An exclusive excerpt from The Forest Beneath the Mountains by Ankush Saikia (Published by Speaking Tiger, 2021)
A Memory of Elephants
On his second day in Tezpur Abhijit got up late. He woke to what felt like an unnatural silence, and it took him a few moments to realize where he was. He had planned to head toward Foothills, but decided to wait a day. Now that he was in Tezpur, with Foothills just some 60 kilometres away, he finally acknowledged something he had tried not to think about in Delhi: how safe were those areas now? The idea came to him that he could move around as a reporter: he still had his old press card with him. It would give him a cover of sorts while he went around trying to find out more about his father. But what would he report about, and for whom? As he was having his breakfast of chira with milk and gur, sitting by the table in the rear veranda, his uncle came and sat nearby on a moorah with a cup of red tea. His grandmother liked to sit on the bench out in the front in the morning, before the sun got to the veranda. The helper, a lean, dark, self-contained Adivasi Christian woman called Julie, had taken the morning’s dishes to the well for washing. She called his grandmother ma, and his uncle dada. Abhijit felt as though he had come and merged into this small community of three people in a matter of hours.