Beautifully illustrated and including evocative re-tellings of Assamese folk tales, this is a book for children of all ages " to read alone or along with their parents and grandparents.
Written by Tara Goswami the book is about seven-year-old Pitki's adventures in Assam.
Here's an extract from the book:
Here We Come
I've made this journey many times in my life. Every year in fact, and yet each year the journey is different and similar at the same time. I think my best journeys have been the ones in which I wasn't looking forward only to the destination, but enjoyed the journey itself. Do you remember your favourite journey?
I am Pitki. I'm seven years old and live in Shillong with my parents and my brother Dondi. This is the story of my winter holiday adventures. We have winter holidays for three months, because Shillong gets very cold in the winter. Both Dondi and I feel awfully excited because every year we go to Assam to see Koka (grandpa) and Aitama (grandma).
Shillong used to be the capital of Assam till 1971. Then the big state of Assam got broken into the states of Assam, Meghalaya and Mizoram. Dispur is now the capital of Assam and the old capital, Shillong, is now the capital of the neighbouring state of Meghalaya. That's why there are so many Assamese in Shillong.
This time we drove down to Guwahati the day after school closed. I don't like going to Guwahati, the road is all curly and winding and that makes my stomach queasy. Deuta (daddy) tells us to concentrate on something straight ahead of us, so we don't get sick. But the black smoke from the trucks goes into our noses and makes us even queasier. Still, it is fun sometimes, when we stop on the way and have a picnic at the big waterfall.
We spent the night in Guwahati and left the next day for Sekoni Tea Estate where Aitama and Koka live. It's near a small town called Jokhola Bondha, about five hours from Guwahati. The road is straight as can be and the drive is really pretty, with teak forests and fields of paddy on the way ('as far as the eye can see', it says in my geography book). The paddy at that time of the year was ripe and ready for harvest, so the fields were a shimmering golden yellow and looked really dazzling! At other times we saw miles and miles of fluorescent green fields.
Almost every little water body (beel) has fishing nets hanging over it, and fishermen hold up fish before the passing cars so that people stop and buy some. We bought a big sitol fish; Aitama would cook it for us.
The houses in Assam look like they can be folded up into a square and taken away when needed. We crossed many tea gardens and I tried to remember their names. Ma said that before the British came, a long, long time ago, the people of Assam used to boil the leaves of the tea plant and eat them like leafy vegetables. It must have tasted really bitter! The tea plants were planted and the land was turned into tea gardens by the British. That means that there was no tea in India to start with. And now the whole world drinks tea!
We stopped at Nogaon. Ma and I went to the 1942 shop (it became famous in 1942) to buy fresh cream, which I really love. It's so yummy and creamy! When Koka was a little boy he would come to this shop and drink cold water from the fridge for one paise. Dondi went with Deuta to eat tamul paan (betel nut and paan) and refused to even go near the 1942 shop because the silly chap doesn't like cream or butter or ghee or anything to do with milk.
I suddenly woke up from my sleep when Deuta said that we had just reached Sekoni! We drove through the tea garden; the bungalow was right in the middle of it. The car was buzzing with excitement and I chattered loudly with Dondi. We pulled into the compound of the bungalow and Koka and Aitama were waiting for us outside. Tumbling out of the car we jumped into their arms. There we were our three months of joy had begun!
Holidays are such bliss, not having to wake up and go to school and follow a routine. Being able to loll around in my pajamas all day. Doing all the things I can't do when I have school.
Deuta went off to Calcutta the day after we reached Sekoni. I wish he'd stayed. But he had some important work. We've been here for almost two weeks. It's been great fun. Dondi and I have been playing endless games and exploring the garden. The compound of the bungalow is huge with a sloping lawn in front where Aitama has planted lots of pretty flowers.
There is a pond with fish in it, and a cowshed which has the tallest haystack nearby. Ma, Dondi and I have been spending lots of time on the haystack, where Ma reads to us from a book called Water Ship Down - it's about rabbits. So we pretend to be rabbits and chew on fresh carrots from Aitama's exciting kitchen garden. The garden has all the winter vegetables, and Aitama says that to be healthy, we should eat fruits and vegetables that are in season, because that is the right time to eat them. Nature has made a timetable of what grows when and we should follow it
The garden is organized into different plots. It has rows of peas creeping onto bamboo frames, and carrots and cauliflower and a sour green leafy spinach-like vegetable called suka xaak. I pick these leaves and wrap them in banana leaves, and Ma helps me roast them in the fire outside where our bath water is heated. Then we invite everyone to come and eat it.
My most favourite fruit bogori is in season now; it grows on the thorniest trees, but is terribly yummy. The fruits are sour and green when they are raw but become red and pulpy as they ripen. I didn't even mind getting nicks and cuts from the thorns while trying to pick them. We always miss the jolphai, or olive, season, but Aitama has trays and trays drying in the sun for her pickles. I've already stolen and polished off half the jolphais. They're sour and yummy too. When the pickle is ready, we can take it back home with us.
Koka got the gardener to make us two sets of bows and arrows. So Dondi and I sling the arrow pouches on our backs and play 'shikaar shikaar' with them. Dondi laughs at me when I shoot, but he's silly. I know I can shoot. We also have a raft or bhur made of banana stems in the pond and I'm almost an expert at rafting now I am better than Dondi.
We went to the stream to have a mini-picnic the other day the water was cold and clear - oh, such fun! Sometimes I feel like I'm in a Famous Five adventure but there's just the two of us. Yesterday Koka took us to the big stream in the middle of the forest. All of us bathed in the stream and after that we picked nice big ou tenga (Elephant fruit) from under the trees. They were dropped by the elephants who love to eat this fruit. Aitama made the yummiest tangy dal with the fruit we picked.
Aitama doesn't let us go out in the afternoon, and we have to take a nap with all the grownups Aitama is very chalu, she scares us by telling us about Bura Dangoria (the spirit of the trees) who comes and takes a nap under the trees in the afternoon, and if little children come along, he catches them and takes them away! I know that there's no Bura Dangoria in real life but it's good to be careful, no? So we stay indoors. But Aitama has to bribe us, so every afternoon she tells us a story. Oh, what fun it is! She tells us about kings and thieves and clever foxes and silly men and oh, so many things.
Book: The Bogoli Phut Days: Pitki's Adventures in Assam; By: Tara Goswami; Price: Rs. 299; Extent: 92 pages