Atul Sarmah is a 68-year-old retired primary school teacher in Majuli. He served 43 years as a primary school teacher there. He is born and brought up in Majuli. Two years back he retired from his service. He is knowledgeable and kind-hearted.
Sarmah has three children and a wife. His two daughters have settled in different parts of Majuli and his son stays with him. They own a grocery store in the Aunvati area.
Sarmah is a retired government primary school teacher who has been one of the important teachers in Majuli, the largest river island in the world. He said, “Since childhood, I always felt the need of education in Majuli. Many people are there but they are not literate enough to communicate or write anything to the outside world. I felt if I became a teacher then at least I can change something or at least try. I joined the government school of Aunvati as an English teacher in 1974. Later I shifted to the Garamur area school and then different places around Majuli.”
He says that he never saw the job as hectic or monetary. “I always felt the need to change something and educate the youth who want to go ahead and make their life better,” he explained.
How were you’re teaching days in Majuli?
“My teaching days were really of ups and downs. Sometimes the school committee used to be problematic or sometimes the students or sometimes to reach school was a problem. During my initial days, I used to think about what trouble I took on my shoulders but when I saw my students becoming better persons, it all felt worth it. With the course of time, my teaching got better and that made me feel good about myself. It was learning for me as well. I’m kind of person who teaches as well as learns from the others,” he said.
Majuli was also different at that time. Development was less and even the thinking were different. Now slowly but gradually things are progressing in terms of development and importance of education, he feels. Tribals are becoming open-minded and sending their kids to school to study. Initially, this wasn’t the scenario. “I can see the positive in the last few years. I have worked with the health commission as well for a few years which was one of the turning points of my life,” he added.
What do you think is the future of the place?
“I think this place will be more developed in the future. People are adapting to the modern environment very rapidly which is good and bad at the same time. They shouldn’t forget their roots and fly high. Development wise, the place has become much more modern and comfortable to live. Earlier, the rain used to destroy a major part of Majuli, now with roads and sanitation development, life is at ease. Future is good for the place. Education has also developed different parts of Majuli,” he said.
Initially, fewer schools were available for kids. Now things have changed a lot. Now, there are 400 primary schools, 200 middle schools, 150+ high schools and junior colleges as well as 6 degree colleges in Majuli which is a great change, Sarmah believes.
How is the climatic condition in Majuli now?
“Right now, the climate is changing very rapidly. This year, it has rained a lot compared to the past year. The heat in summer has also increased compared to the previous years. All these changes are happening because of more deforestation and pollution in the area. Lots of people have started taxi businesses which have degraded the air quality of the place. Even Majuli is on the verge of collapse, due to excessive soil erosion and rise in the Brahmaputra river water-level. It is a danger that is bothering many people for a long time,” he said with a worried look.
He has bought land near Jorhat to give to his kids for their future. “My life has been good. I want my kids to live peacefully,” he signed off saying.