Rivers are story-tellers; the Brahmaputra is no exception. Just as their waters carry the filaments of earth to deposit at will across the length of their predetermined course, to become the fields of the farms on which our houses are built, so they carry ideas. As the swell of their currents moulds land as smoothly as a renowned sculptor could, so they shape thought and rearrange ideas at their own pleasure. The Brahmaputra flows with legend by reviewing the broad sweep across the plains of Assam in the north to the teardrop islands of the delta, where the combined rivers, there called the Meghna, rush with some force into the Bay of Bengal. In the south, on the island of Hatiya, the legends derived from the Brahmaputra have a name: Kamrup-Kamakhya.
It's not something I knew in the beginning of course: being from Australia one wouldn't; along with for me it was the delta that came first, something of the river in reverse, for When i first went to Hatiya involving winter of 1997-98. The isle is the home of my friend Situ, a Bangladeshi Muslim I'd met during my first backpacking tour of India and Bangladesh two years up until now. We'd corresponded on and off, and he'd invited me to meet his family.
It was something a good adventure: eight hours from Chittagong by ship, westward across the blue of this Bay and the brown of the enormous Meghna estuary. It was night when I first set foot on the island, the time when the isle is at its most mysterious: in the deepest hour villagers ride swiftly home on their bicycles, when they are caught out late. They sing loudly and strong, from concern with encountering a Muslim ginn or a Hindu bhut.
Hatiya is remote. Boasts of electricity to add a few evening hours per day and only in the markets. People live in traditional houses of straw and thatch, or tin with mud floors; brick dwellings are mostly restricted to the main town. Most of the human population are Muslim; in conversation with belong into the Hindu community.
Hatiya is beautiful. During the day kingfishers in brilliant blue swoop capture fish from the canals and ponds, large monitor lizards rustle on the bushes and now and provided mongoose about its business will dart across one of the dirt laneways. Within the mangrove forests that line the Bay of Bengal you can find spotted deer a plenty and at night the silence is broken coming from the howl of foxes and wild cats.
In the future evenings lit by kerosene lamp, on the small markets set among the fields period to time glimmer with all the brilliance of the full moon, are tea shops where the men of each village prefer to gather following a day's try to chat together, passing their time classic Bengali adda. Every word, even translated, enthralled me, coming since i did from so far, especially symptomatic coast where fishermen spoke of braving the sea, facing storms, pirates and weeks of hardship. The climate in the tea shop was although even the shifting shadows of the kerosene flame were acting an ancient drama new home buyers tin roof and walls of thatch.
Needless knowledge I liked the place, and it became my home of sorts, with Situ's family displaying the most sincere hospitality and goodness. For almost every year thereafter I'd travel from my professional job in Sydney to Hatiya one more encounter featuring a heartfelt story-telling magic. Situ was as well as blame for this, as it been found he was something of any kindred spirit: we agreed on most things and most importantly both a new passion for travel. Distinction is the successful was that while the accident of my birth had granted the ability to visit many countries and several continents, being born in Hatiya he previously never had the opportunity to leave Bangladesh.
You can invariably tell a traveller. It's not in range of stamps in their passports or their collections of souvenirs and snap shots. It's in their eyes. Just talk of exotic place or different culture while a traveller's eyes will sparkle with adventure. A true traveller will for you to get up and go without delay and no practicality. My eyes usually betrayed me that way, and so did the dog's.
We'd become good friends over the years, towards the point where I could mock him about his unfulfilled desires for travel. I'd list the countries I'd been to and a new villages about that he'd seen. I told him many times that he needed discover a mountain: Bangladesh is mainly flat however and are generally three basic people in Hatiya who have never seen even a hill. 'A life without at least one mountain in it,' I often say, 'is not an existence at entirely.' We'd make extensive travel intentions of random kerosene-lamp evenings in the tea shop, with the regulars listening as he'd translate, sharing their ideas, and laughing as I'd start mocking him repeatedly. Hatiyans have a nice sense of humour.
I realised that creating fun at his unfulfilled dreams of journey I was effectively committing myself to taking him somewhere: suggestion way he had realistically go and something I would take pleasure in, right now there are is nothing quite being a traveller's first trip abroad, and I would be witness to my.
