Friday, May 06, 2005


Originally uploaded by dalbhat.
One cannot help notice the images found hung on the walls of Bengali homes and family shops. Generally you will see Swami Vivekananda, Ramakrishna, Mother T, Rabindranath Tagore, Sai Baba, Loknath, various combinations of Hindu gods and goddesses, and even Jesus Christ. That covers several bases!

Whether it has been officially stated or not, Mother Teresa is revered as a saint to many here in Kolkata. Her ascetic lifetime of service to the poor and dying is considered worthy of worship and honor. From my experience meeting various people involved with NGOs in Kolkata, there are thousands of Mother Teresas at work in Kolkata -- doing admirable and important social work throughout the city.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

T is for TIGER

Originally uploaded by dalbhat.
Royal Bengal Tiger, that is. Not far from Kolkata along the Bay of Bengal, and sharing the border with Bangladesh, lies the muddy, forested mangrove delta region called Sundarbans. This is home to the world's remaining Bengal tigers as well as to various villagers who live amongst them as fisherfolk, bee collectors and farmers.

A point most villagers agree upon is that this man-eating tiger will almost always attack from the back. One form of protection that is used by fishermen is to wear a mask on the back of the head to confuse the tigers. The tiger, though feared by people of Sundarbans, is revered. And everyone knows the folktale of Daskin Ray, the Tiger God and Bonobibi, the Forest Goddess. Women who have lost their husbands to the forest hunter live in widow villages and get some support from the government.

The main tiger population of the Indian subcontinent has suffered a serious decline in the last 50 years. A government program, Project Tiger , established nine sanctuaries designed to provide ample habitat and prey. In the 90s, there was a resurgence of poaching for the escalating Chinese and Korean markets, in spite of a Chinese ban on tiger products in 1993 and South Korea's joining of CITES.

A visit to the lush natural Sundarbans region, whether you see a tiger or not, is a rich experience. The conservation-minded organization, HELP Tourism has excellent tours.