Karthik Subramanian

Sundarbans is a vast stretch of mangrove forests spread across an archipelago of islands in the Gangetic delta in India and Bangladesh. Inhabited by over 4 billion people and nearly 600 Royal Bengal tigers, Sundarbans is arguably the site with the highest frequency of human-animal encounters in the world.

In this landscape intersected by a network of waterways, the boundaries dividing the human settlements and the tiger-inhabited forests are ambiguous. The physical boundaries are constantly shaped and re-shaped by the tidal waves, governed as they are by the laws of nature. The mentally earmarked boundaries are regularly betrayed too, with the humans venturing into the forests seeking the forest products and the tigers straying into the villages in search of prey. The ensuing encounters often result in the loss of lives.

As nigh falls over Sundarbans the ambiguities become even more evident. The landscape feels dense, the visibility becomes deceptive and the air gets still. The atmosphere is unsettling yet calming. There is no clear sense of where the forest begins or the village ends. It becomes evident that the Sundarbans is a single entity. An entity wherein the habitat of one is continually encroached upon by another. An entity where all the inhabitants struggle to survive, assert their rights and yet manage to coexist, for there is a delicate sense of belonging that connects the people to the nature at the Sundarbans.

This project aims to explore the idea of boundaries between humans and nature in the Sundarbans - a place where boundaries seem only like conceptual mirages.

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