the passion for trekking and photography, Enam Talukdert,
a hunter turned nature lover, creates a bond with nature and
the people living in its midst
are three things that spurred Enam Talukder and Ronald Halder
to take on the journey along the river Shankha situated in
the hilly district of Chittagong. Firstly, the rare 'yellow
hill turtles', secondly, the bat-infested long tunnel through
which a stream flows, and lastly, the journey itself.
this was their second visit along the same route, by covering
a sprawling area and venturing out into the thicket on their
way across the reserve forest, they have made it an unforgettable
minimalist ambiance of his sitting room, parked on the thin
cushions that replace the usual modern-day arrangement, Enam
Talukder reconstructs their recent expedition. It is the least
taken trail and is a challenging one for any explorer. Enam
and Halder are seasoned trekkers and the natural treasures
that got revealed while en-route was mind-blowing. They were
enticed by the fact that they would be traversing virgin territories.
Fortunately they both are adept photographers of nature. Enam
alone has brought back a pictorial records of their 11-day-long
journey for the benefit of the rest: those who are too fainthearted
to get too close to the wilds or have little opportunities
a pilot who pick up his first camera while he was in the flying
academy. Inspired by his Japanese co-trainee, Toshimu, who
was a photographer for NHK, Enam first gave up hunting and
then turned into a nature lover and a photographer. "Toshimu
used to give photography lessons to one of my friends at the
academy, and I used to listen to his lectures while sitting
next to my friend, out of curiosity. During the question and
answer session the following day, I used to chip in with one
or two answers. This made Toshimo, who was several years our
senior, to ask me to learn photography as he thought I had
a heart for it," Enam recalls.
got hooked from that point on. His first camera was a Zenith
with a damaged lens that he recovered from their house. "It
belonged to my older brother, and Toshimo had it fixed for
me," says Enam.
taught him to see the world through the lens as well as through
the eyes that are sensitive to nature. "He was like a
mentor. He used to take me along whenever he went outdoors
to take pictures," recalls Enam. The former hunter had
already had some realisation about the effect of his hunting
spree on the dove population of his home village Amtoli in
Borguna. "I realised it when after the rainy season not
a single call was heard. I thought that it was I who had wiped
them out in the last few months using my father's shotgun,"
he ruefully remembers.
it was not until he met the Japanese and befriended him that
he fully realised the harm caused by hunting. With the arbitration
of Toshimo, the hunter's transformation into a nature lover
was swift. It was in early 1990s that he met Toshimo and by
mid-1990s Enam was a bird watcher and photographer with a
readiness to travel far and wide just to get closer to wilderness.
love affair with the hilly people began as early as the mid-1990s.
"Back then our journey used to end in Rangamati. Because
of the insurgency we always had to halt at that point,"
Enam remembers their early efforts to make headway into the
hilly districts. "Back then it was Toshima who had this
idea of handing a camera to a man who was a Murong. It was
an auto-focus camera that did wonders," he continues.
The man went deep into the land and came back with photos
of the lives of the Murong population. "For me that was
the first encounter with the Murongs. And after that it was
Toshimu who planned to visit their villages," Enam recalls.
for becoming a trekker, Enam recounts an incident that played
a pivotal role in his life. "I became a cadet pilot back
in the mid-1990s and it was the norm to provide the pilots
with free tickets to travel. I was going to Cox's Bazaar on
a vacation and forgot my ticket, so I had to buy one. This
slashed my coffer into half. I knew that it was impossible
for me to spend a vacation in Cox's Bazaar with the money
I was left with, so I chalked out a plan to go deep into Bandarban,"
Enam recounts the situation that led to his first excursion.
"A Murong friend called up the director of the Tribal
Cultural Institute in Bandarban and let him know that a pilot
of Biman was coming to visit. The director first tried to
dissuade me as he thought I was unfit to withstand the journey,
he even detailed out all the problems facing a visitor-- from
malaria to kidnapping," remembers Enam, who was determined
to make the journey.
the first headway into the hilly community of Bandarban district.
