Guwahati? China ke paas waali?

dscn12531LOTUS, AS the Hindi saying goes, blooms in keechad (muck).


Monsoon mein multi-lane Srinagar turns really mucky. By Srinagar, I don’t mean the capital of Pakistan’s obsession – never gone north beyond Gurgaon to find out if there’s anything kaala about or around Dal.


This Srinagar – a misnomer, as there’s nothing sri (other than an honorific for Indian males, it means good/nice/clean/beautiful) about this nagar – is our locality in Guwahati. Sandwiched between Guwahati-Shillong Road and Zoo Road, it is marginally closer to the Assam State Zoo than where the more dangerous animals stay – Dispur, the seat of power in Assam.


If you happen to be caught in Srinagar during a downpour, only an anti-Varun – Hindu rain-god unrelated to a rant-raining mortal of the same name – divinity can help you. But while wallowing in the post-shower keechad, you cannot miss the other Varun’s lotus. For, among our neighbors is BJP’s Bijoya Chakraborty, former federal minister and the party’s candidate for the Guwahati parliamentary seat.


Moral of the story: there’s more than one Srinagar on this earth, albeit varying in size, significance and splendor.


Though it carries Srinagar in its womb, Guwahati – the city is woven around 11 reserved forests, several hills, wetlands and a massive river (Brahmaputra) – has never pretended to be anywhere near the Kashmir capital. Both, however, are nerve centers of secessionism-scarred states.


Is there, by any chance, a locality named Guwahati in Kashmir’s Srinagar? Or for that matter, does Guwahati have a namesake anywhere else on this globe? I have no idea.


A name closest to Guwahati I can think of is Guabari, near the Indo-Bhutan border in Assam’s Bodoland Territorial Council. There’s, of course, Goa (could very well have been Goa-hati). And Gao somewhere in Portugal.


I have been trying to discover a Guwahati ‘soundalike’ or clone ever since this businessman in Lucknow’s Aminabad locality asked me if I belonged to the “same Guwahati near China”. Goons shot Agarwala – he was the main dealer of Sintex tanks – for failing to pay hafta (and they think only militants in Northeast India kill Marwaris or other Hindi-speakers!).


Aap Gawhaati se hai? Woh China ke paas waali?” these words after our introduction still ring in my ears.


He was at least better than some other Lucknowites who thought Assam began and ended with Siliguri, a commercial place and railway junction in northern West Bengal. The slain businessman – some of his acquaintances too – even believed China was as close to Guwahati as NOIDA is to Delhi.


I loved playing along. “Oh, the border is so near a rickshaw will charge you only Rs 25 to take you there,” I said once. He didn’t catch on to the next gaajaa or fakoti (bluff in Assamese). “The rickshaws go up to the border regularly for barter trade. The Chinese depend on us for rice and vegetables, which they take in lieu of electronic goods.”


Geographical ignorance wasn’t a one-way traffic, I found out after returning home. Few in Assam or anywhere in the Northeast knew much about Uttar Pradesh or Bihar besides the obvious. Worse still, many didn’t know or cared to know about their sister states in the Northeast. Some hadn’t even an idea about another half of their own State.


Geography and history, I understand, are passé – no longer taught in schools. But where there’s a will there’s Google. And Wikipedia.


I have surfed for a Guwahati that’s not so close to China. If you have come across one, please send me the link.


About rahconteur

A mid-career journalist who's worked horizontally across India - from Arunachal Pradesh to Gujarat
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10 Responses to Guwahati? China ke paas waali?

  1. Sushmita says:

    Rahul, sorry for the belated sighting of your blog. Boss, great work! The North East is one aspect of India’s sociology that is given a go-by all too often; you will bridge that gap, in your own inimitable manner (when I was in HT, I’d always say ‘whatever it is that Rahul writes, let’s just carry it w/o a thought’ — it’s bound to be good). Will keep visiting this site, and keep giving u feedback. You wanted a Guwahati clone: have u tried Gwati? The pronunciation is very similar. I think it’s somewhere in Cameroon. Have a dekko!

    • rahconteur says:

      Will certainly look up Gwati. Maybe Cameroon might have a neighbouring place called Chaina or Cheenya. And thanks for the eulogy; you make me feel like a Shakespeare-Graham Greene hybrid

  2. Sushmita says:

    Okay, I just checked Gwati on the Net. It’s not a city, think it’s a tiny village in Cameroon. No travel reviews, no hotel deals. It’s in the back of beyond. Maybe u want to be the first to go there and write abt it?

    • rahconteur says:

      Oh, I would certainly. Provided i can save enough to make the trip. I am after all one of India’s leading English daily’s least paid reporters

  3. K. A. Martin says:

    Sorry for spotting your blog a little late. The writing is crisp and to the point. Please add some visuals, it will be great.
    Good luck!

    • rahconteur says:

      Hey buddy, nice to hear (read?) from you. Will try to upload pics, just flaunting my phoren trip pics. Hope I can also find a Kerala connection to write about. Thanks.

  4. Gaurangi Maitra says:

    Liked the get up of your blog, especially the name, strikes a cord! Just managed to read your guahati and log articles. The former a good read, the latter could have been more crisp but interesting ramble. This is board results,admission season and hence rushed off my feet with a son about to enter college….

  5. Rajib says:

    Rahul Da,

    Simply amazing. The use of the English language in the both the articles “Logged since birth” and “Guwahati? China ke paas waali?” are fantastic.
    Enjoyed really, going through both these pieces.

    • rahconteur says:

      thanks again. still learning the nuances of the language and honing my skills, and i know there’s no end to it…

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