Shine On, Crazy Diamond

Just 10 years ago, it was a city under siege. Racked by insurgency and in the shadow of the gun, the legendary Pragjyotishpur or City of Eastern Light straddling the Brahmaputra had lost its sheen as the gateway to northeastern India. Militants, mostly belonging to the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), held it to ransom, extorting traders and creating bloody mayhem. Troops patrolled round the clock, business was dull and there was little nightlife to talk about.

No longer. Guwahati has endured a stormy decade-long militancy—exacerbated by insurgent bushfires—to rise Phoenix-like, from the ashes. The Northeast’s economic hub is again flourishing, thanks to a real estate boom and frenetic consumerism. Fuelled by growing commerce and slush money, the city is living it up again. Glitzy one-stop shops, multi-cuisine eateries and spiffy pool parlours dot this once dreary and languorous city. People are splurging on weddings and parties. Fashion shows are a rage with the young. “Militancy is far from the urban people’s mind now,” says Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi. “It is as if ten years of suffocation has suddenly lifted.”