I was working in a place called Sivasagar in Assam. There was a shopping centre. In one of the shops a boy named Gopal used to work. Gopal was a runty-bodied boy from Bihar; he was working in a shop here in the mini-shopping center. Anyone who saw him will take him for the proprietor of the shop which sold eatables, victuals and phone service and has a xerox machine. Shops generally are all-in-one type here.
Gopal was very agile and competent and extremely good-natured. He has a gift of gabbiness and it did not take him long to make a niche in a corner of your heart. I thought him to be Bengali but actually he was from Bihar; so many Biharis have come to this state because the British rulers brought their forefathers here as labours for tea plantations, and to do the menial jobs and rickshaw pullers, barbers and laundry.
Then one day, Gopal suddenly disappeared from the scene. How did I come to know was that I had given Gopal a parcel to courier to my native town and it did not reach the destination for a long time. I came to inquire for it from Gopal but he was not in shop. Other persons who were actually the proprietors began sitting in place of Gopal. In the beginning they will not divulge his whereabouts but they knew it for sure. Sometimes they said Gopal has gone to another village to attend a marriage; after some days version became his own marriage.
Gopal is the name of Krishna who you might have seen playing on a flute in front of cows and there are amours Gopis who dance around him. These Gopis were married women who it is said, forget everything in the world: shame, their family, husbands and society, and went running to him when his notes on flute began wafting into the air and reached their ears. And our Gopal, he was smitten by love though not of gopis but only his unwed neighbour. The girl’s father and mother are also having a shop in the same shopping place; they were next door neighbours. The affair was kept secret by the smart Gopal, but I doubt that some of the boys who loiter around all the time were knowing everything and so did the owner of the shop in which Gopal worked.
So one night, Gopal eloped with girl and to this day nobody knows where he has gone. He might be in some secluded place, must have got employment and by now may have fathered a child.
Indian Pitta is a small bird. It is the most colourful bird. There are nine different colours on it. Due to this fact, it is called Navranga (meaning nine coloured). It is a very shy bird and often keeps to the ground under the bushes. Most of the times, it is spotted by its calls.
Pitta comes to North India under Himalayan foothills for breeding. The bird migrates to south India or western India during winters. Initially it was named “Ponnunky Pitta“. In fact the name is derived from Telugu language in which it means a “small bird “.
Based on vivid colours, the bird has many different names like “Naorang” in Hindi, “Shumcha” in Bengali, Hariyo in Gujarati. It is also called 6 O’clock bird as it is most active at this time in the morning. In Tamil it is known as “Kaachul“, in Telugu “Polankipitta, Ponnangi pitta“.
Our area falls in the foothills of Himalayas. Lots of these birds can be heard in the summer mornings. The bird visits our areas during the height of summers season. They nest here. I also was lucky to spot and photograph this bird.
I have been to Assam earlier also when I was posted in Cachar in the Southern Assam. The area is bounded by Bangladesh and Tripura and North Cachar Hills separate it from the rest of Assam. We lived in a town called Silchar. Although it is in the Assam but most of the population is Bengalis. Muslims dominate the rural areas. The Barak river flows through it and splits into two rivers called Surma and Kushiara which again join together in Bangladesh.
This river is very famous for a variety of fish called illish. Although it has more bones than any other fish, it tastes great and the Bengali people whose weakness for the fish is well known are crazy for this variety.
During the days we were there, there were very few means of communications. All the flights coming into this area from Kolkata fly for most of their journey in the Bangladesh space. Traveling by train taken at least 12 hours to the capital city of Guwahati which is better connected with rest of India. The trains have to cross the North Cachar Hills through tunnels and on meter gauge. But then the whole region is sleepy and naturally gifted with great beauty.
During the monsoons the Barak river is in spate and many a times breaks the dykes and inundates the whole region. Houses are submerged, and crops are destroyed. There are tea gardens on all side and Surma valley tea is quite famous. During British times, the area produced petroleum in places like Badarpur. There were oil wells on the small hillock and crude oil flowed through channels specially made for the purpose to storage tanks on the banks of Barak river. From here the crude was transferred to the ships and sent away.
The boundary of India with Bangladesh was very near. The border was very porous at that time and people sneaked from one country to another easily. In fact many of them have relatives on both the sides. Like in Punjab many Hindus had to migrate as refugees to Silchar leaving behind their properties.
Dr. Akashitora Dutta has a pleasing personality and talent with which she has lent glamour and substance to many television programs and films. She has tragedies in her life which she hides behind the façade of journalism and acting in serials and films.
Model, actor and writer Akashitora Dutta, whose father Kamala Saikia was the first journalist to be killed by militants. She has written many novels. Her second novel was about the erosion of the values which the banned militant group claims to uphold. Coming 15 years after her father’s death, the novel is based on real-life events from the journalist’s murder to the kidnapping and killing of social worker Sanjoy Ghose.
Her literary works represent the stories of sufferings because of militancy. It has to be told not only to those who read Assamese, but to all in the country and outside. Her works have been published in Assamese and Bengali. Her first novel Xei Prem, was moderately successful.
Akashitora, who earned a PhD from Gauhati University for her thesis on the “Changing Profile of the Educated Assamese Housewife”. Her father, who was a fountainhead of inspiration, was killed in a brutal manner just because he opposed and fought against some of the wrong ideologies adopted by the outfit. She vividly remembers the days when the outfit threatened my father not to write a single word against them.
After Kamala Saikia was killed on August 9, 1991, his shocked daughter moved away from the limelight for a while. But acting was too close to her heart and she has appeared on telefilms, films and Serials.
Akashitora’s started to appear on stage in Sivasagar town her birth place when she was just four. Playing the role of little Krishna, she impressed the audience so much that one admirer gifted her a gold coin. She never looked back after being adjudged as the best actress and debater in a Gauhati University youth festival in 1987. So convincing was she as a Naga woman, Kemi, in a drama staged during the festival that the name “Kemi” became her moniker, her cognomen. As a writer, Akashitora focuses primarily on women.