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Beneath, Between and Behind

Updated: Jun 16, 2021

Kasturi Borkotoki

Life is made of many interesting experiences. We live in different places, make different friends, have ups and downs and meet interesting people. All this goes to make up our bouquet of experiences. My life has also been an exciting journey full of surprises, challenges and celebrations.

I spent most of my growing up years and early work life, in different parts of Guwahati city and was lucky to have had great cultural exposure. Sports, music, friends and food were a great part of my life , while growing up, not to mention travelling to different parts of Assam. Life was great. I had a cozy family, went to one of the best schools in town and mingled with the elite of the city. The city and Assamese culture were so deeply ingrained in me that I never realized the privilege I had!

When I was in my mid-thirties, I relocated to Mumbai. The big bad city was a sharp contrast from Guwahati. I missed my life of comforts but very soon I adapted to this city, which had a lot to offer in terms of art and culture. I slowly got inducted into the art circles and before I knew it, I was a painter and an art enthusiast! The best thing about Mumbai is that the city accepts you in your authentic self. I found that liberating. Today, after so many years in Mumbai, I am glad I have built on my experiences from Guwahati to be who I am!

I would like to share some of my thoughts and experiences through this column and write about my days in Guwahati and consequently in Mumbai.

As I reminisce, I want to share with you, about the way we communicated in those days. There was no mobile phone of course, and if you had a land telephone in your place, not only were you considered privileged, but would also be a connect point for neighbours, who would share your phone number with their network! One had to apply for a telephone and it would be months or years before you got a connection and there were long intervals when your telephone would snap out of connectivity and you would wait for it to come to life after days. When I was very young, there was a telephone in my next door neighbour’s place in Jalukbari. A dull afternoon would suddenly fire up with screams from across their yard, “Telephone for you.” “Hurry.” There would be a mad scramble and flurry and my mother would hurriedly dress up and run through the back yard. We would all assist her in trying to accelerate matters so that the person on the line didn’t have to wait long enough as telephone bills were considered high those days. Sometimes me and my sister also ran after her. It also always turned into a social visit, ending with tea and snacks! Invariably people raised their voices those days while speaking on the phone, both because of the quality of the connection as well as because of an inherent assumption that one had to raise the voice for the caller to hear from a place far away!

During our two month summer holiday in school, we would write letters to friends. Those days, there were inland letters and post cards. Inland letters were private and they had to be sealed and post cards were open cards. I would write a letter from Narengi, where I lived to my friend in Lachit Nagar and she would receive it after 2 days. The places were forty minutes apart by car, going by the sparse traffic in those days! After I sent my letter I would eagerly wait for a reply from her. The day I would receive a blue inland letter from her, I would jump with joy and read it up quickly, knowing how she was spending her holidays. There would be days when we would rejoin school and one of us would receive a delayed letter posted during the holidays!

Most of us have long forgotten this slow pace, considering we are connected constantly to our phones these days!

That’s all for today! Catch you again soon!


[Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Publisher.]


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