A Report on Rongaali Bihu Celebrations

By Dilip Kumar Borah

To welcome the Assamese New Year, Rongaali Bihu was celebrated by the Assamese Community of United Arab Emirates on 15th April, 1999. The event, organized on such a scale for the first time in U.A.E., was initiated by the "Axom Xomaj UAE".

The function was held at the Bin Majid Beach Resort premises, Ras Al Khaimah, about 70 Kms from Dubai. The event had a gathering of over 50 from the three cities of Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Al Ain.

Attendees :

The overnight function was attended by families along with bachelors and forced bachelors staying in U.A.E. The families from Dubai were - Saikat Banerjee with wife Suparna and daughter Divyangana, Dilip Borah with his wife Padmakshi (Ema), daughters Maitrayee, Harshita and son Arnav, Ashwini Borkotoky with wife Sanjana and son Anirudh, Jayanta Borpujari with wife Gayatri and sons Rohin and Nihit, Dr. Prasenjeet Kakoti with wife Dr. Sumati, Dr. Utpal Kataky with wife Nina, daughter Rohika and son Rohit, Mujahid with wife Abha and daughter Ayesha, Muthanna with wife Champa, daughters Sucheta and Sanjana along with her caretaker, Pasha with wife Sharmeen, son Faisal and daughter Sara along with caretaker Mary, Pankaj Shah with his wife Insy, Mrs. Deepa Rahman with son Adib. Her Husband Dr. Habibur Rahman, one of the first Assamese families in Dubai, missed the grand occasion due to official commitments outside U.A.E. We also missed the presence of many others including Col. Medhi and his wife Dr. Santi Medhi, Phunu Bordoloi, wife Debbie, son Neil and daughter Charlene, Murtaja and Ritu Rangwallah, Omar & Meenakshi with their children, Kamar Saleh with family, Apurba Phukan and family (from Dubai and Sharjah). We are sure some more people from Assam could not make it to the grand occasion!

Bibhuti Brata Sarma with wife Deepti, daughter Pooja and son Bibek along with Sri Achyut Choudhury came all the way from Abu Dhabi; by their presence and active participation they made up for the few families from Abu Dhabi who could not make it for the function. Dr.(Mrs.) Mandira Das came from Al Ain to be part of the celebrations.

We had a number of bachelors from Dubai taking active part in the program and were behind the success of the same. They were : Arman Hazorika, Rashid Ahmed, Salim Ahmed, Ishtiaq Ali, Rajeev Borah, Tajuddin Choudhury and Farook Ahmed.

We also had guests all the way from Assam in the person of Sri Hari Narayan Borah and Trailokya Borah, who were visting their son/brother Dilip in Dubai; besides Ms. Sujata Bora Chandarana, from Mumbai, who happened to be here for the Dubai Shopping Festival, also made it a point to take part in the function despite her short stay.

The Evening of 15th April:

The guests started arriving early enough to make best use of the facilities offered by the Resort. First to arrive were Bibhuti Brata Sarma with his family all the way from Abu Dhabi. Muthanna, managed to reach the place last, handicapped by his young daughter Sanjana’s illness – we are grateful that they could make it (together with the last minute purchase of Bingo for the Tambola for the next day!)

The first and the main item of the evening, the cultural program took off just past nine-fifteen, behind the original schedule by just quarter of an hour ! (We had to delay the start of the program due to late arrival of some of the participants in the program, due to traffic jams on the way).

Jayanta and Sumati Baidew paired to compere – a job very well done, considering the fact this was their first appearance on the stage on this role. We had the beginning with the traditional way of welcoming our dearest Bohag Bihu, with " AetQk qcqnhr mugaqr mhUra taqtaQk qcqnhr maqka . . . bhagr ebhUeIH qnpaet qkqnQk Taqk~a "

Next to follow was the Aarambhoni Geet " manuqh manuhr baqb" by Arman, Sanjana, Ishtiaq, Tajuddin, Nina, Deepa, Ema, Gayatri, Champa and both the comperes Jayanta and Sumati.

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On a Bihu Day, how long could the Bihu Dance performance wait and specially so when it was to be performed by a professional artiste like Pooja (Sarma) – who happened to be on vacation in Abu Dhabi with her parents ( Mr. Bibhuti Brata and Deepti Sarma). The dance recital was undoubtedly the best attraction of the evening, which was accalimed by one and all including a German couple who were greatly impressed by her performance. Pooja’s proud father, Bibhuti da also joined in the dance and made it even more lively.

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Now was the time for some music in the form of a solo song by Arman (Hazorika). He rendered the number "wIHukura AalsuXa qmG Ba~eh fafR " of Bhupen Hazarika. Even with interruption by "faenwxk ebjuet" he kept things under control with his melodious voice.

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Now was the time for yet another bihu dance recital – this time by the kNkN mhHnah~t of Dubai. Considering that the children were totally new to Bihu dance and they had very limited time for rehearsals, it was a grand performance. Full marks to Gayatri for making it happen so well!

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Followed by Arman’s song, came Dr. Utpal Kotoky with his election speech which kept the audience involved with the proceedings. True to his speech, the BJP Government came down the day after!

Young Adeeb, son of Dr. Habibur and Mrs. Deepa Rahman, showed his talent with the on the keyboard with a classical number. Followed by Adib, was yet another youngster from Dubai – Rohit, son of Dr. Utpal & Nina Kataky, played a tune on his guitar.

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One more song, this time a Hindi Film song by Tajuddin Choudhury, was a breather for the small gathering!

