During my College days, our hostel gave each of the girls the choice of deciding the menu for one day in the entire month. For this we would often visit the Kachari Bazar, a small market run by the locals, situated on the banks of the Bramhaputra. Often this would lead to good natured haggling and lots of laughter with the shopkeepers almost every day. Most of these shopkeepers would bring fresh vegetables from the other side of the river every morning and sell them on this side, probably at a higher price. Fish here was especially very fresh. With time, I made friends here with a few of the guys who owned boats. There were many a days when my morning walk would be interspersed with little tea cups and conversations with these fellows. On most mornings the mighty river would look different, some days it was grey and on others green. One day, one of the boat guys( they were probably much smaller than me) asked me, "Baideo jabo naki Umananda?" ( Sister will you go to Umananda?).
I used to watch the little island of Umananda almost everyday from my end of the river bank and wonder what it held. Of course I knew there was a small temple, stuff that most people knew..But hearing the invitation that day, was too tempting to let go. It was still early, about 7.30 in the morning and college and classes weren't till much later. I knew I could get back in time. The island right in the middle of the Bramhaputra, seemed to hold numerous mysteries that I was yet to discover. A bargain ensued and keeping in mind the fact that those from the hostel were forever low on money, the usual fare of Rs 100 was reduced to Rs 50.
Bramhaputra that morning was as beautiful as a prince decked up for battle, the rains had swelled the waters and even as I embarked I could see loads of weeds, little pieces of driftwood, plants, small worms, all floating around. The young boatman started a song once we started off, even as I hummed along. On reaching the island, the temple seemed small and deserted. While my boatman waited for me in the boat, I was left all alone to explore. I was not too sure what I was supposed to do here or what I wanted to.
Often things have their own way of divulging themselves, while I did almost a circle of the island surface, I noticed that to one side there were a lot of rocks, with birds perched on them. I opened my shoes and walked barefoot, jumping from one rock to another. Walking along the rather dark looking rocks, I came to a point were the rocks had formed smallish caves. I pushed my head into one and it was like being transported into a small private den of own's own. Very gingerly I sat down, shoes still in my hand and rested my head on one of the cool rocks, while the breeze echoed all around me. Fear is something that never enters the mind, when you're out exploring for yourself. I closed my eyes and for the first time in a very long time I sang..loudly, without inhibition, very happy at nothing in particular.
There were many times after this particular occasion, when I disappeared to Umananda on my own, seeking the birds and singing songs for them. Never once did I feel scared..the boatmen never asked me what I did there..once I was back on the boat, he would rattle about his brothers and sisters..how he was making a fast new boat to beat his friends, the fish he caught, the money he planned to save..sometimes he sang songs, sometimes he talked to the Bramhaputra..always a sense of happiness to the small things of life. Umananda remains the place I always remember as the caves that sang along with me.
( Image from Google)