The Hungry Tide

The Hungry Tide Summary and Analysis of Chapters 29-32: Dreams through Landfall


In a continuation of Nirmal’s narrative, Horen and Nirmal decide to stay at Kusum’s for the night. In the morning, Nirmal takes in the beauty of the island and is amazed at the well-organized settlement. Though the settlers aren’t educated in radical politics, they’ve created a well-functioning society. He asks Kusum to bring him to the leaders of the settlement so he can help them.

The leaders give Nirmal a tour of the settlement, and Nirmal offers to help them. But what they need most is someone to pressure the government to let the settlers remain, and Nirmal can’t help with that. Instead, he suggests teaching the settlement’s children, which initially doesn’t interest the leader, but he agrees. When Nirmal tells Kusum about his plan, she’s puzzled and asks what he can teach the illiterate children who need to work to help their families survive. Nirmal replies that he’ll teach them to dream.

The water begins to flow quickly, and Fokir is struggling to hold the boat steadily. Piya dips her hand in the water to check the depth of the water, but Fokir yells and pulls her back into the boat, and two crocodiles come up exactly where her hand had been. Fokir hits them with an oar to make them go away. After they disperse, Fokir rows away. When he stops to rest, he asks Piya if she’s ready to go back to Lusibari, and she agrees.

Nirmal’s notebook continues. When Nirmal returns to Lusibari, he feels a renewed sense of purpose, feeling that the storm that led him to the island transformed him. But when Horen asks what he plans to teach the students, Nirmal is unsure. He thinks of trying to connect the myths the children know with geology, and imagines a lesson. For example, he could show how the Ganga riverbed flows into the ocean and the movements of the Indian subcontinent in prehistoric times, using the river dolphins as proof that the Indus and Ganges had come from the same sea. He can also include a story about the Ganges river from the Mahabharata.

Fokir has difficulty rowing against the current, and Piya tries to ask if he has another set of oars. He gives them to her, and she rows with him for hours. They arrive at Lusibari by nightfall, and he leads Piya to a door and says “Mashima.” Then he vanishes just as the generator’s lights come on, and Piya wonders how she’ll find him again to pay him. She yells after him, and an old woman, Nilima, comes out of the house. A moment later, Kanai comes downstairs. Piya explains what’s happened and that she’s been with Fokir, and Nilima explains how worried Fokir’s wife has been. She invites Piya to stay in the guesthouse, and Piya agrees. Kanai brings Piya upstairs and comments about feeling lonely, but Piya ignores him, and Kanai returns to Nirmal’s study to read.


Nirmal’s surprise at how sophisticated and well-organized society is on Morichjhãpi shows that despite his Marxist beliefs, he still has a sense of superiority due to this education, which leads him to be surprised that a society of uneducated, impoverished refugees could function so well. Furthermore, though Nirmal is eager to help, he learns that many of his skills aren’t relevant to the island, and even Kusum doesn’t understand why he’s so excited to teach illiterate children. Nirmal’s experience on Morichjhãpi thus demonstrates that he may need to re-evaluate his values and his sense of who can create a well-functioning society.

Once he decides that he wants to teach the children, his plans for lessons are highly idealistic, and it becomes apparent that he may struggle to retain his enthusiasm if the lessons don’t go as he expects. Yet Nirmal’s drive to help the children is genuinely admirable, and his willingness to teach local myths despite his personal disbelief in them shows that he has grown.

Fokir knowing about the crocodiles before Piya does serves to underscore how well-connected he is to nature, and how important his experience and expertise is to their survival. Piya’s panic after he abandons her upon their return to Lusibari emphasizes just how different the well-populated land is from the more rugged environment on the water. Nilima’s surprise that Piya and Fokir were able to communicate so well suggests that he has perhaps underestimated Fokir and shows the extent to which his skills are incompatible with life on land, where he is seen as a lowly fisherman.