Journey Through Bangladesh
Voyage to The Silent Island
Nijhum Dwip means, Silent Islandis a small island under Hatiya upazila. It is situated in Noakhali District in Bangladesh. The main attraction of forests of the island is the herd of about 5000 spotted dear. To reach the island, one has to travel to Hatiya from Sadarghat Launch Terminal via steamer and then from Hatiya to Nijhum Dwip via trawler.
Ryan Bahar Malek
On the 24th of December, 2012, I did not in any way hide my surprise when my father told me to pack my bag straight away. His friends had organized a trip to an exotic island, Nujhum Dwip (the silent island), I had heard much about. Since he could not go himself, he wanted me to go.
The next day, on 25th of December, after lunch we left Dhaka on a ship. It was bitter cold inside the ship, and the water was freezing, but it had the promise of becoming a journey of a lifetime.
The next morning, on the 26th, we woke up to some unwelcoming news. It turned out that the ship crew had never travelled this route before. The news created some unpleasant reactions among us, but we found another ship going that way and we followed it.
In the evening we packed small bags and got ready. We had arrived close to the island and the ship could not leave the safety of the deep water. The rest of the way had to be on trawlers. The ship dropped its anchor and we embarked into three trawlers. It was an amusing sight, as the trawlers were packed with people.
I was in the last of the three trawlers, and the first two had already left. News reached us that the first trawler that left had ran out of fuel in the middle of the sea. From a distance we saw the second trawler standing still. More bad news, it had got stuck in a 'char' (sandbar). All of a sudden our own trawler came to a halt – it too was not spared by the hidden 'chars' lying in wait for unsuspecting boats.
Night fell and all around us was the sea, for miles and miles everywhere the eye could see. There were stories of pirates in these seas, and who knew what other dangers lurked in this vast expanse of water. The full moon was our friend. It emanated its glory upon us in the cloudless sky, providing us with light and hope. The young ones refused to surrender their jubilant mood. They lit Chinese lanterns and shot fireworks from the trawler and cheered in awe at their beauty. Finally, the high tide came to our rescue and our trawler broke free from the unrelenting embrace of the char. We started again towards Nijhum Dwip, the Silent Island.
We could see a forest on our left, and in our curiosity we shone our powerful lights into the forest trees. Light shone back at us from inside the forest –glowing lights in the dark. It took us around a few seconds to realize what we were looking at. Voila! It was a herd of deer! Soon their outline was more visible to us, the shape of their horns... It was a breathtakingly amazing sight. It was not a rumour after all – the island did have deer – hundreds of them.
Finally, we reached the island. We docked our trawler on its muddy shoreline. The people of the island turned out in numbers to see us. They loved the sight of a new faces on their isolated land. Soon, a man came with sheep and chicken for our dinner. I took permission and slaughtered the sheep. They were then cleaned and taken apart and roasted. It took a few hours, and we were extremely tired and hungry.
We decided to walk around and explore a bit of the island. We came across a few shops which were about to close. I had imagined the island not having many inhabitants, and was surprised to see so many people there.
One old man told us how they first came to the island. 150 families moved here long ago, and received 5 acres of land each from the government. Now the island had around 20,000 inhabitants. Yet, there is not a single doctor or clinic in the island. Many women die during giving birth. The nearest hospital is 2-3 hours away by boat. Almost all the people are Muslims. There is one school, providing education up to class 2.
At this point, "Forgotten Island" seemed like a more appropriate name for this island than "Silent Island". It was not lacking in life or livestock, but it was lacking in basic human facilities. We, the inhabitants of cities, had long forgotten that human beings can be innocent or easy going. It really made me think who was in fact better off – us living in bustling cities or these people living in the middle of the ocean?
(R) thedailystar.net 2013