So I know I've already posted a ton of photos from Majuli, but here are a couple more. These were taken the night we had dinner with a family in their home. Not sure if you can tell, but thats a fully feathered chicken the woman is pulling out of the pot. Apparently the feathers are easier to pull out if you boil it whole first.
With amazement, I retold this story to my grandparents, who got a real kick out of it. My Grandaddy then told me all the ways he used to kill his chickens, and how they'd boil them to make the feathers come off easier. I felt kind of stupid afterwards for thinking my story would sound foreign and somehow glamorous. Watching this scene unfold felt worlds apart from what I knew; Surrounded by tribal villagers wearing lungis, squatted on the bamboo floor and speaking Assamese in the firelight, I remember Jordan and I looking at each other and asking, "Is this real?" Turns out our worlds are actually a lot closer than I thought.
Here are a few more photos from the time we spent on Majuli island in Assam. Majuli is inhabited mainly by people of the Mishing tribe, who have lived on the island for centuries. The people and their culture are struggling to survive amongst obstacles like the erosion of the island as well as modernization that leaves little room for the preservation of ancient traditions.
The island suffers from severe erosion on all sides due to the Brahmaputra river that surrounds it as well as intense annual flooding during monsoon season. The island, once 1,150 square km, has lost more than 30% of its landmass in the latter half of the twentieth century and is now only 422 square km.
For the past five hundred years, Majuli has been the cultural capitol and stronghold of the Assamese civilization. Their main industry is agriculture, specifically paddy. Paddy fields seemed to cover every free square inch of land on the island and were usually dotted with large straw hats bobbing up and down that serve to protect the harvester from the rain.
Almost every house is a hut with the roof and the floor made of five layers of bamboo. The hut is elevated off the ground for protection during floods and there is a five step ladder that leads up to the house. I thought I was going to fall off into the mud every time I went up or down, while the villagers scaled the ladder as gracefully as birds riding a current. There villagers are proud of their houses; built by hand and strong enough to survive the monsoons, although concrete buildings are becoming more and more popular in the area.
The Assamese people are also highly renowned for their handicrafts like pottery and weaving. As we walked past the bamboo huts women would sit outside and weave using a loom. The end product was breathtaking; intricate and exquisite patterns adorned a variety of fabrics, but we usually saw them weaving cotton and sometimes silk.
It was amazing to see people living this way- waking up with the sun and catching their lunch, which, due to poor river conditions, was made up of tiny fish that I'd use for bait on Lake Travis, then carrying huge loads of paddy on their backs after a long day in the fields, and returning home to boil a chicken in a pot over a fire that is smack dab in the middle of their hut on the floor- no electricity, no modern amenities whatsoever.
For me, it is a place that makes you feel like time has stopped. But for people living on the island, every year brings change. Some change is welcome; schools have been built and leaders encourage parents to make sure their child attends every day, concrete buildings provide welcome refuge from the incessant rains and medical clinics are easily accessible. Other change is less welcome, but there is only so much that can be done. The Indian government has instated programs to protect the island from erosion but studies still show that in fifteen to twenty years Majuli will cease to exist.
It's wonderful to witness a place so full of pride for their culture and their community. As our world becomes more and more homogeneous, Majuli remains a testament to a time long gone, where people live and operate relatively uninfluenced by other civilizations and instead focus on the heritage, folklore and traditions of their land and their ancestors.
A worker sprays a construction site with insecticides. Construction sites are particularly susceptible because water easily pools on the concrete surfaces that are left unattended, forming a perfect breeding ground for malaria carrying mosquitoes. Monsoon season does nothing to help the problem.
A Goa construction site.
Construction worker on site.
The children of construction workers spend their days on the site. Most construction workers in Goa are migrants from nearby states. They and their families live on the site until the construction is finished, putting them at high risk for malaria. When the building is finished, the families and workers move to a new site and start the process over.
Hospitalized malaria patients Rajesh and Rosie at Goa Medical College.
A doctor tests a patient at Goa Medical College.
A Goa resident waits in line to receive a pink card allowing her to be hired by construction agencies that states she has been tested for malaria.
Dr. Pradeep Korganokar (foreground) watches as local Goans file through for regular (and free!) malaria testing at the Urban Health Center in Panjim, Goa.
here's some from a quick story on malaria in Goa. the Goan medical system takes extensive steps to prevent the malaria parasite from proliferating amongst the population...like spraying standing water on construction sites with anti-larval chemicals and testing all construction workers daily for malaria. we got to ride along with a crew of doctors to a couple construction sites and then visited a hospital where advanced patients were being treated.