Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Hungry Tide!

If I had to describe this book in one word, PASSION would be it.

A beautifully written book, it takes you away into a real but fantastic land. I am young and haven’t read many books, but it is one of the best pieces of prose I have read. Poetically interwoven with little stories, traveling back and forth in time, and describing a new phenomenon or event in every chapter, with such passion, it is a delight to read it.

As I kept reading it, I wondered how much Amitav Ghosh must love the Sunderbans. He describes it with great passion like a poet might of a lover. He describes with such wide-eyed wonder, its ecosystem and inhabitants. He describes with such great pride, its dangers both living and the nature.

I fell in love with it when I was on page 6. To quote the exact words that created magic:

“In our legends it is send that the Goddess Ganga’s descent from the heavens would have split the earth had Lord Shiva not tamed her torrent by tying it into his ash smeared locks” … “there is a point where the braid comes undone; where Lord Shiva’s matted hair is washed apart into a vast knotted tangle. Once past that point the river throws off its bindings and separates into hundreds, maybe thousands, of tangled strands” … “The islands are the trailing threads of India’s fabric, the ragged fringe of her sari, the anchol that follows her, half wetted by the sea.”

I could go on.

“When these channels meet, it is often in clusters of four, five, or even six: at these confluences, the water stretches into the far edges of the landscape and the forest dwindles into a distant rumor of land echoing back from the horizon. In the language of the place, such a confluence is spoken of as a mohona – a strangely seductive word, wrapped in many layers of beguilement.”

Now you know what I mean.

The main character of the story is the Tide Country itself. It is about the elements that make it what it is. It talks about the history of the country, the locals and their beliefs and lifestyles and folklore, and the main human characters just live it. It is not about the human characters but about the country. It seems like these characters exist so that they can tell us the story of the country as they discover it.

It talks of an old school teacher who sees himself as a failed radical communist and how this land has both helped him and hurt him. It talks about a young woman in search of a rare species of dolphins and comes into this ecosystem and discovers its hidden wonders. It talks about the life of a young illiterate fisherman who is at peace and is one with the country.

It talks beautifully about love; most of them unspoken but all beautiful; Moyna fiercely protecting her love, or Horen confessing his, or Nirmal’s pursuit for his muse. (If there is one that was not told so beautifully it was of Kanai and Piya. I could not see it develop through the story. Maybe it was meant to be that way.)

It peaks in both literary style and imagination. It has a un-put-down-able story and yet it is almost philosophical. It is a piece of fiction, sprinkled well with facts, with such fertile imagination, that the plot grows into a beautiful creation and the reader grows with it.

Go ahead, pick up a copy and discover the magic!


  1. Have this book on my desk but not getting time to read.Thanks for the review would pick this soon.

  2. Love the book and the review. Good choice of the paras. I think it would not be long before I give this one a re-read.

  3. @Abhinav: Wow, I convinced one new person within one hour of posting it! I promise you won't get bored.

    @Shrey: Thank you. If you are planning a Sunderbans trip then you must read it before you go!

  4. Possibly the best book about India by an Indian author, after Rushdie's midnight's children. Love the surreal depiction of the scenery. I could almost imagine myself caught in the middle of the thunderstorm at the end of the book. Very beautiful.

  5. @Basu: Haven't read Rushdie. Suggest I do ?