Til now, you saw, we began our Assam tour from the renowned Kamakhya Temple in Guwahati. Enjoyed a river cruise in the evening! And enjoyed the local food to our heart’s content. From Guwahati, we travelled for 70kms to visit Chandubi Lake. And eating the traditional food of the Rabha Tribe and watching their cultural activities – What an enjoyable experience! In the last episode, you saw us travelling from Guwahati to Saualkuchi and…. ….watching silk handloom industry at work. Ohhh From there, we also went to Hajo…. …reaching Barpeta Road late at night for our night stay. In today’s episode, you will watch the wildlife in Manas National Park…. ….and from there, we also went to Sarthebari, where…. …there is a large-scale industry of Bell Metal works. They mainly make utensils out of this metal. And finally, traditional food at Guwahati. Hello friends, welcome to Visa2explore! This is your host, Harish Bali. Right now, I am walking on the Barpeta Road, 110kms from Guwahati. Manas National Park is 20kms away from here. We reached here at night. Right opposite to us on Barpeta Road is the Tourist Lodge of the Tourism department. Actually, this is also the Tourist Information Centre…. …they also have five rooms available for tourists to rent, for which…. …you need to get them pre-booked. They offer two types of room tariffs. Rs. 1000 per day and Rs. 600 per day. When we reached here last night, we noticed there were mosquitoes around. So, they put up these mosquito nets for us in the room. We were able to sleep comfortably after that. Now, let us go for breakfast! For breakfast, we have poori and curry made with aloo (potatoes) and papeeta (Papaya). It has a decent taste! Now, we will have our tea after this, and then leave for the next stop. By the way, aloo and papeeta make a good combination as a curry. We’ve reached Manas National Park. If you come here at 6 am…. …you can pay Rs. 1000 and go on an elephant safari. …or do this jeep safari, like us…. …for Rs. 2000/-. You can also hire a guide for the whole day for Rs. 1000/-. We are paying Rs. 600 for the guide, for a 2-3 hour session. For the gunman, we’ve paid Rs. 300/-. The whole of Manas National Park is spread over an area of 2837 sq kms. Out of this, the core area is a total of 500 sq kms. In your personal vehicle, you can drive straight for 21kms, till you reach the Bhutan border. Another portion of Manas National Park lies in Bhutan, where it is known as Royal Manas park. Obviously, if you want to travel more of the park, you should hire a jeep. Also for better animal visibility! The best time to visit this park is between December and March. In December, the tall grasslands, growing inside the park, are burnt down. Even now, you can see, right in front, the grass being burnt down. After this burning, the fresh grass that grows is better for the animal’s appetite. Although, the elephants prefer the taller grass…. …the deer, on the other hand, loves to eat the softer grass. Wow! This is the moment for which we travelled all the way to Manas National Park. There, in front of you, is an elephant…. …how beautiful, it must only be about 70-80 meters away from us. Look at its majestic tusks. Male elephant! So beautiful! We are standing atop the watch tower to see the beautiful view around us. Our guide just told us that if we come here for a safari at 7 am…. …we will be able to watch 20-30 such elephants in herds around here. In the core area, there are approximately 1300 elephants. This is the horn of the Asiatic Water Buffalo, male. Ohh! This is in original form. Huge size! Huge size, yes! We are driving down this road slowly. There are about 3-4 elephants nearby, absolutely at peace with nature. There is one baby elephant and two adults, treading quietly. At a safe distance! So beautiful! So beautiful! You just saw… …one of the elephants tried to chase our gypsy and we had to go back. While maintaining a safe distance! It has been one and a half hours now and I’ve been watching through binoculars,…. …what the elephants are doing. We’re are trying to feel what they are up to. Now, even if we want to move on, we cannot, because…. …on one side of the road we have an adult elephant and one baby…. …and one adult elephant on the other side. So, we have no other option but to wait. Now how much that is going to take, whether 30 minutes or 2 hours, no one knows. Great! Our guide just told us that…. ….Manas National Park is also home to more than 500 Asiatic Water Buffaloes. You can see one of those right there. Our Gypsy cannot drive till there but I am watching through binoculars. So big! The buffalo has a huge pair of horns as well as a giant body. Today, we’ve already spent 6 hours…. ….since morning to afternoon and now it is time to decide…. ….whether we should stay here for more and forward our rest of the Assam tour or…. ….move on from here. So, with a sad heart,…. …and lot of difficulty, we have decided to move on from here. And continue our Assam journey. Now, we are going back. Right in the middle of the forest,… …our Gypsy’s tyre punctured. Thank God! We have this gunman with us. So, we are safe! Just imagine, jungle all around us and we have a flat tyre right in the midst of it. We left this morning