On a bright sunny day me and Amit da were walking towards our boat ‘Chaprakhalir Rani’. We had just finished a focus group discussion about the Sundarban Mayer Moton campaign in the village of Golakhali. It was a long day of work and we felt pretty tired, fantasizing about food gave us some extra energy to go on.
“Amit da, do you like dry fish? “
“Yes, boss!”, he said, and drew my attention to a small shop where we could rest for a while (and eat!). Tiny grocery shops like these become a gathering place where villagers catch up with each other’s lives. We sat down with some drinks and noticed a young man sitting in a corner with some snacks.
“ Assalamu Alaikum, bhaijaan..kemon achen? “ ( Greetings brother, how are you? )
When I greeted him, he smiled back and started talking to us. It turned out he was a fisherman and crab collector. Although some time back he used to make a living by extracting wood from the Sundarbans trees. As this is illegal, he faced great risk of being arrested by the Coast Guard, Forest Department and Police. Even in his own community people did not respect him because of his profession. His family members remained worried about his safety, and did not support his activities.
One day, when he sat down to dinner with his family after a day in the forest; he found his wife and mother were discussing the Sundarbans with great interest. He became curious and asked what they were talking about. They replied that two events, ‘School Campaign’, and ‘Bibir Mela’ had just taken place in the nearby village of Gabura. In these events, the main message was Sundarban Mayer Moton, ( Mother-like Sundarbans). They felt that what they thought about the forest that raised, fed and protected them came alive with those words. They were moved and really were able to picture the Sundarbans as a loving mother.
The young man asked them more questions and discovered that they had returned with many useful knowledge about the forest and tigers. Lying in bed that night, he thought long & hard about what he was doing for a living. For the first time in his life, he felt something was changing inside. He felt sad that his actions were not praiseworthy, that he was harming the mother that took care of him and his family. The shame of this act seemed heavier to him than the small amount of money he made. That night, he made up his mind to make a change. Giving up cutting trees, he became a fisherman instead. He was happy, his family was relieved, and he felt at peace when he thought that in his small way, he had saved mother Sundarbans from suffering pain.
Knowing that we somehow helped this change, makes me feel content inside as well.