Where is Gopal?

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 sells 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 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.

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Boat Makers of Assam

In the modern world everywhere, the industrial revolution is ushering automation in every field: be it a automobile, telephone, airplane, home gadgets and traditional hand makers are in trouble if they don’t adapt themselves to these changes. Because automation means mass production of items. Mass production or assembly line production of the articles or gadgets is like asexual reproduction where the product items are almost identical to each other and there is very small degree of error usually in parts per million. Thus mass production through assembly produces monotonous items whereas when it is hand crafted, the personality of the creator is reflected in the product and each creation becomes unique. Only problem is the limited number of the product.

boat

Something like this is happening in the field of boat making in the North East state of India called Assam. Mighty Brahmaputra and many other rivers pass through this land making it fertile be depositing the rich alluvial soil. These rivers also provide the inhabitants with fresh fish which is the staple diet along with the rice. Rivers are also used from transportation. Thus boats play an important role in the life of people of the state. In Assam, tradition boat makers are finding it difficult to compete with the mechanized production. But still here are people who would rather cling to their generations old profession of making the boats by hands. One such person is Baler Das who is aged 70 years and hails from Kukurmara near Guwahati the capital city of Assam. He learned this art from Panewar Kalita. Sal is the wood used traditionally to make boats but now pama gach, gameri, sama and ajar are also used. An 80 feet Khel boat requires about 60 cubic feet of wood and fetches only about 12000 rupees.