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    Thursday, July 30, 2009

    Kuakata, July 2009

    A Crying Landscape..........
    On a Safari with TTL

    24-25 July 2009

    Four years in a row. I had been looking for this tour since my last visit. I've witnessed a lot of change during those three visits to keep me interested for yet another tour. Most of the changes are not producing positive results though. But they do give an extra incentive to go there.

    "Through the Lens: Bangladesh" (TTL) group of Flickr decided to go for a safari once more during the rainy season. And this time, it was no other than my ever-familiar Kuakata. I had little doubt that I wanted to be a part of this; though, being part of the final team was in doubt until the last moment. My work kept me wondering until the last evening; and the final twist was provided by silly misunderstanding!

    23rd July was the day. An office day; and we wanted to leave Dhaka after finishing office. I confirmed my availability in the late afternoon; rushed home and started to get prepared. But then came the news; by around 8:20PM, when Kamal called and told me that they were waiting at the bus stand for me!! Now, I wonder how I assumed the departure to be at 10PM, instead of 8:30PM!! And that too, from Malibagh, instead of the usual Gabtoli! I almost gave up, until Shudipto came up with the last hope. He advised me to catch them at Uttara; until they were caught up in some Thursday night traffic. And thats exactly what I did. I boarded the bus at Khilkhet by around 10PM!! Ah, thats 10PM!!

    From Kuakata, July 2009

    Sleeping with the fishes........... On board Paturia Ferry



    The long journey thus started. We were damn tired; so, most of us were feeling drowsy until the first ferry at Paturia came up some time around 12:15AM. Everyone sprang up and went into action. Tushar Bhai and Akhlas Bhai were busy filling up their stomach; knowing very well that there's no other point on the way where we could get replenished. Others started exercising their photography a bit even though it was within the bare limitations of night light. By around 1AM, were were on the other side of the Padma, at Daulatdia Ghat. It was once again time to go into hibernation.

    From Kuakata, July 2009

    Preparing late night meal?....... Lebukhali Ferry Ghat


    From Kuakata, July 2009

    In the warmth of peace.........


    From Kuakata, July 2009

    Colour of dreams...........


    From Kuakata, July 2009

    On the job........


    From Kuakata, July 2009

    20 Taka per kg........ On board Lebukhali Ferry



    A three-hour road journey later, we once again sprang up; well, some of us, at least. It was the Lebukhali ferry near Barisal and it was around 4:00AM. Some of our hungry fellas couldn't help jumping into one of the street-side restaurants to fill up. I, along with a few others, on the other hand, went about filling parts of our camera disks. The delay at Lebukhali gave us this opportunity to observe the late night life at this far-away ferry ghat. We were on the other side of this short ferry journey by around 5AM. And we went into further hibernation. We did not do a lot during the next ferry at Dopdopia, at Barisal; just slept.

    But I did wake up before the next ferry at Khepupara. I remember this road from my previous journeys. At this time of the day and year, this road is usually quiet, rain-soaked and needless to say, beautiful. As was at the first rows of seats, I couldn't sleep after 6:00AM; just watched the road with a flicker of smile. Khepupara came up by around 6:30AM.


    From Kuakata, July 2009

    A goat morning........01..... Khepurara, early morning


    From Kuakata, July 2009

    A goat morning........02


    From Kuakata, July 2009

    On request flypast........


    From Kuakata, July 2009

    Peaceful dreams........



    Shudipto planned it in a way that we would be leaving our bus at Khepupara and board another one, which was to be reserved only for us. A group of 24 surely deserved a separate set of wheels! This time of the year most bus services don't want to go directly to Kuakata; Sakura being the exception. Some others are also there, but haven't tried them. Most buses go up to Khepupara and would force one to change bus. This usually costs time after a long journey of around seven hours! Anyway, a bit of delay ensued until we could board the bus once again and approach the ferry. The ferry was sleeping on the other bank and required no less than a lot of alarms of various kinds to hear us. We finally boarded the ferry by around 7:30AM, losing an hour in the process. This one hour, of course, gave us opportunity to document early morning life at Khepupara.

    From Kuakata, July 2009

    On the bend.......... Hajipur


    From Kuakata, July 2009

    The net-men.......... Alipur


    From Kuakata, July 2009

    The Armada......


    From Kuakata, July 2009

    Colours of the fleet.........


    From Kuakata, July 2009

    The admirals......


    This last leg of the journey was the toughest one. This part of the road was a minefield, as I saw it during the last three years! This time, the road was bad too, but somehow, the sting seemed a little less than what I felt previously. Anyway, we crossed the Hajipur Ferry by around 8:20AM and Alipur Ferry by around 8:45AM. Bustling Alipur was the place of interest for everyone. This is the place all the fishing trawlers of Kuakata call home. This is fishing hub.

