Translated Assamese Short Story : The Oriel Licker by Sanjib Pol Deka

 The Oriel Licker

  Original (Assamese) : Sanjib Pol Deka

Translated by Hemanta Sarmah Tamuly



The news tumulted a few months ago. Monoram also heard it then.

Hetou reappeares. Burha Luit returned the hetou as it was devoured by the river itself. The hetou is emerged on the North part of the Luit as it was earlier. Now it needs to cross a rivulet to step at the hetou. These are only rumours. No one has informed old Monoram yet about it. He heard people discussing it in neighbour’s yard. His mind flies to past if someone sounds about hetou.

          No one has informed him yet, he stopped visiting the people much ago.

Similar to the hetou appearing out of Luit, another hetou emerges out of his drought heart while he was lying on the bed at the yard keeping his eyes shut. This one is not an infertile hetou but as sweet like sugarcane juice and honey supplied by the Nepali women.

          When, old Mono was busy enjoying the rasa of the hetou sitting on the broken chair, the youth of the village rushed to enjoy the new one. Although, the present hetou is smaller than their parents’ time, but not tiny too. Everyone had patta. If the government allows them to occupy, everybody’ll have even a small portion of land. The growing number of miya turned to be a concern. If a single shed is built, they’ll grasp it like the roots of a banyan.

          It’s better to write application before it’s occupied by the neighbouring villages. Having written the application, they submitted it to the office as advised by the gaon burha.  And the government permitted to have the land after a few months.

          Monoram heard the noise of merry making of getting back the land of hetou. The youths, who didn’t get employment after the completion of degrees, prepare for the cultivation in the first days of Bohag. They would sort out the land later on.

          All the males would go there to the hetou as it was the first day. Afterwards, the tasks of farming would be done by the groups alternately.

Monoram had already decided. He would visit the hetou for once in this old age even if his wife forbids him.

Both the old husband and wife had the dinner soon and fell asleep as usual. When the lamp is put out, they are shrouded by darkness. Sounds of numbers of boots can be heard from the yard. There are huge echoes to be heard at road of the village.

          Sometimes, both of them fall sleep and sometimes the birds bring the morning while trying to cover those sounds.

          Today, the boots didn’t haunt much. The old man was missing the hetou so much- the fertile hetou.


It’s winter. The sapori has been covered by fog. Nothing can be distinguished between the sapori and rivulet. It’s not yet dawn. The moon is still hidden amidst the fog. Ahmed only heard the sound of bell of the cart ringing from far.

          He was all silent on the boat. He didn’t feel much cold as he’s running the oar. As the bidi was finished, he desired to sing a song of nau khel. He started singing while playing the oar as it’s done in naukhel:

                   Allahr name sarlam nouka

                   Duwakor Fatema

                   Karu laiga bhoi raikho na

                   Oo hai re hai

                   Age niba Allahr nam pore Rosul boilo

                   Aree oo..

                   Khali Allahr namti nile Rosul bejar hoi

                   Are oo..

Now and then Ahmed used to fishing in the Brahmaputra and the channels of the sapori. Today he’s not coming to fishing but to the hetou sapori.  Mono Da’s sapori.

          Last night Monoram’s sugarcanes were about to be squeezed. Mororam told Ahmed to help him. He has been assisting for years. His pair of buffalo is also utilized in the saal. Buffalo has no comparison to bull. As buffalo can carry the loaded cart fast, so also can run the saal whole morning. Man may be tired running after it.

Ahmed brought a boy with him to Mono Da to run the buffalo as he would not be able to stay for the night. At first the boy refused to stay for the night. It’s obvious as he didn’t have experience of staying with ‘Assamese’ family. Mororam anticipated him and asked—“Do you feel afraid to stay at the night?”

          : Na---- he replied

          Ahmed also consoled him-“don’t be afraid. Mono Da is our man.”

It was the time of Magh bihu. The whole sapori and the Brahmaputra turned white under fog. Monoram arrived at Ahmed’s house in the early morning searching Sheatfish. Ahmed’s wife received him with respect as an Assamese is visiting them wearing dhoti. Monoram picked two Sheatfish out of the fishes that were put in the yard. While returning he asked- “what’s your name?”

          : Giyasuddin Ahmed.

Since then, whenever Mororam needed fresh fish, he came to Ahmed. One day, Monoram noticed the pair of Ahmed’s buffaloes.

: Do they carry saal?

: Nah.

: I don’t have buffalo to run saal. Could you borrow me for one or two nights?

          For the first time Ahmed came to the baha of Monoram’s hetou for it. He assisted in squeezing the sugarcane. For his effort of a sleepless night leaving his own work, Monoram offered him a few bucks. But Ahmed refused. “I can’t take money from you”- Ahmed told.

