To Bon Bibi, From the Citizens of Sunderbans

Oh, revered mother,
did you see the rage of the cyclone?
did you see the wrath of the wind –
Pounding our homes to ground?

Oh, beloved Bon Bibi,
Amphan broke our embankments,
flooded our homes,
washed our crops away,
the water came toppling,
pushing us farther and farther,
into the margins
 of starvation and star-less nights.

But this is not new:
Our forefathers and foremothers
have battled cyclonic rage,
and our mangroves have adapted
to the ruins –
to the past they owe their present,
their now and new;
They are the first line of defence.

Oh, Lady of the Forest,
to you we submit our manifesto,
we are not the outlaws or outcastes –
we are the legitimate custodians
of the jungles,
the honey collectors,
the fishing and farming folks,
the rightful inhabitants of the 
country of eighteen tides.

Oh, guardian spirit
of the mangrove land;
The mighty mangroves
are the dense ecological cover
that protect the city from cyclones,
and yet we are always at the
 of environmental disasters –
A footnote on news bulletins.

Oh, beloved Bon Devi,
the vanquisher of Dokkhin Rai –
the demon king who preyed on our men
in the guise of tigers –
Do you not see how we
are all one today,
Men, women, children, tigers,
in the claws of consumerist lust?

Oh, divine lady of the delta,
For long we have lived in harmony,
Hindus and Muslims praying together
Our children have grown up hearing
tales of the Bon Durga –
Our faith stands corrupted today,
As our lands and loves,
Our rights and welfare.

For the agents of power,
the government and its companies,
like the colonial masters,
are pitting us against one another
People against regimes,
Tribals against tigers –
The cycle of tyranny continues,
like the cycle of cyclones,
in a tide of tempestuous apathy.
Oh, spirit of the Sunderbans,
to you we submit our preamble,
to keep resorts and theme tours at bay,
and to protect our labour and lore.

Sanhati Banerjee is a Kolkata-based independent journalist.

Featured image credit: Reuters