and after spending a successful day roaming the jungles, we are back in the noon. Brother, thank you very much! You are doing a good job! Keep it up! Welcome Sir! So, if you had come for two days or more, I would have shown you more animals. Like tortoise, turtle, there are many other varieties of species. So, spending more time means more chances of watching animals. If you come for more days! Hispid Hare…. Golden Langur! These are the species of animals for which Manas National Park is known worldwide. But you need time! Yes Sir! Buddy, I would repeat – you are doing a fabulous job, keep it up! Thank you Sir! Welcome! We left Manas National Park an hour ago. Driving down the highway, we came across this random restaurant. We are ravenous! Going for food! I’ve ordered two dishes for myself – Chicken curry and Khaar. Here, I saw what they did. They didn’t add any oil to the pan. They just added shredded cabbage, green chilies, … …and they had a powder, to which they added some water and…. …that powder is called Khaar. That powder-water mixture was added to the pan. I got to know that Khaar is a very effective ingredient for better digestion of food. Before chicken curry, I am going to taste this Khaar. I asked them why they had served Khaar in such a small quantity. They told me since I was eating it for the first time, I should take it in a small quantity. It is neither sour, nor sweet, nor bland! And….nor is it bitter! This Khaar doesn’t taste either of the mentioned flavors. Gobhi-aalu (cauliflower-potato) dish is quite simple, as I told you. Decent taste! Rice influences the taste of every dish in the meal because we mix it with every dish. Now here, the rice is average in taste. Chicken is soft! Looking at this curry, I feel… …that its taste is going to be alright. Mmm! Chicken is cooked well. No doubt, the gravy is delicious and chicken is well-cooked. This chicken curry makes up for the average quality of rice. I wish I was able to watch this chicken being cooked. Because the garam masala in it is the gamechanger. Mild ginger, mild garlic are adding to the flavor! And I just ate a piece of chicken. It is well cooked! This place, where we just had our lunch,… …is known as the educational and cultural hub of Assam. During the Assam tour, we missed a visit to the Pathshala town. When you see mobile theater in Assam and Northeast,… …you will realize that this concept began with Pathshala. This town is home to 35-40 educational institutions. I really wish I had visited Pathshala town but…. …even with best efforts done to plan a tour, there remains some or the other fault because of which….. …some important thing or another is missed. If you come to Assam, you must not miss it. I reached Sarthebari almost 2 and a half hours ago. First, I talked to some shopkeepers here and after that I went to a Co-operative Society here to further discuss. Now we have reached here at a time when the units are closed. By 4 pm, the units shut down. Now, they tell me that from raw material, how is the final product made – …how the utensils are made… …to watch all that, I need to come again tomorrow. To do that, I will have to reduce a day from the rest of days of my Assam tour. This means I may have to either shorten my visit to some destination or miss it altogether. …because, at a personal level, I am very much interested in these utensils. It is a very useful utensil. We will talk more about that tomorrow. For now, check out this musical instrument. Made with bell metal! This is how it sounds! This bell metal, known as ‘Kaansa’ in Hindi. The shop where we are standing has lots of such utensils. From here, now, we are leaving for Guwahati. We will eat something on our way. And we will end our today’s journey. While on the highway, we were looking for a place to stop and eat something…. Finally, we’ve reached this shop. This area is called Paikarkuchi Chowk. Yes, I pronounced it right! Let us go inside to find out more. Once inside, I found out that the tea here is quite famous! And Goza too! What you see in front of you, in brown color, is Goza. It is made with maida (all-purpose flour). With that is Kalakand sweet, with gur (jaggery) in it. And this is called ‘nimki’ locally. Usually, people eat savory items first and then the sweet ones! But I will eat the sweet first, this Goza! To be frank, I’ve not seen this kind of sweet ever before…. …especially a kind with this shape and color. It is soft! It appeared to be hard from outside but it is really soft inside. It would be wrong to say that this sweet is similar in taste to Balushahi, a North Indian sweet! But yes, there are certain similarities. From what I’ve understood, it contains two distinct flavors. The slight hard exterior of this sweet…. …has one flavor and the inner softness tastes different in flavor. It is not too sweet. The sweet feeling that we get from a sweet,… ….is absent here. But very tasty! And something very different! Ohhhooo! How soft it is! I am unable to pick up Kalakand with my fingers! Hmmm! I don’t know, after how many years, I am eating Kalakand today. And one made with gur, for the first time. Something new, something different! Savory Nimki! Ahhh! Mmm! What you see in close focus here…. …this