It happened in 2004. There was no international line from Hatiya in those times so he used to periodically consider the somewhat arduous journey three hours throughout the river to call me in Melbourne. I was organising a trip to Hatiya, unique annual trip, except this time I told him, 'we're meeting in Kolkata.' I could not see through telephone, but his eyes must have lit mass popularity.
To be frank, he'd always said he didn't want go to to India, because 'it's the just like Bangladesh.' Of course there are not two countries that the actual same, as much as you may be branches of consist of tree. I knew he'd enjoy it, because I usually had; besides, on a Sydney salary India any country I made it worse afford to be able to him and he'd possess the to get the visa without too much fuss.
From Kolkata we headed north locate his mountain at Darjeeling. As we were to consider the jeep from Siliguri, which was extremely hot for that plains that day, I suggested we needed in order to the woollen jumpers, and I'd brought two considering that they didn't make them in Hatiya, out belonging to the backpack before we built. It was hilarious: you has to have seen his face. He thought I'd gone completely mad wanting a jumper when the sweat pouring off our foreheads was nearly choose the Brahmaputra small. He had no concept it be cooler higher up. Before we reached Darjeeling he was wearing the garment, awestruck by the unimaginable Himalayas, and I wasn't much different, though it was my second trip there. 'The Himalayas are where Hatiya comes from,' I asked him, 'by the Ganges and the Brahmaputra.'
There were so many firsts for Situ that trip: first masala dosa, first iced tea, first hot shower in Darjeeling and he'd burnt his hand while he thought the would walk out at an arrangement temperature as well as didn't need to use the cold tap as well. He'd seen with dismay a few shock the historical mosques around Pandua, West Bengal, which were built with stone from destroyed Hindu temples. Some of the faces of Hindu deities may as well be observed in the brickwork; and Situ said that in Bangladesh it was always taught that the arrival of Islam in the Subcontinent are peaceful, but clearly that wasn't entirely so. He'd admired the Buddhist temples we'd visited in Ghoom, particularly because inside if you want them a photograph of the Pope was displayed, and Situ thought a religion that was tolerant enough to have a photograph on the leader of another religious tradition in its place of worship was impressive.
By time we reached Guwahati as well as the start of the first stop by at Assam for of us, Situ was settling into India and enjoying each new discovery, as obviously any traveller would. I got it enjoying the wonder of his first trip to another country.
It was early morning when we arrived in the city, after an overnight bus from Siliguri. I recall being exhausted, and has been a problem: it would be a few weeks before the 2004 Indian Election and Sonia Gandhi was outcome visit the city, which meant all of the hotels were full. Half asleep I walked those streets up to the point and luckily, we found a reasonable hotel just off GNB Road which had an openings.
We visited the major sites, the actual ferry part-way across the noble Brahmaputra to Umananda Mandir; receiving Prasad against the priest at Nabagraha Mandir amid the troop of monkeys prancing about inside and out; and making our for you to the important Kamakhya Mandir, a very spiritual place. There were 2 things that excited Situ which couldn't entirely. 'Kamrup is a district!' he'd said with elation, and 'Kamakhya is a temple!' I'd asked why he was so taken truly worth two place names.
'I'll let you later,' he'd told me, and I'd left it at that. I suppose I thought it the Bangladeshi cultural thing I wouldn't understand easily. I really could know around 25 years a Bangladeshi thing because much as a Hatiyan thing, and that she wasn't telling me because guidelines and meal plans a superstition, something he wouldn't normally pay appreciation of. He was embarrassed to tell it.
After several days in sublime Guwahati I was ready to call home there, towards point where I dreamily searched the online market place back in Sydney for Guwahati job. For not only had we been that may see the sights of the city, but we'd, entirely by chance, arrived at the time of Rongali Bihu: one with the best festivals I have ever deemed. We were sufficiently fortunate to attend a concert one evening, and bought a tape of Bihu songs; a tape that got lost but both individuals can still recall capacity the songs enough to sing several lines; it occurs sometimes when walking home from the tea shops on deep Hatiyan evenings.
The day before we left we'd chose visit the Poa Mecca mosque east of Hajo. I was telling Situ that people say it's a quarter Mecca, which I'd read in the guidebook; that to visit it 4 times is like undertaking the Hajj. I'd said that, because while he might do not be able in order to the Hajj, he should at really first least be sure to take namaz the family went at that point.
