The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Assamese trade cry with a hint of Swahili
- Kenyan wins hearts in fair by speaking to customers in local tongue

March 13:Aahok, aahok...matro ponchash toka” (Come, come…only Rs 50), the baritone voice rings out from somewhere in the international section of the trade fair. Nothing unusual about the trade cry of the hawker in the local language. Except the fact that it is from a Kenyan who is in the city for not more than a fortnight.

But for Ogbeide Aminawon Austin, a handicraft dealer from the African country, it is not only business time but also an opportunity to build bridges and make new friends. “Of course, I am here to do business. But when I leave tomorrow, I want to take back something from this place. And what’s better than love of the people,” Austin said on the closing day of the 15th Guwahati International Trade Fair at Chandmari.

In fact, it is not only Austin but also several other delegates from different countries for whom Guwahati became their second home for nearly a fortnight — a feeling they would cherish forever and an experience they would like to cherish.

Inaugurated on February 29 at the Assam Engineering Institute ground in Chandmari, the fair was attended by trade delegates from many countries, including Thailand, the Czech Republic, Sri Lanka, UAE, Turkey, Pakistan and Bangladesh besides Kenya. Austin, who is also a soccer player back home, said he was amazed by the simplicity of the people and the respect he has got here. “The people are very nice. It was a pleasure doing business with such knowledgeable people,” he added.

The Kenyan did business on handicraft items, including African masks and finely-crafted jewellery. Shamim Sultana, a college student who attended the fair on the last day, said: “She was surprised to hear a foreigner hawk his wares in Assamese. He did generate a lot of interest among the visitors.”

At the Thai stall — the Thais have come with the biggest delegation of 40 — some visitors even wanted to learn a few Thai words like thank you. “Since we were using one or two of our words, some visitors liked it very much and wanted to learn,” said Sunisa, one of the delegates from the Southeast Asian countries. She said visitors hailing from Nagaland and Manipur “could feel the affinity between us”. “A young girl from Nagaland told me that she felt like talking to her sister,” Sunisa added.

An organiser of the fair said some of delegates wanted to taste “genuine Assamese delicacy and we obliged. It was nice to see how people from different parts of the world became friends in such a short period of time”.

The fair organisers also gave away special prizes and mementoes to the participating countries — the UAE, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Turkey and Kenya.

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