Monday, March 18, 2013

Bijoy and the Big River

pic credit tulika books
Bijoy and the Big River
Written by Meera Sriram and Praba Ram
Published by Tulika Books
Ages 10+

The Brahmaputra. Called Burha Luit by the Assamese. The lives of the locals are closely tied to the river. Both the good and the bad times - the Big River affects it all.

This is the story of Bijoy, a young boy from a farming community that produces the famed Eri Silk, or ahimsa silk - the silkworms aren't killed in the production unlike those that breed on mulberry - as it is also known. A quiet, verdant, idyllic place, on a farm where Bijoy stays with Ma and Deuta (father in Assamese). It is a good life, even if the river sometimes destroys everything in its path during floods.

On an average day, Bijoy helps his father to look after the silkworms feeding on the castor leaves. To gather the silk after the eri moths have flown away out of the open ended cocoon. And to transport the silk to the village of Sualkuchi by canoe with Deuta after his mother has spun and reeled out the threads. It is hard work, but there is adventure as well, as when the xihu (pronounced hihu, the now endangered Gangetic Dolphin, also found in the Brahmaputra) are sighted along the way on the river, in large groups sometimes. Or when he sees the big city sights of tourist boats at Guwahati, enroute to Saulkuchi.

After a similar book with Tulika, Dinaben and the Lions of Gir, where the the authors introduce us to the Maldhari commmunity of Gujarat, Meera Sriram and Praba Ram have come up with another winner. This time they write about a farming family from Assam, in the far north-east of India. Praba, the founder of our beloved Saffrontree, and Meera, who was a contributor until recently, are both champions of a good cause - sustainable living, closer to nature. This book is exactly what would be expected as their brain-child:  This is what they have to say about how the germ of an idea became this book.

Bijoy's story has illustrations by Koel Basu, bare sketches that are evocative of the villages of Assam, as well as photographs by various contributors. Along with the tidbits as marginalia, we learn a lot about life as a silk farmer in this far North-Eastern state. This book is a welcome addition by Tulika books, as this part of our country is vastly under-represented in children's literature. The book is part of their 'Where I Live' series that takes us through the ordinary lives of children from various parts of India.

An extra tidbit:  Burha=ancient, Luit=blood. The legend goes that Brahma had a son by the wife of a sage, who was then abandoned at a place between the hills. The child took the form of water, which became the Brahmakund. Parashuram, having killed his own mother after being ordered to by his father, had the bloodstained axe stuck to his hand. As penance, he was told to release the waters for the people living in the valleys and plains. He axed down the mountains holding the waters, which started flowing as the river Brahmaputra - literally, Brahma's son - that brought sustenance to the locals. This released the axe as well as washed the blood off it. Brahmaputra is thus the only river in India that is masculine; all others are feminine.


Edited to add: This will be a five-day-long blog tour - with five different perspectives. Here are the dates and places where our readers can find Bijoy and the Big River.

March 18th - Saffron Tree. Sandhya Renukamba.
March 19th - Literary Sojourn. Vibha Sharma.
March 20th - The not-so artful dodger. Artnavy.
March 21st - Mamma of Twins. Itchingtowrite.
March 22nd - The Mad Momma. Lavanya D / Prateek.

Do visit!



ranjani.sathish said...

This is the kind of book that fascinates me, where we get a peek into little known cultures, a way of life..something new that all of us can take away from the book :-). Definitely getting the book.

Tulika Publishers said...

Interesting story about why the Brahmaputra is considered male!

Beth said...

I love idea presented here. IS there a way I can get this book mailed to Belize without costing an arm and a leg?

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