Few Stories we read, few we live, few we believe and few we never heard of before. I am going to tell you about an unspoken story that I have witnessed. The unspoken story of Bodoland that you never heard before.
“Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD), or Bodoland for short, is a set of four districts that form an autonomous administrative unit in the extreme north on the north bank of the Brahmaputra river, within the state of Assam, Northeast India, by the foothills of Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh. The region is predominantly inhabited by the indigenous Bodo people. The official map of Bodoland includes four districts of BTAD recognised by the Government of India. ” – Wikipedia
I walked barefoot on the soft white soil, stopping for some time and then to admire the surreal beauty of the forest behind and the dazzling shadow of Mountains in front of me on the crystal clear river. The sun was about to set on the other side of the mountain and the river was acted as a border between two countries India and Bhutan. As the gentle waves stroked me, I was continuously chatting with her; a beautiful lady in her thirties wearing a traditional Assamese dress dokhona. Standing in the middle of the water, balanced on the rocks, she asked me “where I am now? India or Bhutan?? “
It was ten past seven and the village was as silent as dark. The concoction of wildflowers and wet black soil produced an attractive earthy aroma. I was sitting on a bamboo made chair on the lawn of the mud house and she sat just a campfire ahead. Our laughter and chitchat have suddenly stopped when the sound of a Bihu tune begrudgingly moved towards us. Durga, her name poured some local rice beer on my empty glass and asked: “ Do you find this place unsafe for the World?”.
I was so engrossed in the tune and the taste of Zarwo (Silkworm fry), it took me a while to understand her meaning and why not? My entire perception of these indigenous people and the locality got changed when the first time I stepped here at lush green paddy fields surrounded by bamboo trees. I did not answer her question only to thank myself not to listen to my close ones who have either not heard about this place or have some different opinions. According to the media the name Bodoland was taken with scepticism because of the violent confrontation created by tribals and the illegal immigrants of Bangladesh. Life is not easy anywhere but still important how we lead our lives. By looking at her and the dark where electricity is luxury, I murmured myself “give them a reason to smile, give them a reason to live.”
We began the morning while breathing fresh air in the mid of Manas National park while enjoying a ride of Elephant. The same afternoon I found myself roaming at Manas Maozigendri Ecotourism Society where the poachers of Rhinos have become protectors now. These people left their good earning because of the education they got from local NGOs and I felt good that they are trying to maintain social responsibility. By the time we had some Pitha (a dessert made by rice grains ) and laal cha (black tea made by jaggery), I got to know about many people who were killed above 100 animals now protecting them, creating roads, reinforcing houses and educating the next generation about the importance of Biodiversity. ( Read more about these poachers here )
My next stop was my reason to visit the place; a local festival called Dwijing. I found the festival pulled me to its vivid projects while was taking me to an alternate world. I was the onlooker of the workmanship and their diverse exercises lured me to an ever-increasing extent. Durga explained about Dwijing – the River Festival where the Bodo tribal come together to promote river tourism and to provide a livelihood opportunity for local people. Started in 2016 with the name of “Aie river festival’ later changed its name to “DWIJING ” to showcase the river “Aie” and its importance. The festival was geared towards the tribe, but travellers were welcome to join.
I spent my week with Bodo people in the village and witnessed the simplicity and hardships borne by the villagers. No electricity, long way to reach hospitals, schools, tough to earn basics by collecting firewood, fishing by local made Jakoi and Khaloi ( bamboo sticks type), weaving through the loom and facing social issues.
Part of me wanted to stay. It’s not easy to come back to the same city as the rat race. It’s not easy to forget those smiles, toxin-free air, the river, the local food, heart touching welcome, the place where I witnessed black and white soils together; I still mesmerize the safe sunset in between wild.
Wanna See How Bodoland looks like??