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Journeys through Majuli

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Zishaan along with all the other awardees is hard at work creating images for his project under the guidance of Parthiv Shah. Read on to know more about his exciting and enlightening journey through the eroding island of Majuli.

My first three trips over a period of two months spent on the island this year already, during this grant period, have caused me to realise and understand how important this interdependence of nature and faith, nature and culture, are on the island and to most islanders, the reason it’s still afloat, sidelining scientific research and fears of a complete deluge in about 25 years from now.

My presentation of images is in a particular format to compliment what I saw and how I saw it unfold in front of me during my explorations.

My thought behind the use of diptychs is to formulate a symbiotic relationship symbolic on the island of coincidences and calculations to embody the island as I saw it, fractured but immensely faithful.

One particular conversation sticks out from the innumerable ones I have had the pleasure of being part of, was with a renowned professor of geography and an ex principal of Majuli College, Mr. Noren Thakuria.  He strongly believes, “ Majuli is not eroding, its transforming , what was once part of land, is transported to different parts around the island, so how is it eroding?” He questions me. “..it’s only moving around from one place to another, so it is still around, what was once land for people to live on, has now moved to become fresh places for cattle to graze on..its a cycle.” It was a statement that took me by surprise but also gave me a lot to think about. His definition has literally changed my idea of Majuli, the island that is eroding, which according to many is and will continue to.

Another fascinating account comes from Jamini Payang, a renowned traditional weaver, one of the initial close associates of Sanjoy Ghose, a development activist , a reformer, whose very unfortunate and untimely demise caused a lot of stir in Majuli in the late 90’s. Jamini , from the Mising tribe observes, “Nature has its own course and we cannot hamper its progression and regression, as we need to work with nature, not against it!..” It is probably the most mature way to study the natural occurrences of Majuli, to work with and not against its ways.

Sections of the island are vociferously clear and demand a bridge connecting Majuli to Jorhat, understandably, to meet their immediate medical, educational and professional desires, but other sections question, “Can Majuli afford to have a bridge supported and suspended by the aggressive Brahamaputra river?Considering the nature of its inherent behaviour and the nature of Majuli’s soil, which is weak, is the risk warranted ? In July, I was invited to a Assom Yuva Parishad (AJYP) protest where they demanded an immediate response on the status of the bridge connecting Majuli and Jorhat, from the local incumbent government in Assam and the District Collector of Majuli, at the ferry ghat, the very malleable gateway on the southern tip of Majuli. I felt it was an effort but time will tell if anyone is taken seriously until it’s another “Assam Bandh”!

I was fortunate to be a part of some cultural and religious offerings during one of my trips which enabled me to fathom the extent to which faith is played out on the island, with bhavna’s, and celebratory offerings to hermits who preached certain aspects of the Ahom civilisation on the island is as important as breathing the pure air in Majuli.

The monsoons this year have been delayed, and by this time last year parts of Majuli were already flooded and had devastated embankments at points. Though the story is different this year, a threat of a man-made flood due to China opening the gates to its many dams is a looming threat with water levels increasing over night sending fears of yet another flood, but a man made one this year.

Zishaan.