Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Hungry Tide -Amitav Ghosh (Review)

The Hungry TideThe Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Set amidst the lush foliage of mangrove forests,"The Hungry Tide" tells us about the history and lives of people who inhabit the numerous islands of Sunderbans in the Bay of Bengal, the river dolphins, the man-eaters of the tide country, the sea and the legends that float in these waters and forests. It reminds us of the fragility of human life and the helplessness that comes with it.

The story revolves around American born Bengali descent, Piyali Roy a.ka. Piya, a cetologist who comes to India to study the river dolphins; Fokir a reticentilliterate boatman with an impeccable knowledge of the tide country; Kanai the middle aged translator who thinks of himself as an urban Casanova;Nilima or Maashima,Kanai’s aunt, a matriarch with a keen eye for business who single-handedly run a hospital in the fictitious island of Lusibari; and Nirmal ,Kanai’s late uncle with flawless Communist idealogies.

Ghosh spins a tale whose fabric is dyed with realities of the lives of the islanders, yellowed by the passage of time and embroidered by the tales of Bon Bibi and Shah Jongli.He relates to us the massacre of Morichjhanpi, which otherwise is a much suppressed black episode of Indian history, through the diary of Nirmal.The lives of the then dwellers of Morichjhanpi,the event that lead to the massacre and the struggle of the dwellers as they fight for their right-the right to stay alive.

Ghosh boldly questions the atrocities dealt out on the poor in the name of protecting nature. One of the character voices out,

“Saar,” she said, wiping her face, “the worst part was not the hunger or the thirst. It was to sit here, helpless, and listen to the policemen making their announcements, hearing them say that our lives, our existence, were worth less than dirt or dust. ‘This island has to be saved for its trees, it has to be saved for its animals, it is a part of a reserve forest, it belongs to a project to save tigers, which is paid for by people from all around the world.’ Every day, sitting here with hunger gnawing at our bellies, we would listen to these words over and over again. Who are these people, I wondered, who love animals so much that they are willing to kill us for them? Do they know what is being done in their name? Where do they live, these people? Do they have children, do they have mothers, fathers? As I thought of these things, it seemed to me that this whole world had become a place of animals, and our fault, our crime, was that we were just human beings, trying to live as human beings always have, from the water and the soil. No one could think this a crime unless they have forgotten that this is how humans have always lived — by fishing, by clearing land and by planting the soil.”

When the books end, in most cases, the characters end with it. But with “The Hungry Tide”, the characters linger around the corners of your heart posing profound questions on human rights, our role as protectors of nature and the inherent frailty of human nature.


View all my reviews

23 comments:

  1. You seem to love it :)
    Should I really pick it up ?

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    1. You should.You should.You'll love it.

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  2. i've joined to your blog. please visit my BLOG :)

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  3. Wow!!! A lovely, heartfelt review.... the para is so poignant - and so true!! Am definitley picking this up! Thanks

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    1. I've always been a big "Save Wildlife" person and suddenly,like a slap on my face,I read this para.I must say I learned to see things from a different perspective.

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  4. stupendous!!!!...:) good way of spending my weekend :P..was actually thinking how to kill my time for the weekend :D tnku :D

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    1. Hey It's an amazing read for the weekend...

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  5. The book is really one of his better efforts, and I will definitely place it above "The Glass Palace" or "Ibis Trilogy" any day.
    You've picked up quite a poignant paragraph to illustrate your point. But I think what really sets this book apart is that it is so rich in details and the rendering so full of compassion, that you feel a part of it's vast extended family.....

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    1. Ahh Snkur..I wanted to write about that as well but as usual got carried away.Amitav Ghosh has a fine hand in drawing up characters and filling up the details.

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  6. One of my favourite reads by my favourite author. Reading his well researched books is an edifying experience.

    He made Suderbans come alive.

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    1. Very well researched and I enjoyed it..This was my first book by Amitav Ghosh.Now I'm going around the library for "The Glass Palace"

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  7. I should read this as well....

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    1. Yes Yes.Please do and let me know if you like it...

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  9. I had read his Calcutta Chromosome some time back and loved it. Thanks for the review, planning to read it next...

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    1. I was planning to read "The Glass Palace"...Go ahead it won't disappoint you..

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  10. I read his Sea of Poppies a couple of weeks back and really liked it! Your review makes me wanting to read this one too. Shall do it soon! Am following you!
    amitaag.blogspot.com

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    1. I like his style of writing..Please do post a review once you read it.

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  11. The vivid description of Amitav Ghosh lingers for long in the memory.After reading him,the story line and description seek semblance wherever you visit.

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    1. I cannot believe I had missed reading him for so long...

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  12. my favourite searching heartfelt disturbing book ever and your review does it justice

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  13. What a lovely review. I have not read this particular novel by Ghosh. But it seems worth a try. I was initially averse to it but your views have convinced me to pick it up!
    Thanks!

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