Aila, Bay of Bengal, Bengali, cyclone, delta, environment, ferry, fiction, Hooghly river, Indian Ocean, narration, nature, ocean, people, photography, responsible travel, school, story, sundarbans, tide, travel, wanderlust
Aila tore the island up. She roared and worked her way through till her guttural growls deafened the island, felled trees, snatched at the thatched roofs. The government had not yet installed any electric poles. May be this was the good that was to come of it. None to be uprooted – nobody electrocuted.
She’d been born of the ocean a few days back, visions of the distant hapless islands fuelling her with speed whilst she eyed the lands viciously, almost savagely. She entered Bengal with a screaming howl, flattening everything and claiming all those piteous mounds of earths back – 20 feet of brackish water swirling through the villages and jungles of Sundarbans.
The day before, Sharmishtha had had a frolicking day at school. She’d started learning how to string letters together to form words in the Bangla language, her mother tongue. She enjoyed learning the English alphabet too, but the master had told her that stringing the English letters into words would have to wait till she was in the next grade. At lunch, her friend Titli had challenged her to a game of marbles in the school courtyard, and she had barely managed to win after a round of 3 games. When the bell rang to dismiss, Sharmishtha had noted that the headmaster’s face was kind of pale, almost white. They had been let out a tad earlier today, without any earlier notice. But right then Titli gave her a shout, and she went scurrying to catch her ferry home.
The red and white school boat bobbed lazily on the waters, as the children in their white shirts and red skirts and shorts chattered like wild geese, the cacophony in stark contrast to the gentle waves. Sharmi had managed to jump in at that very last minute beyond which she should have been with her beloved ocean. An early day off – there hadn’t been such an occasion since last year August when the village headman’s son had been dragged off by a maneater to the jungle island abutting their own. Everyone had been called back to the village immediately. But today was different. Sharmi had learnt a new Bangla word and beaten Titli at marbles. Today was different. Happy different. Sharmi dreamily looked through the waters, just liked she loved to, as if to will the waters apart and reveal the world beneath. A world dark and vast enough to engulf and yet warm enough to embrace.As they approached the middle of the river’s span, the wind took Sharmi’s breath away. It was as if her breath was swiped clean off her body.
A storm was brewing.
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This is a fictional story, conjured out of my travels through Sundarbans, the intriguing delta where the mighty Hooghly melts into the ocean, November 2014. A place where I came to know of the dangers and difficulties which are as integral to the lives of the native inhabitants as they themselves.
Have you been to the Sundarbans? If yes, there’s no way the place didn’t leave an impression on you.
What is it that you remember most vividly about the beautiful delta region, with an extraordinary culture of its own?