arunachal pradesh, Assam, Bhupen Hazarika, birding, Brahmaputra, bridges, Dibru Shaikowa national park, India, Indian rains, Northeast, owls, roing, sadiya, singers, statue of brotherhood
It was 10 in the morning. We had a full day ahead and it was clear we could not go through our original plan of visiting the Dibru Shaikowa national park. It had rained suddenly the previous night and the swollen waters of the Brahmaputra had made park access impossible. So, we did what I have been wanting to do for a long time: drive across the longest bridge in India over water, the Bhupen Hazarika Setu.
The bridge, spans nearly 10 km, over river Lohit, a major tributary of the Brahmaputra. It is named in honour of Bhupen Hazarika, singer, and lyricist, an icon of Assam. His deep baritone, soaked in the culture of the northeast, connected this region to the rest of India.
We left our camp in Majuli Beel and in a breeze, we reached Dhola, on the southern side of the bridge. Our plan was to cross over to Sadiya on the northern end and then drive all the way up to Roing in Arunachal. When we got onto the bridge, it was completely empty. The sky was overcast. The river below was vast and unending. The small islands in the river were shrouded in mist.
And we were overcome by a sense of freedom, of joy, of being one with the place. We walked, skipped, jumped, and drove along with Hazarika’s haunting voice lifting us, his song ‘Dil Hoon Hoon’ playing at full blast on the car stereo.
Off the bridge, we drove slowly past Sadiya, the place where Hazarika was born. Further up, we entered Arunachal Pradesh and at Bolung, we stopped at his statue. Called the statue of brotherhood, it looked amazingly life-like. Perhaps he was bemused that people here sometimes called him more Arunachali, than Assamese…
Soon, the landscape became more rugged with extensive bamboo plantations. People looked and dressed differently. It was amazing that just as you cross the border into another state, how things could be completely different from what you left behind. As we entered Roing, we were welcomed by towering snow-capped mountains. We stopped at this fantastic bakery for buns and great coffee. We picked up locally grown, dried ginger and elephant apples. Then we drove all the way back to the camp.
It was dark by the time we got back. We went owl-spotting and got lucky with the Brown Hawk Owl and the Oriental Scops Owl. As we walked in the still night, millions of fireflies surrounded us. Nisha, like a magician, caught them in her palm and slowly released them. Somewhere, a bird called out, maybe its last song before settling in for the night. And, with a soulful Hazarika-type sigh, our day came to a close.