The passage was taken from Amitav Gosh’ The Hungry Tide (2004), page 126-127, as Piya the heroine contemplated her way of life onboard a simple and rustic fishing boat. Piya was an Indian-descendant American, a cetologist, who did research on riverine dolphins in the Sundarban, the great mangrove forest regions in the
Bay of Bengal, between and India . Bangladesh
Interestingly, the book is not only about the life of a cetologist who is out of place in her own ancestral country. In line with Gosh’ previous book (The Glass Palace), the book also talked about
’s socio-politics, notably during the problems of India and India way back in the 70s. But Hungry Tide is not merely about social conflicts. It’s also about respect, showing how Hindus and Moslems of the Sundarban worships similar deities while retaining their traditional believes. It’s also about love that bloomed between Piya, a woman of science and Fokir, a man of the sea, an ordinary crab fisher, with the modern and dashing Kanai – typical smart Indian guy he was – in the middle. Bangladesh
I admit that The Hungry Tide is one of my favourite books, though it took me some time to fall in love with it. I bought the book two years ago in
, and I kept it on my shelf without even reading a bit of it. Then, several months later, when I was very busy doing the thesis writing, I somewhat picked the book again, out of curiosity and boredom perhaps, and started to read the first two chapters. Australia
And then, I could not put it down. Not only because Gosh observed Dr. Isabelle Beasley, a good cetologist friend of mine during her tenure in
, and used her as the model for Piya. Not only because it talks of Mekong River and cetaceans, the two subjects of the many subjects I love. India
For as I read the book, I felt like looking into the life of a girl I have known for years. A girl who loves whales and dolphins, who did her research in the magnificent
. And for an Indian/Asian/Indonesian aficionado cetologist like me, the book becomes the Bible. land of India
Yet, I write this post not only to present what Piya thought of her life. Rather, I would like to share some things that I’ve felt recently, as of late, about my contemplation on science and spirituality.
My friends always asked me why I studied whales and dolphins, as if I have nothing better to do. I can answer with many strategic replies, but the truth? I don’t know. It’s as if I’m attracted to the cetaceans as a lover meeting her loved one. I don’t know. Perhaps the songs and the social play. Perhaps their loving gestures. Perhaps their playful nature. Surely because of their intelligence. But there’s always something more whenever I come across them, particularly the whales. Something that makes me believe that I am meeting another intelligent sentient, who is perhaps wiser than human, for it does not destroy the Planet it is inhabiting. For that very reason, is it not enough that I salute them and try my best to protect them from my fellow species?
And here’s what I have learned about science and spirituality since a few days back. I owe my new friend Gurudev in explaining many things about the subject. Here’s my conclusion:
Science should be in pursuit of Truth. By extension, research should be a Re-search; i.e. a subset of the Search. Search for Truth.
Science should be in line with Spirituality. It should be a subset of Spirituality, something that Lord
Krishna called as ‘Jnana Yoga’ or self-inquiring.
Science should be a self-inquiry towards the inner path, towards self-development. For the betterment of humanity and the Planet, and to understand the purpose of our existence in this Universe.
I also believe that humankind should be the caretaker of this Planet Earth. Not her ruler, let alone her destroyer. We, humankind as a species, are given a very holy job of safeguarding the Planet. If we fail, humanity fails, then our role will be taken away. The Universe will bestow the responsibility to another, more capable, species.
And I do not wish that to happen. Humanity once shone around 8,000 years ago during the Vedic Civilisation. Something went wrong then… our own stupidity made the technological wheel set to zero again. We did not learn then. Surely we should not fail in learning now.
And that’s the very essence of Science as a subset of Spirituality. Science should work towards the understanding of our purpose in Life, and not merely a sceptical attitude. Sure, sceptical attitude is needed. But I believe, it should still be in the pursuit of Truth. And somehow, inexplicably still, studying whales and dolphins help me getting closer to the Truth.