PhD Research Scholar
Department of English
Nature as a Creator and Destroyer in The Hungry Tide
Man, though wonders at the beauty of nature and its creations, fails to realize that they are also part of the web of life in the earth. Moreover, they adopt an anthropocentric attitude towards nature which, in fact, results in exploitation of it. This kind of attitude towards nature has urged several critics and writers to warn them of nature’s two-sided faces - its power and its rebellious nature. They create many nature-centred texts and bring in the importance of establishing a harmonious relationship with nature through their concepts and critical essays. This becomes evident when Serpil Oppermann in his article “Ecocriticism: Natural world in the Literary Viewfinder” says, “Ecocriticism does enable the critics to examine the texualizations of the physical environment in literary discourse itself and to develop an earth-centered approach to literary studies” (1). In this way, Amitav Ghosh has examined the physical environment in his novel The Hungry Tide. As an anthropologist, he finds it easy to locate the problems encountered by the people living in an immense archipelago of islands, the Sundarbans.
The Hungry Tide, a complex novel revolves around the very little known but a beautiful part in the world, the Sundarbans stretching from India which is named after the Sundari tree, as the mangrove is locally called. The land often disappears and reappears due to heavy tides and the land has many survivors who battle against nature and its calamities. “There are no borders here to divide fresh water from salt, river from sea. The tides reach as far as three hundred kilometres inland and every day thousands of acres of forest disappear underwater only to re-emerge hours later.”(HT 7). They attempt to live amongst the man-eaters, crocodiles and mangroves that often submerge in the tide. Piyali Roy, Kanai, Fokir, Nirmal, Nilima and Moyna have their own associations with nature as either an insider or an outsider respectively. The central character of the novel Piyali Roy, an Indian but a stubborn American cetologist comes to Sundarbans to study the rarely seen Irrawaddy dolphins. It is believed by the people that her arrival on the land disturbs the atmosphere of the tide stricken land. Being a Bengali she does not know her own mother tongue, yet attempts to visit the place for the sake of her research as she basically adores nature for what it is. “She stopped the man with a raised hand and said, in apology, that she knew no Bengali: ami Bangla jani na.” (HT 4). She does not stop for not knowing the language and seeks the help of a translator, Kanai Dutt for her research. Kanai Dutt, a linguist who runs a translation bureau accepts to be an informal translator for Piya in her research, especially between Piya and Fokir. He comes to Lusibari on the invitation of his aunt Nilima to unveil the dairy that has been written by his late uncle Nirmal regarding the Morichjapi massacre. They accidentally meet in a local train to Lusibari and Kanai comes forward to help Piya in her research where she hires a local fisherman for the same. Fokir the local fisherman, who Piya hires for her research, is the son of Kusum, a woman who had died in the Morichjapi massacre. He lives the way his mother has taught him; to worship the nature goddess “Bon Bibi (HT 103)” and often sings in praise of her. He is looked after by his relative Horen soon after his mother’s death and finds his own way as an illiterate fisherman who blends with the local way of living along with waters and the wild aspects of nature.
Hence he becomes an insider while he is favourable to Piya and Kanai who are outsiders, in reading the climatic changes of that tide filled land. Though Kanai is not new to that place, he does not seem to realize the changing attitude of that land and so...