          Therefore, Monoram invited Ahmed and his wife in Bihu. For the first time he’s coming to an Assamese family. Earlier he never went to anyone in Bihu. He has no one to visit. Even he does not have any near and dear to visit in Eid.

           A sigh came out of Giyasuddin pushing the fog of the winter. He wished if he had a house in village and another one in sapori like Mono Da!

          : All the people of the village are of same bonso- Mono Da told.

          : Bonso?- he couldn’t understand the term bonso.

          : Bonso means our relatives having blood relations. Our purbapurushes are same.

Ahmed needed a while to understand bonso, purbapurush etc. He felt a jerk at his chest like the fish caught inside a net. If he had a village to visit his bonso’s people like Mono Da!

          As told by Ahmed’s father, his grandfather once lived on the bank of the Brahmaputra. They had been accustomed to water. They spent most of the time on boat. The children and wives stayed in the hut on the bank. No one knew why they shifted their habitants to the present place with their belongings.

          They started farming cattle as it was impossible to live on the fish only. They also started cultivation at the sapori of the Brahmaputra.

          After his good terms with Mono Da, Ahmed at least got someone to keep a relation with. When he felt bored or didn’t have any work, he visited Mono Da’s hut at the hetou. They used to talk under the neem tree smoking bidi. Earlier, Monoram went to Ahmed searching fish during bihu. Nowadays, Ahmed himself comes to Mono Da with a Sheatfish, without charging any money.

          How can he charge Mono Da? Did Mono da not help him a lot? Two years ago, the flood left the Brahmaputra and the sapori unrecognised. Ahmed wasn’t afraid of water. But it turned difficult to keep the cattle. Mono Da proposed to take the cattle to his village. If he hadn’t kept the cattle for those fifteen days, they would have died.

          Mono Da’s wife and his daughter Dangar Mai also loved him a lot. The younger son always teased him calling tortoise eater miya. The elder one was little bit serious, still he behaved well.

          Splitting the fog, Ahmed’s khel boat almost arrived at the hetou. From this ghat, it’s not far to Mono Da’s house.

          Tying his boat at the ghat, Ahmed lit a bidi. As he felt a little bit cold after getting down from the boat, he rearranged the blanket.

          He could not see the fire of the saal due to the heavy fog. He heard the whispering voice of the people. He moved towards the saal smashing the grass soaked by fog.


          “Not getting sleep”- hearing the voice Ahmed knew that his wife was also awake.

          : Missing Dangar Mai so much. Haven’t met her for long.

          Yes. Many days passed without meeting her. Ahmed sighs.

          Did Dangar Mai enjoy less at the hetou? She used to go to hetou in the early morning on foot and returned after the works of the day. She stayed at the hut during the harvesting and squeezing of sugarcane.

          She’s a brave girl without any fear of god or ghost. She used to go to Ahmed’s area with him. When she came back, Horu Bupa teased her- “you’ve eaten in miya’s pot who cooks beef. You have lost your caste”.

          Thus it’s followed by a war among the siblings. The boys are on one side and Dangar Mai on the other.

          The family was like the affluent Brahmaputra. The elder son joined college; younger one was admitted to high school. A groom, who was a teacher, was arranged for Dangar Mai. The rituals were done.

          : If the miya Muslim comes to the marriage, we’ll go out.

          Monoram was stumbled by the villagers for the first time.

          Ahmed was about to come to the ceremony. He had provided the necessary fish unasked, but he was not allowed to attend. When Monoram explained him the situation, he accepted easily- “it’s okay Mono Da.”

          The elder son of Dangar Mai was studying in college. Various changes took place in these years. The movement came like flood. People came out holding fire, bridges were burnt etc.

          Monoram shivered. No he can’t imagine the incidents anymore.

          After the movement passed like a storm, the land of the hetou also started disappearing in the Brahmaputra. When Monoram returned to home with the accessories in a cart leaving the hope for the hetou, he realised the bankruptcy of his elder son. He had gone out of the home--to the hills.

          Since then, Monoram and his wife started living in their house. Danger Mai visits every now and then with her children. The elder son comes too with his companies holding guns on their back. He comes at the dusk and goes out at dawn. At the time of returning, his mother weeps-“be careful my son”. Monoram remains silent.

          Although, back then, there were only two members in the family, guests used to keep visiting. Danger Mai also came now and then. The neighbours did come in the evening to gossip. Monogram felt good.

          One day suddenly a vehicle full of police dropped at the nongola of Monoram. There were cross questions regarding the elder son. Questions were as curvy as the rivulets.

          : One day he came. Now and then he comes. Don’t know from where he comes and goes.

          Monoram didn’t know how to tell a lie. Truth sounds from his mouth.

          : Don’t you know? You know it. Tell us-- one asked roughly.

          : I don’t know-- Monoram knew nothing more.

