The children of 90s are a living proof of enormous transition that has occurred in the last decades, whether it is in the form of technology, development, education or communication. I am among the children of the 90s era and have seen how everything changed over the years. The Guwahati narrated below starts from a child’s point of view, then the child grows to a teenager and finally to an adult in the twenties. Children perceive the world as they are shown by their parents and relatives. It is the initial years of our lives when we are most eager to absorb as much as we can.
The humble beginning of our existence, the 90s
Beginning with 90s, most of us were infants, we hardly remember the first three years of our life. Yet sometimes, faint memories of these nascent years may strike us sometime. If we were able to recall our sub-conscious memories, we might remember them.
By three, we children become aware of ourselves, that we are the most advanced species till date in the hierarchy of the living (if we do not consider X-Men mutants and smarter Extra-terrestrial beings). Guwahati for us constituted areas in and around Brahmaputra.
There is the education hub of Panbazar, bustling streets of Paltanbazar, Fancy Bazar, Government offices in Kachari, Uzanbazar fish market; recreational areas of Dighalipukhuri, Nehru and Tarun-Ram Phukan Parks; AIR station in Chandmari; Silpukhuri, Guwahati Club and Nabagraha hill. Gauhati Commerce College in RG Barooah Road with State ZOO and Doordorshan Kendra near AIDC bus stop. Below the u-turning, Chandmari flyover, a road led towards Noonmati and Baminumaidan. Maligaon and Jalukbari belonged to the other side of Guwahati which acted like a boundary.
Less populated areas beyond Ulubari were still developing but inside a cocoon like Christian Basti, Dispur, Ganeshguri, Kahalipara, Six Mile, Hatigaon, Khanapara and Beltola with North Guwahati and areas beyond Gauhati University.
Roads were less busy. For Bashishtha-Beltola-Jalukbari route, there was ek nombor (no1) bus, ek-koish nombor (no 21) for Khanapara-G.S.Road-Kachari and aath nombor (no 8) for Panjabari-R.G Barooah Road-Jalukbari. Panbazar provided books; Lakhtokia and Fancy Bazar for apparels. Paltanbazar at the back of Railway station had hotels.
Woodlands served South Indian dishes; Lakkhi Cabin and Shaikh Brothers were for snacks and bakery. Paradise Hotel near Goswami Service catered to Assamese dishes. Single theatres like Apsara and Anuradha showed films in large screens.
The transition phase of our lives, tiny-toddlers to teenagers, the 00s
Guwahati entered Y2K. Children got introduced to computers, schools increased. Girjananda Chowdhury Institute of Management & Technology was the first non-government engineering institute.
Cars became affordable. Commercial buildings came up in Ganeshguri and Lachitnagar areas towards the second half of 00s. The first shopping malls here were Hub in Bhangagarh and Dona Planet in ABC. With more people coming to Guwahati for a better life, these regions started populating and people living here stopped going to Old Guwahati.
Amusement park like Accoland came about. Downtown area saw the opening of Pantaloons mall. More ethnic restaurants started to open up. Eateries like Pizza Hut came about and Guwahatians got a taste of the western food.
Private establishments provided job opportunities. Landlines gave way to mobiles although children still depended on landlines as parents did not allow kids to have their own mobile phone. Multiplexes challenged old theatres, Private FM had Assamese jockeys.
The experimental teenagers are now mature adults, the 10s
Private TV channels like News Live, DY 365, Rang by end of 00s, increased public communication. With less technical and medical colleges, a student exodus began. I for instance went to Gujarat in 2008, completed my engineering, did a job for a year and returned in 2013.
Students in Assam saw rapid expansion of Guwahati. NH 37 prepared to become the new GS Road. Those living outside were, in awe of the changing landscape of Guwahati. I too felt the exaltation and became confused in the very same streets.
G.S. Road sparkled with attractive showrooms. Foreign cars competed with Maruti Suzuki; old restaurants saw less foodies with the opening of Domino’s and KFC. Reliance Trends, Central Mall, are giving the local shopkeepers a run for their money. Old Guwahati still has its own charm.
Royal Group of Institutions, Assam Don Bosco University and Assam Down Town University had started during the transition phase. Colleges now offer various courses in Journalism, Fashion Designing and Nursing etc. Teenagers have a wider educational choice. Connectivity increased with smart phones, and Guwahatians have adopted online shopping.
The air now feels a lot more polluted. Morning traffic rush-hour is bearable, but evening rush-hour is like being temporarily trapped in an invisible cage. With more buildings, garbage dumping; artificial flood has become a common problem.
More people stay outside with fast food outlets serving momos and chowmein till around 10 pm. Beautiful Hotels like The Lily Hotel, Vivanta by Taj and Radisson Blue stand tall. From the sole Nehru Stadium to a cluster of indoor/outdoor playgrounds, Guwahati is now a major sports destination. With the launch of national and international gaming events people are now aware of existence of Guwahati all through India and the world.
So, to conclude, us 90s Guwahatians have seen a major change of our city. Yet Guwahati needs a lot of cooling. We have to look for sustainable solutions. We need to invent as well as adopt smart ways to help the survival of the old decades in this new smart decade, creating a balance.
People may not visit the shops, but they will buy their products online. Guwahatians are also in the process of entering this way of business. Human race have shown exceptional adaptation to their environment previously. With first half of 10s completed, we still have to witness the second half of 10s-Guwahati. Our eyes and ears are open in anticipation towards a smarter Guwahati.
By Sekhar Gogoi