- By Dr. Gautam Lal BaruahThe residents of Chicagoland welcomed the Assamese New Year with unbridled celebration of our most important festival - Rongali Bihu at the Holiday Inn, Rolling Meadows on April 14th, 2012. With a healthy attendance of around 100, the festivities were enjoyed amidst a classy backdrop of colorful Bihu decorations and posh upholstered seating arrangements. The wonderful aspect of this Bihu was that there was no audience. Everyone was a participant. The ambience was heavy with perfumes and aromas of delicious food, pitha (Kobita baidew), boot mah (Kukibaidew), snacks (other ladies).
The dazzling dresses and traditional garbs were more reminiscent of an Axomiya bihutoli in Bohag than a hotel ballroom in USA. The cultural organizers Enakshi, Arundhati and Farhana and the young MCs Sanjukta and Priyanka choreographed the variety entertainment program with dexterity. Indeed, the constant changes of dresses and props were like a musical chairs game but everything meshed just right.
Interwoven within the pervasive theme of Bihu and Assamese folk traditions, was a cultural program of immense breadth, quality and skillful execution. After the welcome speech by Dipak Kalita, the audience was treated to a soulful rendering of the national anthem by Shelley Bhuyan. Divine blessings for the event were sought by our talented children: Ganesh Vandana by Farasha Mehnaz and Vedic prayers by twins Anith and Ankith Goswami. The chorus “Ture mure alokore jatra” sung by a large group aroused everyone to the fiery but melodious cadence of Jyotiprasad Agarwalla. The Husori song and dance recital was a collage on the stage. Maitreyee Angelo was her usual graceful self in a beautiful folk dance. Geeta baidew and Kobita baidew broke out into impromptu Bihu dance and Goalporiya lokogeet which were highly appreciated. To remind the raiz that we were actually in the 21st century, the modern component of the cultural program was equally entertaining. There were upbeat filmy dances by children below 4 feet and in complete poshak. A solo dance by toddler Falisha was greeted with heavy applause. Catchy Assamese and Hindi numbers were presented by Enakshi, Arundhati, Arup/Shelley and Kuki baidew. Soumenda, Dhruv and Akash (what would the sky be without the pole star?) took us back to the 70’s with nifty Beatles songs. We were then treated to a great performance by the Indus Masti group with their Kolaveri song in (hold your breath) Telegu.
It was not all song and dance though. Gautam Baruah paid tribute to Mamoni Raisom Goswami the great literary stalwart and social thinker from Assam who passed away last year. Dr. Jiten Barua lit up the evening by a superb description of the history, meaning and significance of the three Bihus. Though meant for the children, one could see several adults taking notes and participating in the quiz later. Jitenda’s repository of Bihu knowledge shall definitely be tapped for future trivia competitions. In keeping with our shared heritage with the Bengali and Oriya cultures, Maitreyee read Tagore’s poems to commemorate the great poet’s 150th birthday. The child participants were specially appreciated and encouraged by beautiful trophies presented by Dr. Gita Barua, Deepika Barua and Kobita Sundi. The cultural program ended with “O Mur aponar desh” the Assamese anthem which was a hit as always. After a really stupendous dinner spanning Assamese and North Indian cuisines, courtesy the Indian management of Holiday Inn, Rolling Meadows, the raiz felt a few pounds heavier but carried on with unabated enthusiasm. This was followed by Mukoli Bihu which was a thoroughly enjoyable experience with total participation. The physical nature of our Bihu celebrations is also a great reminder to all of us to keep up with our fitness regimens. Wow! What fun and unfettered joy.