I

(This is a narrative poem in four parts written from the perspective of a long- term resident of the Sundarbans whose livelihood is wrecked by the recent Cyclone Amphan. In the time of an ongoing pandemic it is a calamity upon a calamity.)

I grabbed the rope,
As I neared the shore,
And threw its working end,
To the wooden pole,
Rooted on the banks,
My hut is in the Sundarbans,
I make a living by selling fish,
I am 92 years young,
Hale and hearty,
I am a man of the sea,
Some days the sea is a beast,
Untameable and feisty,
It tosses up fishes, turtles and crabs,
Other days it is a dainty damsel,
Reclusive and hesitant,
My wife is no more,
Nor children have I,
The sea is my family.

II

They came stomping into our village,
On a sunny morning,
Maybe mid Spring,
Bold and lean,
Men in well fitted clothing,
I had never seen anything like them,
They speculated and surveyed,
Took our honey, timber, beeswax,
I had little to offer,
They frequented us often,
While we carved wood,
With fatigued vigilance,
They sent inferiors sometimes,
Babus of upper caste,
Donning suits and hats,
Replicating their patrons,
We gave of what we had,
Little and insignificant,
The goras were a sight to see,
Rampaging our lands,
Hunting our animals,
Beating our men,
My fish basket berserk,
And off they went,
Tugbug tugbug,
Riding their ivory horses.

III
Then one day I heard,
Our country is free,
With Bapu at the helm,
Ahimsa and Satyagraha had won,
The goras had left,
We rejoiced and praised the deity,
But new tides hit our shore,
With the same old vigour and fury,
Learned men, educated and clothed,
Of our own race and upper castes,
Highly educated foreign returned,
Came with equipments in hand,
They mapped and lined our shores,
They were officials they said,
They took specimens in plastic cases,
Of our sundari, gewa and goran,
They installed beams and laid pipes,
As we squatted before them in rows,
To be addressed, directed and tasked,
Then with a massive gadget,
That let a sparkling beam,
They took a photo of our mangroves,
Our most prized possession,
To show it to their people,
I saw blue black for a few moments,
Then a riot of colours drifted before my eyes,
I had seen the dog faced water snake,
But never had I seen anything like this.

IV
Now we are used to seeing visitors,
They come with many gadgets,
To be ferried across the Brahmaputra,
Spring and winter but few in monsoon,
Today is a monsoon evening,
It begins to drizzle over me,
As the rains slash my boat,
I tend towards the shore,
Bhola must be in his floating rice field,
I pant but continue to row,
The sky crawls in on my boat,
Dark and sinister,
I have a dubious assumption,
Of an approaching storm,
I have survived floods and felt tremors,
But the wind begins to bellow eerily,
I jump out of my boat,
While the sky furrows with darkness,
The wind picks up speed,
As I hold onto my loin cloth,
The wind tears at my gamcha,
Crouching and crawling,
Towards my shanty,
The sky growling creepily,
Then thunder strikes,
The waves slay in motions,
The currents whoop up shrimps and toads,
My eyes are hazed,
The water enters my nostrils,
I cry out to Bonbibi,
As the cyclonic fury grows intense,
I hide behind a pile of thatch to keep from falling,
Broken branches leave gashes in my arms,
Others run hither thither,
Grabbing their children,
Pots and pans,
But this is Shiva tandav,
It goes on for hours,
Wet and withered we kneel,
Before Nature’s wrath,
High waves rush to the banks,
We crouch further inland,
The gusto pushes the sea onto the land,
Turning my hut into twigs,
Hours of inclemency,
Shows no sign of ending,
The mangroves stand as a barrier,
Between us and the wild sea,
But the sky twirls and prances,
Until early next morning,
It only spares me my wet loin cloth,
My life flashes before my eyes,
As women around me weep,
Children wail and baffled men sob,
I have seen administrations topple,
I have seen new generations rise,
I have seen the endangered,
I have seen fortunes change,
But I have never seen anything like this.