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Assam, India: Valley of Tea and Temples

Assam, India: Valley of Tea and Temples

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Published by Amrit Baruah
This is the story of Assam Valley, the easternmost region of India, as it was during the 1930s.

Amrit Baruah tells of growing up in an idyllic place—a remote land of tea plantations, ancient temples, and the Brahmaputra River, perhaps the least known of the seven longest rivers of the world.

And he describes how World War II opened up the isolated eastern portion of the valley to soldiers from outside, followed by construction of the legendary Burma Road.

Today, sadly, Assam Valley has acquired such ills as political turmoil and even terrorism. But its vanished past and unique character, and promise for the future, come alive in this brief but evocative memoir.
This is the story of Assam Valley, the easternmost region of India, as it was during the 1930s.

Amrit Baruah tells of growing up in an idyllic place—a remote land of tea plantations, ancient temples, and the Brahmaputra River, perhaps the least known of the seven longest rivers of the world.

And he describes how World War II opened up the isolated eastern portion of the valley to soldiers from outside, followed by construction of the legendary Burma Road.

Today, sadly, Assam Valley has acquired such ills as political turmoil and even terrorism. But its vanished past and unique character, and promise for the future, come alive in this brief but evocative memoir.

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Published by: Amrit Baruah on Jun 27, 2008
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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12/18/2011

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SHANGRI-LA 
 
This is the story of Assam Valley, the easternmost region
 
of India, as it was during the 1930s.
 
 Amrit Baruah tells of growing up in an idyllic place—a
 
remote land of tea plantations, ancient temples, and the
 
Brahmaputra River, perhaps the least known of the seven
 
longest rivers of the world.
 
 And he describes how World War II opened up the isolat-ed
 
eastern portion of the valley to soldiers from outside,
 
followed by construction of the legendary Burma Road.
 
Today, sadly, Assam Valley has acquired such ills as politi-cal turmoil and even terrorism. But its vanished past and
 
unique character,
 
and promise for the future, come alive
 
in this brief but
 
evocative memoir.
 
 
Assam, India
Valley of Tea and Temples
 
A
 
Personal Story by
Amrit Baruah
 
Copyright © 2008 by Amrit Baruah
 
baruah@starpower.net
 
 Amrit Baruah was born and raised in the eastern part of 
 
 Assam Valley, in the heart of the tea-growing region. He
 
left at the
 
age of sixteen to attend Presidency College in
 
Calcutta (now Kolkata), where he stayed on after gradua-tion for employment with jute industry laborers during
 
the
 
last few 
 
days of 
 
the
 
British Raj in India.In 1952 Amrit left for Boston, to study at Boston Univer-sity and Harvard. He has been in the U.S. since then, one
 
of 
 
the earliest immigrants from India. He has worked in
 
the fields of mental health and community organization
 
(in pre-civil-rights-era South Philadelphia), and has
 
taught at universities. Currently he is a part-time writer,
 
psychotherapist, and organization consultant located in
 
Maryland.
 
 
Contents
 
The Dim Past—British India—1930s
 
1
 
 World War II Comes Home
 
13
 
Recent Past—New Independent India
 
24
 
Uniqueness of Assam Valley 
 
25
 
Temples
 
29
 
Life Today—The New Millennium
 
31
 
Tapestries
 
32
 
 amrit baruah
 
The Dim Past—British India—1930s
 
Cheuni Ali was an important road of that valley. Mostly,
 
it just lay there with its dusty surface. After a rain, it would
 
turn to mud. Occasionally, a bullock cart would pass on it
 
carrying a family or hay. On special
hut 
 
(fair) days, a small
 
crowd would traverse it carrying baskets on their heads.
 
Then there would be the two hanging baskets supported by 
 
a
 
rod across their backs. These contained vegetables, eggs,
 
bananas, or pigeons that would later make the
 puro 
 
curry 
 
 which was a delicacy unique to the valley. From time to
 
time, a car would pass, either a black Ford or a cream-col-ored Chevrolet, the two cars that were usually seen in those
 
days. If the road was muddy, then the car tyres would have
 
chains. If there was a heavy rain, plastic windows were
 
hooked onto the car doors.
 
 Although cars rarely traveled on the road, there were
 
bicycles. Either the
 
PWD clerk 
 
or the fat Daroga would
 
come along on a bike. The Daroga was a junior police offi-cial and he was always fat, dressed in khaki with a leather
 
belt across his chest. Rarely would one see a Daroga who
 
 was thin or who smiled. Just as rarely would one see a child
 
that was fat or who did not smile.Sometimes a clerk called
mohori 
 
 would walk on the road
 
carrying an aluminum tiffin
 
carrier with its four compart-ments that had been filled that morning by his wife—one
 
for
 
rice, one
 
for dal (lentils), one for fish curry and the last
 
for
 
a
 
vegetable dish called
 
dulna 
.
 
Unlike the formidable highways, freeways, and beltways
 
of America that make a deliberate attempt to bypass human
 
habitations, Cheuni Ali went right through the daily lives
 
and
 
dramas of village people. Rice fields with that necessar
 
stagnant water were only ten feet away; the family pond of 
 
the villager was only some yards from the road.
 
Distinct from other parts of that vast country, the fami-
1

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