Rongali Bihu Celebration 2013 - Raleigh, North Carolina

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-By Chayanika Mohan, Raleigh, NC

It is Bohag Bihu once again and we are away from our homeland, Assam, for yet another year. Despite the geographical miles in between, the fervor and enthusiasm at the North Carolina Bihu celebration, of 2013, was high and heady like the years before.

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On a crisp spring evening, redolent with the unmistakable scent of our beloved “togor phool”, the members of the Assamese community of the state of North Carolina gathered for an evening of Bihu camaraderie at the Witherspoon Hall of North Carolina State University in the heart of the capital city, Raleigh. The arrangement of the venue was graciously arranged by Nilakshi Phukan, who is also a professor of the Hindi-Urdu language courses held in the university.

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Most of the guests arrived on time, not wanting to miss a minute of the evening. Within an hour the hall was filled with laughter and “khar khuwa” Assamese banter, amidst the rustle of beautiful pat and muga silk mekhela sadors. Many had come from different cities like Raleigh, Cary, Charlotte and Brevard within the state and a couple graced their presence from Washington, DC. There were the known faces and some new acquaintances. Amongst them all, were some special guests - Nilakshi Phukan’s students from the Hindi-Urdu classes who were specially invited to experience and learn about our beautiful Bihu festival of Assam.
The celebrations for the evening began with the enthusiastic rendition of “Oh beli, beli” by the youngsters (Prithuraj Neog, Ishan Neog, Tanisha Gogoi and Vansh

Gogoi). Whether it was in showing their dexterity at playing the violin (Anurag Baruah and Esha Baruah) or the keyboard (Prithuraj Neog and Vansh Gogoi) or dancing Bihu (Tanisha Gogoi and Mehrin) - the young ones did it all and enthralled the audience with their individual talents.
The elders too had their fair share of acts in store, following up the kids with their own series of choruses, dances and witty compering. While the hosts’ (Rathin Devchoudhury, Meenakshi Devchoudhury, Deepanjali Das, Debojit Gogoi, Deepjyoti Rajkhowa, Prasenjit Khanikar, Pundarikakshya Baruah, Monalisa Baruah, Namrata Chetia Bora and Nilakshi Phukan) melodious “Heuji , heuji” chorus, reflected the Assam-like verdant greenery of North Carolina, the out of town guests infused the flavor of Assam through a soulful “zikir” (Chinmoyee, Kaberi, Aparajita, Bonti, Elbin, Anjan). There was also an Odissi and Kathak fusion dance performed on a Bhupen Hazarika classic (Aparajita Gogoi), amongst other notable performances. A few other events of the evening were a medley (Nilakshi Phukan, Meenakshi Devchoudhury, Deepanjali Das, Chayanika Mohan, Monalisa Baruah), a few self-composed songs (Pulakesh Baruah) and a quick travel trivia quiz (by Devraj Borah and Pundarikakshya Baruah). In between this medley of Assamese talent, the students of the Hindi Urdu classes added their zing with a Bollywood dance and a couple of Hindi poems, recited fluently by students of both Indian as well as American origin.
The programs for the evening ended on a high note with the Raleigh Bihu group performing their well-rehearsed “mukoli Bihu”, which was quickly joined in by the rest of the guests. The gastronomic spread for the evening included a variety of sumptuous delicacies lovingly prepared by the members as well as a few dishes from professional caterers.
While the overall function might have been only for a few hours of an evening, in reality, the event began quite a few months before the actual date and will continue to a couple of months after it, too. The members of the community meet up regularly either on the pretext of preparing for the Bihu or to celebrate the success of the event itself. In this far away land, it is this closeness and these evenings of “preparations” that keeps the close knit community together with a sense of warmth and love thus creating a home away from home. The venue might have been a university hall and the food a mix of “pitha” and pizza; the essence of the festival in Raleigh is as vibrant and strong as any Bihu celebration in heartland Assam.

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