Monthly Archives: April 2012
I have done my share of crazy things in life. Most of them have backfired. I remember the most recent ones. The older ones I do not. But I know they are there; way down in my life’s timeline. The wounds I lick today will not seem so deep a few years from now. That much I have learnt.
My biggest fear in life is that one day I will look back and regret the things I have not done. I do have a list of things which I wish I had done, words I wish I had said. I would hate that list to grow longer. God forbid.
Do everything you love. Yes it is possible. It is practical. More importantly it is simple. You want to climb Everest? It is doable. You just got to start. Start small. Why don’t you start with a walk down the road. Maybe a trek over the weekend.
Want to travel around the world. Oh I hear you! Your home town is also part of the world. Why not start there and slowly work up the mile chart?
Want to read the Ulysses.( This one is no joke for us mere mortals). Start one page at a time.
Maybe circumstances in life has you juggling more balls than you can handle? Maybe you are not living the life you imagined? I agree life is not fair all the time, but it is still good. So find time. Squeeze in an hour here and there. Make a list. Start small.
Do it. Do it one at a time. Do it all. Do everything you love.
Man vs Wild
” I have two cell phones but no toilet”. He laid his expensive camera aside to take out the two cell phones from his pocket as though offering proof. Our guide laughs as the launch boat glides along the various rivers that mingle to form the Sunderban islands.
I do not want to be judgemental but a Cannon SX30 is an expensive camera for a government employee in the forest department holding the post for only eight years.
That’s when he says he has another one exactly the same at home!
Where ever or however he came about the money, why did not spend it wisely? Surely a toilet was more important than not one, but two cellphones and two cameras!
I cannot help the train of thoughts that run through my head. How did he get the money to buy those cameras? Are there really tigers in the reserve, or have they all gone? Are the tiger penis sold in the markets of China those of tigers from the Sunderbans? If so how many guides have bought fancy cameras?
Did he really care about the Royal Bengal tiger? Or was he in the forest department as a consequence of his location? But everyone I met or talked to seemed genuinely interested in the fate of the Royal Bengal Tiger.
That’s when I met Ananth Mandal.
” I have no income”, he said.
” If I do not go into the forest my children will not have food. Yes, it is dangerous but if I collect honey then I can make some money. The forest people say do not fish here, do not fish there. But there are no fish where they allow us to fish.”
He stood up and pierced the long log of wood that was serving as an oar deep into the water. The Dingy propelled forward. With the ease of a trapeze artist he walked the length of the boat to get the short oar.
We were on our way to the small islets in the midst of the mangroves, the ones that are reborn every six hours when the water recedes.
Listening to Anand Bhyya as he recounts his life, makes me wonder at the human race in general. Here I am in the Sunderban Tiger reserve wondering if a tiger is worth more than a human life.
To him it does not matter that illegal fishing will upset the aquatic life; he does not care why conservation of tigers are necessary so that our children can enjoy them later. If you still want to go head and make him understand , I will not stop you. But before you do, try explaining why his children should go hungry so that a healthy aquatic life can be maintained. Can you guarantee him that if he stays away from the forest, if he stops collecting firewood and honey, that his children will live a healthy happy life to enjoy the conservation of the Royal Bengal tiger?
Where did we go wrong? When did human life lose its value? Did the government fail Ananth Bhyya? Did I, a citizen of a free country fail him by refusing to speak for him?
The only other way to get around within the islands ( the first one being to walk) is to take a cycle rickshaw. It is a very basic ride. It is a cross between a wagon and a cycle. It can take about four people of average weight. The narrow roads barely supports two passing rickshaws. So stretching your legs while riding one is asking for trouble! ( Trust me I know!)
Our last trip on the cycle rickshaw was about noon time. Mowgli, our guide pretty much ambushed a rickshaw.I do not blame him the heat was unbearable. Preeti and I dumped our bags in the middle and sat on either side of the driver ( for lack of a better term) while Mowgli hopped on at the back.
Our driver was a fairly youngish chap with the energy and cockiness to go with it. He did not seem perturbed by the heat. When passing rickshaws coming from the opposite side he was sometimes daring enough to playfully snatch cigarettes from passengers.
At a bend in the road there was a woman in a green saree standing beside a palm tree. With one hand over her forehead she screened the sun. When we approached her our driver help out his hand and in one movement a pink and green striped nylon bag exchanged hands. The driver hung it across the handle bars. There were two more bags, one a plain blue cloth bag and the other a silver metallic container. They were lunch boxes. They all hung from the same handle bar.
As we approached a ditch where a few men were farming for prawns our driver honked. He moved the pink and green striped bag to the other bar and held out his hand with the silver container dangling from his wrist. Ahead a man came running, he had dirt upto his knees. When he came closer to the rickshaw he reduced speed. However our driver the cocky guy that he was started pedaling faster. The poor farmer yelled out a curse at which our driver laughed and increased his speed. The poor farmer yelling louder started running backward to keep up with the rickshaw. He was still running when we passed him but he held the metal container with the palm of his hands. He stopped after a while balanced the lunch box between his knees and bend down to panting.
By the time we reached the jetty where we were to get down, we had picked up three more boxes and delivered another one, upset oncoming traffic causing an old man to drop the sandals which he had balanced on his knees was yelled at by men, women and children. sweating profusely and tanned beyond recognition; all this without stopping for a single moment.
You got to love the Sunderbans!
The Irony of it all
Kumaresh’s household takes care of all the guests who come to the Sunderbans with the Backpackers. His mother, wife, sister and daughter cook all the delicious meals. Even on the boat (Elmar) while the tourists are busy looking through their fancy cameras and binoculars dying to catch a glimpse of the Royal Bengal tiger, a member of his household is usually below the deck, cooking.
For Kumaresh, a Life Insurance agent by profession this is his secondary income. As long as people come over to Sunderbans to spot the Royal Bengal tiger he has a steady income. Through another angle his primary income also depends on the tiger – as long as there are Royal Bengal tigers in the Sunderbans, the people of the islands think they need a Life Insurance policy. His whole income depends on the elusive Royal Bengal tiger. As long as there is a tiger around he has a steady income.
Oh! and did I mention that his father was killed by a tiger? The Royal Bengal tiger, the boon and the bane of his existence.