© 2007 Sayambhu Choudhury
Silver of the Sea
Digha, WB, India (2004)
     IN the state of West Bengal of Eastern India, Digha happens to be a small but one of the most popular seaside resorts in the country. In one of his letters to his wife in 1780, Lord Warren Hastings, the first governor-general of British-ruled India, referred to Digha as the "Brighton of the East". The residents of West Bengal are termed "Bengalis", and it is perhaps impossible to find one Bengali who hasn't been to Digha for a holiday.

Although it may sound so, Digha is but not at all a paradise. Many problems plague the place today. The beachfront is jammed with conjestion; scores of unoraganized shacks and hotels succumb to the record number of tidal waves that wash the shores every other day.

The rural fishermen have a birth-long strong bondage with the Bay of Bengal - the sea that laps the shores of Digha. From time immemorial, they have been fishing for livelihood and handing down their skills to children.

The fishermen operate in groups of 25 or 30 at a time. A day generally begins at around 3:30 in the morning and extends till mid-afternoon. Wrapping up nets, securing boats and other after-work compulsions draw in the evening. Selling fish - 'the silver of the sea' - at wholesale prices to traders on a regular basis is the only mean of an earning. Thus, in the unfortunate event of a tidal storm or a typhoon, which are frequent along the coastline, many a living face temporary yet utmost danger.

The end has perhaps already begun. Today, the sea-water level keeps rising, thanks to global warming, and poses a silent threat for fishermen along the Digha coastlines. The government thinks little about them... and so do we.

For hundreds of families, tomorrow has become so uncertain.
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