… Namami Brahmaputra,
Kabhi shaant bahe kabhi rudra,
Pal pal mein ek naya chitra,
O Zindagi ke sakha
Yu he behna,
Dur hai shristi,
Brahma tere pita …
When the end gets nearer, life gets dearer, childhood comes closer and memories get thirstier. The song brings about wild nostalgia and takes me back in time, some 45 to 50 years when I used to sojourn in Guwahati circuit house, located near the High Court, on the banks of mighty Brahmaputra while driving down from Shillong, then capital of Assam, on my way to Kolkatta with my Parents. So, one can’t help but reminisce those wonderful times after hearing this beautiful song cranked by Mr Bachchan. I was very young then …
I had not seen the mighty sea, but yes I was seeing the powerful Brahmputra in its shaant and rudra expanse as the song goes. The view from the circuit house was just tantalizing. Each morning as I woke up, I used to rush to the lawns and thereafter run to the railings that divided the circuit house from the long and wide embankment of the river. As the sun rose, one could see herds of cattle flocking around the shore for water and pasture and their herdsmen, with their long crooks on their shoulders singing those folksongs, perhaps to please the rising sun. A few bare feet—bare chested Deswali milkmen too, passed my sight with their soiled dhotis tied around their slender waist. Generally in conversation, trying to describe the might of the river, while comparing it with the humble brooks in their distant village in faraway states.
Even, when, it was hazy. From the embankment one could get a vivid view of the lush green Uma-Nandi islet, located in the centre of the river. It had tall trees and a few boats anchored around. From a distance, it appeared as a humble abode for some rural families involved in small time farming. Where, one could distinctly hear, calls of languri bandars (monkeys) coming from there, that could be heard right up to the rooms of the circuit house. The fierce flow of the river made that rhythmic splash at regular intervals, when it hit the shore, while it kept under wraps, its strong undercurrents. Something, that we humans also need to learn. To keep our raucous mood swings under check.
All around there were hills and hillocks some tall and some not so tall. At a distance one could see a flurry of dinghies and even a couple of ferries carrying people across. By now the sun had arched up and its mirror image could be seen in the river water. The entire panorama is still so fresh in my mind as if it was captured by some high pixel camera about half a century ago.
I jumped the railings to be on the other side of the circuit house that gave me a feel as if I had touched the river. But the flow of water was still at a distance. From here it looked blue and foamy. I walked the distance and up to the shore without anyone noticing me. Where, I dipped my hands to finally touch Brahmaputra. He was cold. Yet he was the biggest warmth around, for the civilisation. The passing herdsman yelled at me to get back, as the river had strong undercurrents. Meanwhile, his carefree children raced across to me. They appeared ace swimmers. The elder one jumped into the river and swam for a while. The others pointed their fingers towards the circuit house. ‘Yes I’m from there.’ I said. They clapped and asked for some money to buy ‘chanajor garam’ early in the morning. They were four so I gave them eight annas. And they immediately ran away, thinking, I might ask them to return the money as there was no one selling chanajor early in the morning. But soon I saw them at a close by tea stall.
I waved and they waved back. Soon I was immersed in my own thoughts. Why are some places so beautiful and some so ugly? Why can’t fishes be out water and live with me? Why can’t I walk through the water and go to Uma-Nandi to see those langurs? Why do I need to always do, what others tell me, and not what I want to do?
Suddenly, I could hear the voice of my Dad’s office boy. He was darting at me, finding me alone and that too on the banks of such a powerful river. The serene and enchanting morning was thus over but it had left a mark in me. I wish I could carry the mighty Brahmaputra with me in my pocket was the last thought.
Namami Brahmaputra is the biggest river festival of India. It was organized across 21 districts in Assam from March 31-April 4, 2017. Brahmaputra is the only male river by name in India and the fifth most powerful river of the world with very strong undercurrents.
By Kamlesh Tripathi
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