We were on the Negro river ferrying down to the River Amazon. The water of Negro was so black that it seemed there must have been a coalmine somewhere on the riverbank. Was it there? As I asked my uncle, he was visibly annoyed, and said, "Are they teaching like this in India these days?"

Uncle was perhaps vexed at being interrupted in his talks with his Portuguese friend. Ever since we embarked the boat at Manaus, they were incessantly talking. The colour of the river water or the scenes on the bank mattered little to them. I had no idea what they were talking about because they were speaking in Portuguese. Only two days have passed since I came to Brazil and I could pick up only two Portuguese words-- bondia, meaning good day and obrigado meaning thank you.

Uncle had been living in this country for about ten to twelve years. The mountains here are reputed to be abounding with colourful semi-precious stones and I learnt that Uncle had a business in coloured stones.

He stayed in Rio de Janeiro. Near the sea was his big residence. But I could not see Aunt or any children of theirs. I saw Aunt only once, as a new bride with rings on ears and nose and a bridal crest, on the marriage reception day. The marriage ceremony was held at Palasi in Nadia district, where Uncle had some sort of business. I had been there in the ceremony, on the lap of my mother.

When I grew up I read in my history book that the English defeated Bengal's Nawab Siraj-u-ddula in the mango groves of Palasi and eventually became the rulers of this country.

My secondary school examinations were due in two years. I never saw Uncle or Aunt ever since I saw them in Palasi. I came to Brazil because Uncle was there. I had won a round-the-world-visit ticket by participating in a letter-writing competition that was held on an international level. This ticket enabled me to travel over Bangkok, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Los Angeles, New York, Rio de Janeiro, Copenhagen, Delhi and back to Kolkata.

True the plane ticket round the globe cost me nothing but lodge and board in Bangkok, Hong Kong, Tokyo, New York, Los Angeles and sightseeing meant a pretty package. Since Uncle had a house in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, the ticket became handy. Father wrote to Uncle about my winning the prize and Uncle replied that he would receive me at the airport if he was informed of the airline I was traveling. In point of fact, father was a little proud that I won the competition in which school children of one hundred and fifty countries sat. Father bragged a bit to Uncle about my prize.

Whoever would not be delightful to win a prize. And a round-the-world air ticket would make anybody jump in joy. The very phrase, round-the-world, reminded me of the book by Jules Verne, 'Around the World in 80 Days'. If I only could go round the world in 80 days, I could have made so many friends in so many countries!

The subject of the letter-writing competition was this very theme: visiting a new country. You would have to invite an overseas friend to come and visit your country. I won the first prize. Got the round-the-world air ticket. But let alone the world, even one country would have been beyond my reach, if Uncle were not there.

Uncle was busy in his work throughout the day and so the first two days I roamed by the seaside at Rio. Even on the third day, I walked along the seaside. There was lesser chance of getting lost if you walked by the sea. Moreover, I loved seas.

That night Uncle asked me at the dinner table, "Do you want to see the jungles of Amazon? If you do, get ready at seven in the morning for the airport."

The plane took off from Rio and first came to Brazil's capital, Brasilia. After an hour there, the plane flew off non-stop to Manaus, the capital city of the Amazon state. That Portuguese friend of Uncle was waiting here at the airport and his car took us down to the Manaus jetty where we got on to a motorboat.

On the Negro river we could see another river on the left. The water of that river was yellowish. Or perhaps brownish. It was difficult to see the colour from such a distance.

I had a yen to know the name of a river when I saw one. Even though Uncle was immersed in talk with his friend, I could not but ask, "Look, Uncle, look at that river. The colour of the water is altogether different, isn't it? What river is that?"

Uncle was not that annoyed this time. He said, "That is Solimoes– the river of yellow water. Like the Negro, it also flows into the Amazon. There are around a thousand tributaries, all flowing from the left and right sides into the Amazon.