Friday, February 10, 2012

Majuli Missing Masala

Hi folks.

Right now I'm in the town Kamalabari, on Majuli Island, in the middle the river Brahmaputra, in upper Assam. I've been here for two days, and I fear I have to leave tomorrow, though, like so many places in India, I barely feel like I've scratched the surface of the surface of this place. Certainly, I've never been to place that felt so close to my mental image of what "Assam" really is.




The island itself is basically just a vast sandbar, made of sediments washed down from the Himalayas. It's interesting to reflect on the fact that the ground I'm on now probably came from some mountain somewhere in the vastness of southern Tibet. In some respects, Majuli's not unlike the islands of Chincoteuge and Assateuge on the Eastern Shore, which are also just big deposits of sand washed down from the Appalachians.

Getting here was something of an adventure in and of itself. I had to take a local bus from the city of Jorhat to a place where you take a ferry across the Brahmaputra called Nimati Ghat. The boat itself was totally crowded with cars and chickens and motorcycles and Bengalis and Missings and Assamese...quite the experience. Obviously, there's no life vest or anything along those lines. And the way the boats shove off is that a guy pushes against the unstable Brahmaputra River sediments with a big piece of.

The wildlife here is pretty amazing, which is in itself interesting given that the Island has a fairly high population density (maybe not for India, but there are no lack of people here). I'm no Ornithologist, but I've seen huge numbers of different species of Cranes and Cormorants and Egrets. Also, the island is home to giant bats with wingspans that look to be about two feet: bats so huge I thought they were birds at first. There's a particular species of tree that they seem to prefer, and when you walk by one in the day you can see hundreds of them dreaming their sweet batty dreams. But if you go by at just the right time in the evening, you can see them all wake up to start their day and go about their batty business.

However, other than being the world's largest river Island, the chief reason Majuli is famous is because of it the center of the Assamese Neo-Vashnavite tradition......

Actually, I'm going to have to go into this in more detail later...a Rajasthani by the name of Punkraj (short, Raj) is practicing his English by reading this over my shoulder and little Missing Tribe kids are running around inside the cafe..... I can't really continue to function under these circumstances...

But that's the life I lead.

Patrick

P.S.: I've been bumping along the roads of Majuli with the terrible main theme from the 60s Italian Western "Un Pistolo Per Un Ringo" running through my head.


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