    We reached Kuakata by around 9:00AM. Golden Palace was the hotel for us. This is the first time I was staying at a place other than the Parjatan Motel. We had a nice view from our balcony, though you cannot call it a "sea-view". There was a fair amount of distance between the hotel and the beach. And there was the embankment, which protects the land during high tides.

    We freshened up and had our breakfast. It was a pretty nice with "khichuri"; damn hungry we were! We didn't take any time before deciding to go to the beach. The weather was less than ideal. We had a news of cautionary signal over the Bay of Bengal and the sky was indicating towards that. It was gloomy from the start and it didn't clear out at all by the time we went to the beach by after 10:00AM.

    From Kuakata, July 2009

    Building their dream-house...... the houses near Kuakata beaches are being washed away by the sea on a regular basis..... their fate would be similar to that of these sand-houses......


    From Kuakata, July 2009

    These battered structures were once the boundary walls of a rest house..... and now they are slowly giving up to the wills of Nature......


    Our big group split up and roamed around the beach with their cameras. I began to calculate what were the things that changed since my last visit. I actually got scared seeing the amount of erosion! It was high tide at that time, but I could feel the amount of land the sea has devoured. This land only goes under water during high tide and just sits there under shallow water, causing problems for coastal vessels. Low tide reveals the vast stretches of flat land that once contained coconut orchards and fishing villages. A rest house was losing its boundary walls to the sea; waiting for the next high tide to devour the building proper. Another small cottage was also counting days on the sand.

    From Kuakata, July 2009

    Women are coming out in larger numbers........ they're now engaged in the easiest profession of Kuakata, catching shrimp fries......


    From Kuakata, July 2009

    A procession of fry-catchers....... I've never seen that many fry-catchers together....


    From Kuakata, July 2009

    Young face of hardship........


    From Kuakata, July 2009

    Shaheen studies in grade two..... his father left the family and now the family of three children is run by his mother, who works at a nearby construction site...... Shaheen is the oldest of the three children and already feels the burden of the family......



    Another change that caught my attention was the vast number of people engaged in catching shrimp fries along the coast. The number of people engaged in this work definitely increased several fold during the last several years. I have never seen that many people on the beach catching fries. And there were a lot of women involved in this work as well. This is also something new. These people could be the victims of climate change. They've engaged themselves in the easiest profession and potentially endangering the long-term natural balance of this fragile ecosystem.

    From Kuakata, July 2009

    A dreamer in the making.........


    Anyway, we couldn't do much before the heavens started to give warnings by around noon. We packed our bags, but waited on the beach for a possible clearing of the weather. Photographers shed their equipments and jumped into the sea. A lot of fun ensued. I did bring out the camera after the rain stayed out for a while. We stayed at the beach until around 1:00PM, when the rain really began to threaten everything.

    Really enjoyed the lunch with "rupchanda" (pomfret). After lunch, most people didn't want to be tied down by toil. They all went out so see the land. I was on the other hand, facing some trouble with my eyes for the last couple of days, which is why I decided to take a bit of rest. I had seen Kuakata three times in three years, which gave me the confidence to take rest during the time when the sun was supposed to be high, and photography conditions poor.

    From Kuakata, July 2009

    Tools of the trade....... Fry-catcher's tools


    From Kuakata, July 2009

    Wheels to drive the present; wheels to drive the future......


    From Kuakata, July 2009

    Looking for a better day.......
    Fishermen fishing in the shallow waters of Kuakata face stiff competition from other fishermen resorting to different methods of fishing...... Its tough reality......


    From Kuakata, July 2009

    Crossing the colours......


    From Kuakata, July 2009

    Race.......


    From Kuakata, July 2009

    Colours of struggle.....


    From Kuakata, July 2009

    Last light..........



    I went out in the late afternoon, around 6:30PM. The sky had cleared up and there was the prospect of a wonderful sunset. I roamed around the beach and met others there. The sunset was really spectacular, producing some truly wonderful natural colours. We stayed at the beach until around 8:00PM. We watched the typical beach activities and documented them. Things have not changed much as far as fishing at Kuakata was concerned though. Boats of wheels approaching the water's edge and then boats jumping over the waves, leaving the empty wheels on the beach. We also watched the boats come back in their usual way.

    Evening brought everyone to reality. We began to feel the toil of a night journey. I felt it less, since I had taken a well-earned rest in the afternoon. But the dinner was again a treat. A hard day somehow always provide a nice dinner. Electricity was a bit of trouble at Kuakata, which was expected, considering that the whole country was facing electricity shortage during the whole of summer. Dark evening produced a stunning sky, full of stars. Arif put up his tripod to capture a glimpse of the skies. We called it a day after 10PM, planning for an early morning ride to Gangamati, east of the main beach.

