Did Namami Barak change our lives? Let's look back…
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Let us all go back to November, clean footpath, newly built roads, fresh paints, pandal here pandal there, Barak Valley looked like a new place all together. It was something different for the people of Barak Valley, a seventy something man who has seen the valley grow from bullock-carts to Volvo busses said, “Are we becoming a smart city or is this the new digital India, whatever it is, it’s something that has never happened before.” Let’s not blame the old man; he is right, Barak Valley’s life lies somewhere between negligence and ignorance. When it came to nationwide celebrations the ‘Sweet Mill’ never crossed Guwahati and when plights and calamity struck the valley, ‘Relief Express’ lost its way. This is what the old man grew old witnessing, so for him, November 2017 was one of a kind experience.
Then came November 18, 2017, shall we call it the D-Day? The bank of Barak and other rivers glittered with lamps; stages saw blockbuster performances, ministers after ministers were escorted to the giant fields, which seemed like courtyard, as there was no inch left to move a step. ‘Namami Barak’ got the title of ‘Mahutshav’, the Valley got filled with perfume of promise. When the old man’s trembling hands picked up the newspaper, his eyes witnessed headlines he probably never read before in his entire life.
It was not all hunky-dory, a day before the official launch of the ‘Namami Barak’ theme song, the valley witnessed dramatic exclusion of one of its own, Shuvo Prasad Nandi Majumdar and that polarised the population. On one side people were chanting praises on the other side another group were busy raising questions. The final release did not feature Shuvo, Debojit Saha issued public statements, apologised to the cropped out singer.
A non-Bengali Banker was quizzed by his fellow employees, seven days before the event; do you have any idea what Namami Barak is? He innocently replied, “I have heard about this but don’t really know much in details…” The same Banker a day before the event came to his colleagues to say, “This Namami Barak has come in as a blessing in disguise, the roads are like never before, the city is in festive mood, there are several events and we are invited too.” So, not only the old man, but people of all age group were both surprised and excited.
The three-day extravaganza ended with president’s visit, about Rs 5 crore was spent to mount ‘Namami Barak’ as a national event, six more days and the festive fever rubbed off, it was back to daily life. The old man was out for his regular morning walk, he heard two mid-age gentleman chatting over tea, “One told the other, this Namami Barak was nothing but a publicity stunt, the other replied, correct you are, the roads are also temporary arrangement, one rain and potholes will pop out one after another.”
Well, only time will tell what mettle the roads are built of, but as off now ‘road’ is all that Barak Valley has got from the Namami Barak extravaganza… it did not change the old man’s life one bit, the banker’s life is also the same, the two gentleman probably discuss budget over morning tea, the grounds look huge again…