Friday, April 13, 2012

On New Year's Day

One of the nicest things about the Assamese New Year  , when I was a little girl, was the new clothes.
My mother and I would  land up at the local tailor's shop run by three sisters and their brother, in Charali Market. Their shop proudly announced Sen Tailoring in hand painted cursive on the board  hanging on to the tiled roof by twisted wires. Mother would thumb her way through a pile of well  used and faded "design" books with  dress designs sported by blonde and brunette women we only saw in the "English movies." The Sen sisters would take the material my mother had bought and make their quiet suggestions.

Finally, after my mother took the call on the designs, the sisters would pull out the measuring tape and wrap and wound and bind it around my body, waist, hands, neck, penning down numbers and tailoring shorthand in a small notebook.

One day before Bihu, the New Year, father would bring home the parcel smelling of newly stitched fabric. My sister and I would rip it open, and try on our new  dresses with squeals. We usually got two- one for each day- and 3 if we were lucky or Mother picked up some extra fabric.

Day break on Bihu day saw us in our new outfits, nibbling on coconut sweets and  homebaked cakes, saying shy hellos to family and friends who visited us, and of course, going to the evening cultural shows with song and dances . My sister and I would refuse to come home until the curtains were down and were finally half carried, half dragged into our Ambassador well past midnight.

The second day of Bihu meant the second new dress, a big family lunch and again cultural shows, songs and the wonderful bihu dance , accompanied with drum beats and  flutes.

Our house would have new bedsheets, fresh flowers and orchids, and new "gamoshas"- a woven cloth   a symbol of welcome and respect. Mother was never into intense cooking, so the dining table would have more of cakes and custards with cherries, sweetened yoghurt  rather than the traditional sweets.

Father would be at home. So would everyone else. Assam is closed for  welcoming the new year.

I was at work today but my mind drifted back to those days.
When I had a family that made sure that Bihu was a special day for me.
That I always had my new clothes.
That coveted front seat in the cultural show even if it meant we all landed up at least two hours before the show began.
The bihu dance rehearsals I would go to.
The stage performances when I grew up.
The beats to which I let go of myself and swirled with the other dancers.
The laughter.
The warmith.
The community.

Today, however, was just another day for me.
Mirroring every other day.

Sometimes, it is memories of those wonderful days that brings alive the same  moments.
Wishing everyone who is reading this a very happy new year.

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