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Salom Ismael
Date of Publish: 2017-11-08

Assam has become my second home


When in Rome, do what the Romans do, a statement that deserves a hand. A year and half back I arrived in India, Dibrugarh to pursue my MA in Mass Communication at Dibrugarh University. This opportunity was made possible by the government of Namibia and the Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR), and I will always remain indebted.

Like any other first time traveller, my mind was pre-consumed by ghost imaginations about India and more particularly Assam. The state I was destined to study and spend the next two years of my life. Without prior knowledge about Assam, I found myself in Dibrugarh University. The institution that will offer my degree and of course my new home. Arriving at the University the ozone and natural beauty of the green Assam welcomed me. To make this even better it was blended with the African butter of my fellow Africans that had already made peace with the tea state. Seeing all this, my induction could not be any better, I felt at ease.

The spirit of Ubuntu was visible in the eyes of my fellow African scholars, which ordained my welcome. Nonetheless, the picture of my new home was still shaky. I needed to get the glimpses of my new home. So, they took me around town and showed me all the necessary places. I strolled and familiarised myself with my new town, and by second, Dibrugarh town was getting clear to me. I was getting pictures which were far from what I had anticipated of Dibrugarh. I had anticipated skyscrapers. Yet, seeing how the inhabitants lived in harmony with animals humbled me. The drivers yielded for animals on the road, and not even bother hound them. This was something uncommon in Africa. It made me realize I was in a safe place, I felt at home in incredible India

As days went by, so as my interaction with the local people. I realized that people of Assam are the kindest, so far from what I had imagined. Not racist as I had stereotyped Indians. But, there are still those that shout Negro now and then outside campus. Apart from that, the attention and help the university administration give to internationals is miraculous. This humbled me at the very first encounter when I navigated my way through their offices for registration. They will help you and still make a confirmation call first before they send you to the next office. They are helpful people.

At school, everything is always available and the learning environment is conducive. The support I get from my fellow students is encouraging, and the help from my lecturers’ is out of this world it has even made me a little lazy. But, they always make sure I get the education I deserve. Out of campus, the stare that I and my fellow Africans get from the locals is overwhelming, they will look at you to the ground. And, for drivers it is even worse, you would think they will cause accidents.

I was aware from back home how Indians liked spices, so, I tried to avoid anything on the menu that read, chilli and masala. I had to ask for ingredients before I could make any order. My first meal was chicken fried rice which was inspired by my senior African students. In my mind as I waited, I expected pieces of chicken and another type of special rice. Only to realize it was small pieces of smashed chicken and the same rice as the one I left back home, only this one was fried. And lucky enough it was not chilli, I blended in. Anyway, if there is one thing I have learnt about Assam people, is how they value their meals. Students in the middle of an assignment will leave you to go have lunch. And, of course, when they come back, the famous question will be “ki khaali/ had your lunch?” I always nod my head, but what they don’t know is that when we Africans are hooked to our work lunch comes secondary.

I had thought we had the most holidays, in Africa, but not until I came to incredible Assam. A month will go by with only one week of school. The university will become a ghost town for a while. Students will travel to their respective districts to celebrate with their families. They dress up and also beautify all the buildings to honour and celebrate their festivals. It is always interesting to see the unity in diversity of the rich cultures of Assam, something I am thrilled about. And again, for me this is a perfect opportunity to relieve myself from academic pressure and to explore Assam. I travel to the neighbouring districts with my fellow African folks and witness how they celebrate their cultural festivals.

The weather in Dibrugarh remains a bit harsh, but the sunny — humid days are made better by the people of Assam. I have travelled to most places of Dibrugarh but people still continue to be very nice. Their kindness is always visible in their eyes. They are so helpful, humble and cultured. But, profit oriented when it comes to foreigners, they inflate their prices. This has triggered me to sharpen my negotiation skills so that I can match their expertise whenever I go to the market. There is so much to say about Assam, the love and admiration are infinite. This has become my second home, and when in Assam do what Assamese do.

Salom Ismael

( Salom Ismael is an International student from Namibia, currently pursuing 3rd Semester, MA in Mass Communication at the Centre for Studies in Journalism and Mass Communication, Dibrugarh University. He can be reached at tsismael@gmail.com )

All Photographs courtesy: Centre for Studies in Journalism and Mass Communication, Dibrugarh University



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