Updated: Oct 6, 2021
Sunderban. What comes first in your mind when you hear the word Sunderban. Tiger right? Bengal tiger. When I told my mother that I was going to sunderban, in her reply, the first word was tiger. Even I was expecting to see the tiger in the very beginning of my exploration, but as thinking out of the box is what I do, here also in-spite of wasting time in seeing the tiger (which is very rare), I did some extra brainstorming and went to explore the villages which are inside the sundarban forest. And then I was stunned by the beauty awaiting me. It’s an old village without the least infrastructure like electricity for which the government is to blame. The name is “Jamespur''. Yes, it is one among many villages in sunderban which are not yet explored.
Villages these days are developing in all fields, as it is also losing its originality, which we really are going to miss the beauty of the calmness, pure environment, that delightful smell and the culture. Well one side we need to develop all villages, but who wants to lose the beauty for that?
In this article I would like to share my experience of my visit to this amazing village highlighting people, culture, place and environment. Their lifestyle is simple. As I saw, they have no liking for luxury. They manage with very small houses and few clothes. Most of them are field workers, I mean their major earnings are from agriculture. They take part in fairs and festivals which are conducted in a very simple manner. They attend folk dance and open air dramas.
You may have seen many, I mean so many atheists in your life, but cannot find one in the village. Because, their life depends more on believing in God. They think high, because they think in terms of God and religion. The village temple maintains their social and moral upkeep. But on the same level, their life has gone rusty with blind faiths that are unnoticed. I saw so many black magics performed and avoided capturing caged idols of goddesses and dried lemons around the trees. If you ever get a chance to spend some time in a village, I insist not to follow your daily routine. Instead of that, you can go to bed early and rise early in the morning with the welcoming song of birds. Then you can see the beauty of the sun rising from below the horizon, smell the fresh air and free from smoke which is the curse of city life. And can watch the villagers feeding the cattle. As most of the people in the village are agriculturists, they cultivate their own land.
Some do manual labour. All the members in a family work in the fields. The work is done in a healthy and pleasant surroundings. The people in the village have fresh air to breathe. You can enjoy the simple and pure food there. This village also has a school with 3 classrooms, which is the only concrete building I saw. Children in this village were very active and I saw about 12-15 children playing different games. They were shy as well as curious at what I was doing with the camera.
The houses in this village are mostly built of bamboo with thatched roofs. The bamboo walls are plastered with mud. Wall and floor are painted by a mixture of dirt, grass, and cow dung. Before and after rain, these houses need maintenance every time. They have sheds for cattle, sheep and goats. Some of the houses have poultry also. Roads here are very narrow and muddy. This village is very less populated compared to other neighbouring villages which are not so near. Every houses has a big open area at the front and vegetable garden at the backyard. Some houses have flower gardens in front of them. This school is made of bricks and plastered with cement. Villagers are free from pollution. The natural beauty of the village soothes the senses of its habitants. Neighbours in village live like family. They help each other in the hour of the need.
Morning scene of the village is completely unforgettable. Glimpse of village mornings can make anybody obsessive to praise it’s beauty. I went for a walk and I was refreshed by the amazing scenic beauty of the village. The Villagers rise early in the morning. They feed their cattle and clean their sheds. They have their decent breakfast and move out towards their fields for work. Even the paddy fields on either side of the roads were covered with green crops. I saw farmers ploughing their field. I could feel the cool breeze of the morning as I walked along the road. There is not much traffic near villages. So it is very calm and peaceful. Since it is an isolated island with no proper transport system, boats are the only means of transport which are not always dependable. Even that boat experience amazes you, by the cool breeze, sounds of waves of the bay of Bengal ocean and the green and beautiful sundarban forest around.
But, I felt bad about the roads, as they are narrow and littered with rubbish and filth. There is no proper drainage system and it might cause floods during the rainy season and the streets become the breeding ground of mosquitoes. Which may lead to an unhealthy environment and can cause diseases. Moreover, there are no ways or facilities to educate them about such and unhealthy living.
People here are very simple. They not only dress simple, but also show simplicity in their meals and work life. They were very friendly and cooperative to me. The only slight problem I found was the language. As they spoke only Bengali and couldn't even understand Hindi. But I managed to have a conversation with them. One elder of the village showed me around the village. Children were very shy to talk, but not to pose. Maybe because of their curiosity about the camera. If you’re here to not only visit places but also learn about the culture of the country, you should definitely think about staying in an Indian village.
In rural areas, agriculture is the main occupation of the people. They depend on the prosperity of their crops and the fertility of the soil. Unfortunately, the present condition of Indian agriculture is extremely deplorable, so much so that for the last many years Indians have been suffering from food shortage. Our agricultural machinery is out of gear.
The old method of ploughing the land is neither fruitful nor productive or much good. But in this village I found they are using both conventional and mechanized processes for their work. Now, use of pesticides and fertilizers has increased and large areas have been brought under a high yielding variety of seeds. It has led to the green revolution in India. The productivity of agriculture is very low. Farming depends mainly upon monsoon rain. Most of the production comprises food crops. Farmers own small pieces of land where they build their houses and grow crops primarily for consumption and work in other agricultural fields for their bread. Even storage facilities for crops are inadequate.
This has helped in increasing yields per hectare as well as total production of different crops. There are many reasons responsible for the low productivity of agriculture. About one-third of land holdings are very small, less than one hectare in size. Due to the small size of land holdings we cannot use modern ways of cultivation. Government support to these isolated islands is not clear.
Well, every experience teaches one or the other thing. The visit to this unexplored beauty was astounding. I got to feel the pure environment touching my soul. I wonder what happens if this village gets developed and gets all the facilities as our cities. On one side electricity is necessary but it leads to the television, telephone, Internet and you know what happens after the Internet enters this village. As everyone, I also need the village to be developed. People in this village should get education. But I don't want it to lose it’s charm, the smell, it’s purity of the magical environment that I experienced there that is not attainable in the city we live in. Probably, those 3 days were the best days I had in my life. No network, no calls from anyone, no traffic sounds, nothing was there that would remind me of my city life.
Exploring this “Jamespur” was one great experience. It taught me how a man can lead a great life in a simple manner. But I doubt here, is their happiness limited? I mean, they don’t see the amazing things that exist outside of their village. I always dreamt about seeing each and every corner of this world and still I want to. My question and my curiosity is, is it OK to have a very simple and happy life within some limits? or is it really necessary to experience the feel of each and every corner of this world? Anyhow, one should experience village life once in a lifetime before these real villages are eaten by a monster called technology.
PS: I visited the village in 2017, so all my experiences and thoughts are of that particular visit. Present changes and developments in the jamespur village may change the whole story. Thank you for reading. Have fun.