Friday, December 11, 2009

The Sundarbans 2009 - Part 2: First Night & First Light

When we reached the region of Kochikhali, it was already getting dark. So for the rest of the night we had nothing to do but to spend the time by ourselves as our ship lay anchored at some river-branch. From the evening, me, Kanto, our beloved teacher Ferdous sir, Monzur sir, Nobin and several others sat at the very roof of the launch. From before the journey I was very eager to witness the quiet of the night and the sky once we’re inside the forest region. Here in Dhaka, we’re always deprived of the beauty of night sky thanks to the air and light pollution. So there beneath the sky I sat, looking up frequently. At first there was no moon, and the sky was filled with a dazzling collection of distant stars. It was amazing to note that despite the utter randomness of the stars up above, there was a strange sense of order in them that knew no algorithm or pattern. It was a pattern with no patterns that screamed out the Majesty of Allah’s creativity that made a man with the slightest of sight think about the heavens and the Hand that created it.
I’ve witnessed sunrises before, but this was probably the first time I’ve witnessed the moon rise with all its splendor. It took more than an hour into the night for the first glimpse of the orange moon to show in the horizon. As the full moon crept slowly higher in the sky, the stars started to fade away, as if to leave the place to their king.
An incident took place deep in the night that I cannot describe in full, cuz I was in deep sleep then. I don’t know the details, but in short very late at night the ship’s anchor lost its hold and started to move backwards with the flow. And it almost collided with another smaller launch of some sort. For those who were awake at that time it was a pretty thrilling period. With the crew of the ship along with some of our boys putting their hands together to pull up the anchor and place it again, things were back in order after some time.

Our first real introduction to the sights and sounds of The Sundarbans started the next day, right after dawn. We set out in our smaller boat (which is a simple medium sized boat with an engine) and headed into the canals. The greenish water, the dense forests in the muddy banks close at either side seemed almost straight out of the Discovery Channel. We got off on a sandy plane and walked the along the banks of the river, keeping the water at one side and the forest on the other. We were lucky to have Taposh bhai as our guide, who’s the son of a local forest officer, and have spent more than a decade in the area. He has an invaluable experience about Sundarban and also tigers, as he has worked with foreign projects in this region as well. Walking behind him, he showed us dense bushes of a particular kind which he said were the ideal resting places of tigers. And when I looked at those bushes, I couldn’t disagree. It’s over here that he also showed us a tiger’s……well….stool! Doesn’t sound majestic though, but the fact that a tiger has been on this very spot recently to answer nature’s call is pretty significant.
Back to the ship we walked again and had our breakfast, we were starving. Moreover, we needed all the energy we could get for the day that was ahead of us. I knew it was going to be a great day. But little did I know that it was going to be a day of all sorts of different experiences, experiences that I never expected to gain in this trip.