Friday, August 11, 2017

An Unforgettable Experience in the Sunderbans Nocturnal Expedition

Sunderbans: A Memoir

Written By : Pratayay Sur

Moonlit Adventure  @ Sunderbans

As we set out on our midnight stroll, our local guide, Master da had us all engrossed in his light banter and we were completely at home in spite of our hesitations harbored in the myths and rumours of the strange land.

It was the day after full moon night and the lusty shrubs and bushes were all creating a perfect scenario where misconceptions could have built if we were singled out. As Master da also resounded our logical mind when he stated that most cases of spooky vision in the villages happened in the moonlit night. People were faked by their imaginations creating a moving figure out of a swaying banana leaf drenched in the moonbeams. Even the Sundari tree prop roots could resemble monstrous apparitions in the miry banks of the rivulets coupled with the shimmering waves conspiring to inject spirit into the naive branches.

We had been walking through a meandering path for quite a time which our conversation had stole us any record as well there was little significant landmarks to register apart from the boring bushes and sleeping huts and a series of coconut plantation and several misnomer trees straddling along. If were to trace back alone surely it would be a hefty task in spite of the the guiding moon which the villagers relied on more than the torch in this part of the fortnight.

Before we could be prepared for the spectacle we were completely taken aback by the dawning of the silvery expanse in front of us as if like a surreptitious python within hypnotic range. Suddenly Master da scurried few steps ahead and threw his arms wide open and then yelled out. It happened so abruptly that we first thought it to be his theatrical gesture at the natures abundance which has thoroughly spell bound us. Later we could notice him making some signals with his torch. Surely at this time of the night there was not a single dingy in the ferry ghat and we were startled to hear that Master da had already beckoned one of his childhood mates who was now in mid river with his fishing trolley completely obscured to naked eye. Before we could decide or react to Master da's proposal we all noticed a twinkling light appear in the horizon and slowly drawing closer making an engine rumble.

Rahamat, gleefully hugged his school friend and greeted us most cordially and then we were briefed of our nocturnal adventure plan. Mohitosh, Sanjib and me exchanged glances but at this time our emotions overcame any logical stand and like a commissioned soldier marched to the ghats following our leaders to board the trolley. There was a slippery plank adjusted to the trolley gate which tested us at the threshold of our secret expedition. We were teeming with suppressed excitement and now Master da gave us a speech which was no less than the directives of a commander on a special mission.

" My friends from Kolkata, you have been to Sunderbans but tonight you will get to know what Sunderban is and I would assure you that you can rely on the safety and my friend Rahamat is a licensed fisherman who has legitimate navigation permission as well as he is a trusted agent of the Patrolling guards informing any illegal activity in the night." We were confirmed seeing the Navy coast guard emblem in the walkie-talkie hanging beside engine room. " Ya, that walkie was gifted to Rahmat for his daring feat to nab a big pirate gang from Bangladesh 3 years back " We were dumbfound to learn that pirates that were only to be found in story books and hollywood films had their palpable presence, though few sporadic news were only to be found in district columns hardly fetching an alarm. 

Mohitosh quipped " We were thrilled of Sunderbans infested by Tigers and crocodiles but Pirates would now add spice to our adventure". Master da retorted " Sunderbans is a gateway of mystery and there are far more things than we know to challenge our logical limits". The cold humor almost silenced us when our pilot, Rahamat eased the situation," Dada... Master da is a storehouse of such experiences that will make you throw away your books to the sea....you may know he got a prize from our Government for his education but see now, he is doing some foreign research and even writing a book....." At once Master da intervened with his humble clarification.." Rahamat loves me very much since school since I used to help him during exams so now he repays me by eulogising me at every opportune moment" I and Sanjib both pressed him to tell us about his exploits to which he explained " Nothing that big, I was a Gold medalist in my Masters as well as in my PHD in history from C.U and now working on my research funded by National Geography....and my book rights are pre-sold to Govt. of India thats all " For us the dwarfish man in a shabby T-shirt and lungi, speaking in local accent at once mocked at our established notion of urbanized version of success. We were all now amused by the rustic version of swagger dipped in sublime humility. The reverberating engine announced our voyage and as if celebrated the little Master who could stoop to be a cook and then be a guide for some urban average beings.

Water color divide as seen when entering the backwaters

In the dead of the night our vessel sailed along smoothly with the engine sound somewhat dying out or may be our ears getting used to its drone. My wrist watch confirmed Rahmat's nature reading as it was exactly 15 mintues to 12 and Master da informed " The Old villagers even without having any chronometer could read the exact time just by the habit of reading the Sun, Moon and the shadows....it is in the modern times we have left the basics for the machines to record while we can be busy with something that we have manufactured and call work...." We all shared a hearty laugh at the simple logic and now in front of us was the Sunderban backwaters approaching, and to our amazement we could see even in the moonlight what Master da put " Friends look, we are now going to enter the backwaters and you can easily tell the color of the water distinct as if demarcated by an invisible line..."

 To be continued ....

1st Part ( Click If you have missed )

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