East Himalaya

Friday, January 11, 2013

One India Spirit

‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’, which means Victory to Motherland India. Every corner of Arunachal Pradesh was echoing with these slogans for 11th and 12th of January, 2012. Small children and young men, local intellectuals and a few Government people were seen in the mornings following the local VKV band through the main street. Most of Arunachal Pradesh is isolated and not so much touched with modern development, but you will often meet a local person, highly motivated to serve the grassroots and more enlightened with their thinking, more than many other parts of India.
This is mainly because of the presence of VKV, Vivekananda Kendriya Vidyalaya in every corner of Arunachal Pradesh. Most of the time we portray Swami Vivekanda as a Spiritual Leader, but we often overlook that he was probably the only Indian who not only practiced and preached the ‘Spirit of India’, but convinced the world about ‘the global need for Indianization’. Understanding the global trend and the invasion on India, he had set several guidelines for the Indian Youth, which is beyond any religion or community. With the Chinese claim on Arunachal Pradesh and at the same time several countries recognizing the same as dispute between China and India, it is the foundation of India being laid by the Vivekanda Kendriya Vidyalayas in this most remote part of the country.
It is time that the rest of the country needs this spirit. When most of this country is bitten by consumerism, deafness and division, we need to turn around and say that we believe in one India, one spirit. If many of us will be able to rewind and see Lord Macaulay’s address in the British Parliament on 02.02.1835, we will realize that how difficult it was to westernize the deep rooted Indian spirit, they could only do the same through a completely new education system. It was for the first time that someone invaded India and did not Indianize themselves, but wanted their system to be implemented to serve their country, Great Britain. With Independent India, how much have we changed the system at the micro levels, the education system, the natural resource management system etc, have we really been able to Indianize them, are they really focussed at the main Indian population.
After 150 years of Swami Vivekananda, we enjoy a day off on his Birth Anniversary or at the most pay respect to him at one of the nearby Ramakrishna Missions or Vivekananda Ashrams, but none of us have followed his path to contributing to ‘One India’.  

Sunday, January 6, 2013

2013, Happy New Year

Reba Bose, Siliguri, 4th January, 2013:
As I have just returned to Siliguri, all my brothers and sisters asked me to where did I celebrate my year end? 31st December night, I was watching the reflection of the moon in the back waters of Kerala from my house boat. It was quite astonishing to know that there were more than 3000 floating rooms in Kerala. It took me back 20 years when young Babu explained on TV, how he converted the Rice Boat of Kerala into House Boat.
My last visit to South India was almost 50 years ago as the first excursion batch of Siliguri College, and there was always a wish to return, and hence I enjoyed all stories from the south. I did make a short visit to my nephew at Bangalore, but longed to make a longer exploratory trip. For my 02 grand-daughters and 02 daughters joining me, I could not think of anyone else other than ‘The Blue Yonder’ to organize the experience exploratory trip for me.
The temples and beaches of South India have always attracted visitors from across the world, but I wanted to differently and chose to do south, from East to West. Started with Madras (Chennai), followed by Mahabalipuram, where Ind-Eco was a good experience with the world famous Mahabalipuram Temples. Being on the Eastern Ghats, we did not miss the great sunrise. The Temple trails continued till we reached Pondicherry. Going back to Rishi Aurobindo and Mother’s Retreat was renewing the emotional energies to live life in full. A visit to South India would remain incomplete without staying at the Chettinad, the present global brand of South India. Though promoted as a village, yet it was hard to accept this fact as there is no agriculture, but this was more ‘Peace in Heritage’, the real feeling of Shantiniketan, and was nothing to be a village or a town.
A good break was at the Spice Village at Periyar. The SV was a nature reserve on its own with the Nilgiri Langur and the Malabar Giant Squirrel making this their retreat for the night. The hundreds of bats in the morning and late afternoon over the Spice Village is an experience. Not to mention about the bird life almost everywhere. The best at Periyar was the Spice Safari organized by Girish. Periyar and Chettinad were the first time experiences for me. I mostly enjoyed the elaborate local food at all places, the shakes of Savarna and the numerous hand woven saris. Enjoy the photos below.    

Saturday, January 5, 2013

To Luku with Love

It was in the month of December 1990, early at dawn we got down at Jharsugordha Rail Station and crossed over the railway track sat in front of the GSI camp, mainly to collect tents etc for children camp being organized by YHA of South Calcutta. We started our journey with 02 full loaded trucks and a jeep to our destination, Sonaridungri. This was the outskirts of a small village, beside the pond area of Mahanadi Barrage. Sonaridungri means the golden rocky hill in Oriya language. We reached at about 04 pm in the evening and while unloading the trucks, suddenly a man and a child of about 06 years of age ran towards us, and in their local language they enquired about our arrival at that site. While my friends were erecting the tents for our night stay, I Ranajit Mitra started talking with the kid and his father who said that he was a daily labour. I assured him a job from the next day morning @Rs.25/- per day plus food with us. He was overwhelmed with this and I could see his tear filled eyes. This was an unexpected reward for him.
He cautioned us about ourselves about 02 dangers in the area, lakra (wolf according to him, which we discovered to be the striped Hyna) and Bhhoot (ghost), which we could not find at all. The next day morning the kid joined us, and as we had language barrier, we could not communicate properly with him, but I found that his name was LUKU. Somehow I realised that Luku was my friend and we shared biscuits and other snacks with him. While we continued the survey, Luku helped us by folding the ropes and tapes, while his father started working under the instruction of Chorda (Bidyut Sarkar) and Raja Paul.
I returned to the tent to prepare lunch for all and found that Luku has followed me. I confirmed his that he should also have lunch with us. Suddenly, he disappeared in the forests and returned after half an hour with handful of wild spinach and he insisted that we have this for lunch. At lunch we discovered that this was one of the most tasteful of food that we have ever had. Luku now was a friend of everyone in the team and would disappear in the forests and would come back with wild berries. The days passed by and on 25th Dec ember morning the children participants and instructors joined the camp and we became busy with the camp.
We the advance team always looked forward to Luku, who shy fully, somewhat afraid of the city children with good clothing, stayed at the corner of our tent. We tried our best to involve Luku with the children of the camp, but after a long effort he found a few friends among the participating children. Many of the senior girl participants organized some good clothes from the little boy participants for Luku, which he refused. Luku and his father never stayed in the camp at night as they believed they would be attacked by Lakra and Bhoot. Inspite of the children insisting Luku to have food with them, he would always eat at the end with us, the advance team.
Finally on 31st December, when we were winding up and the campers were boarding their bus, the advance team were to leave the camp in the last vehicle. Luku was around us and we found out an almost new and very colourful woollen sweater left by a camper which we handed over to Luku. He put it on and ran to the forests. He came back with handful of berries and eyes full of tears for us. As our vehicle started, we waved to Luku, he was too sad even to wave back and stood weeping, the small boy in the colourful sweater with forests & the setting sun in the backdrop.
The next few days, I could not be a part of any of my friend or family programs. Every year, towards the beginning the memories of Luku return as waves of the sea. Luku, I still remember you.

This article has been contributed by Ranajit Mitra. He has recently been felicitated by Government of West Bengal for his contribution to Children Nature Camps