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A Day With the Harvesters: A Lesson on Travel

Harvesters working in a paddy field near Jokai Botanical Garden at Dibrugarh
Harvesters working in a paddy field near Jokai Botanical Garden at Dibrugarh
A lone harvester working in her field on the outskirts of Dibrugarh
A lone harvester working in her field on the outskirts of Dibrugarh
Ducks swimming in a water body near a paddy field on the outskirts of Dibrugarh
Ducks swimming in a water body near a paddy field on the outskirts of Dibrugarh
Two local women going to town on foot
Two local women going to town on foot
Harvesters taking a tea break in the midst of paddy field
Harvesters taking a tea break in the midst of paddy field
Harvesters wearing broad rimmed bamboo hats taking a tea break
Harvesters wearing broad rimmed bamboo hats taking a tea break
Ripened rice grains left by harvesters
Ripened rice grains left by harvesters
A man carrying a bunch of harvested paddy returning home on his bicycle
A man carrying a bunch of harvested paddy returning home on his bicycle
A truck loaded with harvested paddy bound for home
A truck loaded with harvested paddy bound for home

One of the best experiences of travel is slipping to the life of the locals. Sometimes it just takes nothing more than watching their daily tasks and getting to know their life better.

 On my visit to Dibrugarh I landed at a small roadside village near Jokai, 12-13 km from Dibrugarh town. I came upon this group of harvesters toiling with a sickle in the heat of the day. The villagers were quite basic and they looked content; flashing smiles all the time. I got to see their labor of love as they gently harvest rice plants they had planted in July. 

At first I thought they would consider me obnoxious and officious for sticking around with them. I tried not to point my camera until I got to know them better, but trying to start a conversation was the hard part; they didn’t speak Hindi or English and I didn't understand Assamese. So we let smiles do the talking and established a camaraderie I haven’t forgotten since then. It’s true that an ugly incident or an encounter with a person can leave a bad impression about a place and the people living there, but it is also true the other way round.

As I watched them labor with ingenuity, I noticed a spirit of sharing that is such an important part of tribal culture. Such bonding also knits the young and old together. The group ranged from an old woman who must be in her late 60’s or early 70’s to a teenage boy.

 The November sky was cloudless and though winter has begun to creep in the late evening and morning, the day was hot. I closed in to get a few closer shots and I was surprised by their friendliness and hospitality. They accepted me as one of them. We talked about family; that’s one of the first things people want to know when you are traveling alone. Traveling alone has also this sympathy factor. They were amazed when I told them that I was on a trip to the North-East, on my own. Are you not scared? Don’t you feel lonely? How many siblings do you have? These were some of the questions they threw at me one after another. 

They invited me to share their humble midday snacks, which consisted of some biscuits, oranges and black tea. They have no reservations or pretense in their invitation; I could see it in their eyes, so out of politeness I had few pieces of orange. Sharing their lives and burdens, I believed enabled them to brave all hard labors and live a fulfilling life. I learned to appreciate their bonding a lot more, because I had traveled more than a month on my own and the greatest joy, I discovered comes from sharing. I’ve also learned that the best part of traveling is re-living that experience by sharing it with others. 

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