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