There are stories galore on the stealth and strength of the Royal Bengal Tiger. It inhabits the most hostile place in the world, inside the dense mangrove forests of Sundarbans in West Bengal.
The low lying land of Sundarbans, the largest delta in the world, is home to the world’s most dangerous animal, the Royal Bengal Tiger.
As my boat navigated into the deadly forests that divided man from animal, I could sense the stillness as I stared into the dark abyss of the dense, uninhabitable forests ahead. The forest floor is a death trap, layered with black menacing thorns the size of tree barks.
I spoke to my boat driver and he told me that the tiger has not spared a single home in the Sundarbans without killing at least one member in its quest for blood and food. I sat up all night as I listened to the chilling tales of the losing battle between man and the jaws of the human-blood-loving tiger of West Bengal and Bangladesh.
My gut wrenched as I met more locals who narrated to me tales of the leftover floating sari and sometimes the lone utensil found after hours of searching in the river– a mother or a sister who went to fetch water from the river, to never return.
The brave honey collectors had tales of gore. They pray to Bondevi the forest goddess to take them through the forest. They pray to return alive to their families as they enter the jaws of death to collect honey, which is their only means of livelihood.
Sharp eyes watch silently from behind the dense trees and fixate on the last honey gatherer in the line of 20.
The tiger takes a deadly leap, sinking its teeth straight into the neck of the human being. Silently and stealthily, he crushes the skull with his paw. The victim has no time to speak and no one nearby can hear even the smallest cry or a whimper.
The Royal Bengal tiger is an enigma of the forests. It epitomises fear and death. As more and more human beings have started entering into tiger land, the hunt and kill for its own survival began. The tiger can walk on the thorny underbrush of the mangrove forests and can jump upto 9 feet without any sound as it attacks its prey from behind.
The Royal Bengal Tiger is feared by the locals and tourists alike. It truly represents the wildness of the Sundarbans.
India is proud to have this species, but unfortunately the number of the tigers are dwindling. In the mangroves, it has reduced to an alarming low of just a 100.
On International Tigers Day, I pray that we allow all animals to live peacefully in their own habitat and play their part in nature’s cycles, so that we don’t create deadly conflicts that should never have existed. I wonder if poachers can be educated and reformed to understand that their actions are having a cascading effect that ends up hurting the indigenous populations most.
Tigers are a representation of our pride in the diverse flora and fauna of our country.
Amitav Ghosh’s novel Hungry Tide is based on the Sundarbans. And as you delve more into the novel you feel compelled to travel there, like I did. Sighting the tiger is reserved for the lucky few (if you’re privileged to be a visitor) or the unlucky, suffering multitude, if you are a local.
There is an island in Sundarbans called “Bidhoba Deep”, and the literal translation is “The Island of the Widows”. On this island live only women alone with the hope of the husband who went into the forest to never return.