The reports of the gas-leak and the havoc that it wrecked on the people of Assam made me travel back in time to those days when I had lived in that part of the country. It was 2004, and I was stationed in Tripura to shoot a series for the Northeast Wing of Door darshan. All the actors were from Tripura. The entire crew was also from Assam except for three others, including me, who happened to be from other states. I made some good friends from Tripura and Assam then. Even to this day, there are a few who have managed to stay in touch. Most of our colleagues then had never set their feet outside of their town in Tripura. They called us ‘the ones from the mainland’ and themselves as ‘the ones from Tripura’! When they were asked “don’t we all belong to India?”, they would pause for a moment and then say, “Yes! We are also Indians. But you are the ones from the mainland.” They laughed it off when I asked them how could there be an important and unimportant part to an integral entity. The place where I had stayed put there, a humble hut, was the last house on the Indian side. Just a stone’s throw away from there was a valley beyond which lay Bangladesh. There were no walls or fences to demarcate the boundary. People, mostly poor farmers would freely move to and from Bangladesh! The days that I spent there gave me a whole new perspective to look at mental boundaries that we have created for ourselves. Be it this side or the other, aren’t poverty, hardships, pain and joy all the same?
(Translated by Amogh Patwardhan)