Probably the closest connect Assam and Chennai have is the common affinity for rice in their respective cuisines. But the connect has been strengthening in the last 10 years or so, as there are an estimated 20,000 Assamese people settled in and around Chennai. This includes the families of those settled in the city for many years, the working population here on jobs and postings and the student population. Sulakshan Saikia, president, Assam Association of Chennai says, “We could say that the migration from the North Eastern State began to increase during the tenure of Bishnuram Medhi, who served as the Governor of Madras State between 1958 and 1964.”
Saikia, who belongs to Jorhat, Upper Assam, adds that one would find a good percentage of Assamese currently employed at ONGC in Chennai. “Many on work are employed in the IT companies as well. You would find a predominant Assamese population in all fields of work here,” he says.
The Assam Association of Chennai, which has been functioning for several years, was formally registered in 2006. Exhibiting the oneness the Assamese feel with the city, the souvenir brought out by the association has been titled Cauvery. Saikia explains, “In Assam, the same release is called Brahmaputra. Here we decided to call it Cauvery, as it is one of the most important rivers for Tamil Nadu.”
Secretary of the association G N Boruah says that the city has the advantage of having one of the most robust health sector, making it suitable for many who are looking for the best of infrastructure to settle down.
Saikia adds, “With a volatile atmosphere back home and uncertainty looming large always, Chennai for us has always been safe and calm. That is why we all like it here despite the language issue.”
For Samir Baruah, who works with IOB and has been settled in Chennai for more than 30 years, the goodness of the local crowd and hospitality have made it a home away from home.
Baruah highlights an interesting link that was established between Tamil Nadu and Rangoon in the pre-independence time when Assam was part of Burma. “Our bank’s founder established offices in Madras and Rangoon. Both have always been known as rice bowls,” he says with a laugh.