Rural

Sundarbans – of broken boats and battered deltas…

Sundarbans get battered by another cyclone… this one combining the destructive power of all the previous ones… another discourse on how the mortal perils of climate crisis come closer with every passing moment… the Sundarbans are at once the largest mangrove forest in the world, a chain of islands peppered with distraught farmers, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a hotspot of man animal conflict (with none other than the venerable cat)… ‘tis an area where men struggle as much as (or even more than) animals for survival… yet it has one of the highest population densities… a land of unique beauty mired in unique contradictions…

Sundarbans, West Bengal, India

In a nutshell, one could say ‘tis a sparring twixt fresh and saline… an ecological argument where the latter seems to be gaining the upper hand… the flora and fauna silently adapt through ecological succession, as salinity gnaws away through sea level rises and natural disasters and freshwater inflows decline… jealous of them it seems, we sprinkle some decayed planktons time and again to get even with all the evolutions and adaptations…

Sundarbans, West Bengal, India

I remain perplexed with so many people staying put in the Sundarbans when flight is a much wiser recourse then fight… this is definitely not resilience when one is rendered helpless each and every time by the natural forces… the only defence being prayer and perchance… bit by bit the land is scraped off and any human attempt to rebuild invites an even greater natural retaliation…

Sundarbans, West Bengal, India

The broken boat remains etched in my mind as a symbol for these islands… of attempts to defend against the saline that will eventually overpower… traces of colonialism, communism and communalism seep through the rotting wood… fishermen with disenchanted nets wading in murky waters… overcrowded boats straining under the load of men and their wares, managing to get across somehow most of the time, sometimes crumbling into newspaper headlines…

An abandoned boat

Bare chested farmers dancing to the tunes of the monsoon only to be jolted by cyclones… ‘tis not just paddy, but the whole scenario that seems inundated… two stroke engines buzzing on disfigured brick roads, irked by the humidity… maybe ‘tis a collective senility that has created this stasis, an acclimatization to suffering that makes it an innate part of the being… one simply cannot foresee how the vicious the cycle of poverty can be broken here…  oh, and this pandemic too… an almost non-existent health infrastructure and no room for social distancing… disasters are in progress and disasters are in the making

Farmers in paddy field

There is some bravado to all of this of course, for ‘tis not just the elements that wreak havoc around these parts… collecting honey with tigers on the prowlswimming across waters with crocodiles lurking… sharing space with almost all varieties of poisonous snakes found in India… all of this requires some loyalty to the land… but when the signals from nature come such increasing frequency and magnitude… the lines between resilience and foolhardiness start getting blurred…

Mudskippers and fiddler crabs… honeybees and pittas… there’s quite a few of the animate that remain relatively unperturbed as the tigers and terrapins struggle… the richness of biodiversity even with all the threats it faces is bound to come through unscathed… a different story for the humans though… not to say that there’s no light at the end of the tunnel, but if there is, ‘tis rather bleak at best…

Red Fiddler Crab, Sundarbans, West Bengal, India

Musing on the conundrum of Sundarbans, West Bengal…

Author: Parth Joshi

Allured by the outdoors, the author is made up in parts of that quintessential lost soul wreathing under the pangs of biophilia in a desk job, a wannabe elegist mostly ending up in dungeons of poetasters and an optimist waiting for the senility of the modern world to fade away while sampling shoots and leaves. In saner times, he has a keen interest in areas pertaining to tourism, history, agriculture and climate change, especially with respect to historical interpretations, emerging technologies and future livelihoods. An avid trekker, runner, cyclist, birder and photographer, he is more often than not found gloating over anything hinterland, on foot or over computer monitors, and fantasizing solutions that can foster inclusive growth and sustainable livelihoods for communities at the grassroots.

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