Awesome power

Awesome Power (c) Young World, The Hindu, 2013

Did you know that the water buffalo was an endangered species? Read his letter to Aristotle.

Dear Aristotle,

I read with interest the letters written about massive and powerful animals. Have you ever seen the awesome power of nature in its rivers and oceans? Have you ever felt the surging waters of the mighty Brahmaputra around you? As a water buffalo that lies partly immersed in its waters, here is my bit on this river.

Starting from a glacier in the Kailash range in the Upper Himalayas in southwest Tibet, the Brahmaputra runs a course of 2,900 km through Tibet, China, the states of Arunachal Pradesh and Assam in India and then through Bangladesh before it empties its waters into the Bay of Bengal.

Changing course

Just as varied as the lands it thunders through, so is the name by which it is known. In Tibet, it is called Tsangpo, “the Purifier” or “the Great River”. It cuts through the Himalayas to enter India as “Dihang”. Then it roars further on as “Brahmaputra”. In Bangladesh, it joins the Ganga to form the Padma, its many distributaries in a lotus shape, which form the world’s largest delta. Then the combined waters of the Padma and the Meghna flow into the sea.

During the monsoons, the mighty Brahmaputra bursts its banks, flooding villages and fields, taking away all that it had nourished the year round. Sometimes it changes course, creating new fertile islands where it deposits silt and at the same time erodes the landmass. The grasslands of Kaziranga where I live face the same crisis. There is a frantic effort by all of us at the park to reach high ground on the Himalayan mountain slopes. Too much of even a good thing is bad.

Majuli, Assam, is an island in the Brahmaputra created by the change in its course. It is about 880 sq. km in area and is Asia’s largest river island.

Like Kaziranga National Park, this island too is a great tourist attraction. Ancient temples, beautiful crafts and a rich heritage of the tribal people living there are as interesting as perhaps the migratory birds that visit the island every year. The island lies about 12 km from the river bank. Hence, ferrying is the only way to get to this island.

Majuli would be a paradise on earth if it weren’t for the rage of the Brahmaputra during the monsoon season. Many times the people of this island are forced to spend days huddled together in their boats while their fields and homes are flooded. When the rain stops, the floodwater recedes and the sun comes out again, this picturesque island gets a little smaller. With every passing year, the powerful Brahmaputra takes a part of this island away with it.

I am a huge animal myself but I am nothing compared to this mighty river.

How wonderful it would be to be an island, lying partly submerged in water!

Water buffalo

Reply from Aristotle

Hi WB,

You are a mean-looking heavy fellow, over six feet in height and nearly 10-foot long. I am a bit surprised that you are an endangered animal. I wonder what could be a threat to you. I bet the humans have something to do with it.


Published as part of a series titled ‘Aristotle’s Mailbag’ in Young World, The Hindu, dt. March 19, 2013

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