THE PEOPLE OF MAJULI & THEIR INTERFACE WITH FLOODS
Floods are not new to the people and children of Majuli, Assam. In 1950 an earthquake in the region changed the course of the river quite dramatically, making floods a common occurrence. Known as the largest river island in the world, for generations now, the lives of Majuli’s inhabitants has been dependent on the might of the Brahmaputra river, that overflows perennially every monsoon season.
Stories from the 1700’s talk of a particular occurrence at the time that appears to have diverted part of the flow of the Brahmaputra through the channel of the Dihing, about 190 kms upstream of its confluence. When the two rivers met, the intervening land area formed the island of Majuli. According to the first geographical report, Majuli was a cluster of 15 large and numerous small islands back in 1792.
MAATI COMMUNITY & THE CHILDREN’S LIBRARY
The entry point to our community children library is submerged under water in Chitadarchuk village, Majuli
The Maati Community aims to create a platform in the region for better exposure and knowledge sharing in the field of art and craft and therefore built a library known as Akonir Puthighor, for the community children in Majuli. Located in the village of Citadarchuck, whose majority inhabitants belong to the Mising Community, a tribal community of the region, a total of 60 children became regular partakers in the library’s activities.
TURNING THE FLOODS INTO A LEARNING EXPERIENCE
Each year, the coming of floods is riddled with negative connotations of what little it brings to the people of the region, and how much is takes away. But this year, with the news of the coming floods, we rushed to the island, with the mission to witness the floods together, with the children, to translate this yearly occurrence into a learning experience.
The water started entering Citadarchuck, and the entry to Garmur village was cut off with a sudden rise in water levels, cutting of access to this market area. The day grew into evening, as the people of the village remained busy with shifting cattle and grains, to a place of shelter. Always prepared for the floods, the Mising Community plan in a way to shift their important belongings to a significant height above the ground level, create separate safe spaces for their motorbikes, tractors, scooters and cattle, that help sustain their livelihood, knowing well that high levels of water are expected to stay for 5 days.
The next morning, we woke up from a night at the library, to the noise of a boat. Our surroundings were completely flooded, and the noise of the boat indicated an accident or an emergency. But instead, the water levels started increasing and overflowing into the library, despite it being at a height. By 8 am the children started coming in and together we started putting the books and stationary at a height that the water would hopefully not reach.
There were many other incidents like these through the floods that exemplified the resilience of children in difficult circumstances, highlighting their prominent role in building thriving communities and being integral members of it.
Children get onto boats and ride towards the community library to help out
Many children of Majuli are familiar with boats, and the floods prove to be a time when they can get their hands on moving around in them. Boats are an integral part of the Mising Community culture. Infact, the same day the floods took place, one could see children piling up in their boats, rushing towards the half-submerged library. Since the premises outside the library is their playground area, where all the children gather for games and other activities, this time they brought their older siblings and family members to help out too.
Fishing became an activity during the floods where children assisted their families for their daily food supply
The floods this year also made fishing an extracurricular activity. At this time, most of the vegetable plantations get destroyed, making fish the only available source of food, therefore, families get busy in fishing for their daily food. This time fishing became a fun activity for the children, engaging them while school and other activities were shut.
“I don’t get scared of water!” said one of the boys, while jumping into the flooded water during a swimming race.
Another positive fall out of the floods this year, was the swimming races started off by the children. Almost everyone in Majuli village knows how to swim, and this became a time for children to gather and compete against each other. This was a lot of fun for the children and causes a buzz in the village.
For us, this act of children coming together and engaging to protect their library, helping their parents to fish and gather food, creating avenues for fun and play at a time of emergency and distress was an experience that will always bring a smile to all our faces. It also reflected in more ways than one that children are resilient, and active participants in society, and if we view problems through their eyes, we will always find a solution.