Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Royal Bengal Tiger!

The evenings here at Maheshpur are somewhat dull (an understatement) and I bide my time chatting with whoever is at hand. Common subjects are few and so conversations are about the mundane. Interactions with the children are however getting better with each passing day.
Dakshin Ray Ghot
Painted Terra-cotta

The book “Forest of Tigers” by Annu Jalais keeps my late evenings and nights (that is as long as the solar lamp allows me) occupied. This book is based on her research in the Sundarbans and delves into the myths and legends associated with “Dakshin Ray” – the Tiger, Bonobibi – the benevolent goddess of the forest and how the inhabitants perceive the issue of the tiger. The book is very well researched and insightful. I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested.

The book inspired me to conduct a small experiment involving the children of the Ashram. I tried to find out how these boys perceive the tiger. When I asked them whether they had ever seen one, they answered in the negative. When I asked them if they had seen pictures, the answer was still in the negative. Their books do not have photographs or illustrations of a tiger and they have no access to magazines, journals, TV or internet. Therefore, their visual world is abysmally confined to the here and now!

I asked them if they have ever been told what a tiger looks like and could they describe that to me. They immediately recited what seemed like a class essay that began with “The Royal Bengal Tiger has black stripes on its body, has four legs, a tail and a fierce looking head and that they were dangerous, etc.” So I asked them whether they could make up an image of the tiger from these descriptions and make a drawing from their imagination… they readily agreed. The results were very amusing – they would even challenge the  “Dakshin Ray Ghot” in terms of simplicity! I am sharing a few of them with you.

Of all the drawings the one by Gopinath was the most amusing. His tiger had both stripes and spots – a hybrid creature like the ‘Tigons’ and ‘Litigons’ in the Calcutta Zoo! But what amazed me more was the fact that this boy was born blind (I was informed) and after a series of surgeries he can now see. His drawing is far more detailed than his peers who were born with perfect eyesight. This conundrum is almost always explained by the saying that we “look” but we don’t “see”. I had once read a book that dealt with this subject titled “Ways of Seeing” by John Berger. Again, a must read if you are interested in this kind of thing.

 Progress: Fourth Week

The “monta korlona” phase continued into Tuesday this week, but all seemed good by the end of it. A slurry of sand and cement was poured into the base of the bamboo columns and installed. Next the beams were placed and aligned. The diagonal anchors were fixed inside small cement vats called “meslas” and the bamboo supports were fixed. All this quick activity in succession generated a lot of interest among the people of this village. Many actually dropped in from other villages nearby to “inspect” and comment. I have never answered so many questions after my Higher Secondary examinations! Hope the pace of progress continues at this level. Prasun arrived on Friday to relieve me and to oversee things over the weekend and possibly answer more questions!

Canning Local Update

I was comfortably sitting in the compartment and two stations down the crowd started swelling. A young mother in gaudy clothes and even more gaudily dressed children came and stood near me. Seeing her difficulty in managing to balance with a child in her arms, I gave her my seat. She took it promptly and at the next station when the adjoining seat became empty her husband took it until I was dismayed to find that her whole noisy brood had taken up all the seats. Standing in a crowded train compartment has its way of manipulating you into various corners and spaces. Soon the jostling crowd had pushed me to a corner where a young woman dressed in a beautiful “Tangail” sari sat with what seemed a bag full of books. Hers was a face that stood out in the crowd. When I was surreptitiously appreciating this dusky Bengali beauty; she stood up as if to alight and offered me her seat. I gratefully sat down and realized that she had no intention of leaving. She stood in front of me and I asked her why she gave me her seat if she was not getting off. She said “You too gave up your seat! I noticed.”

You may draw your own conclusions…


manjari said...

loving these little incidental detours...the children's pictures of tigers, the girl on the train, the panta wisdom, the rainclouds. Along with the details of the process of construction, these are adding up to a lovely whole.

michele said...

abhi ... i find the childrens drawings of the tigers quite moving, particularly as they have never even seen an image of one yet live in such close proximity. a strange contradiction.

the progress of olive ridley is great, the structure and material so elegant! hello to laurent!

somnathsays said...

Abhjit da..thanks for your reply...Enjoyed the latest very much agree with you on your comment that we 'look' but we don't 'see'. Thanks for the book ref: “Ways of Seeing” by John Berger. Will definitely read it.The progress of the Olive ridley is great.... It's like slowly the dream taking its shape in front of u.....Actually we see through our minds eye...yes, our gathered knowledge definitely helps us giving it a shape... I think that is aptly reflected in the children's drawings....Your experiment reminded me of my school days in Patha Bhavan where Sumitra Di (Sumitra Narayan)used to do these sort of things with us....Canning Local update is also great and humorous too...As the main topic of your this post is 'Tiger' and 'how we look and see' reminded me of a song... to really see, you need to have an........"Eye of the Tiger"...One of my fav songs... do listen and enjoy.

somnathsays said...

Addendum: Forgot to mention about "Monta Korlona' Phase.... ha ha ha ha ha ha... Brilliant....Ishhh jodi oder moto hotey partam!!!!!!!
Another point: Michele in her comment mentioned ".....they have never even seen an image of one yet live in such close proximity. a strange contradiction." I think its not a contradiction but a bare fact and this shows the apathy and callousness of our education system...

alka said...

love the way its all shaping up. and the children's drawings are so telling. thank you for sharing them