494t Incredible Hospitality in Upper Assam 10-11/3/09
- After getting into negative thinking about India and feeling like being a tourist was like being at war, those guys in the North East really restored my faith in India. ...Instead of having to constantly watch out for hassles and ripoffs I was treated with exceptional kindness.
Tues - with Dervashis in Chabua
- Not a great start I arrived in Tinsukia at 5.30am intending to stroll around town, but it was not a good town for strolling.. The new station is 2Km outside on the road to Chabua (pron. Sabua) so I walked all the way back to town, saw nothing much and passed the same station on the bus out to Chabua.

- Since I had arrived early I didn't want to disturb my CS host too early, but instead stroll round first and call him later. After 5 minutes someone called me over for tea. Then after tea as I tried to continue exploring I found that some one had gone up to Dr Devishis house to fetch him.

- Him and his wife Monmoti teach economics at the town's college and he was born on a nearby tea estate, which he showed me before we reached his house where 6 of them live : both grandmothers, his uncle and their 14 month old daughter.

Exploring by Bicycle

- While he was busy with some work he suggested I take the motorbike, but I felt safer on the bicycle and set off to explore nearby villages.

- I was surprised to find Chabua has no oil businesses instead I went past lots of tea estates. The workers are almost black as traditionally they are a special caste who came from outside Assam 100 years ago.

- Some of the native villagers seemed to be more prosperous, but Devashis said this is because they had recently sold land to tea estate workers... I hope the don't fritter it away leaving them with no money and less land. ... Showed magic to some youths who were hanging around playing cards. I hope they are not just unemployed cos they consider themselves too good for farm work and prefer to live off their parents.

- Tuesday
- Lunch at the House

- We went to the market to buy fish ... Fresh Brahmaputra Fish rather than farmed fish. Indeed even though things were still pretty rundown the abundance of so much food showed again that India is not the poorest or least developed country and that it lies above most of Africa and behind the ex-Eastern block in the scale of things.

Tuesday - Funeral Anniversary

- We then drove to a 1 year Funeral Anniversary (Kul), which richer people get priests and male dancers/chanters to do .

- Actually it turned out I had spoken to the old man in the morning who's father's Kul it was. He was very kind and they presented me with a Gamusa scarf
presented me with a Gamusa scarf

Tuesday - Funeral Anniversary
- And then gave me a special food borachal, which I really approve of cos it's brown rice and dahi (yogurt) so a good change from white rice and chilli

- We stayed to witness some of the dancing and chanting ritual .. Which goes on for 4 hours.

Tue - Meetup with 2 CS Doctors
- On the way back we did some more exploring and visited the local mission fund hospital where 50's filmstar Julie Christie was born as her father was a tea estate manager. (The local doctor complained about the church having money and not spending it on the hospital)

- Then we drove to meetup with 2 other CS people in the town Dr Arupabha Datta and his wife Rita (Datta just means Doctor). Dr Arupabha works at the local Tata tea estate hospital; which gives a lot of free care to the community. They were very hospitable and he made the best ice coffee even if he said it came from a packet.

Wednesday - Holi is low key here
- I was a bit concerned cos it was the festival of coloured water throwing Holi, which has an association with getting drunk and of things getting out of control .. I imagined my passport and cellphone would get soaked. Actually it was OK.
- 1. Most people just throw coloured powder
- 2. Most people are polite enough just to throw at their friends
- 3. it's mostly over by lunchtime.
- 4. People mourning death like Dervashi's family are excluded from celebrations for 1 year.
- 5. It's a small thing in Assam. Traditionally Bihu is the big festival here. And Holi is a more "North Indian" thing ..Although through Hindi movies there is a growing Delhi-isation of Assamese culture so some people particularly poor and young celebrate.

- On TV we saw celebrations in certain special places and it did look crazy.

Wed - Moved on
- After another lunch of good local fish Dervashis drove me to Tinsukia to meet with an Oil Company engineer who had offered to host me in Duliajan as Devashis and his wife had to prepare for travel and work

NEXT -->