By Amir Basumatary
There was a time when I was the youngest in the family and hence loved by all, maybe now too. My elder brothers used to pamper me a lot and would also scold and debar me from indulging in certain activities.
I was born in a small village called Borchung. The river Kolong used to be the primary source of water for the village as it used to flow through it. I grew up with the blessings and guidance of the river, a living entity for the villagers. Our village did not have a concrete bridge, all the modern architectural bridges that I see whilst passing big cities were a far cry for us then. The villagers had arduously constructed a bridge of bamboos to cross the river; statement of intent by humans to the river. 20 years have passed by in a flash as I sit on my rugged table to write this and the memories are hazy, they are like innumerable fishes swimming in the vast lake of my mind and I am struggling to pinpoint and catch one.
My father earned a job which enabled me to study in one of the better schools at that time. My father earned that job as he had passed his matriculation exams, his 10th standard exams. He knew the value of education and wanted me to have a good education.
I hated going to school as a child. In the drowsy sunsets in my village, I was more interested in mingling with the boys my age and avoid the gaze of the seniors in my family. My favorite past time after school was to jump into the Kolong river. The next day, I used to invariably be thrashed at home because my uniform would be ruined. Bunking school and roaming around the village was a happiness that has not been replicated in my life ever since.
When my father’s job at the tea garden was made permanent then we shifted to a quarter. We had climbed the class ladder and in society and my increasing notoriety prompted my parents to send me to a hostel.
I was left far away from my beloved village and my own Kolong. As years passed in a distant land, I heard that Kolong had gone dry. It was teetering on its death bed from the roaring life it had led. When I came back from the hostel and saw the river, a somber lament engulfed me in seeing the bleak state of the river. My swimming lessons in Kolong were left unfinished. My elder brothers did not allow me to venture into the deep waters of the river; when I went to bathe at the river they never allowed me to jump from the bamboo bridge. My childhood has passed hearing numerous stories about Kolong. My elder uncle used to reminisce of the days when gharials used to show up in the river.
Once, in Kaliabor, I saw the water of Kolong being released. I have never seen a more beautiful scene than that in my life. The water was blue and sparkling, but alas, that happiness was momentary; Kolong had receded to its lamentable state soon. There have been rumors that they will initiate steps to help Kolong live again. If the rumors are true then I will learn swimming this time. My beloved Kolong, I hope you will live again.
30 years later
The time was 3:45 in the morning, wee hours, and the roosters had started crowing. I woke up drowsy and grumpy as my cell phone was ringing. I was still trying to remember the final vestiges of a beautiful dream, the memory of which has faded now. I could hear a scared trembled voice on the phone exclaiming, “Hatimura Bandh Bhagil. Kaliabor’t paani hoise” (The Hatimura Embankment has broken. Kolong is flooding)
I have been a recipient of numerous prank calls since college days and have personally perpetuated a number of them as well; I was disinclined to believe the caller and hence I just replied a curt ‘thank you’ and dozed off. At around 5:30 am, another phone call disturbed my sleep. This time it was my little sister, and her tremulous voice rife with worry made me address the gravity of the situation. The earlier caller was not fibbing. It was grim reality staring defiantly at us. The embankment had seriously been breached. Waves of waters were rolling in like the vanguard of a savage army.
Jakhalabandha was submerged. A thought that still sends cold shivers down my spine. Burha Luit (Brahmaputra) had finally succeeded to break the shackles, and he was in a particularly fould mood. Kolong was fervently of his way to meet Kopili after spending years manacled as an unruly prisoner, his gusto was terrifying.
He was angry and vented his anger on the puny bridges which were built over it. Obliterating them was Kolong’s defiance to humans. Our generation and anyone born after the 70s do not remember anything about the living Kolong. Humans prefer to forget bad memories and live in a cocoon of happy ones, a living Kolong was never a happy memory, and the younger generation had never seen his fury, until now. He had waited decades to join her. All we could do was to watch as mute spectators in awe at the brute force of his love for Kopili. O Burha Luit, spare us humans for our misdeeds. For all our technological progress, we are easily cowed by you every year. Have mercy on the people. Go meet her, love her, cuddle her, and sing her poems of your love but please have mercy on us.
Adding the next points for clarification:
Kolong – A tributary of the Brahmaputra. Kolong is a Karbi word, Lang meaning Water and Kolong meaning ‘Where’
Kopili – A tributary of the Brahmaputra.
The write-up is factually incorrect by choice of the author. The Kolong river broke its embankment to meet the Champaboti river instead of Kopili. The author exercised his creative freedom.
In Assam, devastating floods lay waste to humans and livestock every year. Locals revere the rivers here, their life depends on these rivers, and they share a special bond with them. This year, Assam suffered the worst floods in 29 years with more than 10 lakh people affected and yet, there was minimal coverage by the national media. There has not been any feasible solution to stem the floods which occur every year. Next year, the floods will come again, and the rivers will rise up again in a terrible dance of death; people in Assam will beg for mercy again.
A postgraduate in English literature and an ardent biking enthusiast, Amir traverses by the countryside and loves to cook in grandma’s hearths.