Writing this book has been a journey to many known and unknown places
and to di√erent time periods, concepts of histories, memories, and pasts.
Along the way I was fortunate to have the wonderful company of many
friends, teachers, and family and community members. Our joint explora-
tions and probings enabled me to conceptualize and write this volume,
and I now want to thank everyone for their gracious generosity, kindness,
assistance, encouragement, and humor in making it a memorable experi-
ence. My readers will meet many of my companions along the path of the
narrative, and thus to avoid repetitious explanations and acknowledg-
ments I will acknowledge here only those who do not appear in the text,
or who appear only peripherally.
My parents, Jahanara and Anwar Saikia, have inspired and influenced
me with their love for Assam. Their constant and critical engagement with
issues and their deep concerns for the people and the place made me
aware of the problems as well as wanting to learn more. Jyoti Prashad
Agarwala’s music provided a portal to a poetic text of Assam’s history that
became my entry point into the emotions and hopes of the people. I
deeply thank my parents and the Assamese interlocutors, Agarwala and
many others, who paved the way for me to pursue the study of Assam.
Chad Haines, my partner and friend of many years, has been a constant
source of support at each and every stage of writing this book. As I was
finishing the book Chad asked me to teach him colloquial Assamese, and
his interest allowed me to articulate and remember the language of my
heart and, in turn, made writing about Assam more real and immediate.
I would like to thank Margaret Weiner, Patricia Sawin, David Ludden,
Cynthia Talbot, David Gilmartin, Sugata Bose, Sanjib Baruah, and the
members of the Triangle South Asia Colloquium for their comments on
various sections and chapters of the manuscript. I would especially like to