Assam Convention 2012 Calgary, Canada: Three Wondeful Days

- Roopa Sharma, Chicago

Nestled in the grasslands of the majestic Canadian Rockies, lies a beautiful city - Calgary, in the province of Alberta, Canada. There is a small yet vibrant Assamese community in this city - far from their homeland and yet retaining the Assamese culture, heritage and language and passing those to the next generation.
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The venue of the 33rd Assam Convention was the Sheraton Cavalier Hotel in Calgary. In spite of the distance from the major hub areas from USA and Eastern Canada and also high airfare, more than 200 people from different parts of USA, Canada, New Zealand and India gathered under one roof to celebrate Assam and its culture. The Calgary Host Committee, together with their friends and neighbors from Edmonton left no stone unturned to make it a wonderful, well-rounded convention. The 33rd Assam Convention will be remembered as one of the most enjoyable Assam Conventions.
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From the evening of June 29th to July 1st past midnight, the hotel was transformed into a miniature Assam - ladies walking up and down the hall with eye-catching 'mekhela-sadors', gentlemen with kurta-pajamas and some small children with 'muga' outfits. Peals of laughter and Assamese conversation rocked the hallway during the tea-breaks. And everyone relished the mouthwatering 'narikolor laru', cake, 'barfee', 'sira-badam-bhoja', 'pitha' prepared by the Calgarians along with some store-bought delicacies.

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Friday Evening
The informal meeting and greeting on Friday evening was lovely. We were delighted to see some old friends and were happy to meet many new people. At the registration desk, everyone was so warm, friendly and hospitable! There were plenty of hearty snacks (which were actually 'dinner' for some of us!). At one point, my friend Louella (Das) took me to the main hall to show two huge, very beautiful 'Japi's they made to decorate as the backdrop on the stage. My jaw dropped...they were absolutely gorgeous! She said, their own, very artistic Aswini Sharma painstakingly carved the Japi's 'bodies' while Louella and her talented friends attached the colorful red-and-green 'appliqué' and gold 'zari' on them. That was my first glimpse of their wonderful labor of love. The beautiful and unique name tags the host committee members were wearing in the form of cute little 'japi' and 'gamosa' were another example of their talent, hard work and enthusiasm. The impromptu burst of singing session by some people that evening set the tone for a lively convention for the next two days.

 Assamese Directory 
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Robert Satin and Aradhana Barua Satin have been volunteering to publish the annual Assamese directory for many years. A tedious job indeed; yet, they have been doing this community service happily and diligently for years. The directory was distributed to the AANA members, which was complimentary, and non-members were able to purchase this valuable collection of contact information of the Assamese people residing outside Assam. Heartfelt appreciation to both of them for their hard work of many many hours and days of editing and adding new information. 

Inauguration
Mr Pritish Chakravarty, retired IAS officer from Shillong officially inaugurated the convention. In his inaugural speech, he praised the community for not only preserving their culture and heritage, but also for thinking about the problems and progress of Assam and willing to lend their expertise to help their motherland. The lighting of the lamp was led by Honorable Minister of Services, Alberta, Hon. M. Bhullar. ANNA President Gautam Lal Baruah and Host Committee President Arup Goswami gave welcome speeches to the audience. The Host Committee released the Souvenir Magazine "Pragya" during the inauguration.

The Canadian National Anthem was sung by the Host Committee and everyone joined them in singing the Indian National Anthem - 'Jana Gana Mana'. A 'borgeet' was beautifully presented by guest artist Bornali Kalita from Assam.
 
Assam Forum
One of the highlights of the convention was the "Assam Forum". There were presentations by Tej Hazarika, Partha Boruah, Arati Barua and others on different topics related to Assam and its people. Interesting topics and ideas, such as health and wellness, tourism, Bhupen Hazarika Foundation, community projects, flooding and erosion in the Brahmaputra and its tributaries in Assam generated useful and lively exchange of discussions. Everyone enjoyed this program. 

Tribute to Dr. Bhupen Hazarika
Assam Convention 2012 organized a special tribute to Assam's legend Dr. Bhupen Hazarika. His smiling photograph adorned the stage. Tej Hazarika, Bhupenda's son, Stuty (Ruby) Patel - Bhupenda's youngest sister (also with her, were her son-in -law and granddaughter) and Ruma Barua lighted the lamp in front of the picture. They spoke a few lines in memory of Dr. Hazarika. 

Dr. Bhupen Hazarika was an honorary Life Member of AANA. On behalf of the organization, the four-member team of AANA executive body paid tribute to Dr. Hazarika by lighting the lamp during the evening cultural show.
 
Alpona (Lonee) Barooah and I recited our self-composed poems honoring Dr. Bhupen Hazarika. Here is the link to my recitation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqADNBsWniQ

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