The Hungry Tide

The Hungry Tide


Amitav Ghosh

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The Hungry Tide: Part 2: Mr. Sloane Summary & Analysis

The Megha reaches Garjontola late in the afternoon. Kanai, Piya, and Fokir take Fokir's boat closer. Piya is delighted to see the mother and calf again, but Kanai is perplexed by how boring the dolphins look. She tells him how she became interested in the Orcaella while in Cambodia. She took a motorcycle to a remote village outside of Phnom Penh, where one dolphin had been stranded in a tiny reservoir. Piya went back with coolers of fish. After six days of feeding the dolphin, which she named Mr. Sloane, it mysteriously disappeared. Though Piya heard it died, it was probably sold to an aquarium.
Piya's suggestion that Mr. Sloane was sold to an aquarium recognizes that there's money in what she characterizes as the exact opposite of wildlife conservation. When placed in juxtaposition with Kanai's assertion that there's money in conservation efforts, this adds even more nuance to the question of what should be done with endangered wildlife, and shows that money motivates both sides far more than care for the animals.
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Piya was then invited to survey Orcaella along the Mekong. She's been studying Orcaella ever since. When she finishes, Piya asks Kanai to ask Fokir how he knows the dolphins so well. Kanai translates that he heard about the dolphins in Kusum's stories, where they figured as Bon Bibi's messengers. Fokir came to Garjontola for the first time weeks before Kusum died, and he's been coming back ever since. When Piya met him, Fokir was taking Tutul to see Kusum's spirit on Garjontola. Kusum's spirit told Fokir to take Tutul home and then return so they can be together again, which worries Piya. Fokir begins to chant part of the Bon Bibi legend, but Kanai insists he can't translate it for Piya.
For Fokir, the dolphins are a way for him to connect to his mother and to local religious practices, as well as to the natural world. This shows how he uses these stories to unite various different parts of his life and of his identity to in turn, come to a more nuanced understanding of where he exists in the world. His insistence that Kusum's spirit believes they'll be together again is ominous foreshadowing; the fact that Piya is concerned by it shows that she's learning to accept the local culture as powerful.
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