Ghoramara's final gasp: Are we going to let this island in Sundarbans die?

From a distance, the island of Ghoramara looked like a hurriedly eaten muffin — as if someone had taken bites from its shores. As I moved closer to this south Bengal island in the Hooghly estuary, my eyes lingered on the few coconut trees that had toppled over, and the shore seemed like it would collapse at any moment. The ferry cut its engine and moved in a wide arc towards this uneven terrain to park. There is no jetty as that would be washed away as well. A wooden plank was propped up from t

No hope without trees: Need for mangrove plantation in sinking Sundarbans

Walking along the rutted, earthen embankment along the Bidyadhari river, Rajkumar Naik, or Raju, points at the rows of small mangroves that have been planted on the sides of the river bed. The short trees with their intricate root systems provide little shade from the late afternoon sun on my visit to the Indian part of the Sundarbans delta on July 26 — the International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem. The trees stretch throughout the small, forested area on the fringes of t

Climate change is altering farming patterns in a Bengal village, exacerbating flood threat

West Bengal has traditionally been known as a rice-producing state. The sweet, fertile soil with abundant water supply supports the water-intensive rice crop. In fact, it is the largest producer of rice in India, according to a report. But that might be gradually changing, owing to rapid climate change. Fisheries are taking over the reigning paddy crop in several places in the state. One of the primary reasons driving this change is unpredictable, unseasonal and extreme rainfall. "Over the pas

Two villages by the Hooghly stand perilously close to flooding, thanks to a broken embankment

Fisherman Sindhu Maity sits hunched under the shade of a tree by the Hooghly, the biggest distributary of the Ganga, neatly rolling up his blue fishing nets. Weather reports have suggested a storm heading towards Diamond Harbour, a small town 60 km south of Kolkata, and he doesn't want to get caught in its deathly throes. The grassy embankment Maity is on is the principal defence against the mighty river, just as it serves as one of the main roads, surrounding all the villages in that line. A f

How the hair trade became common strand of self-reliance for these East Medinipur women

A craggy brick pathway leads away from the village main road to the Bera residence, hidden behind a few trees and a pond. Here, 24-year-old Putul Bera sits on the sprawling mud porch, patiently running strands of human hair through a big metal comb with sharp, pointy teeth. Her sister-in-law, Priyanka, is busy laying out rows of hair bundles on the ground, while several plastic bags containing lumps of dirty-looking hair lie in the corner. It is a quiet afternoon at Gopalpur village in East (Pur

After the flood: In 2 Bengal villages, submerged fields, homes legacy of Oct 2021 deluge

From the India Meteorological Department's 'Statement on Climate of India during 2021', released on January 14, 2022: "Thunderstorms and lightning claimed more than 780 lives from different parts of the country. Among these, the significant reported deaths were 213 from Odisha, 156 from Madhya Pradesh, 89 from Bihar, 76 from Maharashtra, 58 from West Bengal, 54 from Jharkhand, 49 from Uttar Pradesh and 48 from Rajasthan." From a report in The Hindu dated October 1, 2021: "Two persons, in

Fleeing Cyclones and Floods for 23 Years: Can Sundarban Residents Outrun a River?

“Aamader desh bhasche (Our land is floating),” remarks an old woman as we pass her on the way to the farthest end of Dulki village in Gosaba, Sundarbans. The brick-lined path is narrow and slippery. To one side is the muddied main road of the village, while to the right is what we thought was an endless lake. They are paddy fields so heavily submerged that they’ve taken on the countenance of water bodies. Considered to be one of the most ecologically sensitive regions globally, the 102 islands

Inside the new wave of Kashmir protest music

Reham karain”: this Urdu phrase, translating to “have mercy”, is an overused dialogue in Indian films, usually in scenes when powerless individuals find themselves ensnared in the evil designs of the villain. Similarly, for the native people of Kashmir, one of the most heavily militarised zones in the world and the subject of a dispute between India and Pakistan since 1947, this phrase is an unheard, unheeded plea. It is also the name of a song. Written by the poet Zeeshan Jaipuri and sung by r

How Mukunda Biswas founded pioneering Indian-made guitar brands

About three years ago, as I walked past a musical instrument store in Maharashtra’s Amravati town, I was astonished to find “Signature” guitars, a brand from my hometown of Kolkata, hanging at the shop. I later learnt that these low-priced guitars—usually bought by beginners—had travelled far and had a long history. The shopkeeper told me that nearly all Indian-made guitars came from Kolkata and were distributed across the country. Back home, Gautam Das, the proprietor of a music store at Bagba