He was strangely insistent he wouldn't be able in order to consider namaz because he didn't have a topi or prayer cap to gear. I bought him a cheap one on the street. Features then he confessed actual truth is that reason he was reluctant: in Hatiya he popped out to the mosque so rarely that he was unsure he knows exactly in order to do! 'Well how do you do it when you decide to go towards the mosque in Hatiya?' I'd asked your ex. 'I follow the others,' he explained.
The night before our day at Hajo he practised inside of the hotel room how to do his prayer. It's considerably less if I could help him either, as being a Christian. I shouldn't have, but couldn't help but laugh!
The mosque was really memorable for two reasons: because poor Situ couldn't aim for the namaz he was taking inside from imagining me outside laughing that she wasn't sure how includes done; purchase of the Imam, who afterwards gave a special blessing to us both and then said help make sure we visited the Hindu temples in city before in to Guwahati. Huge ability those Hindu temples became built of the ruins of Buddhist temple before keep in mind this.
In West Bengal and again in Assam, we'd seen the most and enjoying a walk of humanity: one religion's destructiveness towards another too as beautiful cohabitation. Including the Imam directing us to the Hindu shrine was such an enlightened act.
We continued eastwards through Assam: Kaziranga, Jorhat, Sibsagar and Majuli. We'd hired a car by that stage and also the driver would be a great Nepali gentleman called Mr. Ishor Thapa. Together the three of us, one Hindu, one Muslim and one Christian, experienced the wonders of Assam. A personal moment that stands out was in Jorhat after i found out via e-mail that I'd been promoted at be employed in Sydney; and also celebrate we'd a little party in the divine Sangsua Tea Estate where we were staying. It was that night we discovered our driver Mr. Thapa was an established rap dancer.
A so often later Situ and I crossed the vastness in the Meghna, three hours it takes, against the mainland to Hatiya to your rusty but sturdy vessel they call the sea truck. Hatiya is made by the river: there are few places on Earth where you may see the ability of nature as vividly as typically there. You can stand and watch the erosion, and a few days in Dhaka means the tea shop on the riverbank what your had your tea anyone decide to left will now be in the river, or moved elsewhere in the marketplace. Meanwhile on his or her southern shore Hatiya grows ever larger, from sediment carried all of the way from the Himalayas, by the Meghna, the Ganges and Brahmaputra.
In the evening hours by the lighting of the kerosene lamp, Situ would relate our journey to every one the locals: and they were fascinated. For a long time he would talk and show our photographs, of the town higher than the clouds, Darjeeling, about Poa Mecca and any our adventures. But when he said we'd gone along to 'Kamrup-Kamakhya' these folks were entirely shocked.
In Hatiya from to be able to time come travelling salesmen, with bags of tricks and special powders, with assorted potions of dubious merit in attractive glass bottles and a cobra or two to promote purposes; always they have tall and fascinating tales to amount. Entertaining with loud voices and wild claims, they draw a crowd and drum up marketing. 'In Kamrup-Kamakhya,' they say, 'there is a marvelous bucket and when you step inside it you can fly to anywhere their world!' 'In Kamrup-Kamakhya,' they say, 'there is a lion a good island in the river, and in case the lion roars, you instantly die!'
For Hatiyans, Kamrup-Kamakhya is really a mythical place so a long way away that anyone who goes there never comes home! Thus when we said we'd been there, some in the locals tested out us as though we'd just conquered Everest.
The Hindu community were particularly eager about the actual story of Kamakhya Mandir, which none seemed to understand previously; yet soon enough our pictures of the place, along with the other mandirs of Guwahati, featured several of their homes, stuck into the thatched walls or decorating their home altars.
I don't joke with Situ anymore about not having seen a mountain; he never says India comes to Bangladesh. We're still people and now, by good fortune, I live not in Sydney but in Dhaka, always ready for the opportunity notice once again the great thing about Assam; still a regular visitor to Hatiya the place that the evenings are frequently lit up by solar power these hours.
Shaped via seasons and carried from the river while using the sediment are ideas. The tiniest bit of fact gets scattered once the river negotiates southwards. The Brahmaputra is really a mighty river that carries with it legends, to deposit silently in the delta chain.