It had been raining all morning but Debika Mikum was still waiting. About a dozen women stood with her, huddled under their umbrellas.
Chacha had seen them from afar. He deftly brought the starboard parallel to the slippery bank, as Sanjay Pegu, the wiry deckhand, flung the anchor ashore. From the other end of the vessel, another rope flew out. It was quickly tied to the remains of a dead tree.
The boat secured, someone pushed out a thick wooden plank from the main deck and carefully wedged it into the slippery mud. Half-a-dozen crew members promptly marched out, hauling an assortment of poles, pegs and a large tarpaulin sheet. In minutes, a tent was conjured up.
With two fat logbooks, two stethoscopes and a trusty old sphygmomanometer between them, Bhaben Chandra Bora and Juganta Kumar Deori were out next. The two doctors settled on a plastic table under the rickety tent. Back in the boat’s lower cabin, pharmacist Apul Das had already got his logbook and medicines in order. It was all clockwork.
MV Akha was ready for business at Aisung, the crew gestured. The women, many with young children, folded their umbrellas and headed into the tent.
For the 3,000-odd residents of Aisung medical care or supplies don’t come easy.