned his Dorbar Hima (People’s Assembly) even once for decades together. He does not submit his statement of accounts on revenue and expenditure to anyone and, again in true democratic style, nobody raises an eye-brow over such non-issues. A real success story that would have taught some valuable survival skills to despots who held sway in a similar fashion elsewhere, including Hosni Mubarak and Gaddafi. A veritable stop-over for lovers of history, political science, current affairs and the internet-inspired breed of revolutionaries.
Garrison Ground: Shillong’s original green lungs, now monopolized by men in green. Generally out of bounds for the common citizenry, unless you happen to know somebody big in the hierarchy of these sworn protectors of our frontier zone. Or have been hiring their hall for parties and marriages for a considerable length of time. They are so protective that they have insulated themselves in all possible ways, right from raising the height of their walls to locking their gates so as to avert any possible danger from those they were meant to protect. Tourists are advised to complete their visit well before sunset and use their mobile cameras instead of digital versions as the latter run the risk of being seized by overzealous guards to whom a tourist and a terrorist could mean one and the same thing!
N.B.: Perhaps the next debate should begin on which of the above should be the main venue of next year’s Autumn Fest. All are welcome to participate- both in the debate and in the Festival subsequent to it.
The mass display of grief and hysteria following the demise of legendary balladeer Dr. Bhupen Hazarika on November 5 at the age of 85 was unprecedented. The sea of humanity at Judges’ Field and Gauhati University, where he was laid to rest- estimated to have crossed a million- bears witness to the influence his music has had on generations in Assam and elsewhere in the region and outside. Unfortunately, the language barrier prevented his work from being understood and appreciated in neighbouring Meghalaya. Hopefully, the inheritors of his legacy will pay special attention to this aspect so that his poetry and music can reach to the largest audience possible worldwide. May his soul find eternal repose!
A fundamental lesson in Economics : What is the difference between the abbreviations HRD and HDR? It’s simple. One stands for Human Resources Development and the other stands for High Demand for Resources!