The bureaucrat who became a cultural icon of the North East

In the mid nineties things became even more interesting for my father with a commission from the Election Commission. They wanted him to make a campaign video to create awareness about voting. His awareness campaign was such a big success that it was made into a commercial CD. And that led him to a second commission - a contract from Doordarshan, (India's first national and regional Channel) for a TV series. He spearheaded (writing, directing and acting) the sitcom Ki Kam U Bah Beshbha, with local and khasi characteristics (influenced by the sitcom Mind your Language as well as Elvis Presley's character across many of his skits.) that went on for 3-4 years. He revolutionised the concept of Khasi Televison in Meghalaya, that had never been done before. The entire series is now available on YouTube. My father had become a regional star and when he would drop my son off at school, everyone would ask him for autographs.

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The Guardians of our language

My father, Ai Lot Hailowng, was born in 1951 in Namphake Village in the Dibrugarh district of Assam to a Tai Phake family. Tai Phake is a small tribal community of about 2000 people scattered across Assam and Arunachal Pradesh in Northeast India. The Tai Phake first migrated to Myanmar (formerly Burma) from Moung Mao, (South China region). Migrations from south east asian regions were due to conflicts between erstwhile kingdoms and around 1775, many people in search of newer grounds, found and formed new settlements in what is present-day Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.

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The Sikh Families of Assam

It seems that he went along on a trip with a transport contractor for the army all the way to Assam, and then simply began driving trucks. That his own uncle (chacha) was already working here in Tezpur, also driving trucks, would have helped. After working for a few years as a driver, he started a small kirana/gelamaal (grocery) shop in Tenga Valley in Arunachal Pradesh. He also founded a hotel that ran for around seven years. Eventually he got around to buying some trucks and built a transport business for himself - a few contracts with the Indian Army hastened the cause.

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The Cloth Merchants Of Ujjain

in August of 1990, Saddam Hussain, the president of Iraq, ordered an attack on Kuwait, and the country toppled into a state of emergency - everything came to a halt. Citizens from all over the world, including Indians were trapped in a country at war, and among the Indian community, the Bohras constituted a sizable proportion. My father was one of them.

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The Da Vinci of Assam

In the 1950s, the Assam Government cracked down on Communists, and my father became a 'Most Wanted Man' with a bounty of Rs. 10,000 Rupees on his head, dead or alive. My father kept moving from state to country lines under the radar across the region, Myanmar, Bhutan, Tibet and present day Bangladesh, hiding himself among the people, while also earning their trust and faith.

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