December is semester break (semester sesh) period at the University where I work and so it is also the time for me to come home, to Guwahati. And, every year, this is also a time when a small group of people in Assam, almost devoutly, get ready to celebrate what they term as “Bhal Khabarar Din” (a day of good news).
The group has been doing this act since 2011, very faithfully on the first day of the year. They are all members of a fan club, anuragi samaj. This fan club is on a writer, a writer who wrote in Assamese, and who almost stopped writing years before some members of the fan club were even born. “In my entire life I never heard of a fan club being formed on a writer!”– once celebrated writer Arup Kumar Dutta told us. “We see fan clubs more of actors or some other kind of celebrities, but a writer, no, I don’t remember.”
But, what if the writer is Saurav Kumar Chaliha (SKC)? That is how we knew him or that is how we read him. Even today. Many may find it intriguing that the Saurav Kumar Chaliha Anuragi Samaj (SKC Fan Society as we love to call) was not into lavish dinner, formal meetings and bronze statues when they launched their association – they simply developed a website of original and translated works of the writer. Not surprisingly on one of the first January. The members of this small group believe that the pleasure and meaning they get out of SKC’s work must be widely propagated, must be known to the new generation and must remain alive for the next generations to come.
But what is their declared quest for good news on the very first day of the year and what has SKC to do anything about that? There are two specific meanings to that tradition. One, of course, as Saurav Kumar Chaliha chose to remain in anonymity by refusing to come out in public (as author) and the anuragi samaj can’t even think of celebrating any day on his name alone (SKC not merely as a physical being or entity). So it was important to focus on something larger than the person, something to do with an idea originated by the storyteller himself.
The second reason dates back to January 1, 1998. SKC wrote one article that was published on the front page in an Assamese daily on that day. The article narrates his discovery of a small piece of news item in a morning paper that gave him hope and optimism for the future.
The news was about a young boy committing suicide because of his father’s involvement in a financial scam. The incident was shocking but reflected the sensitivity of the young generation; it conveyed something beyond the depression created by the world around us, it was about remaining humane in midst of so much chaos. And thus the idea of Saurav Kumar Chaliha himself to start the New Year with a bhal khabar, a piece of good news on a morning newspaper on the very first day of the year. First January is Bhal Khabarar Din.
The writer is a member of the Saurav Kumar Chaliha Anuragi Samaj. Like earlier years, 1st January, 2019 will be celebrated as bhal khabarar din by the group; this time at Guwahati Press Club, starting at 3 pm. They invite interested people to join.