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Dr. Utpal Kataky, came back again on stage, this time wearing a different hat, along with his wife Nina – to test the knowledge of the audience about Assamese songs of yester years. A number of tunes were played on the key board and the audience was thrown a question based on the tune played. It evoked good response and contrary to expectations the audience indeed seemed knowledgeable. It also gave everyone an opportunity to hear, at least a couplet, of old popular songs, ( as Ashwini put it – Aamar ednr) sung by the members of the audience. Mujahid, Sanjana, Arman and Bibhuti Sarma grabbed (literally) the heavy prizes sponsored by Dr. Prasenjeet Kakaty and Sumati Baidew – guess what the prizes were – good for pure vegetable dishes – Pani Lao, Bengena, Kol dil and so on! It was of course all for fun!

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A surprise was in store next. Keeping in mind that we, the Non-Resident Assamese, having to be away from Assam for long periods are not used to speaking in our mother tongue all the time. This leads to lot of words of other languages being used while conversing in Assamese. To test the Assamese vocabulary amongst us, it was decided to do a test case. A few speakers from the audience was to be chosen without any prior notice and asked to speak on any topic in Assamese – yes, without use of any word from other languages. Primarily meant for Native Assamese, the contest also roped in a couple of Non-Assamese just for fun. First to come on stage was Rajeev Borah, an electronics engineer – born & brought up in Mumbai but still managing to converse in Assamese quite well. However, on stage it was not to be – after a few sentences in Assamese, he literally got bogged down with English words inevitably. It was nothing other than nervousness that made him fail the test. As some of the possible ‘victims’ (of my surprise item) were starting to do the vanishing trick, I had to content with only a couple of more people. Reputed photographer, Mr. Pankaj Shah, who had spent about two and half years in Jorhat in mid Seventies, was the next ‘target’. More than willing to come to stage specially for this item and to show that he still can speak in fluent Assamese, Mr. Shah, for a non-Assamese, made speaking in Assamese look very easy with careful of use of appropriate words only Assamese – hats off to him. Our Jowain from Coorg (Karnataka), Muthanna, married to Champa of Guwahati, was next on stage and made a brave effort to clear the test.

Next came Pooja – back this time with a dance number from ‘Dil Se’ – the famous ‘Chaiya Chaiya’. The beginning of the song itself brought all the kids back from the play area to near the stage! The dance number got everyone involved particularly Dr. Prasenjeet Kakati, Salim, Jayanta and Sanjana who made their stage presence along with Pooja. The loud applaud at the end of the song only confirmed the popularity it had on the audience.

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Almost in the end came the chance for Rashid (Ahmed) to present his item, which was kept as a surprise. He delighted the audience with the ‘Bombay Ishtyle Dada Language’.

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The stage was now set for the Husori where everyone participated - courtesy Dr. Jeet (bhindeo) everyone in the audience participated in the Husori.

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After a hectic husori performance to the tune of some lively Bihu numbers, it was now time for prize distribution. Having only limited number of prizes sponsored for the cultural function was a handicap. So, Jayanta came up with the idea of selecting the winners by draw of lots. There were three ‘walkman’ systems to be won. So two were earmarked for the participants and one for the audience. While Dr. Sumati baidew and Rohin Borpujari bagged the prizes from among participants, Mrs. Deepti Sarma (mother of Pooja Sarma) bagged the other prize and probably made up for not having an award for her deserving daughter.

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There were more prizes – this time from the Bin Majid Resort – complimentary stay in two chalets. The winners this time were Mr. Pankaj Shah ( it was an wedding anniversary gift for Pankaj & Insy, who were to celebrate the same the next day) and Mr. Jayanta Borpujari.

Each of the participating kids were also presented with gifts by Dilip & Ema.

Having enjoyed Bihu function thoroughly, Raij was in the right mood to attack the food – about 11:30 PM. The Dinner was simply delicious – specially the bar-be-cue dishes.

Post dinner dance session – for a change – this time it was mostly western numbers starting with everyone's favourite ‘Hotel California’ (Eagles). Couples and others carried on dancing with so many numbers being played. One Hindi number – Made in India – which was also sung by Sanjana – had everyone on the make-shift dance floor. It was nice to see everyone holding hands and forming a circle to dance to the tune of Made in India.

Finally, around 1:30 (AM) it was time to call it a day! Mark & his colleague Nancy having contributed greatly to the dancing mood of the audience for last one hour or so.

Next Morning:-

Contrary to expectations, quite a few people were up early in the morning and having a stroll in the beach! Having been there myself at 6:30, I must say that those who did not make it there in the morning, really missed something!

Breakfast also was a community affair! Almost all of the guests were at the dining hall around nine to enjoy the buffet breakfast. Post breakfast activities included, for most of us, good time spent at the beach – either being in the water or just watching others having fun.

Beach Volleyball was played, as per schedule, in spite of the rising temperature of the mid morning. Bibhuti Sarma with his daughter Pooja and son Bibek were part of the Upper Assam team along with Arman and Ali. The Lower Assam Team had Achyut, Farook, Saleem, Rashid and myself. A well fought match was won by the Upper Assam team by just two points.

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Tambola was the last item – it took some time for Muthanna and Jayanta to get everyone at one place. However, it had almost full participation. Surprisingly all the prizes were bagged by only one table!

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Come afternoon, and every one had to bid goodbye to Bin Majid after what appeared to be a grand occasion to be remembered for a long time.

To conclude this Report, I would like to thank each and everyone of the participants, volunteers and guests for making the Bihu Function a Grand Success. I hope the next year will be a bigger event with the participation of more people not only from within U.A.E. but also from the neighboring countries in the Middle-East.