Meet Rubel, a fourteen year old boy smuggling rice from India to Bangladesh. He has to cross the river Ganga acting as the international border. The same river eroded his home in mainland India. A fragile island called Char was formed within the large river.
Rubel, with his family and many homeless people settled in this barren field controlled by the border police. He dreams of going to his old school in India. But he fights on while monsoon clouds arrive inviting the flood, the river swells up again. “Char may disappear but we won’t,” smiles the boy.
About ten years back I visited a small village along the river Ganga to make a TV report on river erosion around Farakka Dam close to the India Bangladesh border. I met hundreds of homeless people who lost their lands to the nature’s fury. Houses, roads, mosques, schools, in fact, a complete village landscape disappeared to a watery grave before my eyes. But nobody really cared for those people and the lost land.
I followed them for years… to re-discover the whole community in an island that the river created within her course few years later. This fragile island is called ‘Char’ in local language, forbidden to enter since it falls under the jurisdiction of the border police from both sides of the river, India and Bangladesh.
I saw many lives changed to an existential absurdity that struck me.
And I took my camera again to tell the story of Char and Rubel, the smuggler boy I met in my journeys to the river, fixed as the border that moves.