Letter From The Sundarbans

Plight of India's pandemic 'tiger widows'

Families lose their breadwinners after returning migrants risk fishing in mangroves for survival

Above: Widow Bina Mondal, who works as a daily wage worker on Satjelia island to support herself and her two daughters, is contemplating working in Kolkata.
Above: Widow Bina Mondal, who works as a daily wage worker on Satjelia island to support herself and her two daughters, is contemplating working in Kolkata. ST PHOTO: DEBARSHI DASGUPTA
Above: Widow Sabita Mondal and her two sons at their house on Satjelia island. Her husband was among 24 reported tiger attack victims in the Sundarbans last year.
Widow Sabita Mondal and her two sons at their house on Satjelia island. Her husband was among 24 reported tiger attack victims in the Sundarbans last year.ST PHOTO: DEBARSHI DASGUPTA

SATJELIA AND BALI ISLANDS (The Sundarbans) • Mr Sasanka Mondal feared that death would strike him down with a constricting hold on his lungs, leaving him gasping in his final moments.

If not Covid-19, he worried, then hunger would kill him, clawing tortuously at his entrails.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 16, 2021, with the headline 'Plight of India's pandemic 'tiger widows''. Subscribe