Saga of love,terror and hope

THE HANS INDIA |   Feb 11,2018 , 02:48 AM IST

Gautam Prasad Baroowah; Notion Press; `250
Gautam Prasad Baroowah; Notion Press; `250

Disturbed times always have a pattern, all its own. Assam had seen this truth in reality, from the year 2030 onwards, when everything seemed to go haywire. The ethnic people and the indigenous community had disrupted in a major quarrel. The Bodos and the Muslims had come to a clash, and Assam knew no peace as every second person grew sceptical about the other. They were caught in a dubious battle, when darkness was the truth and day light was a blatant lie. 

No political party had the integrity and consistency inherent, to form a government. Once a political party formed a government, it was very soon upended. A government that was itself insecure, could hardly hold the people together. The farmers happened to face the worst brunt of the situation, as the banks were not prepared to provide them loan. How would they pay back. It was the most unheard of ghastly situation, that Assam faced in all her history.

The fields grew increasingly parched with the absence of rain and the thought of growing crops there, was a far-fetched dream. In their desperation, most farmers resorted to commit suicide. The villagers had no choice but to accept hunger with equanimity. 

At the initial stage the government did come forward to offer help to the people and they were glad to have at least the midday meal of rice and the other meal of chapattis. But starvation before long brought about a strong feeling of desperation, and the people were prepared to engage in any kind of job whatsoever, that would fetch in some money.

Thoughts of respectability was thrown to the wind. A little food would appease their hunger and save them from dying. But very soon, malnutrition followed in the footsteps of starvation, and the people grew so weak that they were hardly able to stand upright as human beings. The next picture was more grim, it was one of death! All the outsiders who had made Assam their home over the years, now fled. Young girls sold their virginity without a second thought, as there was no dearth of rich men wishing to throw a few rupees their way for a bit of fun. 

This is the tale of a society, that was once known to be the fairest of the fair, the highest and the most exalted! Crossing over to Assam by sneaking across the border was very easy and it was taking place every other day. One of the many men who had crossed the border to enter Assam, was Jalal Ali. He had settled in Goalpara but after he had spent a couple of years dedicated to strenuous labour in rice and jute cultivation, he grew to be a prosperous man. 

He took a new name and began to be known by it, Jalil Choudhury. He planned out the path his life would take and he next married not a Muslim girl, but a Bodo girl, from a very poor family and exchanged garlands with her. The marriage tie was not appreciated by society, but the rich Jalil who has now changed his name to ‘Jolly,’ found no one opposing him directly. 

There were many who did their best to stop the marriage but money has its own way of voicing itself and Jolly soon built a house to live with his bride Anupama, a little away from the village, beside a stream. They were a happy couple and life smiled at them. 

A son was born to them. He was very bright and Jolly sent him to Guwahati to study and earn a name. Jolly was always however wary about his son’s safety and fear for his well being was uppermost in his mind. His second child was a daughter, Lalita. She was born to the couple in the year 2025, a pretty little baby girl, who had the quaint and beautiful looks of her mother. Life did smile at them but fear held their happiness in an iron grip.

Trouble as Jalil had expected, was soon in the offing with widespread unrest between the indigenous people and the new—Assamese people, on the grounds of religion. Many people lost their lives and the five year old Lalita, lost her parents in the worst communal disturbance ever, she had hardly taken her first steps and learnt to lisp a few words, when she found herself an orphan. Who shall now take the responsibility of rearing her. 

Her father’s relatives were afraid of having to do anything with her and her mother’s side of the family had no living member. No one knew anything about her brother Bulbul, who had seen his sister as a mere baby, was somewhere in Guwahati. It was therefore highly fortunate that Lalita was adopted by Gaurikanta Majumdar and Kuntala Majumdar — a respectable though childless couple. Having adopted the little Lalita, they gave her a respectable and loving home and admitted her to an English medium Convent school. Lalita now had a pair of loving parents and a home to call her own. She grew up under their loving care.

Lalita was a hit over pampered by her foster parents. They provided her with whatever she wanted. But she was a strange girl right from her childhood. Her cravings were unlike other girls of her age. lt was never for dresses or chocolates or dolls. She never cared for any such gifts her parents lavished on her. It was to spend life in the open, in the forest that lay behind their house, that she really sought with all her heart. 

There was just no fear in her heart to be out in the dense forest all alone. One afternoon, Kuntala who was looking for Lalita cried out...Lalita, where are you. Dressed in a pretty dotted frock Lalita replied..., I am here mother, don’t worry. I am in the jungle. Kuntala cried out..., My dear, what are you doing there in the jungle. Why have you gone there. There are insects and ants. Come back Lalita, come back.

Lalita replied, Mother I am fine. Don’t worry. Do you know, I saw a long tailed lizard here, just now. Lizard? Lizards don’t live in the jungle. But I saw it. I swear I saw it. Wait, I’ll show it to you. No, I don’t want to see it. You come back. How many times I have told you that there are poisonous insects and ants out there. There are bears and foxes,snakes and wolves. It’s almost midday. Come, have your bath and sit for lunch. Girls from good families don’t roam about thus. You shouldn’t move about in the wild but concentrate in your studies when your school is closed. Don’t you have any task from school. Come back dear and play at home. But Maa, I love the river, I love the jungle and I even love the insects and ants. 

Extracted with permission.