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?