Facts aside, Sundarban has always intrigued me for it’s larger than life presence. Underrated to a far degree, Sundarban made me forget my concrete jungle within minutes of my arrival. I wanted to experience Sundarban the local way, so I booked a home stay for myself. An eco-friendly cottage near the banks. I wanted to make the most of my 2-day journey at Sunderban.
Never in my life have I seen anyone, so down to earth and super friendly. People of Sundarban, live life like none. Their generosity and kindness knows no bounds. I woke up early around 5 am to witness the sunrise at Sundarban. I was escorted by a local to the exact spot where one can enjoy the sunrise. He even got me a wooden chair and home-made tea. He must have been a school going kid, but the amount of information he had about his land and its history, left me speechless.
The sunrise in Sundarban is powerful. The sun beaming all over the delta region, the mangroves, the rivers with such gentle force, my camera couldn’t do the right justice. Being a sunrise person, I stared at the sunrise right in the eye, feeling my body getting charged for the day.
The boat ride
My day began with a traditional boat ride. In sunder ban, the only way of transport is through waterways. Through the dense forest, mangroves, the noise made by the oars of the boat, was surreal. How a boat, so small, was making its way through huge mangrove forests.
Our boat man was an old guy, singing traditional bangla songs. Half way through our journey, he yelled, Ah, Kingfisher, Cranes. Look there Baba. The otherwise rare to watch kingfisher was right in front of my eyes, sitting on a branch and right below, was a crane, in muddy shores. My camera captured the nakedness of the sight.
My boat man had so much to tell me about the different species of birds, migratory birds, water bodies, I was amazed. At the end of the ride, I asked him – Baba, How much? He said, “ 6 Rs.
I was shocked. Rs. 6 for an hour-long journey. I blankly started at him. He laughed. He turned to go. I said, Baba, just 6, it is way too less. He did not say anything. I gave him Rs. 100. To my surprise he said, he does not have change. I said, ‘ No baba keep it’. His face turned red. He said, ‘ Give me Rs. 6 or nothing’. This day I understood the difference between – Greed and Need.
Witnessing the wild
The thrill of witnessing the wild animals in open nature cannot be compared to seeing them in a zoo, all locked up. The rare white monitor lizard, the wild boar, the crocodiles. The rush makes you high.
Seeing the Irrawaddy dolphins, coming in and out of water for straight 45 mins was a blessing.
A certain section of the water is restricted due to presence of crocodiles and low tides.
I was at the Dobanki Camp. The famous tiger reserve of Sundarban. To my bad luck, I couldn’t witness any big cats that day, but to my surprise, I caught a golden fawn. Oh the beauty left me possessed.
It was getting closer to evening. I got back on the boat and come back to my stay of place. The locals invited me for a musical soiree with local singers and got me a glass of ‘ Hariya’ their local liquor. Watching the sunset at one end, the local music so soothing, I looked up in the sky and thanked my lucky stars for writing this trip in my fate.
Learning the culture.
More than the facts, I was interested to know about the culture and history of the place. With all the information on the net at one side, the scientific and raw stories from the locals at the other made me grow curious.
I had some free time in the morning, I decided to talk to the women in the locality. One woman said.
Sunderban, the name is derived from the ‘Sundari trees’ now declared endangered. Here, we all our god-fearing people but not tiger fearing people, Bon Bibi takes care of us. We are her children.
My interest and intrigue grow further. Tell me more I ask.
The lady of the forest, also known as Bandevi, Bandurga and Byaghradevi is a guardian spirit of the forests worshiped by both the Hindu and the Muslim residents of the Sundarbans. She is called upon mostly by the honey-collectors and the woodcutters before entering the forest for protection against the attacks from the tigers. It is believed that the demon king, Dakkhin Rai (or Dakshin Rai; meaning Lord of the South), an arch-enemy of Banbibi actually appears in the disguise of a tiger and attacks human beings.
This story served chills down my spine.
Make way for the big cat
I was getting restless, waiting for the Royal Bengal Tiger for nearly 3 hours now. I just had 4 hours more, until I left. I was searching frantically at every degree. My guide was observing me for a long time. He finally got up, came to me and said, ‘ It is the Royal Bengal Tiger madam. You will not spot it like a deer or a cat. When he comes out, it will be difficult for you to maintain your pulse. Save your restlessness. And man, he was right.
I remember, it was half past 3. I was scrolling through the pictures I had taken, when I heard a loud roar. My eyes got to the exact direction. The royal Bengal tiger walking towards the water pond.
My hands were severing. My guide was right. I had to catch my pulse from racing, I forced my eyes to blink and I made sure my nervous giggle goes unheard. It felt like life was a slo-mo.
The Royal Bengal Tiger rules the guts and nerve of all the living being in the land of Sundarban. On my way back from Sudhanyakhali watchtower, I was sad. I couldn’t smile anymore. I felt lost.
My guide looked at me and said – Madam, the spirit of Sundarban is inside you. You got what you needed. That’s when I smiled.
This world is living a life, totally untouched by evil minds. The rawness and sanctity I witnessed here in 48 hours made me forget my concrete jungle and see untouched life’s. Sundarban for me, was a detox to the wild. When I look at the pictures, it is not just the image that I see, but what I felt, what I witnessed at the scene.