is kala jeera (Kalonji). Eating alternative bites of the savory and sweet makes for a rocking combination! Mmmm! Look at these triangle-shaped seeds! Irregular shape! I really like its odor! Time to have some tea along with snacks! The quality of milk in tea, in fact, everything in this tea is good! Good! It is 10.15 am and we’ve reached the Gam’s Delicacy Restaurant. The restaurant was about to close and we ordered two dishes for ourselves. I have with me our driver, Naman. This place serves a famous rice variety…. …which we are eating right now, Joha Rice. With rice, we have Eri fish, which is cooked with Otenga (Elephant Apple). In this fruit, you can see, on the side,…. …this rind is boiled. Then it is added to fried Eri fish to make the curry. For the first time in my life, I am eating a til-based (sesame seeds-based) chicken preparation. If someone isn’t told it is sesame seed, then just by looking at the texture of this dish,…. …one would be left confused as to the basis of this dish. Please have it! Serve yourself too! We will start with til-chicken. I have eaten lots of laddoos made with til. By lots, I mean many times over the years. But this kind of til preparation is really an unimaginable taste. For your knowledge – til has lots of health benefits. If you Google it, you will get to learn a lot. While I was serving til-chicken to myself, I was wondering about its taste. But I really liked it. Why didn’t you have this? Have it! First I will eat this. Ohh, you want to finish that first. Superb taste! Otenga and Eri fish! With Joha rice. I have served myself just a small portion of this dish. What I feel is…. …these two are made for each other. As I go on eating Joha rice,… ..I can feel that this rice is also light on stomach. I mean even if you eat it a stomach-full, it won’t give you the heavily-loaded feeling. The subtle sourness of Otenga, with rice, is giving a delicious taste. If you come to Assam, don’t miss this combination. Overall, I enjoyed all the three dishes. But the combination that rocks is…. …that is Eri fish cooked in Otenga…. …with Joha rice. And in the coming days, I will try to understand Joha rice in more detail. I really found this rice to be wonderful in taste. I have with me the head of the Bell Metal Co-operative Society. When we met them yesterday, they assured us that today, they were going to…. …show us the whole process in detail. Now, they have found out that at this moment, none of the units are operating. That is because recently a festival…. …was celebrated and for 15 days after that, they keep the units closed for work. Now, they are going to take us to a place to show us whatever possible. So, shall we go Sir? Yes, please! The unit, which we have come to visit, is run by six workers. This gentleman with us is the one who owns this unit. Although the unit is closed right now but he is going to show us how utensils are manufactured from…. …bell metal. So, you’ve already met him. So, Sir, since you do not know Hindi… I don’t know Hindi… No…No problem! So, you can explain to us slowly, in bits and parts, and this gentleman will help us understand. This is the bell metal, which reaches us after being mined. It comes to us from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and many Indian states. Also from the states in North east, which produce Bell Metal. We manufacture utensils and musical instruments from this metal. Okay! It is made of two metals – 78% copper and 22% tin. Great! What about old utensils made of bell metal? Yes, we also collect old, discarded utensils too. Like these utensils, we buy them for our purpose from different states in the North east. Recently, we have also started receiving discarded material from Bangladesh. Either from Afghanistan or Bangladesh. Sir, instead of the 78-22% ratio, if the ratio is changed,…. …whether 5% here or there, then what would happen? The metal will break up. It can be dealt with in a machine but not with hands. Although, no work is in progress here, but still,… …it is a little dark too inside, so not visible properly. We will use proper lighting to show you the inside of a unit. These are bell metal scraps and we put them into this holder, like this. This holder is called “Muhi” in Assamese by the artisans. This holder will be placed over a heat source. After the metal is melted completely, we put it into this dice. We just saw that the melted metal forms this dice shape. After this, Sir will demonstrate to us how five workers sit together and…. …keep hammering this dice shape, eventually spreading it out in a thin sheet. This part of the process can be done both by hand and by machine. Till the time the intended utensil or musical instrument doesn’t get ready,…. ..the metal is kept hot. If it grows colder, it is reheated. And this metal plate is hammered till it attains the desired shape. Now, they are going to demonstrate to us, how they use iron to rub on the plate and…. …how its color changes. After going through the whole process, they have kindly prepared some tea and snacks for us. Thank you very much! Now see, the tray in which they have served the tea cups, it is made of bell metal. If someone wants to buy a bell metal plate in this design,…. …it