It was after several years that I was in the Sunderban Forests, the world heritage mangrove forest, some time ago. I had forgotten what was the real beauty of nature, peace or silence. Cut off from 'civilisation' or what I now call “horribilisation” as mobile phone networks went dead and imposing forests along the waters of the Poshur River along with its tributaries were all I had besides the Sputtering sound of the Pugmark Mawali ferry carrying me.
There are so many stories about this forest, from its magnificent Royal Bengal Tigers to the controversial Ramphal power plant. However, I was only into tigers, the forest, fauna and other wild life there enjoying 60 percent of the Sundarbans with India having the other 40 percent.
My young guide, the bearded Kingson Mondol told me that he had become addicted to the forest and made it his own world away from civilisation. Even his girl friend!
I laughed and told him that since I will be in the forest for two nights, I will not get addictive. However, during this trip in an age when I am retiring from active journalism, I found a different kind of love --- the beauty, serenity, quietness and peace of a different kind.
Let me give a little background about this huge mangrove forest.
The Sundarbans mangrove forest, one of the largest such forests in the world (140,000 ha), lies on the delta of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers on the Bay of Bengal. It is adjacent to the border of India’s Sundarbans. The site is criss-crossed by a complex network of tidal waterways, mudflats and small islands of salt-tolerant mangrove forests, and presents an excellent spectacle of ongoing ecological processes. The area is known for its wide range of fauna, including 260 bird species, the Bengal tiger and other threatened species such as the estuarine crocodile and the Indian python.
My first visit to the Sunderbans was as a staff correspondent of the national news agency Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS) while reporting a visit by the then First Lady Roushan Ershad in 1987. Young and restless, I had admired the beauty but not the silence.
Eyes for beauty was there, but not the mind to accept a life with such quiteness and far away from the human civilisation. But, now after 30 years it appears that the beauty that I had admired then had grown and I fell in love with the serenity without humans, except the five ferry staffs.
I spent hours on the deck taking photographs and thinking of life then and now.
Mondol told me that many new species of mangrove forests and animal species have been found over the years. Even the famed the Royal Bengal Tigers have registered a rise in their population, which is one good news.”Enjoy the quiteness. We will be out of mobile networks in a few minutes ...,” he told me.
Indeed, I think after ages I had such a quiet moment. My mind travelled to the past, even as it viewed the present and I tried to have a glimpse into a possible future.
The past until 1971 was of great happiness, with my mother fighting with my father over a totally hypothetical word, “Bangladesh.” My mother had a very straight cut idea about Bangladesh. She repeatedly told my father that “Unrest will dominate life” in the word called Bangladesh as the Bengalis always found issues to quarrel.
My father dreamt of the Punjabi-free country with equal opportunities for all.
Who is correct?
Strangely, to me it is my mother and that is sad.
The Sunderbans teaches us how all kinds of fauna and wild animals live together in some kind of harmony. They know their territories, they know the limits, but above all they respect tolerance and peace.
I thought why don’t I start living in the forest, but again I am an outcast as I do not come from a background of peace and tolerance.
The present is colourful on the economic front, but the political or the human scene at large is dull. Politicians cannot find peace, there is corruption at all levels of the administration, which makes me go insane, not to mention infighting in all kinds of bodies and organisations.
We get involved in graft and infighting. Instead of appreciating, we try to pull down whoever is successful or is performing well in his given duty.
Thus our society remains restless despite being ruled by the most successful head of government so far --- Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. She cannot be everywhere or can deal with all issues affecting our society. That worries me about the future of Bangladesh.
After three days in the heavenly Sunderbans, I was confronted with civilisation again. No, for me it is back to “horribililisation” as nothing is right.
Many years back, my former headmaster Brother Ralph described my country as a “wailing civilisation” because loss of lives in ferry disasters or natural calamities.
I am now fixed with “horribillisation” as it appears that in a beautiful country called Bangladesh, its people make life miserable and horrible.
I am counting my lucky stars and hoping that my current stay with “horribililisation” will be brief and the future will be that of peace, love, compassion, happiness and tolerance.
Nadeem Qadir is the Consulting Editor, Daily Sun and a UN Dag Hammarskjöld fellow.