The Hungry Tide


In our legends it is said that the goddess Ganga's descent from the heavens would have split the earth had Lord Shiva not tamed her torrent by tying it into his ash-smeared locks....there is a point where the braid becomes undone; where Lord Shiva's matted hair is washed apart into a vast, knotted tangle. Once past that point the river throws off its bindings and separates into hundreds, maybe thousands, of tangled strands...N this created an immense archipelago of islands, interposed between the sea and plains of Bengal, called the Sunderbans. An unheard legend for me. And the point that hooked me on to this book by Amitav Ghosh.

There are so many unsaid stories, forgotten people, parts of our country to which we ourselves have become alien. India for us, does not go into the deltas of the Sunderbans where there is no separation of fresh and saline, where numerous islands emerge and sink in a matter of hours, the abode of the Royal Bengal tigers. Nobody knows to whom, the uninhabitable islands belong to, whether to the Govt of India or to the Govt of Bangladesh. Not a soul ever cared about the people who lived there in one of the many islands where human habitation existed, no party raised their problems and they lived their small uneventful lives in this land of interwoven shore and tide in the Republic of India.

And suddenly when a group of homeless and helpless refugees, victims who fled from Bangladesh at the time of communal riots, inhabit one such island and try to make a living in uninhabitable conditions, there comes the Government with allegation of unlawful subjugation of land, social groups who feel that the abode of the Royal Bengal Tigers have been encroached, the big men of the world who felt that the wonderful ecosystem of the Sunderbans were at risk from this group of hapless men, women and children.

A wonderful story, seen through the eyes of Kanai Dutt, a man of the modern world and a translator by profession and Piya Roy, a young NRI cetologist (one who studies of whales, dolphins and related mammals). I have just captured some insight given by the book and unsettling thoughts that beat me when 50 odd pages of the book still remain to be read.

13 comments:

Srijith Unni 7:12 PM  

A great description of a book..! Shall try to lay my hands on it..! I`ve heard of this book.. but the problem is very often, they cost a huge amount of money, especially Indian Authors.

Sunderbans, yes I`ve heard it`s a beautiful ecosystem with the marshlands and backwaters.. Nothing wrong with people living in it. But reshmi, we do not inhabit the peaks of Kargil too, but dont we fight for it. If bangladesh is going to enroach on our land, and once again create tension on the eastern side as well, i guess i`s something which needs to be stopped.!

Yes, they may be hapless humab beings. It is not them that we should blame, but the bangladesh government which allows or rather cause these people to stray into such uninhabitable land..

Nice Post.. As usual had a great time reading it!

With Best Regards,
Srijith Unni.

starry nights 8:53 PM  

Sounds like an interesting book, never heard that legend before.Sad for the homeless refugees, it was no mans land untill they made it habitable,now the govt wants it back, same story all over the world, the poor never get a break.Thanks for the review, will be on my reading list.

Reshmi 9:36 AM  

@srijith: Kargil was an armed intrusion right? With support of Pak Govt. Here as portrayed by the story, it is a set of poor refugees. A group which inhabited "no man's land" and tried to make a liivng there on their own, without asking any support from Govt or NGOs.

I don't consider my write-up as a book review, just some thoughts that came from the book.

Your comments also a treat to read. Thanx..:)

@starry: We have to be thankful of having a country and place to claim as our own. Refugees live in most tragic of circumstances.

Do let me know your impression of the book..:)

pophabhi 11:53 AM  

Nice review, Reshmi. I will try to grab this one.

Anjaan 12:46 PM  

Just a thought - Ever thought of reviewing books professionally?
And movies?

maddy 1:48 PM  

hi there..
hv never read Amitav ghosh though i've read some about him..maybe I will start one day with this reco of yours..wht you wrote reminded me of another story, actually a tamil movie about some fishermen in Rameshwaram...cant remember, hv been racking my brains for 30 mts now

Reshmi 4:10 PM  

@abhi n maddy: hope u find the book interesting..:)..will wait for u guyz to get back with ur comments..

@anjaan: never thought before..well i'm a lil bit confused as to what you are hinting at here..:)..welcome to my blog..

Johnny 10:12 PM  

well many malyalees now know more about US an UK than Inida. Gr8 review.

Reshmi 9:44 AM  

@johnny: thanx doc:)..welcome 2 my blog..

@all: thanx a lot for those wonderful feedback u all gave to my first attempt at book review..:)

Dew Drops 11:35 AM  

never read Ghosh .... think, will try this time. thanks for the review

Reshmi 3:52 PM  

@dewdy: do try it out..n expecting tht i can read a finer review from ur blog..:)

iamyuva 4:48 PM  

yap, read this..

While The Hungry Tide is about the struggle for each person to find their place in the world, it's not a novel of constant action and suspense. This doesn't slow the pace of the novel. Amitav Ghosh keeps the pages turning with the history of the tide country, the stories of the local deities, scientific information, the back stories for each character, and Nirmal's journal of what happened to Kusum and her son. At times, the history and scientific information start to overwhelm the story, and these carry on for a bit too long before the final voyage up the river begins. Someone already knowledgable about the Sundarbans or cetology might find this book dragging at times with these details, but the explanation of the exotic, whether scientific, geographic, or historical, can be as engaging as the lives of the characters. A bit of judicious editing about three-quarters of the way through the novel to eliminate the history of the scientific research of the river dolphin would have been helpful.

to me - Hungry Tide is a small complaint, though and for the most part it is a compelling book about ordinary people bound together in an exotic place that can consume them all. It's the basest of human emotions, love, jealousy, pride, and trust, that will make the difference. that's a lesson we all can learn, again, as we follow Piya, Kanai, and Fokir into the heart of tide country.

good read..

Reshmi 2:20 PM  

@yuva: u hav expressed all tht the book says in this comment space..:)..

thanx a lot for the comment and the visit..