The Hungry Tide

The Hungry Tide

by

Amitav Ghosh

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The Hungry Tide: Part 2: Besieged Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Returning to the notebook, Kanai reads that Nilima returns from her trip with news that the government plans to take action against Morichjhãpi. Nirmal wonders if he can pass information to Kusum. Soon, the government announces that nobody may go in or out of Morichjhãpi. Rumors of violence abound. The next day, a group of schoolmasters invites Nirmal to go with them to Morichjhãpi to see if they can help. As their bhotbhoti gets close, they see smoke and patrol boats circling. They approach a neighboring island and watch people load a frail boat with food and then cram two-dozen people in it. A police boat intercepts it within moments, and the passengers yell, "who are we? We are the dispossessed." Nirmal feels as though this is the most profound thing he's ever heard.
It's telling that for Nirmal, the most powerful thing about his visit is hearing the people in the boat name themselves and specifically, name their underprivileged lot in life—they're at the mercy of the police boat and, by extension, the government that controls the police and has the power to dispossess these people in the first place. However, it's also important that Nirmal fixates on the question and not necessarily on what it even means—it again illustrates his habit of getting caught up in theory and not necessarily considering how these things translate into the real world.
Themes
Language Theme Icon
The Human Cost of Environmental Conservation Theme Icon
The police boat rams into the smaller boat right in the middle, destroying the boat and flinging the passengers into the water. Nirmal and the schoolmasters try to pull people onto their bhotbhoti, and one man tells Nirmal that Kusum and Fokir weren't on the boat. When the police tell the schoolmasters to leave, they have no choice but to comply.
The horrific action of the police boat shows that simply fixating on questions and theory won't be enough to save these people; it will take actual action in order to facilitate any change in this situation.
Themes
The Human Cost of Environmental Conservation Theme Icon
Idealism and Theory vs. Practicality and Action Theme Icon