A Rabid Guwahati Lover’s COVID Musings
“Have you seen the river recently?” asks a friend, just back from a long-anticipated drive.
She and I both live in this dearly beloved Guwahati city of ours, and we’ve supported each other through the long months of Lockdown and Unlock with calls and messages. Through the horrors of it all, we have kept each other sane, with jokes and uplifting forwards. And here we are, planning to step out, cautiously, once more into the world as we knew it then PC (Pre Covid).
“Oh, you went there?” I had known she would be taking a drive but hadn’t known the direction she would take.
“To the riverside, where else? Isn’t that where everybody goes when things start opening up, the first place they visit?”
My friend knows I haven’t been out yet, so her question is rhetorical. It’s a prelude to the eulogies that follow.
“It’s even more beautiful now,” she says dreamily. “Brimming with those blue waters that reflect the cloud flecked sky. Edged at the northern banks by those lovely green hills. And there, in the distance, Kamakhya. Across it, hanging like a silver filigree necklace, the Saraighat Bridge, through which the setting sun sent its russet rays. The waters were flecked with orange, turning into molten gold till the velvet blue of the evening covered it.” She sighs. “It was magical, you know, really magical.”
It’s not surprising that the first trip that anybody is making out of the house these days has been towards the river. Brahma’s Son. He is Vigour, he is Energy, He is the One with the Powerful Arms, Mohabahu. Throughout the monsoons, he has been doing the Tandav, the Dance of Destruction, all along its course. But now, though not yet into its winter somnolence, he has calmed. It evokes peace, tranquillity. It soothes, and is a balm on the troubled souls of this city on its banks.
During the long months of lockdown, as we battled panic as well as the pandemic, as we Worked from Home and tried to keep our house in order, as we tended to our families and stared at economic distress, when we looked, horrified, at visuals of migrants on the road balancing babies and bundles, when we thought longingly of calm, it was often our river that embodied it in many minds. We all have memories of being on a quiet boat in the middle of the river, the sounds of the city falling away, with birds circling above and blue peace all around us.
It is this peace that we long for during these unnatural months. No wonder we move to its banks at the first opportunity, standing near the Raj Bhavan Hill, perhaps, and staring at the sheets of sapphire sliding down to the distant sea. It is reassuring, it seems to be telling us, “This too shall pass. I haven’t altered, don’t you see? I keep to my cyclic calendar, unchanging.
Things will look up, and then come back again, when it’s winter, and picnic on my sandbanks, or just take a ride. I will be here, waiting.”
And we are comforted.
In any case, opportunities for Safe Outings abound in our city. We are a metro that comes with a Wildlife Sanctuary attached. Our emerald hues moved a poet to sing,
Xeuji xeuji xeuji O/Xeuji Dhoroni Dhuniya... (Green, Green, so Green/How beautiful, this green earth) - Jyoti Prasad Agarwala
The greenery settles on our eyes and soul, a balm denied to other cities. And this green is now all around us ...in the lush vegetation, the untrimmed roadside trees and bushes that have flourished during these months. No wonder other places seem so barren, denuded, when we visit.
Neither palaces nor places of worship can communicate the way this green can about the Universe, and the Being whose Hand is present in this.
This Lockdown has changed us, in different ways. But as always, our city is generous with consolations. We go to an eatery in lush Sonapur, or for long, thirst-quenching drives up the several Reserved Forests around us, or perhaps to Dudhnoi and North Guwahati. And there is always Deepor Beel, tranquil and peaceful even now. Our air quality is already good, but as we breathe deep in these places, our lungs sing with gratitude.
And through it all, as we sustain each other past these times, how wonderful it is to be in this caring, supportive city of ours.