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Coming Home To The Brahmaputra
A visit to Assam is always a scenic delight. It begins right on the plane from Delhi. If you are foresighted enough to ask for a window seat onthe left-hand side, you will get a panoramic view of the Himalayas for nearly one-and-a-half hours of the two-hour flight. They are an awesome sight and on a clear day, if the pilot informs you in time, you can get postcard views of Everest and Kanchenjunga in all their glory. And it won't be a cliche to say that they are an unforgettable sight. Then as the plane banks steeply over Guwahati before touch-down, one gets an equally awesome sight—the mighty Brahmaputra, which dominates Assam as much with love as with power. Without the Brahmaputra, Assam would be nothing and as I grew up on its banks, to return to it in Guwahati is like returning to one's mother. The last time I was televised, I walked down a grassy slope right down to the water. From every point one can see Umananda, the island which used to be inhabited by a tribe of monkeys whose coo-coo-coo used to reverberate over Guwahati. One seldom hears them now.
When we were children, we crossed the Brahmaputra by ferry, from Pandu to Amingaon, to catch the train to Calcutta. On the way, a five-course dinner from soup to nuts was served during the crossing by waiters in achkans, jaunty turbans and red sashes to match. On the way back, in the mornings, it was bacon and eggs and a hearty English breakfast. We used to watch with delight as the khalasis, whose job it was to throw the ropes (which they did with uncanny skill), and the anchor gave orders in an East Bengali dialect. And now the Brahmaputra at Pandu-Amingaon has one of the finest bridges in India and the mighty river also has a longer bridge near Tezpur. And at places the river is so broad it looks like the sea.