By then he was a full-fledged photographer. "I carried
my camera with me, but I took only three films which was not
enough as I discovered an endless treasure," The five-day
visit did not seem enough for him, nor did the three rolls
of films do any justice to the place and people of the areas
he visited. He knew he had to go back for more. That feeling
of not getting enough is still there. It still galvanizes
his passion to go back.
photographer Enam now holds sway over the Pilot Enam who now
flies the domestic fights. Whenever he manages to get some
time off, he tags along with his friends to go trekking. If
there are images that encapsulate Bangladesh in its pristine
condition, Enam and his friends are the prime sources.
met my bird watcher friends when a Marma friend of mine asked
me to attend a presentation by Enam Ul Haq and Ronald Halder,
the two nature enthusiasts," says Enam. "It was
them who inspired me to become a bird watcher," he adds.
the recent trip, Halder, a dentist by profession and an amateur
ornithologist, made a startling discovery. He spotted the
blue bearded bee eater, which Enam refers to as "the
heavenly find". Another bird whose presence in Bangladesh
had never before been confirmed was discovered. "A twit
of the bird was enough for Halder to recognise it, and then
he asked all the boatmen and the others to hush up, and rushed
to a boulder on the river upon which our tents were propped
up. From there he brought the state-of-the-art equipment and
delighted in recording the call of this rare bird that we
later come to know from Halder as 'mountain scops owl',"
Enam reflects on the zeal of the moment.
was at Remakri, where they decided to spend the night on boulders
defying the fear of the boatmen who slept on the warm sand
on the bank instead. "They revere the stones. The locals
worship a boulder with a depression in it. They are also very
sensitive to the river water and the vegetation that surrounds
them. Water commands the highest esteem, they will never even
urinate near it," Enam reveals.
Halder with their group of boatmen and friends, one of whom
was the 'headman' of village Thanchi who acted as their guide,
started from Thanchi. They reached the Shankha reserve forest
by crossing a sinuous route through Yanghé, Tindu,
Remakri and Boromodok. It was more than a 70 km long path.
"As we followed the river Shankha downstream, we had
to travel by dugout canoes most of the time," explains
Enam. "From Thanchi the group followed the flow of the
river and passed the Chimbuk Mountain ranges, that took about
11 hours," he continues. Shankha is one of the two exceptional
rivers in Bangladesh that flows from south to north.
the three key factors that drove the two trekkers, the turtle
was nowhere to be found alive. The evidence of it surfaced
in many a village. "We had witnessed the skeleton of
the turtle, the shells were shown to us. Some even told us
that they go hunting with dogs to look for these forest turtles
that never ventures to the water," says Enam. They did
not have the good fortune to find this creature, but they
had the luck to have stumbled upon a dead 'mountain scops
owl' during a search in the jungle at Remarki, as they were
also set out to search for a fall deep inside. On top of that,
they managed to reach half the portion of the bat-infested
tunnel, which figured second on their priority list.
was an amazing experience. We had a raft made by the locals
and started in the morning. It was a narrow passage of water
so we had to make a smallish raft. But at places there were
boulders that stood on our way, where one had to pass the
raft over the boulder to start again," Enam reconstructs
through the expedition, it was called off, "as we had
no idea what would lie ahead and what we would do if we couldn't
pass it by the end of the day," Enam explains.
Shankha river on the dugout canoe.
hospitality that they received was fit for kings. At every
Khumi or Murong village there were feasts in their honour.
In one village the chief even killed a 'barking deer'. "Tradition
overshadowed the concern for preservation, we were helpless.
But the food was mouth-watering, though the spread consisted
of dishes as exotic as bat," says Enam. At a Murong village
the chief had two wives -- one Tripera and the other Khumi.
"The two wives follow the tradition of their own people.
The husband -- the chief -- was equally magnanimous in his
hospitality; on our way home he insisted that we carry home
the special kind of rice that grow on his land," Enam
were snags, as in Modok, where there is a far out BDR camp.
"The BDR personnel cordoned off the village where we
had spent the night. It was six in the morning. They first
suspected us having dubious intentions, and the bunch of cameras
I had with me fed their imagination. We were taken to the
camp and the whole day was spoiled waiting for the CO to arrive,
who let us go upon his arrival at noon," remembers Enam.
are a treasure of natural beauty. The hill people live a life
that helps keep the echo system going. Enam did not miss the
opportunity to bring back the evidence, he spent three rolls
a day, which has become his normal rate of filming whenever
he finds himself among such exquisitely beautiful places and
(R) thedailystar.net 2004