[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The questions kept coming in like a continuous ambush, curiosity further aroused with each answer. The crowd thinned out, leaving behind the keen ones to further continue the conversation but sometimes it just gathers a bigger set of people to listen. While i waited for the ferry to cross over to the island of Indrakpur, there was quite an assembly of people around me, some waiting for the same ferry and other locals just joining into the conversation.
“The FDI in pharma is going to hurt the common man’s interests, drug prices will rise with no regulation and competition to these big companies”, expressed a primary school teacher. This was the first commentary on the central government’s move that i had heard, a day after the government announced these new changes. A follow up of my queries about local health issues related to water, this mention of policy took me by surprise. Continued (and wise sounding) conversations with a locally respected individual often puts others into the comfort zone, relaxing them and helping throw in some of their own points and questions as well.
10 rupees against the two others had paid, i really did not wanted to argue at the collection point, more so because the ferry experience felt worth the money (though i did revert to paying local rates on ferries for the remaining part of the trip). Some final words with the good people on the ferry including the teacher and i was back to being alone in what seemed like quite the desolate but beautiful island. Walking through lush green fields of jute, a harsh summer sun and merrily chirping birds were the only company i had for the longest time.
Out came my sound recorder trying to capture the essence of this place, especially the chirpy sounds that are often my only company and which i have grown very fond of, though still unable to recognize/label the source at most times. I recorded for about a minute or two, packed my gear and got back to walking. Every ten steps i would turn around, looking for the source of various sounds behind me to find nothing but an empty stretch of a narrow cemented road and cows on the fields on an infinite munching loop.[/vc_column_text][vc_raw_html]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[/vc_raw_html][vc_column_text]
What i did not realize was that the sounds were actually old recordings playing on loop on my own device, accidentally left switched on while stowing it away on the topmost zipper of my rucksack right behind my ears. With the recorder now in hand, the walk continued forward to the other edge of the island where i would again get a ferry to mainland (intended destination: Chupi, North East from island). Smoking bidis and relaxing under the shade of trees at the edge of their fields, a group of middle aged farmers signalled me to walk towards them.
“What are you selling?”, asked the leader of the group, puffing his bidi peacefully as if it were a chillum. “Where do you come from?”, was the follow up question to: “i’m not selling anything but collecting stories of people who live near the river, trying to understand the effects of the changes in the river on people’s lives”. Sunken suspicious eyes suddenly lit up, keen to share stories especially with the sound recorder in view. Was this a survey by the government for improvements in the local conditions? Was this a changed authority? Saddened by the fact that i was not from the government, they anyhow decided to share their problems with me.
Separated from the mainland by a 250m wide stream, medical emergencies are the biggest nightmare of the people of the island. The ferry is there, one might remark, but how reliable is it in bad weather conditions, late night emergencies or maybe when the motors just refuse to spark? The locals have been demanding a bridge for a while now to take care of this issue and a tech-savvy young man exclaimed, “the name is ‘Idrakpur’ not ‘Indrakpur’, google maps even shows it at the wrong location”, can you get that changed?
On requesting for some drinking water, i was directed towards the North and asked to use any of the handpumps to quench my thirst with fresh cold water. The walk continued, the ferry to Chupi (which would have taken me very close to the river banks) supposedly non-existent from what the island dwellers claimed, in contradiction to what others had mentioned on the first ferry. I was continuously directed to the North-West, where i could then take a ferry and cross over to Purbasthali (unintended destination, North West of island). Walking through the island i came across a hand pump in front of a mud house in the village of Idrakpur, filled my LifeStraw and took a sip. My confidence in LifeStraw’s ability to clean the water made me drink it, but not before the pungent odour reminded me of: “Water water everywhere, not a single drop to drink”.
Second half of story to be published soon.
Moving Upstream is our homegrown project, a four-month walk along the Ganga from the sea to the source being undertaken by Siddharth Agarwal. He is accompanied by a team of researchers and and film-makers that is working to create a multifaceted experience revolving around the river. For more from the project visit: www.veditum.org/moving-upstream, and follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more frequent updates.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]