          The condition of Mororam turned to be like a trapped snake. His mouth bled. The entire village turned quiet at the shout of his wife. The lamps were put out at the dusk on that day.

          Getting the news, Dangar Mai came rashly but the villagers didn’t come out of fear.

          It was just the beginning. Sometimes people speaking different languages arrived searching Dangar Bupa. The houses of the village were being searched suddenly. Again Monoram needed to answer the curvy questions.

          One day, Dangar Mai’s son came to stay for the night after his high school final examination. His mother sent him to stay with his grandparents. They would be happy.

          His grandparents felt good. He slept with grandmother at night.

          The sound of footsteps made them awake at midnight. Order came to open the door in Hindi. Monoram opened the door as earlier. What would they have? Let them satisfy.        

          Having searched the house, they noticed the boy sleeping with the grandmother.

          : Who is he? --The one with the colour similar to night asked. His eyes were sparkling like the eyes of fox in the dimmed light of the saki.

          : My grandchild-- she answered shivering.

: Yes our grandchild-- Monoram supported her.

           The boy seemed to be adult with his growing physique. They didn’t spare the little kid too. He was slapped several times in front of his grandparents. They took him with them holding on the collar. The cries of the grandparents moved miles pushing the darkness aside. When, the son-in-law brought the boy back from the camp with gaon burha, his condition was worse. He was unable to make any sound. He was beaten whole night.

          The grandparents visited Dangar Mai to see him. She was still crying. The eyes of the son-in-law were red.

          Since the day, no one from Dangar Mai’s family has visited to Monoram. Neither does Monoram. Dangar Mai has a growing family. Why should she suffer for them! Even she didn’t utter a word, would Monoram not understand her silence? She is his girl.


          There’s a warm morning in the village after a long time. Monoram woke up early to get ready to go to hetou.

          The people were about to meet at the yard of namghar to go to hetou together. They would offer worship before leaving. They are going to arrange pam. They must pray.

          The villagers gathered at the namghar as if they are going for some other journey.

          Most of them are young. Those olds who are devoid of option join them.

          No one thought of Monoram going to hetou. His presence surprised them all. Someone even murmured- “for whom the old is going to save”.

          Monoram heard it clearly. The people started avoiding him since the police started arresting the youths from the village randomly.

          : We are suffering for his family.

          One day, Monoram just put his step at the neighbour’s entrance as earlier, Monoram heard-

          : Monu Bhai, you don’t come to our house. We have young children. Military might take them somewhere.

          Since then, he has not visited anyone’s house. They are also true. Who wants to suffer for other?

          The villagers used to call him when they see him in public till that time. But gradually he lost that too.

          Darkness swallowed the village. The women entered into the kitchen. The children started reading their lessons. A huge sound made the children quiet and the lamps off.

          Monoram heard people whispering. A bomb blasted at the other corner of the village. A number of military vehicles were heading that way.

          The police or army comes first to Monoram if something happens nearby the village. This time too. Monoram was taken to police station including a few boys who were wandering on the road.

          A strange incident occurred the next morning. Whole village was covered by military after arresting Monoram and others.

          Haliram’s house was at the edge of the village. Blasting point was not far away from his house. At the dawn of the day, his daughter went out to pee, but couldn’t return. Someone heard a cry for once. Haliram restored his daughter in a condition in which even the arch enemy would feel sorry. She’s lying naked with a stink of blood.

          She’s taken to hospital. All the doctors and nurses also showed sympathy, but she didn’t live.

          It was followed by some hues and cries. The villagers visited the town with application. Higher officials visited Haliram. These were forgotten after a few months, even by the villagers.

          Since then, the women of the village stopped going outside. They started locking the houses at dusk.

          The villagers stepped further away from him. They used to invite Monoram to the ceremonies but no one felt bad if he didn’t go.

          The little affection that Monoram saved for Dangar Bupa had been exhausted. The entire village had to suffer for him.  The village started turning quiet from the noon.

          For whom Dangar Bupa and his fellows have been fighting? What would be the outcome of their revolution? Would it benefit the leaders like the previous one? The thoughts started cycling in Monoram’s mind like the wheels of a bicycle.

          The people are about to reach the rivulet. The youths park their bicycles in a particular place. Hetou is there after the channel--the new hetou sapori.

          After crossing the channel, the youths arranged the tents. There’s a new enthusiasm in the minds. They would cultivate in the new pams.

          Monoram felt awkward after reaching the hetou. Once it was full of fishes and crops. Let it be as it is, as it’s appearing after years. He had returned to village leaving the hope for the sapori.

          There were numbers of incidents that had happened in the hetou. How can Monoram forget about the movement? About his younger son?

          Monoram kept walking on the sand.