    We woke up by around 5:00AM, aiming to be at Gangamati before sunrise. Summer sunrises can only be seen from the eastern areas of Kuakata. Winter times provide the opportunity to see both sunrise and sunset from the same beach, if the weather is favourable. Anyway, we were on our bikes, speeding through the wet beaches. It was low tide. Only low tide allows bike ride across the beach. Fishermen going for early morning work stared at us; startled. We had quite a few bikes, which surprised the locals.

    It was a gloomy morning. Thick cloud cover kept the chances of seeing a good sunrise to the minimum. Yet, we were hopeful; hopeful of something good; at least, desperately hoping for no rain. We reached Gangamati in turn. But almost all of us made it there by around 6:15AM. The last time I went to Gangamati, I had to go between trees in the last part of the journey. But now, we sped through a flat empty beach. The beach has really transformed. Previously, it was a skill to ride a motorcycle here, because you had to drive over sand. Now, most of the beach is actually land claimed by the sea. This is soil, with a coating on sand. And this flat beach doesn't have that many channels that the beach used to have even a year back! So, its basically a cakewalk over the beach. We hardly had to reduce speed, whereas, during the previous visit to Gangamati, I had to demount from the motorcycle numerous times to be able to cross the channels.

    From Kuakata, July 2009

    A gloomy welcome...... Gangamati Canal in early morning


    From Kuakata, July 2009

    A shell-shocked landscape.......01


    From Kuakata, July 2009

    A shell-shocked landscape.......02


    From Kuakata, July 2009

    On the borderline of struggle with Nature.......


    I could hardly believe what I was seeing. At first, it was difficult for me to realise that we've actually reached Gangamati! There was a huge cavity in the forest at Gangamati. The mouth of the canal extended way into the sea. Actually the head of the canal was now completely devoid of forest cover. Just a year back, I've seen this canal surrounded by mangrove trees. Now this is barren land, full of stems of dead trees. It looked like a war zone, ravaged by thousands of heavy artillery shells. It was a pitiful sight!

    From Kuakata, July 2009

    Fry-catchers in the early morning.......01


    From Kuakata, July 2009

    Fry-catchers in the early morning.......02


    From Kuakata, July 2009

    Fry-catchers in the early morning.......03


    From Kuakata, July 2009

    Fry-catchers in the early morning.......04


    From Kuakata, July 2009

    Fry-catchers in the early morning.......05
    Sea-water is mixed with rain-water and salinity is reduced...... thats why, fry-catchers dig the sand to extract saline water, which would be used to store the fries until they are sold at Alipur........


    From Kuakata, July 2009

    Counting the last hours.......


    From Kuakata, July 2009

    A damage beyond repair......



    Cattle were grazing there and fry-catchers were at work at the canal. We spent some time documenting this destroyed landscape. I talked to some of the locals to find out how this all happened. After talking to the locals, I found out that this destruction was the result of systematic sea erosion. Cyclone Aila destroyed a lot of trees alright, but the regular high tide of the sea is not felt by people living in other parts of the country. This is a place, which lies hardly at sea level. A slight increase of tide devours a significant portion of the coastline. This is a the effect of sea level rise. The sea is eating up a land that was once populated by trees that were more than 40 year old. This means, the sea didn't touch this place for at least 40 years. This is a change of epic proportions. And this surely would leave a significant mark over this land in the coming days, and make the people realise only after they lose it all.

    We came back from Gangamati by around 8:00AM. The tide was still low. We came back to hotel and freshened up. After breakfast, most of us went out for yet another venture. I stayed back at the hotel with some others, waiting for a more appropriate time to shoot. For those who came to Kuakata for the first time, wasting time was not an option. I really appreciated the fact that they had all the energy in the world to discover a new place.

    We all had lunch together and planned to start the next venture when the sun began to lean towards the west. This time, not everyone was ready. A day-long venture had its mark on some faces. Others were as energetic for another outing.

    From Kuakata, July 2009

    Marks of cruelty of Nature.........


    From Kuakata, July 2009

    Lord of the Fries??........
    Mohammad Sobuj has been engaged in catching shrimp fries for the last three years....... but never before has he faced such stiff competing from so many people who have now engaged themselves in this trade......... Tk30 per 100 fries is sometimes good when he can catch 1000-5000 fries..... but there are days when he even gets nothing....... westerly wind brings in fries, on the other hand, easterly drives them away...... a day-long easterly wind may mean no income for the next day....


