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‘The Assamese’ book review: An insider’s insight

Communities are people. They are not abstractions. They are not rhetoric. They are human beings,” begins the first chapter of The Assamese: A Portrait of a Community. And, what could be more apt? Because, here are about 450 pages to understand a culture, which is representative of ‘Bharat’ in the east. Authored by Delhi-based writer Sangeeta Barooah Pisharoty, the book is a blueprint to understanding the Assamese people.

Over the last decade, conversations and discussions on Northeast India have begun gaining attention. Many senior leaders of the ruling BJP have been making frequent trips to the region announcing and delivering on many commitments, piquing the interest of the mainland about the diverse cultures and ways of life of those living in the erstwhile overlooked region of the country. The Assamese is Sangeeta’s attempt to delve deeper and offer an insider’s insight into Assam, and she does a remarkable job putting together a comprehensive study of its people. Her writing style is a mix of reportage and storytelling. She adds her own expansive research, along with the words of many giants who have documented or written on the state.

As advocated by the title, the book is an important lesson in the lifestyle, customs, food, culture, habits, practices, language and faith of the Assamese people. But it is also has more than a few lessons on writing engagingly, particularly when it is non-fiction. The Assamese is a smooth read. The information comes at you with ease. The author ensures that you are not overwhelmed with details, without compromising on the facts. It is interesting to note how the author makes it a point to coyly slide in Joi Aai Axom (Glory to Mother Assam) whenever required, strategically.

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