There are plenty of waterbodies in West Bengal
yet I had never been on a streamer. So this
winter my father decided to take us to the
Sunderbans on a streamer, called launch in local
parlance. On a Saturday morning we went to
Sealdah and boarded a train to Canning and from
there onto the chartered streamer or launch
named MV Sundari.
As we boarded the MV Sundari we were greeted with a hot cup of tea and snacks. The vessel steamed off and soon reached the midstream of the Bidyadhari River. What a sight all around! The banks were full of sundari trees and that is how the Sunderbans coined/earned its name. We saw plenty of cranes and storks and many other fishing birds with long beaks. There were several inlets or creeks all around us. There were a couple of small boats hovering at the mouth of the creeks. We wanted to go in those directions but the captain refused us permission for fear of tigers. The Sunderbans is famous for its tigers and crocodiles. I was wondering if we would be lucky to see one during this trip.
There was a murmur around on board - the men had spotted a tiger in the water quite close to our streamer. A tiger had jumped from the bank of a creek and concentrated on its kill in one of those boats. Once it had a good grip, it held a man by his neck and jerked the body in such a way that it cushioned on its back. Then it jumped off and landed on the bank in one giant leap. We saw it disappear into the thick jungle with the man still hanging in its jaws. We were all shaking from this ordeal. It could have been one of us!
The reactions were divided on board the streamer. Some were delighted to have witnessed from close proximity such a live instance of a tiger stalking and escaping with the kill. The others were all too scared to continue the joy ride. We chose the middle path and stayed inside the chambers downstairs. I was excited to have witnessed such an ordeal but at the same time I was frightened. However I enjoyed the trip.