Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Sundarbans 2009 - Part 4: The Prolonged Ending


The last day on our trip to The Sundarbans started on an island called Dublar Char. This is a place famed for its shutki, a kind of dried fish preparation popular in Bangladesh. Right after daybreak we got out on the land to check out the place. This area is occupied for a certain period of the year by fishermen who catch fish and dry them up to produce the shutki. So almost all the people who live here are seasonal fishermen. Now in our family, we never were fans of shutki, mostly because of its awful stench. I remember back when we were in Elephant Road, our next door neighbors used to cook shutki every now and then, and we all started running this way and that, hurrying to close all the windows. So for a guy like me, this shutki island is not the place to be. If you don’t like the smell as well, you should be glad that you can’t smell them through the photos, cuz otherwise you would have to run away from the monitor. Rows upon rows of bizarre looking dried fish are hung upon strings throughout the place, and they smell much worse than they look. Many of the guys in our group are fans of shutki, so for them this place is the ultimate wholesale market. So when we got back on the launch, our rooms started to stink as well. Only if I could switch off my olfactory nerves.
The last spot that we visited on our trip was Karamjal. There's a farm here particularly for breeding deers and crocodiles. We got a chance to check out these amazing creatures up close. But what I liked most about the place is the Mangrove Arboretum. Through a practical mangrove forest, over its muddy land, they've built an elevated wooden walkway for tourists. Over here we also caught glimpse of some Macaque monkeys out in the open. Time was short so we couldn't spend much time there. And with that, our ‘Places to visit’ list ran out, and so did our time.
There have been moments in my life that made me feel puny and mighty at the same time. I had the feeling back on our Sylhet tour, when we were heading for Jaflong. I was amazed to see the vastness of the mountains on the other side, over in India, and the dense forest covering them. And here again at The Sundarbans, beholding the wide rivers, the endless sea, the narrow canals that spread out like tentacles through the forest, and the mesmerizing and mystifying jungles that even block out the sunlight, I had that feeling all over again. It made me feel small and utterly insignificant as a creation with respect to the seemingly infinite vastness of all the other creations that surround us. And yet again, it made me feel greater than them all, because despite however we may feel, The Almighty Creator has proclaimed us, the humankind, as the greatest of all creations. This is only because He has given a purpose to our lives that none of the others share. It’s important that we find out that purpose before our short trip to Earth runs out, just like our short trip to The Sundarbans.
We were back in Khulna by evening. We left our launch M.V.Kheyapar which has been our home for the last 3 days. A bus was hired to get us back to Dhaka. Before that, the group had dinner at a restaurant in Khulna. Going for a long bus ride with a stuffed stomach didn’t seem like a good idea to me, so I skipped dinner.
The going was smooth until we got to Dauladdia, where we stood in cue to get onto a ferry to cross the river Padma, and get to the Dhaka district. It took us more than an hour and a half to get on the ferry. The ride was supposed to be just for 25 minutes or so. Well, that’s what we humans expected.
The ferry stopped its engines after just 10 minutes, due to fog, and we stood anchored halfway across the river. In this kind of a situation, no one can say how long it would take for the fog to lift. So we had nothing to do but wait. Most of the guys took a nap at their cramped seats, throwing their hands and feet this way and that, making all sorts of awkward positions. Organizers Pulak and Imtiaz got themselves some well deserved sleep. Tanim and I got some time to ourselves to have a good long chat, for which we didn’t find time in the last four years of university, ha ha.
When it was time for the Fajr prayer, I got out of the bus and headed straight for the top floor of the ferry to perform the salaat. After finishing the prayer, I walked over to the railings of the top floor and looked out. It was only then I understood the adversity of the weather around was. Looking down, I couldn’t even see the water below, let alone distant objects. It seemed as if our ship was shrouded in a gloomy and mysterious veil. The visibility was an absolute zero. From then on, I spent most of the time on the top floor. I was expecting the fog would lift once the sun was up with its heat. One hour passed, and another. The sun had risen quite a distance up in the sky. But I was amazed to see that the sun had no effect on the fog whatsoever. In fact, through the dense fog, the sun looked more like the moon in the day sky.
The crew didn’t dare move the ferry an inch, fearing it could get stuck on one of the numerous sandy planes that have risen out of the river bed randomly. The general sense of feeling among the people in the ship was that we had nothing to do now unless Allah helps us out. It’s funny to see how in good times we claim everything is in our hands, while in bad times it doesn’t take much time to admit the truth.
It was almost eleven in the clock when the fog lifted only enough for the crew to move the ship safely to the other side. Ten minutes later, we were finally off the ship. From standing in queue for the ferry to getting out of it, it took was about eight hours! We got off the bus at noon, with the familiar sights and sounds of the jam-packed Dhaka city greeting us. Unfortunately Pulak’s luggage got missing after getting out of the bus, which is like the final signature of the whole tour. From there me, Kanto and Rokon grabbed a taxi and headed home.
Even after more than a week since I came back from the trip, I still dream of adventurous tours to unknown places, with all my friends. The events in the trip are still the hot topics of discussion whenever we get together in the campus. I know soon I’ll stop seeing these dreams, and the chatters about the tour will soon fade away. But the memories will always remain bright, as long as we live (unless we get amnesia of course, Allah save us from that). The nerdy self inside me is urging my hands to type in a huge philosophical ending to this post, so I better finish it up. Thanks to The Almighty Allah for giving us such a great experience, thanks to Pulak, Imtiaz, Tanim and everyone else involved in organizing the tour for working hard and making this possible, thanks to all of my friends who were on the trip, and also thanks to our parents for their kind permission. As long as we live, we can all look back at our days in The Sundarbans and say, “we had an AWESOME time”!

Check out some photos from the tour on my Picasa Album.