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Finding Bangladesh
The Temple in the Forest of Wonders

By Adnan M. S. Fakir
Photos by Finding Bangladesh

If movies taught us anything, green is bad. Acid green is really bad. Don't poke. ' Course they poked it
This is not the place to go 'Here, kitty, kitty, kitty!'

400 liters of diesel, 10 liters of kerosene, 160 liters of water, 12 kilograms of rice, 60 eggs, 3 chickens and a letter from the Forestry Department that said, “By the power decreed upon me, I command thee, O servant of the state, let the young folks delve deep into the forest of wonders, the land of the 18 tides, the Sundarbans. If the mighty mama happens to cross their path, O ye of little faith, let them take pictures until his teeth bite deep and his claws rips their flesh apart. Save the camera.”

So we delved deep. Our destination was the only standing ancient structure in the heart of the Sundarbans, the Shibsha temple, located in one of the most tiger (the mama) dense areas called Sekher Tek. We started off from Mongla port with our small launch-type boat in the month of May, the pre-monsoon period; the period of strong southern winds, higher temperatures, heavy rain and the occasional kalboishaki thunderstorm that can and will tear your boat apart. How comforting.

After about 9 hours of jumping up and down on the tumbling waves, sea-sickness, some vomiting, and struggling to take video footage of prancing river dolphins in the summer heat, we finally set foot in the forest. The other foot was ready to jump back into the boat in case a tiger attacked. Tigers, we learned, were more patient in hunting their prey.

We had shifted to a smaller boat and entered a creek. Luckily when we were safe on land, about 200 meters away, we spotted an object in the creek, cruising its way across the rivulet. Slowly the figure became visible and by then we were firing away with our cameras faster than our hearts were drumming. It was a 9 feet long marsh crocodile bathing in the cooler waters of the mangrove forest. We shot, we stared in frightened pleasure, we ran. However, we could only run deeper into the forest.

Travelling as pack is a must. Tigers usually target the weaker ones that fall behind. Being all fat and fluffy I hoped I wouldn't be the target. Tigers don't like fat, do they? We made our way deeper into the forest, screaming at the top of our lungs, “Mama, shorey ja!” Apparently tigers do not like noise. So we screamed and played Justin Bieber songs. The tiger was sure to run away.

All it needs for that homey feeling is one 42 inch hi-def TV

A bit further in we spotted deer footprints; slender sharp footprints leading towards the temple. We started following the steps and soon we saw something that made our hearts stop. Tiger footprints following the deer. There were two tigers, a mother with its growing cub, probably looking for a meal. The guards and trackers with us immediately got on guard. Rifles were readied. All senses became sharper. Tigers have a strong stench which you can smell from almost a 100 meter away. We still did not smell that, but you can never be cautious enough in the forest.

As we moved deeper into the forest planted with sharp mangrove roots, slowly we lost track of time. Noises became murmurs. Our feet rose and fell in the knee deep mud. We kept walking; in empty head, in empty minds. Deeper inside, we spotted a tree with a red gamcha dangling from it. Our hearts fell. Hope, it seemed, was abandoning us. While travelling inside the forest one can sometimes stumble onto a tree painted red or with a cloth tied to it. This is a warning to fellow travellers that a recent tiger attack took place around this spot. We were the fellow traveller and we were just warned. A tiger that has tasted human blood is the worst of all fears in the Sunbardans.

Upon seeing the red tainted tree, one of the guards fired a blank shot. The temple was near. Apparently the temple is a shelter place for tigers; a home, an abode. After walking for 15 more minutes, the temple finally peeked through the bushes; the only ancient erect structure in the whole of the Sundarbans declaring its former glory.

Raja Pratapaditya during his reign had established a township and a fort there in order to fend off Arakanese and Portuguese pirates. The temple itself was built by the Pratapaditya settlers during the early 1600s; a truly daunting feat carried out by brave men during that era. The temple is a Kali temple. Even to this date pilgrims visit this temple during early winter, often becoming victims of tiger attacks.

We found a beautiful emerald green snake lurking around. We got a bit over excited, took pictures up close, poked it around a bit, made it hiss its tongue out until one of the guards told us that it was a green viper. We still took pictures and video footage, but from afar; and no poking.

We started our work with haste and got completely immersed in the beauty of the temple. Then it struck us. Out of the dense forest a heavy, slightly pungent smell wafted to our noses. A smell that inspired fear. Bang! Bang! Two more gunshots roared through the forest and we immediately made our way off the temple site. With heavy breaths we tracked our way back, with an empty feeling of the stench engulfing us. After almost an hour of tracking we finally saw the river and the boat.

Despite the several bruises covering our limbs, we were happy. We knew Finding Bangladesh 2 was going to be something new. Something fabulous. Catch more of us at www.facebook.com/findingbangladesh.

Taurus It's the month of the bull, RS birthday and overall bullheadedness

Mooo. Oh wait, hambaaa. Umm… maybe it is a combination of the two: mambaaa; though that's a snake in Africa. But we digress. Creativity breeds distraction and it turns out RS is a Taurus, who is somehow or the other related to Venus and thus is supposed to be creative. Venus also explains the phenomenal amount of love you guys shower us with every week.

But we wanted to know more because apparently birthdays are for self-reflection. Since we like short cuts, we decided to analyse our zodiac. We rolled the dice and the resident seer told us we Taurus are stubborn, bull-headed and reluctant to change. Words were exchanged, then expletives were thrown around and… well, we won't really go into what happened but it involved a window, a loud thud, an orange and more cake for everyone in the office. Share increase equals to change.

The dices also told us we were slow to get angry. Umm, sure.

Then we turned to the crystal balls. Stifling occasional bouts of uncontrollable sniggering [“They are rock-solid stones, man!”], we divinated that we have a lot of hopeless Potter fans in our midst. After an hour of fruitless hand-gestures, one of them said that Professor Sprout is a Taurus, resulting in exasperated sighs among the more worldly.

While we were doing this, one of the bosses morosely playing cards in the corner flicked a card towards us. It turned out to be a tarot card: The Fool. Apparently it meant that we are stable, practical and fertile. He said, “What a load of 'Big & Serious'. Let's go get puri.” Which resulted in a stampede, ruining any illusion of stability in the meeting.


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