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Edge of the wild

PAKHIRALA, SUNDARBAN, INDIA – April 2015. Shephali Mandal, 36, was attacked by crocodile on 2005 during shrimp fishing in the river. She doesn’t go to river for fishing anymore after the incident.

Edge of the wild: Living alongside the largest mangrove,
photo essay by Tuhin Subhra Mondal

Rivers, human beings and forest create a strange bond in Sundarban, the largest mangrove forest located at the delta region of the river Ganges. The rivers nurture and support both forest and human beings yet maintaining a fine line of separation between the two. When one or the other crosses this line, conflict arises.

Sundarban is home to many exotic species, most famous being the Royal Bengal Tiger. Also it is home to some of the most poisonous snakes and the famous salt-water crocodiles. Most of the cases of tiger and crocodile attack happened when the people crossed into the forest for to collect honey or wood, or for shrimp and crab fishing along the bank. In very rare cases, tigers have crossed the a wide river to venture into the localities.

But when the river diminishes, the situation gets worse as there is virtually no barrier between the human habitat and the forest. Ever increasing population and demand for resources have put an unnatural pressure on the forest and threatens the fine ecological balance that sustains this fragile forest.

PAKHIRALA, SUNDARBAN, INDIA – April 2015. The husband of Haridasi Mandal was killed by tiger 25 years ago but she didn’t receive any compensation or support from the Government after the incident. Now she mostly relies on shrimp fishing in the river to support herself and the family.

PAKHIRALA, SUNDARBAN, INDIA – April 2015. November last year, husband of koushola Mondal was killed by tiger. The body was not recovered. She didn’t receive any compensation from the government. She is 25 years old and has a 3 year old son. She is unemployed and has no other source of income other than shrimp fishing in the river.

SAMSERNAGAR, SUNDARBAN, INDIA – April 2015. Sudha Munda, 65 is a resident of Samsernagar, Sundarban. Her husband Subal Munda was killed by tiger attack in 2005.

SAMSERNAGAR, SUNDARBAN, INDIA – April 2015. Haridashi Mandal’s husband was killed by tiger 3 years ago during a honey collection trip in the forest. Now she goes to the forest to collect woods for fire and does shrimp fishing in the canal near the jungle.

PAKHIRALA, SUNDARBAN, INDIA – April 2015. Kaushalya Mandal, 38, is a resident of Pakhirala, Sundarban. She does not let her husband go to the jungle for the fear of tiger attack. Her husband works construction on a part time basis and has to go away from home for long periods, sometimes 7-8 months to cities like Kolkata or Chennai. She works odd jobs as maid and cook for the local guest houses.

PAKHIRALA, SUNDARBAN, INDIA – April 2015. Gitarani Mandal’s hisband was killed by tiger 27 years ago. After the incident, she survived by begging and shrimp fishing till her children were able to work. She couldn’t afford education for her children. “How could I afford education for hem if I couldn’t afford food?” she asks. She didn’t receive any compensation from the Government.

PAKHIRALA, SUNDARBAN, INDIA – April 2015. Subhodra Moandal, 56 is the sister in law of Gitarani Mandal. She also lost her husband to tiger attack 5 years after her brother in law was killed. She also survived by shrimp fishing.

PAKHIRALA, SUNDARBAN, INDIA – April 2015. Atikai Mandal, 55, was attacked by tiger during a honey collection trip in the year 1990. He survived the attack and fought the tiger back. Still he goes for honey-collection each year to the jungle because regular income is not enough to support his large family.

PAKHIRALA, SUNDARBAN, INDIA – April 2015. Sambhu mandal, 6, studies in class 1. His father, Mukunda Mandal has gone for honey collection to the forest this year and has not been back at the time of taking the picture.

PAKHIRALA, SUNDARBAN, INDIA – April 2015. Bachha is Sambhu’s friend and his father has also gone for honey collection to the forest.

Q&A with Tuhin Subhra Mondal

Photography is…
Photography for me is the most important language for communication with the world. It is a tool to look beyond the obvious and bring out a deeper understanding of what is happening around us. I think the most important purpose photography serves is to raise important questions in the viewers mind and compels them to think beyond what is apparent.

Photography and writing…
Photography and writing should compliment each other, more so in present context when we are bombarded with the overabundence of images. Photography and writing should work in tandem to ensure that both are not lost in the great outpour of information that the internet provides us everyday.

Who left the biggest impression on you?
I am deeply fascinated by works of Diane Arbus. She left a lasting impression on me. Also I was influenced by the works of Sally Mann, Joseph Koudelka. Among Indian contemporary artists, I am fascinated by the the works of Prabuddha Dasgupta. Its sad that he left us untimely.

Tell us a little about yourself
I am a 28 year old documentary photographer based in Kolkata, India. I first took a camera in hand when I was in college, back in 2005. It was a film DSLR and continued to take photos for the next 3 years, till the films became few and far between and I ran out of money to buy some! Then after graduating I shifted to digital in early 2012 and started with street and documentary photography. recently I have shifted my focus on long term projects, mostly on issues / phenomenas that has generally been stereotyped by the media to look in a particular light. My aim is to get e better understanding of these issues so that better and more effective measures can be taken about them. I started this project with this aim and want to look beyond what is generally portrayed as a human-tiger conflict in the Sundarban region, because I believe there is much more to the story than what meets the eye. I also try to collaborate with local people to get a better insight into their lives and work on a personal level.

tuhinTuhin Subhra Mondal (website) I am a freelance photographer based in Kolkata. I take a keen interest in documenting social issues. I have been making photographs from 2012.

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