GUWAHATI, March 30 – The womenfolk of Guwahati in the 1940s got themselves busy with their handlooms and dhekis, as soon as the pachowa wind of fagun started blowing. The sounds of the shuttles of the looms in the weaving sheds and the dhekis (wooden grinders with pedals) in the dhekishals used to create a different atmosphere of joy and enthusiasm, heralding the news of the approaching Bohag Bihu, which is popularly known as the Rongali Bihu.
Relating this, noted writer Kumudeswar Hazarika told this correspondent that though Guwahati then was a district headquarter with a class-I municipal board, the lifestyle of Guwahati’s residents spoke of a semi-urban, semi-rural nature.
Then, many residents of Guwahati had separate cowsheds, granaries, firewood sheds, dhekishals, weaving sheds with handlooms and some also had tanks and ponds in their campuses. Bamboo groves, arecanut plants, coconut trees were also common in the residential complexes in some of the Guwahati localities then. In each of the localities, there was a common elderly woman, most of them were widows, and they were common bais (elder sisters) for the people of all ages of their respective localities.
In the Uzanbazar-Jorpukhuripar-Lamb Road locality, in which Hazarika used to live with his maternal grandparents and mother, the residents had one Laho Bai, who was an integral part of the locality’s families. Laho Bai used to help the mothers and grandmothers of the locality in their looms and dhekishals. She even helped them in arranging marriages and other family functions. In some localities, every woman used to help another in weaving clothes, Bihuwans, in preparing traditional delicacies etc.
Hazarika, who spent some of his childhood years in Khanapara Government Experimental Cattle Farm of which his father late Thaneswar Hazarika was the founder Manager, said Khanapara was then a big and beautiful village. It was located in the midst of vast paddy fields. Blue hills walled it on the eastern, southern and western sides.
But in 1943, Hazarika shifted to Uzanbazar-Lamb Road locality. He said when the World War-II was at its peak, the residents of this town had to abstain from celebrating festivals like the Bihus, Durga Puja, Diwali etc. The children of this town were deprived of their mirth on such occasions during those days. The sounds of the boots of the troops of the allied forces used to keep the people of this town petrified during those days, Hazarika said.