- Dhanya Vani Rao, Sterling Heights, Michigan
This was my rookie year at the Assam convention. I have been in Michigan for ten years now, nine of those in the company of my big Assamese family. Every year I would hear about the convention, the food, the cultural programs, the people and of course the gorgeous Mekhela Sadors! It always made me think, ‘why do people spend so much money to go and gather at a different place every year? Aren’t they meeting the same people each time?’ Well, I got my answers this year. And boy, was it a revelation!
The convention, I realized, is not just a place to hang out. It is a window into our culture, our history and our pride. It is where the elders pass the baton of tradition down to the younger generation. Old friendships are renewed, new acquaintances are made, and stories are shared as we find connections ‘back home’.
I had always imagined the convention was more a hub for the older generation living in the US. Perhaps, it is their way of hanging on to the Oxomiya roots by meeting in an ‘all Oxomiya’ environment. I was proven to be completely wrong. All generations, young and old seemed enthusiastic to participate. The sense of oneness and harmony was so strong, you could almost touch it. I felt cocooned by happiness.
I don’t want to go into the details of the event, the shows we watched, the food we ate, the countless Mekhela Sadors we eyed. This is more about how I felt as a first timer. For me and my family, it was a great way of connecting back with my beloved place and people. As I introduced my husband to so many of my fellow GU campus kids, he smiled and said,’ That seems to be a popular theme!’ He was thrilled to meet all these new folks.
What surprised me most was meeting with many people , who are not genetically Assamese, but like me, have an immense love and pride for the land. I’m not Assamese, either by birth (a fact that very few people know; I was conceived in Assam, born in Karnataka and was eight weeks old when I was brought back to Assam), or by marriage. Yet I am proud to be a face of Assam. Having represented my state on various national and global platforms, I have a sense of ‘Apun’, of belonging. This, I have realized, does not come just by other people accepting you, it happens when one accepts everything around them as theirs. In the convention, I met many like me, who have a love and sense of connection with Assam. In my local AAMI family too, I share this bond with some. But it is a wonderful feeling to know that so many of us are connected by this invisible web.
I’m glad that my first introduction to the Assam Convention was as part of the host committee. I was involved with it completely. Due to my role in the cultural section, I had read many names on paper and was happy to connect a face to those names during the convention. I watched, I cheered, I participated, I lived! It was three days of chaotic bliss!
This convention was a gateway to emotional bonding. If not every year, I do know that I will show up at some of them in the future. Like many of the younger generation born here in the US, there was a common theme that vibrated through the three days and that holds true to me too: even though it is not my ‘upoja thai’ , Assam will always be my ‘ Oxomi Aai’.