Border to Border

By on September 20, 2017
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Photojournalist Pantaleao Fernandes heads to the Sundarbans in West Bengal with the hope of spotting the Royal Bengal Tigers and experiences surreal and innumerable adventurous through the brackish waters of the world’s largest mangrove swamp

The one-and-a-half hour train journey from Sealdah near Kolkata to Canning, West Bengal almost took us to another planet. Canning is the end of the Indian Railway tracks– and with that all modern civilisation seemed to stop. The ride in a rickshaw to the next town Dhamakhali mostly through barren, marshy lands was bumpy indeed, but that’s where we had to board a fisherman’s boat, at the Bidyadari River lapping the town.
The two-and-a-half hour cruise along Bidyadari provided a peep into the devastation caused by the Aila cyclone that ravaged the Sunderbans in May 2009, damaging the embankments and inundating the entire habitation with salt water, including drinking water ponds, and killing all the sweet water fish. 
Though the place hasn’t returned to normal yet, the ponds are gradually turning sweet again. Somewhere in between came a confluence and the boat headed into the Raimangal River and then into the Kalindi River. Along the way, boats supplying essential goods like potatoes and onions reminded one of the days of yore in Goa when Patmari roamed our rivers and provided basic necessities like salt and firewood to riverside towns.
The village of Hemnagar, in the district of North 24 Parganas, along the banks of Kalindi was the first stop in the Sundarbans as it had a government rest house. A tiny dock led to the embankment which protected the inlands and rivers from the saline water, much like our khazan lands. The bunds also served as pathway. They were thoughtfully paved with bricks and led to the only tarred road in the village. Vast fields growing paddy dominated the countryside.

Read the full article in 'Viva Goa' magazine copy.
Viva Goa magazine is now on stands. Available at all major book stalls and supermarkets in Goa.

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