There is no river here..

A long short story: Episode 2

6 min readApr 26, 2021

1930, Assam, Colonial India

Gagloorrrrr ..Gagloorrrrr…

The crescent moon in the western sky seemed a little shy to splash the moonlight around. The Owl sitting on the crooked branch of the lonely jackfruit tree between the woods and river hooted once again, intensifying the eerie feeling. There were still a couple of hours left before the first rays of the sun would touch the serene water of the river. Muluka took a long drag from his opium pipe, staring blankly at the river. He didn’t notice that a big Rahu fish had silently taken the bait off his fishing pole. The fishing pole that he skillfully carved out of fine bamboo was slowly bending in the middle with the weight of the struggling fish. Muluka’s mind was far far away from noticing all this. He could see only colors -red, blue, yellow, purple — a lot of colors. Half of their names he didn’t even know, but they were all around him like a carefully crafted net. Just as he was settling down to enjoy this calm and tranquil trance, he heard it. A distinct voice of a woman wailing. It was coming from the thick woods. Muluka looked around, trying to listen to the mild rustling of the dry leaves nearby. Who could that be at this hour? Maybe some animal. He tried to reassure himself. There was still another prohor left for sunrise. He had heard stories that Dainis, a kind of witch, lurked in these woods searching for human blood. Muluka never paid attention to such old wives’ tales. But as the effect of opium was wearing off in the face of overwhelming fear, he considered the possibility of these stories having some truth behind them.

“Koon ou xheiya? Bhodai neki?”

Who is it? Is it you Bhodai? Gathering all the courage he could muster, Muluka asked. There was no response. He could only hear his own voice echoing back, mocking him, from the other side of the woods.

Oh there is nothing. How silly I am. He sighed with relief. Smiling at his own foolishness, he picked up his opium pipe for another drag when he heard something again. It was a low murmuring sound as if someone was whispering. A woman’s voice followed by a short giggle. He could see the dark hand of fear and death staring at him from the edge of the wood. He jumped up and, without looking back, ran towards the village.

Kajollota could not control her laughter. If not for this strange boy standing beside her, she could have had much more fun scaring Muluka. She came out of the woods to the clearing near the river, where Muluka was enjoying his peaceful moment till they scared him off. Under the diffused moonlight, for the first time, she took a good look at the boy she had just met in the woods. His skin was pale white unlike anyone she had met before, his hair was bright golden, Maybe that would sparkle under the morning sun, she thought. Why are his eyes blue? She was amused to see him wearing a knickerbocker with suspenders attached to it. Her cousin Dipen used to wear knickerbockers when he was very young. Nobody older than 9 years of age wore a pant like this, she thought. Boys in her known circle wore dhuti, payjama or potloong . Judging by the looks, he would definitely be 4–5 years older than her. Come Bihu, she would turn eight years old, so he at least would be around twelve, she quickly did the mental math. He sure looked funny; she giggled again.

“What is so funny?” Robert was irritated with her constant staring and mocking giggles. Ever since he had arrived at this place, people around him had been treating him like an object of curiosity, staring as if he was some exotic animal in a zoo. It couldn’t be that they hadn’t seen any white people before, all the management in the tea estates were British officers. Suddenly he had the epiphany; it might be that they had never seen an English child before. Most of the British officers in that part of the country had their families back in England. That thought made him a bit more accepting of the surroundings and people.

“What’s your name ?” He asked her.

Kajollota smiled, she was yet to start her formal English education. But she understood at least some essential English words.


What an unusual name. Robert thought. He wasn’t even sure if he could pronounce it the way she did.

“Tumar naam ki?”

What’s your name ? She asked in Assamese, at the same time trying to explain using signs.


“Robak?” She laughed again. “Oh !! You are Bara Saheb’s son that everyone is talking about?”

Robert couldn’t understand what she said in the native language, but he kept smiling, trying to ignore the gross mispronunciation of his name. He liked something about her. He felt as if they were kindred spirits venturing into the dark woods at this god-forbidden hour.

With genuine excitement, she grabbed his hand and ran towards the river, almost dragging him with her. They were almost out of breath when Kajollata stopped near the edge of the river and sat down by the big rock, soaking her feet in the water. Robert followed hear lead. He liked the feeling of water tickling his feet.

He noticed the fishing pole lying nearby.

What is it? He signed.

“Boroxhi” Kajollota said. She gave a hard tug at one end of the pole, the tired fish at the other end of the rope stirred again.

“Oh, this is a fishing pole. My uncle William loves fishing.” Robert exclaimed.

Kajollota pulled the pole with all her strength to get the fish out of water. The big Rohu fish was still struggling hard to free itself. Suddenly, Robert took out a small knife from his pocket, cut the fishing rope, and threw the fish back to the river.

“Whatever you did that for? ” She shouted in Assamese. But seeing the fish swim away, she couldn’t help but smile. Probably she would have done the same. She thought. And at that very moment, an unusual bond of friendship forged between two strangers.

Robert leaned on the big rock, staring aimlessly at the star-studded sky. Kajollota felt sorry for him. She had heard that he lost his mother recently. Kajollota’s mother passed away, giving birth to her. Sometimes she missed her mother, but the pain was not so much, she never had a chance to know her mother that well. That void was almost filled with unconditional love from her father, brother, and her aunt Damayanti. It must be very hard for Robert, she thought, to lose his mother at this age. Maybe that is why he was so sad earlier. Her brother,Bipin told her that their mother was a star in the sky. Whenever she felt lonely, she came to the riverside, spent hours looking at the sky, trying to spot her mother. Maybe Robert was trying to do the same. She thought. Any of those stars could be their mothers. She pointed out to one of the brightest stars in the Northern sky, “Ma” She said.

She saw tears rolling down from those blue eyes. She was witless. She had never seen such a big boy cry, but she couldn’t bring herself to make fun of him. She felt his pain. She knew it would take a long time for this wound to heal.

to be continued…