Sunday, 20 February 2011

Guwahati Changes its Colour

Personal Jottings
RK Rishikesh Sinha
Resurgent Guwahati City

Is it the same Guwahati that I left half-a-decade ago! I observe the slew of changes that the city has undergone. It is beyond one’s recognition. Once black and white looking city now looks lively and colourful, as it had gone below planners’ scalpel.

My old memory, I found, was failing to grasp the new 21st century city. It has completely metamorphosed to a new one. Big colourful billboards greeted me, trying to get my attention and leaving an impression that there are lot of things to explore in the changed-city. Welcome!

The roads which doggedly seemed to remain unchanged then, now gives an impressive overhaul: wide two-lane roads with flyovers in key areas have become the recent landmarks. The main entry points to Guwahati – Railway Station, inter-state bus terminus, and airport – all now wears a new look. Something that startled me with awe was the Lokhra Road, which once gave a barren look, now it buzzes with full-throttle activities. A new visitor might mistook the settlements that have cropped up along the road to a century-old human habitation. Alas! It is not the truth.

Along the main arteries of the city – GS Road, AT Road and GNB Road – one can see once somber-looking kirana shops have been turned to sparkling showrooms of well-known brands. The paan and tea shops have been replaced by banks’ hole-in-the-wall; once low lying residential places turned to multi-storied flats, the commercial places offering then non-existent tuition centres and crèches. It seems Guwahati is slowly and steadily shedding its old skin and putting on new metro skin.

With all these frantic developments taking place, it is a natural question how the leading English newspapers of the state – The Assam Tribune and The Sentinel – could remain unaffected. They have gone partially coloured. The number of advertisements insertions has increased remarkably in this due course of time. The running of 24x7 television channels came like an awesome surprise to me.

It was amusing to watch the city-based news channels sitting cozily in a couch: 24x7 news bulletins in English, Hindi, Assamese and other northeastern languages, discussions on various topics…. To my dismay I found especially in the English News, that the reporter present on-the-spot of the scene speaks up first in English, changes his track, and finally finds solace in Assamese! In a particular channel, a layman could comment that the Assam Health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma taking the maximum prime spot in news!

Nevertheless, the city is showing development in its length and breadth. I fear it shouldn’t become so big that I have to carry Maps to decipher the city, to track friends and friends-of-friends. Besides a question lingers in my mind: How many of us have been the part of this boom? If not, how could we participate in the boom that is unfolding in our doorstep?
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