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Food and fiesta by the lakeside on a winter’s day

- Ethnic Rabha cuisine and attire set to attract visitors to Chandubi on New Year’s Day

Borjhar, Dec. 20: The beauty of the serene Chandubi lake and a heady mix of ethnic food and attire will woo picnickers looking for an easy getaway as the curtains come down on another year.

The fourth edition of the five-day winter festival, held against the backdrop of the lake, 65km off Guwahati, gets rolling on New Year’s Day.

The message has already spread beyond boundaries and borders, with foreign tourists expected to try out the gastronomical delights and ethnic wear.

This year’s edition will feature a delectable range of Rabha cuisine. Comprising a mixture of snail and papaya, leafy vegetables, an array of fishes, crab curry and the newly introduced “fried gospok”, a kind of insect found in the sal tree. There will be variety and, of course, exclusivity. More so, as the festival will be eco-friendly.

“Tea and water will be served in biodegradable containers made of doluah bah (a bamboo that grows in the hills) while food will be laid out on kou pat (Pherynium pubinerve), found in the wet hilly terrain of jungles,” said Debojit Napha, the president of the Chandubi Festival organising committee.

Last year, the organisers were caught unawares by the footfall in the first two days of the festival. “We ran short of food and plates. This year, we will have more to offer and are planning to make 60,000 plates. Last year, we had made just 30,000,” Napha said.

However, scarcity of raw material is a matter of concern. “Preparation of 60,000 plates will be a tough task given the scarcity of kou pat that is eaten by wild elephants,” he said. Sources said elephants look for this wild plant during the dry spell when the source of food for herbivores is inadequate.

The broad leaves also come in handy to prepare rice inside bamboo culms. “The rice is stuffed inside the hilly bamboo culms and cooked. This item sells like hot cakes,” Napha said. “In the previous editions, we were unable to offer this much sought-after dish to some visitors.”

Apart from the leaves, the snails cooked with papaya or peas in the dish are also becoming hard to find. “The snail is found in paddy fields. But its numbers are also declining. So we have to bring the snails from outside Goalpara, where we had procured them during the previous edition,” Napha said.

On the other attractions this year, he said, “Wild leafy vegetables and fresh water small fish such as dori kona, puthi, kholihona and moa will be part of the menu. However, the one to look out for will be the gospok that will be fried without oil as the insect is rich in oil.”

The organisers have recruited 50 cooks. Ethnic Rabha attire will also be on display. “Last year, attire worth Rs 7 lakh was sold. We expect to sell more this year,” he said.

Apurba Jiban Baruah, the deputy inspector general of police (northern range), laid the main post of the Chandubi festival recently.

Chandubi is surrounded by the Chagalchari, Mayang hill ranges and Bathiaparbat in the Borduar reserve forest in Kamrup district. “There will be a boat cruise on the lake. We are pressing 100 country boats into service,” Napha said.

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