GUWAHATI, May 19 – More than two decades ago, a dozen children – aged between 3 and 10 – crowded on to a stage waving red balloons as they sang as part of London’s Rongali Bihu celebrations.
Almost 25 years later, some of those same children – now grown-up and some married –repeated that performance of ‘Ronga Balloone’ at the Silver Jubilee of the London Bihu Committee, the group that has been organising the UK capital’s Bihu gatherings for a long time.
The performance on May 6, at the Campion School in Hornchurch was the climax of a cultural programme that had been designed specifically to mark 25 years of unbroken celebrations in London for Rongali Bihu.
Dr Neera Borkakoti – whose son Jayanta and daughter Nandita were among the Ronga Balloone singers – said that the performance typified what celebrating Bihu in London was about.
Rita Kakati Shah, who was also one of the Ronga Balloone ensemble, made a speech on behalf of the younger generation to pay tribute to those who have ensured the annual event.
“We, the second generation, have ‘lived’ the London Bihu Committee over the last 25 years,” Rita K Shah told the audience. “Our experiences go beyond reading and writing Assamese and singing and dancing; we’ve grown up together because of it, developed lifelong friendships and can truly say we are an extended family.”
A video encompassing memories from traditional performances such as ‘husori’ to what has become known as the Bihu Olympics was also screened.
Dr Khogeswar Lahon, who delivered this year’s Bihu message, said the film captured the essence of the annual event: “The celebration of Rongali Bihu is unique, colourful and vibrant with a feeling of joy, feasting, merriment and enthusiasm everywhere.”
For newcomers to the London Bihu Committee, the Silver Jubilee video gave them a sense of what the community they are part of has been doing to stay a “close knit unit”.
Zaved Chowdhury, who joined the London Bihu Commitee this year, said: “During the film, I found out that the committee used to hold an Assamese Sunday School to teach those born in the UK about Assam - from its language to its culture.
Chowdhury added: “The committee has not only managed to preserve our rich cultural heritage and our deep Assamese Indian roots but also motivates us and pass it over to the next generation.
Dr Helen Walker and Dr Pauline Taylor, who had spent many years working in Assam also participated in the function.
“It was a great surprise to see so many people and lovely to meet them,” said Dr Walker. “We particularly enjoyed the excellent dancing and seeing the children learning various elements of the rich Assamese culture. In a way it made us homesick.”
Geeta Borooah, the president of the London Bihu Committee, summed up the general feeling of bihu-goers: “This year is a big year for the UK as the Olympics are being held here and it’s the Queen’s jubilee - which is why it feels apt we’re celebrating 25 years of our committee.