Assam News – Sunday Long Reads: President Kovind’s stay at Rashtrapati Bhavan, Assamese cuisine, Taapsee Pannu interview, and more

by Guwahati_City


Time is truly a mystery for us. It keeps moving on its own no matter what we do or wish. It seems as if it was only a little while ago that I was elected to this office. The pandemic, too, has certainly added to the compression of time. When I look back, myriad feelings swirl around me. It is but human to be nostalgic of the time gone by. It is equally human to wistfully wonder what more could have been accomplished.

It was nearly five years ago that I entered the portals of this most majestic monument. For someone who grew up in a village in Uttar Pradesh in the 1940s, the opulence of the Rashtrapati Bhavan could have been oppressively imposing. But I knew that it is not meant to be merely the official residence of an individual — the residential quarters of the President are actually a small corner of the estate. It is meant to be the seat of power of the Republic, articulating its vision of itself in stones. In its early years, it certainly had a different function, which underwent a transformation on August 15, 1947, like so much else in the country.

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Saim Sadiq’s ‘Joyland’ makes a statement about inclusivity, diversity and Indo-Pak camaraderie

Director Saim Sadiq. (Credit: Stephanie Cornfield)

With the clock ticking for the premiere of his debut feature, filmmaker Saim Sadiq couldn’t register the reality of sharing the same hotel floor with Deepika Padukone or having breakfast around Asghar Farhadi. Pakistan had arrived, with its first film ever to enter in the Cannes Film Festival and win two awards: Un Certain Regard Jury Prize; Queer Palm (for best LGBT, queer or feminist-themed movie). In the pitch-dark hall, a nervous Sadiq stood observing the audience, who watched the film in rapt attention for two straight hours, and broke into an applause bang in the middle of the movie, to the Biba song, as Biba (Alina Khan) took the stage. As the credits rolled, he and his 40-odd crew teared up to a full-house standing ovation.

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Giving tigers a bad name: An imaginary conversation with an alpha tiger on the distressing subject of man-eating big cats

Ranjit-lal Ranjit Lal’s column talks about a grave subject of man-eating tigers (Source: Getty Images)

Yet again, Down in Jungleland fearlessly ventured into the forests of Corbett National Park to talk to one of the alpha tigers about the distressing subject of man-eating tigers.

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Stinging Sensation: Why a GI tag for the red weaver ant chutney from Mayurbhanj, Odisha, could be an answer to food security

Crunchy Delight: Kai chutney (Courtesy: Srishti Sensarma)

The first time I ate an insect was on a school trip to the Terai region in Uttarakhand when I was in sixth grade at New Delhi’s Mirambika – Free Progress School. Our class teacher Baren Raol, a native of Odisha, had asked us all to gather around an ant hill and told us to do something that seemed fascinating to us 12-year-olds – take a few ants, crush and eat them!

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Taapsee Pannu: ‘Getting into Mithali Raj’s shoes has been the toughest role of my career’

taapsee pannu Taapsee Pannu plays Mithali Raj in Shabaash Mithu

You have played a sportsperson on the screen before. How different was it to essay the character of Mithali Raj in Shabaash Mithu?

I had never played cricket in my life even though I have played other sports. Like most Indians, I used to obsessively watch cricket, especially when men played the game. This obsession withered away after the match-fixing controversy (1999-2000). In India, everyone has an opinion about cricket and how it should be played. As a spectator, I was no different. But when I picked up a bat, I realised how wrong it was to pass judgment.

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Assam on a Plate: How a Guwahati-based chef is putting Assamese cuisine on India’s culinary map

Smoked pork by the chef. (Photo: Atul Lahkar)

You’ve been travelling to Assamese villages, staying with tribal families and learning about their cuisines for 28 long years. What inspired you to travel so extensively to document these ethnic recipes?

Food is identity. There has been a lot of confusion about Assamese communities. I wanted to clear this confusion by documenting the authentic cuisines of Assam. We have 23 major communities and several sub-communities in Assam, but they are barely known or understood. Over time, we have lost everything we had. But without our traditions, we are nothing. Today, there is a crisis of identity. Even the new generation is moving away from traditional foods. At the beginning of my culinary journey, I wanted to learn Assamese cooking. But when I asked my mother about our food, she could not come up with more than three or four dishes. I realised it’s not possible to learn this cuisine at a culinary institute. So, I decided to travel across Assam to learn about the food of different ethnic groups. I visited villages belonging to different tribes like Rabhas, Tiwas, Karbis, Khamtis, Tai Phakes, Sonowal Kacharis, Bodos, Garos, Misings and many more. I have been documenting their culinary traditions for the last 28 years.

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