destination Sundarban (part 2 of 2)

continuing from part 1

we begin day two early in morning exploring the nearby coastal area. after an hour of walking around in mud covered mangrove forest (avoiding the the pneumatophores - root-like structures which stick up out of the soil like straws for breathing - was a tough call), the letka kichuri (a not-so-wet porridge type traditional meal) breakfast awaiting us on board is indeed a welcoming retreat. after the hefty meal, we are all set for the only remaining agenda of day two - jungle trekking and island exploration.

once again it is 50 people jam-packed in that same 20ft life boat. and this time, none of us are wearing life jackets. the 30 minute ride to destination island covers the junction point where the river meets the sea. even a mild sea wave caressing the boat makes her swing left and right, and our hearts jump in fear; though for faruk vai and his crew this is mere child's play. some try to beat the fear with laughters and click-clock off their digital cameras, while others i am sure are silently engaged in prayer. to make things worse, a huge fishing net is caught on the propeller of our boat making the propeller stuck and leaving all of stranded in the 'mild waves' just meters away from shore. after what seems like ages, we are finally towed on shore by a group of fishing fishermen.

first thing first. right after setting foot on shore, everyone gathers for a group photo before setting out on the eight km trekking trail through mangrove forest, a 'mini desert', katka beach (where we make a two hour swimming stop) and tiger point, a huge open field where tigers hunt for deers. one of us, a doctor, finds a pair of deer horns, a tigers skull (claims faruk vai) and a man's left hip bone (she is damn confident about that). i guess bones are naturally attracted to doctors !!! (probably we would have 'discovered' it if an antique antenna was to be found).

by the time we are back on board and relaxed after filling our burning stomachs, it is almost evening. the eight km trek is too much to take for us dhakaians, and we spent the rest of day 2 sleeping and or lazing away. refreshed by an untimely evening nap, i am on deck dating stars and the sky at midnight. experiencing the moon slowly climb over my head, i realize Sundarbans is not the place for a three day getaway. even after weeks exploring, i dont think one can fully devour her majestic beauty and vast wilderness.

the next morning while on the upstream journey back from serenity and peace of nature to chaos of civilization, i make a firm resolution of returning to the Sundarbans. i can clearly foresee myself laying helpless in her arms, like a child to his mother! and probably catch glimpse of a royal bengal tiger !!!

more photos, courtesy of chandan


on women empowerment and equal rights

yes we badly need women empowerment for the country to move forward. after all, you cannot expect a nation to progress with more than half of its people falling behind. but equal rights mean buying a toy car for your child son, and a doll for the daughter; not the same toy for both.

in a society not everyone is a doctor or an engineer or teacher. everyone has their own role to play. empowerment should be preparation for fulfilling one's role in the best way. it is historically proven that it takes an 'empowered' woman to build an healthy family. and only a healthy families build a prosperous society.


destination Sundarban

national holidays this year has so far been very conveniently placed - either adjacent to the weekend or a day away from it. including the holiday of 26th march (our national and independence day), which converts into a 4 day break by taking a day off in between. the perfect time to escape the hustle and bustle of dhaka, thought I. 'lets head for the sundarbans', suggests a friend; the idea gets immediate acceptance and 'so let it be', we echo in joining voice with him.

what was initially planned as a trip for a few turns out to be 'le tour de sundarbans' with a whole contingent of colleagues and families and friends - our five year old warrior Maisha and a forty one strong team of up to third degree friends.

as usual i am just in time (arrived at 10.29) to catch our 10.30 bus to khulna, from where we will board the launch that we have booked. we reach khulna three hours behind schedule at 8.30 in the morning. hopping off the bus and hopping on to our the launch, is all what we manage to see of khulna in this leg.

faruk vai, MD of royal hotel, and the organizer of this tour, warmly welcome us on board his vessel. we quickly settle in and then move out to invade the deck and enjoy mother nature's magnificent extravaganza on the banks left and right. ten hours of upstream ride bring us to our docking place close to the bay of bengal, the katka point. thanks to our delay earlier, its nightfall by the time we reach. i am somewhat half hearted to find we have wait so many more hours before we can set foot on the sundarbans and immerse ourselves in her arms.

after filling ourselves with dinner the contingent is scattered around on deck in groups - some chitchatting, others playing cards or counting stars, while the couples among us romanticizing. its 11 when to our great surprise, faruk vai announces he has arranged a surprise boat excursion for us. its agenda: 1) experience the moon rise and 2) ride into a channel and sit in complete silence to listen to jungle's voice in the middle night. with almost fifty people cramped in a 20ft life boat, keeping silence is no easy task. nonetheless we did witness the moon rise (at quarter to twelve) and heard some roars and cries (or at least imagined so) from deep within the thick mangrove forest.

early next morning while waiting for the sun to rise, i get my first clear view of the majestic forest on both banks of the channel. it is only then that i fully grasp the impact of cyclone SIDR on these poor trees. four months has since passed, but the trees were still barren and twisted and broken. instead of standing tall proudly with her arms stretched to the full and green branched housing wild colored birds, every single tree i could see was lying defeated with head her bowed to the ground in shame. just imagine what would have happened to the coastal areas had this 2400 sq mile forest not exist?

suddenly the sense of our incapability and powerless-ness overcomes me. how little we indeed are? how powerless? what if it was i facing this SIDR in place of these trees? would even a single cell in me exist? yet we dare to deny Him, Almighty. dare to disobey Him. dare to boast of our prowess. Which then of the bounties of your Lord will you deny? (Quran: Ar Rahman, 55:13)
-> part 2 of 2