Can man love a river?
I think he can.
The hunter/gatherer man eventually became a settler. He chose river banks ideally for creating settlements.
Many an ancient, glorious civilisation has flourished along the banks of river.
I belong to the North – Eastern part of India, the most beautiful part of India, after Jammu and Kashmir.
My city Guwahati lies surrounded by hills, and a holy river that flows along it.
That river, that very river is the giver of life, that very river is the subject of more than 100 songs, yes, today I write about that very river – Brahmaputra.
The term “Brahmaputra” means Son of Brahma, the creator of the Universe according to Hindu mythology.
Man vainly proclaims himself to be the best of all creatures. But where shall his vanity lie without the nourishing care of a river?
When you come to think of it, man is nothing without a river – a source of water. The Brahmaputra originates in the Chemayungdung Glacier
– location Himalayas, China. It then travels down 2900 km, so that we may quench our thirst, so that we may water our crop fields, so that the land may produce.
Since my childhood, I’ve felt a special connect with the river. Its red water has been a source of intrigue.
Every year, there are news reports of young boys drowning in the river.
I don’t know if they were over adventurous or if the river really is hungry for blood, as some urban myths go.
Deep down, I know this river is something different.
My friend, who has swam in the river Ganga, says that it is nothing like swimming in the Brahmaputra.
No matter who good a swimmer you might be, every time you dive into the Brahmaputra, you don’t know what awaits you.
They say the river is angry. They say it is devastating. Every year it lashes it’s fury and causes massive land erosion – one of the biggest issues of modern day Assam.
It is so dangerous during June/July that it almost totally floods Majuli, the world’s largest river island.
For some reason, this is not just a river.
I first felt this when we crossed this river over Saraighat Bridge – a rail road bridge over the river.
The train slowed down and entered the bridge.
Tonnes of steel, metal tracks, metal bridge – this deafening sound. I was little then, and it was scary.
When the train enters the bridge, people rummage through their purses and hand out coins to children and you are supposed to throw it into the river. It is a sort of a donation to the river.
I threw my coin.
“Clang!”, it crashed into the metal railings of the bridge. Then it vanished in a backdrop of red.
I looked down to see the pillars of the bridge.
Massive pillars. The water swirled all around them in angry gestures.
A whirlpool generating there.
People who swim in this river, talk of it’s infamous under current. It is said that it’s under current is overwhelming enough to drag a fullgrown person into it’s depths.
It takes the life out of the person and returns the corpse that floats. So many deaths have happened surrounding the river. So many suicides, boat capsizes, accidents.
Perhaps, that is why the river is red in colour. My first extremely close experience with the river was four years back.
I never imagined myself diving into the river because then, I couldn’t swim.
But, as is the case with youth, reason always takes a backseat when adventure beckons. There was this huge bamboo raft that was tethered to the bank.
We three friends sat on it and put your legs in the water. Soon, the brilliant idea of going down in the river was floated.
Till date, I do not know what prompted me to take this extremely bad decision, but I soon found myself dipping into the river.
I was a non swimmer and I held on to the bamboo raft and let my body loose. The river was in good flow. That was the first time I witnessed the natural floatation of human bodies.
But, something felt very wierd. For starters, the visibility was so low. The soil beneath was spongy. I had this weird feeling that snakes were crawling by my leg.
I later realised that was just the water brushing against my body hair.
Nothing untoward happened that day, but I figured that the river is not to be messed with.
The river is a harbinger of destruction, but also a giver of life.
Perhaps, that is why people have a love hate relation with the river.
I find myself in love with the river.
I have spent some extremely happy and sad moments by it’s banks.
I’m fortunate to grow up so close to nature. The river inspires me.
Those who’ve never lived around a river will never decipher this special bond. But it is there.
I am fortunate, for the river has only given but not taken anything from me.
But, even they, who’ve lost entire livelihoods, do not hate the river.
“It doesn’t take anything. And if it does, it returns ten folds.”, says Nekib Jaman, a fisherman, smiling from his old country boat.
Nekib lost his son to the river, many monsoons ago.
But he doesn’t hate the river.
No one can.