A note for the readers:
Sundarban literally means “beautiful forest”, but is also said to derive it’s name from “Samudraban”, meaning “forests of ocean”. It is the largest mangrove forest in the world, and it’s area is spread across a portion of West Bengal, India and a portion of Bangladesh. This forest reserve unlike any other, is a home to many ingenious species, but this tiger and crocodile infested swamp is a home to about 50 to 60 thousand people as well. And this story is a reflection of the life of the simple tribes men dwelling in this jungle-wetland.
I have divided this story in parts and here goes part I.
“Maa…..wait for me!!”
The little brown haired boy shouted from behind as he peered between the thick vine choked trunks to his mother who was hastily making her way into the dense jungle. She was busy collecting fire woods when he came running and hugged her from behind. She jerked him away and shushed him,
“Stop disturbing now babu, can’t you see it’s getting late, we have to get home before dark. I still have to cook supper”.
He meekly went aside and began helping his mother. Holding a bundle of twigs in both of his hands he spoke gleefully, “Look Maa I can also collect woods, and now that baba is not here I will protect you.”
She couldn’t help but smile at his words, “Are you now….?”
Almost in a fret he replied, “Yes Maa don’t you worry, don’t you be afraid I will protect you and lead you out of this scary forest.”
Just then a sudden sound of birds fluttering above scared him, he shrieked in fear, threw his bundle and clung onto his mother tightly.
She burst out laughing as she tried to pacify him, “Wow! What a brave boy you are babu.” Feeling mocked by his mother he pushed her away and started collecting the twigs lying on the ground. She lovingly watched her little boy picking up the twigs, “what a brave boy he is, coming all the way in the forest to protect his Maa”, she thought to herself.
The hue of orange sinking liesurely on the forest reminded her of the setting sun and she too resumed collecting the woods.
As the evening sun slowly vanished into the horizon they turned around to get back to the village, they could almost hear the ringing of evening bells from the village temple. Almost in a way of reassuring themselves that the village was not very far away, they made their way through the lush vegetation towards the human settlement.
As the soft ray of twilight began to recede and dusk stained the glistening foliage with shadow and murk, the sounds of the jungle began to ebb. Afraid of the dark, the boy clutched his mother’s hands in a tight grip. But the shadowed unbroken and untamed jungle presented itself as a devious maize, giving no clues as to the path.
Soon new sounds emerged: footfalls and the rumbling growls of predators walking their hunting ground. And as nightfall descended, the darkness and thickness of the jungle along with it’s strange sounds added to their fear. In panic and apprehension sweat ran down their neck.
She held her son close, reassuring him that they will be home soon and silently praying to bonobibi (forest goddess) and all the Gods she knew of to show them some light in the darkness of this forest.
Dehydrated and tired they slowly tried to search their way out of the jungle, and found themselves in front of a sparkling creek.
He shouted in excitement, “Maa…! look a stream. Can I drink some water please…please? I am sooo thirsty.”
~ . ~
Sundarban © by weefables
Image credit- Koan Collective