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Return of the native: Assam’s youth head back home
Published on 11 Oct. 2009 10:58 PM IST
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In Paulo Coelho’s “Alchemist”, a shepherd wanders all over in search of treasure only to find the gold in his own backyard. The fable seems to be coming true in Guwahati, which is witnessing a reverse migration of its youth who had travelled to greener pastures. Assam’s main city, which has been ranked among the 100 fastest growing cities by a study, is luring back its young population with new opportunities. Surajit Sharma, for instance, is a bright 27-year-old who, after completing his MBA, worked in Mumbai for three years but then decided to return to Assam. “For me, the decision to go out of Assam was a search for better opportunity. However, over the last three years or so, Guwahati has developed a lot. A number of companies and brands that have entered the northeast for the first time have chosen Guwahati as their base,” Surajit Sharma told IANS. “With all these companies coming here, the job market has really opened up. Therefore, it didn’t make any sense for me to stay away from home and I decided to return. I now work for a financial services company here that pays me a decent packet and I live with my parents. What more could I ask for?” he said. Atul Barooah, an engineer who left his well-paying job in a multinational in Bangalore to “follow his entrepreneurial heart” to set up a multi-cuisine restaurant in Guwahati, is another one from this brood. “I would be lying if I said that opportunities here are the same as those in other metros like Bangalore. But Guwahati is developing fast,” he said. “You know, there is this perception that people here don’t like to go out, but the fact is that they simply didn’t have enough places to explore before. Therefore, when I decided to take a small place on lease in the city and open a multi-cuisine restaurant, it was an instant hit. “It seems like all of a sudden a barrage of food and retail chains like Pizza Hut, Barista and Fab India and multiplexes have come here and people here are lapping them up,” Barooah, 28, said. According to a 2007 study by the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development, Guwahati in Assam is one of the world’s 100 fastest growing cities. While the study relied on data from the second half of last century, things have only accelerated since then, even though the change seems to be apparent more in the main city of Assam. Guwahati, which is the nerve centre of the northeast and attracts people from all the eights states in the region for business, education and health facilities, is now attracting its youngsters. Pallavi Sharma, a 27-year-old artist, said: “Painting is a passion for me and it has been so ever since I was in school. However, I decided to go for a ‘safer’ option and did my BA in Delhi University. When I was home during a college break, one of my father’s friends, who has a hotel, saw one of my oil paintings and said he would like to buy it. “That’s when my confusion over my career ended. I decided to stay put and started painting full time. The art market is niche in Guwahati but it’s catching on. I have done exhibitions and my paintings have been bought by hotels and other art collectors for as much as Rs.30,000,” Pallavi Sharma said. Her sister, Nayana, similarly returned home after doing a course in media from Delhi and is now working for a newly launched news channel here. “Some people say it doesn’t make sense to come back because the salaries here can never compete with other metros. But what about the savings? I used to spend Rs.9,000 every month just on my rent in Delhi. I save all of that now, am enjoy ing my job and have a great social life as well,” Nayana said.

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