          Horu Bupa went to college. He was Monoram’s pride. He had two sons and both of them went to college. He was thinking about the future sitting in the hut when the movement occurred, started by the college students. All the Bangladeshi miya must be vanished.

          On that day, Horu Bupa along with his friends came to the sapori to evict the miyas. Lots of violence already took place. So many bridges were burnt and many of them were arrested.

          All the people joined the movement. The people from Monoram’s village were also going out with weapons.

          But, that day Horu Bupa returned in a state that no one had ever imagined. The condition of Horu Bupa was terrible.

          Remembrance of that day still turns his heart into stone. Having seen Horu Bupa, Monoram freezed.     

          Having reached home, Monoram saw Horu Bupa surrounded by his friends. The bearded boy was addressing his fellows in a lower voice. In a stroke, he grasped Monoram’s feet and started crying.

          : Deuta, your son has sacrificed his life for his land. Don’t be sad deuta. He is a martyr. He is our pride. We must stand against the Bangladeshi.

          Monoram was invoked by the bearded boy.

After finishing the funeral, Monoram came to the sapori. He didn’t bother the call of his wife. The voice of the bearded boy had been haunting him.

Monoram was thrilled. From where did he earn the vigour?

He had arrived hetou before dusk. Having entered into the hut, Monoram just took the sharp da. Then, he heard his name being uttered in different tune. His anger touched his head. The face of Horu Bupa came to his eyes. How dare they? He had befriended snakes. Bloody lungi wearer. He stared shivering out of anger. His blood boiled and he came out holding the da tightly.

He could not even realize.

His head fell down. Under the neem tree.

No. Monoram was neither scared nor felt sad even after seeing the blood. Rather, he felt a kind of tranquillity. The soul of Horu Bupa got peace. No wok left in the sapori. Monoram returned to his village on the very day.

The movement already slowed down. The bearded boy, who was studying in the college with Horu Bupa, contested in election. He came to Monoram to shed tear touching his feet.

: We must keep alive your Horu Bupa, deuta.

Monoram felt inclined to him. Not only Monoram but also the public. People voted him collectively.

The bearded boy won the election.

The roads, burnt bridges were mended. The statues of the dead at hands of police and military were erected at every nongola.

Horu Bupa’s statue also stood at the gate of Monoram.

The bearded boy won the next election too and also the next and every time.

Monoram didn’t know what the bearded boy had done for the public. But the day when Monoram was thrown by the military to the statue of Horu Bupa, Monoram realized looking at it –“it’s not a statue of my Horu Bupa, but a fire as strong as the fire of sugarcane saal.  The leaders of the movement lit it in the mind of Monoram.

Since that day, Monoram had been disturbed by another fire. What he had done on that day? To whom he would confess it? Even his wife didn’t know it.

Monoram used to feel him when the fisherman comes. He wanted to hide himself somewhere.

He came to the hetou. They used to gossip under the neem tree.

Perhaps he came to appraise the incident on that day. He came to Monoram amidst the ongoing violence out of love. What he had done in anger?

Monoram’s eyes are soaked.

Yes, Monoram couldn’t read the leaders. Not only Monoram, but none. The leaders are like river, like the Brahmaputra. No one can predict. It brings waves abruptly and devours the hetou, returns the hetou. People like Monoram need to suffer.

Where would he hide his sin? Where? The hut existed somewhere here on the sand. The neem tree was also somewhere there, under the sand, somewhere.........

Monoram sat down. He started panting out of guilt.

Gradually his hands moved to the sand. He started digging the sand with his fingers searching the neem tree.

A hole was created. His fingers didn’t get tired. He continued digging, slowly and then fast.

He touched a bone in the sand. He turned insane. It might be his bone.

Having seen the behaviour of the old, the people started gathering one by one. Mono burha might have turned mad? Whose bone is it floated by the river- human being’s or cow? What Monoram wants to do with it?

Monoram didn’t pay any heed to the people. He embraced the bone and started weeping-“I made mistake Ahmed, I made mistake. Leaders are enjoying. We were busy killing each other. The younger died in that way, the elder needs independent country and I had to tolerate the torture. Everyone left me. You were not my enemy Ahmed, you were not....”

Monoram remembered the past at the hetou--about the movement, about Horu Bupa. The people standing by also felt sad for him. They consoled him “we are with you Mono kai.”

“Who are with me?” Monoram lifted his head and saw the villagers. “They are with him?” After so many years he heard people calling him ‘Mono kai’.

He could utter nothing out of emotion. Let them set up new pam here. Let them distribute his share among themselves.

Monoram only needed bones. More bones that was buried under the sand.

Monoram resumed digging being indifferent to the people. The villagers kept staring at him. No one knew the reason of Monoram’s digging. Whose bone he was searching being so frantic- of Horu Bupa, Dangar Bupa or of some Ahmed Miya?





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