THE MIGHTY BRAHMAPUTRA
Imagine a blank sheet of paper. Turn it on its side. Draw a line across the middle. Add a thin stroke of sandy white above it, a shimmer of brown water below – and that’s the mighty Brahmaputra, wide and flat and long. We were on the liquid moon. Sandbanks stretched flat into the distance, a tuft of grass, a cow, a boat, two children – nothing more – all the way to the far-off trees, a thin strip against the horizon.
There were days when each mooring seemed exactly the same as before, as if we hadn’t travelled at all: we sailed and sailed and stopped and nothing really changed. The ship moved slowly down the river – or did the river move slowly up the ship? I’d open the window, look out and there would be a new place that looked exactly like the old place – but wasn’t. Sometimes the river bank was crowded, mostly not. There were fairs and festivals and the music of prayer, dancing, singing and more – but always that profound calm, that moment at night when the sky and the stars and the river melt into one and pull this old dog into space.
It’s the silence I remember – that awesome silence. At night, when the boat stopped by the river bank, at precisely eleven p.m. the generator was turned off and silence fell – a great brick of peace swamped the boat, an absence of anything – a sheer wall of… nothing. I’d sit with my windows open and suck it up. The stillness – perhaps a slap of water up against the bow, the occasional cough of the crew down below me, a cabin door opening, closing – but that was all. Or up on the deck, late at night – a wonder of stars over my head – just Dogster and the Brahmaputra. That’s when the real conversation began; words between no-one and nothing.
Nobody much is interested in the Brahmaputra. They aren’t really sure what an Assam is.