would cost approximately Rs 1500. So, Rs 1500 per kg is the average price of this metal. For this metal. Sir, can we cook food in utensils made with this metal, for example, boiling rice or making tea? No, you can not cook in this metal, nor make tea. You can only use it for eating food. Some food items, which are sour, like lemon, curd,…. …how do we use those in this metal? Well, you can eat curd or lemon in this utensil but you will have to eat those immediately. Immediately! If you keep curd or lemon in these utensils for longer, it is not right. We cannot set curd in these utensils? No, you can’t. Apart from the sour food items, is anything else that we should not store in these utensils? No, there is no such other thing, only the sour food items. Sir, the way we need to maintain the brass utensils,… …does this metal need similar maintenance? No need. Once you use it, then you can apply lemon juice to it and the utensil will be glazed as new. Very nice! One important thing I would like to mention- If you eat food in Bell Metal utensils, it imparts lots of health benefits. If you search on Google and Internet, you will get to read a lot about this metal. And here, I also found out about this metal that…. ..it is also used to manufacture lots of musical instruments as well. Great! Sir, tell me one thing. Sir, you work in the same line. But how will a common customer ascertain whether it is…. …pure bell metal or not. Take spoon like this, hit the plate like this and if it sounds like this,…. …then be assured, it is good quality metal. As long as the sound is, it is that good. We even prepare the school bells with bell metal. Can I try my hand once? No, not like this. Like this! Should I hit here? Yes, hit here. Now hit here. Apart from this, is there any other way to ascertain the good quality? Though not a fruitful way, but if the metal breaks, then it is pure. If it doesn’t then it is brass. If it breaks up, then the bell metal is in its pure form. This is a way! This is a way too! Rest, if we carry on using this metal in our households, we will understand it better. Sir, first of all, thank you to you both! Thank you Sir! Look at the hospitality! I can only praise them for their hospitality! I had come to them just to understand the process and they even plied us with tea and snacks and…. …explained everything to us in such detail! It felt nice! I really felt good, though I am not sure whether you are able to understand me or not. Another thing – now, we will go with him to the store. To check out different designs of utensils as well as the musical instruments. Any important aspect, that you may feel, we have missed. No, nothing was missed. So, you’ve explained everything to us? Yes! Everything! We only missed the live process, for which we will have to come again. Yes, you will have to come back! For your information, Sarthebari is 100kms away from Guwahati. So, if you take out enough time to visit here, you can understand the whole process. As we left the artisan’s unit, it started raining. We have come to the office of this Co-operative. To check out the designs. So, Sir, please show us some designs. Let me show you. This is Pan-Baata! This is used to offer paan and other items to the guests in homes across Assam. If you visit someone’s house, they will offer you paan, etc, in this paan-baata. This is sold for Rs. 1800 per kg. In Assam, when you visit someone’s house, they will offer you tea to drink in this cup. It is a bit hot when hot tea is poured in it, but it doesn’t cause much trouble. You can easily drink from it. This is a school bell. This sound means the classes have begun. This sound is for first class of the day! Second period! And for the time that school is over – …. The school is over, now go home! Very good! I was just discussing with him while walking to the store. If the bell metal utensil has a very simple design,… …the minimum cost would be Rs. 1050 per kg. Rest, it depends upon the design. Like he showed us this piece for Rs. 1800 per kg because its design is slightly better. Sir, thank you! You spent so much of your time to explain the whole process to us. If you come here…. …with enough time at hand, you can visit the Co-operative Society and…. ….he will help you to…. …visit an artisan’s house and understand the whole process. One, you will be able to learn something new and, second, if you want to purchase these utensils,…. …you can do so, either here, or from private shops in the market. Sir, thank you very much, once again! Thank you! It has started raining heavily. It is 7 pm now. I had told you that right now, we are in the Lower Assam part of the state and…. …we need to travel for 100kms to reach the Middle Assam part. Middle Assam, which is Guwahati. So, we are going to wait for 5-10 minutes. Even if the rain doesn’t stop, we will leave here in another 10 minutes. In the next episode, you will see… …when we left for Tezpur from Guwahati,…. …on our way, we ate curd set inside bamboo stem. Very different taste! Finally we ate our dinner,…. …which was Singpho Tribe’s food in Tezpur. This journey is going to be an indelible memory in my mind. We will meet soon with a new & exciting journey! Till then, goodbye! See you soon!