I became an environmentalist, a zoologist, a thinker. Among a crowd of college girls on Kolkatas Park Street she might not have looked entirely out of place, but here, against the sooty backdrop of the commuter station at Dhakuria, the neatly composed androgyny of her appearance seemed out of place, almost exotic. For Indians, we associate Sundarbans with Tigers. The story follows Indian-born American marine biologist, Piyali Roy, who is in search of rare river dolphins. Based on a few real incidents, actual research and experiences - the book has 3 different themes. Together the three of them launch into the elaborate backwaters, drawn unawares into the powerful political undercurrents of this isolated corner of the world that exact a personal toll as fierce as the tides.
To this land discovered by the ebb-tide, bhatir desh, as Ghosh calls it in a remarkable and poetic application of the term used in Mughal land-records, come a young cetologist from the United States on the trail of a breed of freshwater dolphin, the Orcaella brevirostris, and a middle-aged linguist who runs a translation bureau in Delhi. It is Kanai who has to make a difficult decision to leave Piya and Fokir and return to the shore, before the storm kills them all. Do they have children, do they have mothers, fathers? Perhaps this is what makes him such a master of the travel narrative, a form whose contours are shaped by places and their histories. Off the easternmost corner of India, in the Bay of Bengal, lies the immense labyrinth of tiny islands known as the Sundarbans, where settlers live in fear of drowning tides and man-eating tigers. The region is made up of large and tiny islands that are constantly reshaped by the tide and covered in mangroves.
Amitav Ghosh, the author of The Circle of Reason and The Shadow Lines, weaves a complex fabric with some of the fundamentals of the deepest corners of our mind: the animistic instinct, the urge to discover, and the magnetism of finding one's roots. As Piya makes preparations to leave, Kanai asks to go with her as a translator; Piya accepts. Kanai is right, the woman is a foreigner. Piya obtains her permits from the Forest Department and begins her survey with a forest guard and a boat pilot named Mejda—both men are unhelpful and condescending. As Kanai and Nilima ride out the storm in the guesthouse, she admits that Nirmal's one lasting contribution was the cyclone shelter in the hospital.
The reason why I did not give five stars is that I was not that eager to know about the live of dolphins, but that's me. Rather, the novel seems to push us into the crisis at the heart of translation, the paradox of representation itself. When Kanai met Kusum in 1970, she was in Nilima's care after Kusum's father died, and Kusum's mother was sold into sexual slavery. He was captured and sold into slavery at age eleven. His sense of Bengali social history is, as always, unerring and profound. She seems to him Indian only by descent and it is unusual even for tourists traveling to the Sundarbans to get there by this commuter train. One can be at home but not be at ease! Rescue comes in the form of a young, illiterate fisherman, Fokir.
As sashwati says and as you sandhya pointed out, the imagery and folklore make it a travelogue, like Legends of Pensem and Pico Iyer's Lady and the Monk. Sometimes they narrate stories of the kind I have mentioned before. What would civilization mean to each of them? On the train to Canning, Kanai, a wealthy translator from New Delhi, meets Piya, a young cetologist a biologist who specializes in marine mammals. The is not thrilled about his large boat or the fact that he has his crew leave it to just Piya, the forest guard and himself. Kanai, Piya, and Fokir spent their childhoods in wildly different places.
On Fokir's boat, Kanai tries to talk to Fokir with little success. In a land regularly obliterated, at least in part, by the flood tide or by the huge tidal waves dredged up by cyclones one of which marks the novel's climax , Ghosh makes us aware of the sedimentation of human history, the layers of past knowledge, experience and memory that constitute our human sense of place. As I shared before, Amitav Ghosh's books always take you to a new unknown place, a place which we hear from time to time but don't know the people and history related to it. He explains that the island is protected by Bon Bibi, and the goddess will protect anyone who is good of heart. Not only does the reader get to see the world through Equiano's own personal experiences, we get to read a major autobiography that combined the form of a slave narrative with that of a spiritual conversion autobiography.
This was my first acquaintance with the legacy of Sir Daniel Hamilton and his ambitious plans for the development of the region, a map of which hung in the Hamilton bungalow. The tide begins to turn with the advent of two seeke If Shadow Lines enthralled you, Amitav Ghosh's latest masterpiece, the Hungry Tide, will sweep you off your feet, and into the precarious waters of the Sundarbans. In their research journey, they find a new kind of jungle, the human jungle which they believe they can cross, but are so wrong. Because of my biology background, I also enjoyed the bits of information about the mangroves, the weather, the dolphins and other wildlife indigenous to the Sundarbans. No real meat in the story. Why 4 stars to this book, even though it is such an amazing book? One of the onlookers began to explain, gesticulating with an upraised arm. A must pick up and don't give up.
Fakir articulates her name as he meets his destined end. But their presence there alarmed the Left Front ministry, who saw it as the first of a possibly endless series of encroachments on protected forest land, and the settlers were evicted in a brutal display of state power in May, 1979. Ghosh paints a mesmerising picture of the Sunderbans, a part of the country that you don't hear or read about all that often. Her decision proves to be right one, for Forkir takes her to a place, where a pack of Orcaella dolphins swims. On occasion these pages are ruled with lines that are invisible to some people, while being for others, as real, as charged and as volatile as high-voltage cables. Where do they live, these people? Kanai, a businessman who is practical, faces issues with his practicality when he comes face to face with realities of the tide country.