Tuesday, March 21, 2006

INTERVIEW WITH HAREKRISHNA DEKA, POET AND RETIRED POLICE OFFICER, BY UDDIPANA GOSWAMI ON 20TH MARCH, 2006.
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WHAT DOES GUWAHATI MEAN TO YOU?

The poem is a reflection of my attraction towards the Guwahati city. It is an ugly city, an unplanned city, and it is a city that, like a blackhole, gobbles up all energy. But inspite of that, I have always been attracted to it. That is what the poem also expresses.

WHY THIS ATTRACTION? WHAT IS IT ABOUT GUWAHATI THAT CONTINUES TO ATTRACT POETS LIKE YOU OR NILIM KUMAR WHOSE POEM EXPRESSING THE MAGNETISM OF GUWAHATI – BOTH OF YOU CONSIDER HER YOUR LONG LOST LOVER WHO STILL CAPTIVATES YOU, YOUR EMOTIONS – WAS PUBLISHED ALMOST TWO DECADES AFTER YOU WROTE YOUR ODE TO GUWAHATI?

There is pulsating life in the city. It is a living city, not a dead one. True there has been a lot of social degeneration here, but there are still a few things about it that make the city alluring. Its intellectual and cultural lives, for instance, are still vibrant. And most importantly, nature has not abandoned Guwahati. Despite all vandalism by human beings, nature continues to be kind to its inhabitants. The Brahmaputra continues to flow and the hills still provide scenic beauty. Although human habitation has come up like ugly sores upon these hills, they are still beautiful. The tress still grow, the birds still come to visit Guwahati.

BUT FOR HOW LONG?

For as long as it takes. Guwahati will live. All it requires is awareness on the part of its inhabitants and a tremendous effort to reverse the onslaught made upon the city.

MY EXPERIENCE HAS BEEN THAT THE CITIZENS OF GUWAHATI ARE BECOMING LESS AND LESS AWARE, AND MORE AND MORE APATHETIC.

There has not been any dramatic show of civic awareness maybe, but a slight growth has been noticeable. There have been instances when citizens have come out into the street to get their demands fulfilled. Besides, a few NGOs are doing their best to save Guwahati. We need more concentrated effort and proper policies and planning. For instance, satellite townships have become a necessity given the pressure of population on Guwahati. We need to think along these developmental terms.

BUT GUWAHATI HAS BEEN DEVELOPING – IF YOU CAN CALL THE KIND OF COMMERCIAL GROWTH WE HAVE SEEN IN THE PAST FEW YEARS AS DEVELOPMENT AT ALL – AT A FURIOUS PACE, SO FAST THAT I FEEL IT HAS BEEN THROWN OUT OF GEAR ALMOST. WOULD YOU AGREE TO THAT?

I am originally from Sarthebari, but was born and brought up in Tinsukia. But I moved to Guwahati for my education way back in 1959. I have seen the kind of commercial growth Guwahati has undergone since then, especially since the capital of Assam was shifted from Shillong to Dispur, and it became the gateway to the Northeast. The growth has been rapid and haphazard. In present times, the commercialisation has been more frantic; there is a lot of fund money coming in from all quarters, and all of this gets concentrated in Guwahati, with no accountability or transparency. The money does not filter down to rural Assam where there is more need for it. Mismanagement of resources by the state has resulted in such discrepancy.

But having said all this, I would still maintain that the city has not been derailed or thrown off its tracks. Take Calcutta for example. It is a metro but it still retains its value system in many ways. Similarly in Guwahati, the sense of community, especially among the Assamese and Bengali communities, is not entirely lost. And that is the saving grace.

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE YOUTH OF GUWAHATI?

The positive side of the commercialisation and expansion of Guwhati has been the opening up of new avenues for educational and vocational training of the youth. They are certainly benefiting from it.

CAREER DEVELOPMENT APART, WOULD YOU SAY THE YOUTH OF GUWAHATI TODAY HAVE THE SAME KIND OF VALUES IN THEM THAT THEY PROBABLY HAD IN THE 1970S AND ’80S WHEN ASSAM SAW A CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE MOVEMENT OF TREMENDOUS PROPORTION AND THE STUDENT COMMUNITY PROVIDED LEADERSHIP TO THE MOVEMENT?

No, certainly not. When I wrote the poem in 1981, the situation in Guwahati was volatile. It was the peak of the Assam movement. And inspite of the unrest, Guwahati attracted me; it was throbbing with life. I was the Superintendent of Police (Kamrup) at the time, and I have seen and dealt with student politics of the time. But it is sad that student politics today has been reduced to a politics of opportunism. It is all about easy money. There is a lot of glitz and glamour that steers the youth of Guwahati today.
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2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am looking for the organisation known as 'Save Guwahati Build Guwahati', its email and contact details. I an interested to contribute to the cause. My email address: victor_johri@rediffmail.com

Anonymous said...

I am looking for the organisation known as 'Save Guwahati Build Guwahati', its email and contact details. I an interested to contribute to the cause. My email address: victor_johri@rediffmail.com