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Namami: One Hundred Hours of Vicissitude [1]

Pankaz K. Sharma

Many years later, as he stood facing his multi-storied shopping mall at Gurgaon, Colonel Potbellyano Rotundia had to remember the distant afternoon, when he went to discover Luit.

Luit, or Burha Luit (the old red river), as Brahmaputra was known back then, was a tiny river of just 2900 kms length, and measured just about 10 kms across at its widest.

Rotundia, a scholar known for his impeccable English diction, told Brahmapura: We have come to worship you, because we love and respect you.

Brahmaputra asked: Is that the only reason you want to worship me now?

Rotundia, always the careful and insincerely sincere man, whispered: Strictly speaking, between you and me, we also hope that this will bring us a lot of votes in Assam. You will see, it is going to be a huge festival.

Brahmaputra asked: And what will be the name of the festival?

Rotundia, who has of late been a great admirer of Sanskrit and everything ‘Indian’ replied proudly: Namami Brahmaputra.

Bramhaputra said: Since this is Assam, why did you not choose an Assamese word, but instead opted for Sanskrit? How many Assamese people know or understand Sanskirt? Most of them mispronounce Buddham Saranam Gacchami  as Buddha Charan Goswami, anyhow.

The village idiot (a lonely loser, who is unaware of which Bollywood hero romances whom, or which cricketer recently broke what world record) was sitting on the banks of the Brahmaputra, reading a book; he coyly asked Rotundia: Respected Sir, most humbly and respectfully, I beg to state that I need some help with understanding the Sanskrit title of your festival. Sir, what does "Namami Brahmaputra" mean? Brahmaputra salutes Narendra Modi (NaMo), those living near the Brahmaputra salute NaMo, or that we salute NaMo and we live near the Brahmaputra.

The billionaire ascetic and Yoga master, who accompanied Rotundia, retorted in his brand of rustic Hindi: You idiot, you know nothing. It is not about Modi-ji, though he deserves all our praise and worship; it is about worshipping Mata Brahmaputra.

(His mood was a bit off today; the chartered flight that carried him from his Ashram had some malfunctioning with the air-conditioner. The five-star hotel too, where he stayed, forgot to maintain his room temperature precisely as he had requested.)

The village idiot smiled nervously, went silent, and went back to reading the book he was reading.

Brahmaputra seemed to have lost his cool; but he controlled himself and replied: I am not a Mata; I am the only male river in India.

Rotundia added: Sorry Brahmaputra-ji.

Then he looked at the Yogi-ji and added: This is the river on which the great Lachit Borphukan defeated the Mughals.

The Yogi replied: Is he someone like the great Hindu warrior Lachit Barua-ji of Assam, who defeated the Muslims in that Hindu-Muslim war? [2]

Rotundia whispered with a little uneasiness: Well, it is the same person. And the Assamese people do not like, when you and other sadhu-mahamtas refer to him as Barua.

Brahmaputra asked: What about my sister, Bordoisila? Does she get any mention?

Bordoisila (Bar-Doi-Sikhla, the Goddess of wind and rain), who was nearby, added in the Bodo language, her native tongue: O, aang maawaa sikriti mungun naa maa? [3] (Yes, will I get any recognition?)

Rotundia looked confused; he could not understand a word she said.

Bordoisila repeated her question in English. And then added: I heard that you and your party want to respect and encourage ancient custom and traditions. You have already made Sanskrit compulsory in government schools. Mine was an old language, too….as old as Assam and this Burha Luit.

Yogi-ji could not keep silent and barked: Yes, we all stand for pure Hindustani customs and traditions. We respect Sanskrit, which is deva-bhasha, the language of the Gods. But who told you that we respect your tribal lingo?

Rotundia realized the damage this sentence could cause, and tried to defuse the situation. He added: Mane Brahmaputra dada, I mean, we are afraid, not many people have heard of Bordoisila-ba…how can we honour her?

 Bordoisila lost her temper. She shouted at the top of her voice: What? People do not know me? Everyone in Assam knows me. When I come, people put vermillion, comb, a hand mirror, and hair oil on a stool for my use. Elderly people ask the male members of their families to keep silent, lest I become fickle-minded and cause more destruction.. yet you say, people do not know me.

Rotundia smiled, and with utmost sweetness in his tone, said: Maane Bordoisila-ba, please do not be angry. I meant the people of mainland India, the real people, our Gurus, the policymakers, and not the Assamese people, when I said, people do not know you.

Bordoisila retored: Go, tell them, I should be honoured, too.

Rotundia confessed: Frankly speaking, between you and me, we have no voice over there. In Delhi, nobody listens to us or cares about what we say. We only follow orders and do what is asked.

Yogi-ji, for some unknown reason, lost his cool once again, and said to Bordoisila in his rustic Hindi: Who cares for you?

Rotundia looked at him with stern eyes.

Seeing this, the Yogi-ji composed himself, smiled, and tried to say something in English. All he could remember was a nursery rhyme that comes in commercials to sell nursery rhymes DVDs in those channels, where commercials for his products run all day and all night.

“Rain, rain, go away”, he uttered haltingly.

Bordoisila, now fully aghast and burning with rage, retorted: This is my home; I do not go anywhere. You go away, Madar----!

And then she rained for the next 99 hours, 59 minutes and 43 seconds, and stopped only when the official programmes came to an end.
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Note:
1. vicissitude: a change of circumstances or fortune, typically one that is unwelcome or unpleasant
2. Lachit Borphukan’s deputy, Bagh Hazarika (Ismail Siddique) was a Muslim, while Ram SinghI, the commander of the invading Mughal army, was a Hindu Rajput.
3. Based on the translation provided by a colleague.
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Pankaz K. Sharma (pankaz.sharma@gmail.com) was born and raised in the Brahmaputra Valley of Assam in the North-East India. He is a science worker and currently resides at Guwahati, Assam. He is not an adherent of any particular political or religious ideology.

Frontier
Apr 29, 2017


Pankaz K. Sharma may be contacted at pankaz.sharma@gmail.com

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