Sunday, February 11, 2007
A rescued Ganges River Dolphin
In an earlier post I had written:
The well-being of Calcutta can be seen in the light of the highly polluted state of the river Hooghly, along whose two banks the metropolis lies. But the nearly extinct Hooghly dolphin, locally known as shushuk or shishumar - with powerful mythological resonances and identified as a protector of children - still finds cause to leap up from the polluted river, and cheer the onlooker.
I had first seen an image of the Ganges Dolphin as a child in a picture book on wildlife (which someone took and lost). In 1994, I saw the dolphin for the first time when a few of them leapt up from the river Hooghly, as I stood on the river-front with a group of school students from Bangalore whom I'd taken on a tour of Calcutta.
While working on a city environmental management project during 1995-97, I had suggested using the image of the dolphin as an icon of the healthy city. I had been unable to get an image of the creature. Later, while I was working in Howrah during 1997-2000, and taking the ferry every day to cross the river, I always looked out to spot a dolphin. And I did manage to see them several times, and even kept a dolphin sighting diary. Whenever I spotted one - chubby, tubby - my immediate impulse was to jump and hug it tight, like a beloved!
Another companion on my river crossings was a small shoe-shine boy. I wrote a story about how the river dolphins reunited a little girl from a riverside village in Bihar with her brother and play-mate who had gone away to work in Calcutta.
Yesterday I finally came upon an image (on the net) of the Baiji, or Yangtze River Dolphin from China - which looks similar to its Ganges / Hooghly cousin - and thus to images of the Ganges Dolphin.