    From Kuakata, July 2009

    Last men standing..........
    "we stand together on an empty beach, mourning the demise of our colleagues and counting the last hours of our lives"------- the last coconut trees of the sea-erosion-hit beaches of Kuakata



    We went out by around 4:10PM. This time, we wanted to explore the eastern part of the main beach. A lot of coconut trees were counting their last days here. The beach was littered by the remains of some freshly-downed coconut trees. I talked to a fry-catcher on the beach getting to know a bit more about the business.


    From Kuakata, July 2009

    In celebration of survival........


    From Kuakata, July 2009

    A futile attempt to stop Nature........01


    From Kuakata, July 2009

    A futile attempt to stop Nature........02


    We boarded the motorcycles once again, and proceeded towards the western end of Kuakata. This place is right on the edge of the River Andharmanik, and called Lebu Bagan. The ride to Lebu Bagan was something that I was really looking forward to. Again wanted to see how much change has happened. On the way, there was a part of the embankment that was directly on the beach and was under direct threat from the waves. Last time I saw sand bags were being used to protect the embankment. Now there were concrete blocks being used. But nothing seemed strong enough against the indomitable force of Nature.

    From Kuakata, July 2009

    Once a forest.......... Lebu Bagan


    From Kuakata, July 2009

    Mouth of the Andharmanik......


    From Kuakata, July 2009

    Battered patches of green........


    From Kuakata, July 2009

    Witness to the once beauty.........


    By around 5:15PM, we were at the end of our short journey. This was again a shock to me. The mangroves of Lebu Bagan had been mauled by the sea. Last time I couldn't reach the Andharmanik because of forests. Now, the beach was clear of the trees protecting the land. We reached land's end and stared at the eastern end of the Sundarbans on the other side of the river.

    From Kuakata, July 2009

    Sparkling..........01


    From Kuakata, July 2009

    Sparkling..........02


    From Kuakata, July 2009

    Fry-catcher of Lebu Bagan..........


    From Kuakata, July 2009

    Resident of Lebu Bagan........ Mud-skipper



    We found fry-catchers here too. Fishing boats and trawlers were crossing the mouth of the Andharmanik for the sea. Sparkling waters were flowing under puffy white clouds. It was a beautiful environ, but the trees didn't have the flair to complete the scene. Such a pity!


    From Kuakata, July 2009

    When life burns under the sun........


    From Kuakata, July 2009

    Artist's canvas.........


    We went backwards from Lebu Bagan by around 6:00PM. We had a tight schedule. Had to finish dinner by around 7:15 to start for Dhaka by around 8:00. In between, there was just enough time to shoot the sunset. We did maintain our time, but the sunset was a bit pale. We had a superb sunset the earlier evening, but that was to remain as the only nice sunset for the tour.


    From Kuakata, July 2009

    First love.........
    Zahir is one of two children of his father, who was left out of the fishing community for some reason...... a fifth grade student, Zahir loves to play around the wheels even though his father no longer deals with them.....


    From Kuakata, July 2009

    Anxious wait........
    Faruque and Saif play on the wheels of Kuakata....... Faruque's father went to the sea on a boat a few hours back...... they're expected to make it back within a short while..... the weather seems good..... but you can never be certain about the weather in the sea in the rainy season........


    From Kuakata, July 2009

    Beach-house under threat.........


    From Kuakata, July 2009

    Goodbye to Kuakata until..........


    We packed up and boarded the bus by 8:00PM. Sakura bus was the only genuine option for our return journey. Although we couldn't manage Sakura tickets on the outward journey, for inward journey there was no surprises. Although the journey was a really long one. A long queue at Daulatdia Ferry Ghat delayed our return. We couldn't reach Gabtoli before 7:15AM.

    Shudipto organised the tour very efficiently, even though this was his first at Kuakata. The tour members made the tour a very entertaining one. For most, it was the first tour there. I was one of the more experienced, with four visits. Tushar Bhai had six and Kamal had five visits there. But the tour was enjoyed by everyone, regardless of the number of visits. We had a great time and had been able to capture some precious moments.

    After seeing the pathetic scene at Gangamati, I thought this should be my last visit to Kuakata. But somehow, the visit to Lebu Bagan changed my view. I missed the surf of the Andharmanik this time. Even though I came prepared. Last time I wasn't prepared, but was able to see those huge waves. My be I would have to go for yet another visit there to catch that great phenomenon. Only time can tell.

    3 comments:

    1. ya this is a exclusive your works, I appreciate your creative mind or works.

      Best wishes

      Md. Akhlas Uddin

      ReplyDelete
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      ReplyDelete
    3. Very informative, very useful for me when I am planning to visit Kuakata. Thank you brother!

      ReplyDelete