The Hungry Tide

The Hungry Tide Summary and Analysis of Chapters 45-48: Besieged through Leaving Lusibari


Kanai continues reading. Nilima returns from her trip and warns Nirmal that the government plans to take strong measures against the settlers. Nirmal hopes to warn Kusum in turn, but the government soon announces that no one can enter or leave Morichjhãpi, and there are rumors of violence. A group of teachers invite Nirmal to travel to the island with them to try to help, and he agrees. When they arrive, they see people loading people and provisions into a small boat on a neighboring island, and the boat is soon attacked by the police when the passengers refuse to back down. The passengers shout “Who are we? We are dispossessed,” and Nirmal is deeply moved. The police boat crashes into the smaller boat and destroys it, and the passengers fall into the water. Nirmal and his fellow schoolmasters try to pull them onto their larger boat, and one man reassures Nirmal that Kusum and Fokir weren’t on that boat. The police order Nirmal and his group to leave, and they are forced to obey.

Kanai becomes so absorbed in his reading that he forgets about dinner, but when the generator goes out, the room gets dark. Moyna soon arrives with a candle, but accidentally breaks a lamp as she tries to light it. Moyna tells Kanai that she’s glad he’s accompanying Piya and Fokir so that they won’t be alone, and asks Kanai to talk to Fokir and explain that Piya is leaving soon. Kanai is a bit confused, but Moyna emphasizes the power that his words have. She suggests that she’s afraid of a romantic relationship developing between Piya and Fokir, but Kanai feels that Piya would fall for him, not Fokir. He asks Moyna who she would choose in Piya’s place, but Moyna only replies that only an outsider can talk to Fokir about such a subject. Kanai continues to press the issue, asking Moyna if she’s interested in being with someone different, but Moyna gets angry, saying that Kanai must act this way with every woman.

Nirmal writes of rumors traveling wildly about Morichjhãpi, from police destroying drinking water to a cholera outbreak. One settler escaped and spoke with newspapers in Kolkata, which pressured the government to relent. Nirmal and Horen head for the island in spite of the danger, and run into Kusum, who has dysentery, though Fokir is still healthy. Nirmal offers Kusum food, but she states that he must share it with the people in her neighborhood instead. Beginning to cry, she recounts listening to the police talk about preserving the island for wildlife, and how people across the world are paying for the protection of the island’s nature. She fears that these people care more about wildlife than people, and is horrified at the thought.

Kanai and Piya travel down to the embankment, where they find Fokir and Tutul catching a stingray on their boat. Fokir kills the stingray as people cheer, and then cuts off the tail and gives it to Tutul. Tutul is happy to receive the tail, but Moyna appears and angrily yells at Fokir about the importance of Tutul’s formal education and throws the tail into the river, dragging Tutul to school.

Soon after, the Megha sets off, towing Fokir in his smaller boat. Kanai and Piya see a Gangetic dolphin in the middle of the morning, and Piya explains to Kanai that there are far fewer dolphins in the area than there used to be due to some sort of change in the habitat. Kanai mentions that Nirmal thought the same thing. He also says that he’d be bored watching the water all day, as Piya does, and she says she can understand that. She states that she admires Fokir and how connected he seems to the water, and mentions that she may work with him again if she remains in the Sundarbans researching. Kanai is surprised, but Piya emphasizes how exciting working with Fokir is, making Kanai jealous. Kanai points out that Fokir and Piya don’t even speak the same language and live vastly different lifestyles. Suddenly, Fokir yells out that there’s a crocodile nearby, and Kanai translates, reminding Piya that she wouldn’t even understand such a warning if he wasn’t there. Frustrated, Piya walks away. Later, Kanai admires Piya’s attentiveness to her work, thinking of his own dedication to languages.


For Nirmal, the confrontation between the refugees and the police is likely so memorable because it’s the closest thing to a true revolution that he witnesses. His fixation on the words that the refugees say underscores the power of language, one of the central themes of the novel. Yet crucially, this statement isn’t powerful enough to stop the police from destroying the refugees’ boat, indicating that the power of language is limited and other forms of action may be necessary. The escaped settler’s words to the newspaper, however, did indeed create change, perhaps because the newspapers already have more power than the impoverished refugees.

Kanai asking Moyna whether she would choose him or Fokir shows his lack of understanding of the ways in which he can make women uncomfortable, and makes it clear that he hasn’t taken her words about him being unable to comprehend her decision to marry Fokir to heart.

Kusum voices one of the most important themes of the book when she recalls how painful it was to hear people prioritizing the preservation of nature over the lives of the refugees. Though conservation efforts may be well-intentioned, they can risk ignoring the ways in which conservation affects people living in the area. This is especially true of the case of the people around the world who donate to causes far away from them, likely without fully understanding local situations.

From Tutul’s reaction to playing with Fokir and his reluctance to go to school with Moyna, it’s clear he already loves the water. While Moyna does make a valid point that the job prospects for fishermen may fade away by the time Tutul is older, Fokir has made a significant amount of money through working with Piya, and it’s possible that similar innovations in the occupation could help Tutul as an adult.