Tiger Tiger Burning Bright
In the forest of the night….
~ William Blake
Sunderbans has always been one of the destinations in our wish list. The above lines have so much relevance to the Sunderbans (largest mangrove forest) of West Bengal, India for the Royal Bengal tiger.
Few years back, in one of our trips, we met an interesting old boatman, who spent nearly two decades or so in the Sunderbans. He shared some of his captivating & hair raising experiences. I was overwhelmed by his story telling ability.This inspired me to share one of his story :
One fine winter morning, four young tourists from Kolkata made it to the Sunderbans . They put up at a resort. The tiger stories they heard made them quite excited. “Baag dekhbo ee dekhbo”( will make sure we get 2 see a tiger) was in their thoughts.
Raghu, the boatman, was reluctant at first with their idea. He knew all about the jungle and the movements of the wild.The forest cover is spectacular and maneuvering through the spiky forest floor is one tricky job.It is amazing to note how humans & tigers evolved to co-exist in this harsh conditions as in weather & jungles. God rightly chose the colors to camouflage the King of its stripes.
After much coaxing by the tourists, Raghu agreed on extra bucks they promised. So it was a temptation & a “confused yes”. “Amader baag dekhate hobe”, ( you got to show us a Tiger anyhow) said one of the tourists.
It was 3.00 p.m. in the afternoon. Sun was just on the western horizon and the sky looked brilliant. They all set out, crossing by other tourist boats. The chirping birds seem to trail out as they moved further. The silence of the surrounding was very visible with few chirps here and there. Excitement started building up as Raghu stirred the boat toward one of the creeks. The tourists brought snacks & some beverages along. Boozing seems to have made them over excited. Raghu alerted them to maintain silence.
Accepting the idea was a difficult proposition for Raghu now. Every time they go unruly, they break the jungle rule. He kept signaling them to maintain calm. The creek was narrowing & the sun was almost descending. Raghu sensed something moving among the camouflage. ” Sssssh…I think we’ve almost seen not one but two following us”, Raghu alerted.. As he moved to turn the boat, it got stuck! Oh! it was a crazy day, he thought. In no time one tiger was face to face with the boat! In self-defense, Raghu instantly turned the oar’s sharp edge pointing towards the tiger. The tiger didn’t move. He could hear the rustling of another invisible cat following. Raghu whispered to the tourists to light the crackers.
Seeing a tiger, a wild tiger – a giant in attacking position, the tourists nearly froze. They lost control to even light a match. The zing-ting of the drinks disappeared out of them. Somehow they managed to light the crackers. After a series of explosions, the tigers sneered and instantly descended back. They roared and disappeared. Sensing danger, Raghu jumped off the non moveable boat and pushed it fast to the waters. We don’t have time and he nodded his head left-right with a sigh saying this was a very bad venture. All the four were so shaken, they huddled to each other in comfort. Raghu rowed as fast as he could. He has to reach the main stream before night fall.
In the meantime, the explosions alerted the jungle rangers. The route made Raghu feel longer now. The rangers shouldn’t track him, he prayed. The fear of getting caught was keeping him disturbed. Once out of the creek, he advised them to leave the jungles anyhow by that night. The risk he says, that, they are now identified and the tigers’ strong sense of smell will definitely pick any one of them by that night.
Raghu helped them escape. The next morning a pal of grieve descended the village.