Silchar, India

  • Date
  • 2 March 2001

In trying to gain permission to enter Manipur state and exit India for Myanmar, we spent some time at the Deputy Commissioner’s office and met a young couple, both executive magistrates in Silchar and invited them for dinner.

Twenty-eight year old Hemashri Hazarika specializes in women’s related issues, while her 32-year-old husband Palash Pratim Bora focuses on law enforcement. They are two of the five magistrates in Silchar.

Hemashri and Palash met several years back when studying in Delhi. In her words, ‘I thought he was good husband potential, so I told my parents about him. They were responsible for determining if a marriage between us might be suitable.’ Outspoken and clever, Hemashri is the oldest of three children and comes from Assam state, as does Palash, who is also the eldest child, but he’s quieter than his wife. They’ve been married for almost one year.

Hemashri and I sat together prior to dinner and she quizzed me on what women wear to parties in the West since, ‘A saree is almost required here’. She asked me about wedding engagements, the significance of diamond rings and explained that she rarely wore a saree until she married, but now wears one every day. Hemashri is open, funny and energetic. A friend of hers walked over and she greeted him, ‘I haven’t seen you in some time. You’ve put on weight and look more mature now.’ I tried not to grin, but I felt comfortable enough with her to chuckle. I told her in the US, we’d never say something so honest about weight even if a person had ballooned into a whale. She laughed, ‘Yes, I think Americans are uptight about weight. Here a little extra weight means you have plenty to eat. When I got married, my husband told me not to lose weight or people would think he wasn’t taking good care of me.’