Thursday, 1 January, 2009

Sunderbans 1: Happy New Year, Wild Ishtyle.

Fish that live on land, tigers feasting on crabs, white crocodiles and trees that posses human intelligence; the Sunderbans are one of the weirdest regions in the world.

I grabbed an opportunity to meander along the mysterious mangroves, this New Year in spite of knowing that the trip from the west coast of India to the east would involve an incredibly long, unhygienic and exhausting bit of travelling. I’m not being all pink and prissy, having backpacked via varied modes of transport and topography, but two days of unreserved, 2nd class train ride and waterless loos to Howrah Station, followed directly by a 3 hour bus ride to Basanti Jetty and then directly by a 2 hour boat ride to Jamespur in the Sunderbans, deserves a mention. Then again, this is the Sunderbans and one thing is clear right from the start, nothing comes easy here.

The Sunderbans are the largest block of tidal/littoral/mangrove forests in the world. It covers 10,000 of which, about 6,000 are in Bangladesh. The city I live in now, Pune, is the second largest in Maharashtra and 10 of it could be fit into the tidal forests comfortably. The hype about the forest is because it is one of the three places in the world you can observe an estuarine biodiversity. As the Ganga meets the Bay of Bengal, the sweet and salty mix forms brackish water with insanely high amounts of salinity that eats away at everything that touches it in due time. The strong water currents swirl around thousand islands of various sizes. Tides blur the line between land and water creating a borderless, ever-changing geography, sometimes swallowing whole islands or spitting out some. The marshy area is in reality as good as desert conditions. Fresh water is precious, floods disrupt village life and the impenetrable jungles are home to superlatives in the animal kingdom: the Royal Bengal Tiger, the deadly King Cobra and the largest Saltwater Crocodiles in the world.

Every thing that survives in these conditions does so by freaky adaptations. Plants have the same waxy leaves and spines as cactus in the desert. They grow pneumatophores or aerial roots to breathe through waterlogged soil. Procreation is so precarious that the trees produce seedlings in a sealed pod that floats around till it finds somewhere to anchor. Now imagine walking on this slippery soil criss-crossed by sharp thick roots, let alone hunt.

Which is why we had a ‘no walking’ rule, which suited just fine as by Day 2 the forest around me had taken a more sinister look.

It was a living, scheming thing, filled with even more cunning, intelligent wildlife struggling to survive. I felt it was a huge Human Venus Flytrap that would suck me in and spit me out.

************************************************************************************* YES, most of the pictures have been tweaked and modified. Some bastard stole my last camera. So I got a new camera. It is a semi professional camera. I am not a semi professional. Hence the necessary digital help.. sob sob sob..........

1 comment:

anushil said...

again beautiful pics, you are good with these eyes :)