By Swathi Mukherjee
It’s actually unbelievable that just a casual conversation over dinner with Indranil and Soumi Mukherjee, the pillars behind VIBGYOR, would lead to such an exciting and memorable experience in my life. Maybe for Bengalis, all novel ideas come over meal sessions, which is the special adda ( Group Chat). On that day, Indranil invited me to join the VIBGYOR photo tour planned to Purulia, West Bengal in the month of March 2020. I was tempted to say yes immediately, but with my personal and professional commitments, my immediate reaction had to be controlled.
My maternal grandmother’s family was from Amdia, Purulia, West Bengal. It is my mother’s and uncle’s birthplace. So lots of memories clustered in mind during my travel back home after meeting Indranil and Soumi. Back home after the meeting, I discussed with my mother about VIBGYOR PHOTO TOUR TO PURULIA
and her immediate response was, “Please proceed, don’t worry, just go ahead, and bring just a handful of soil from there, my janma bhumi matti (soil of my birthplace)”.
Thus began my journey to the Land of Palash, Chau Dance, Jhumur and the Red Mountains, to be close to Nature WITH VIBGYOR- PHOTO TOUR TO PURULIA, SCHEDULED 13TH TO 15TH MARCH 2020
Day 1, 13th March 2020: My entry to the iconic Howrah Station Kolkata (maybe after almost 20 years). After reaching the station I relaxed at the Ladies waiting room (as I had reached too early out of excitement), I walked through the platform to locate our compartment, and finally was relieved to meet my fellow participants. Inside the compartment, the ambiance was too thrilling. I remembered my college days when we used to do our fieldwork in remote and different villages.
Throughout the journey, we kept munching snacks such as jhal moori (Kolkata’s special puffed rice) and having tea and got well acquainted with each other. Through the whole train journey, which was for almost 6 to 7 hours, we developed a feeling of connectivity amongst ourselves.
We arrived at Purulia almost late night but the unbelievable hospitality by Sudip-da and his friend, who had organized the internal travel from station to Hotel really touched us. They welcomed us with all smiles and enthusiasm, and what fun to travel in Toto (like a rickshaw) late night. Upon reaching the hotel we were allotted rooms; I shared with 2 female VIBGYOR participants, Veenaji and Sateja. Again I remembered my college days when we had to share rooms with our classmates. (As nowadays I usually have independent accommodations).
But it was such fun to be together and share our moments. Though we had never met each other or interacted with each other earlier, we bonded really well. It was just amazing…we chatted, sang, listened to music, played our famous Antakshri..(various moods of songs sung in all forms.. alphabets, words, emotions.) giggled and thanked at the end to the Almighty for introducing me to such Divine souls.
Day 2, 14th March 2020: Began early morning with our adventure: having meals and snacks at local dhabas (food outlets), the vibrant colours of Palash, lively and energetic performance of the Chau Dancers, listening to live Baul songs, clicking pictures for our memories, interaction with tribal community, visiting the village hamlets, feeling the stones, the soil of the land; the experience has been so memorable.
It was drizzling there, and the petrichor emanating from the ground made my heart swell up with nostalgia and gave me the true merriment of being amidst nature. The unconditional love shared by the community, their patience and participation, their involvement and input, when we were clicking photographs and above all their enthusiasm really made me salute them. During my interaction with the villagers, one thing was made clear that their children are now going to school.
However, the best statement which made my day was in connection to the Chau Dance they responded… “Didi, we are teaching our next generation too, to protect, preserve and sustain the tradition of our tribal culture”. It was really a proud moment.
Day 3, 15th March 2020: Finally it was time to bid adieu to Purulia, Lal Matti(Red soil) and Lal Pahad(Red Mountains) village and the song of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore playing in my mind “Baanglar Matti Baangla r jol, baanglaar baayu, Baanglar phal, Purno hauk, purno, hauk, purno hauk Hey Bhagoban” (The soil of Bengal, the water of Bengal, the air of Bengal, the produce of Bengal. Maybe blessed, Maybe blessed, Maybe blessed, O’My Lord).
VIBGYOR participants returned back to Kolkata Howrah station thanking each other of what we have experienced and learnt, with sincere commitment to meet in another VIBGYOR Innovative expedition in the future.
Back to Mumbai and shared my video clippings and photographs with my mother. I handed over a small container with Lal Matti- the soil of her birthplace (janma bhumi). She had tears of joy in her eyes, this memorable moment I will cherish throughout my life. Indeed, it was well organized and well-coordinated and I convey my heartfelt thanks to Indranil and Deepakji. I would extend my gratitude to VIBGYOR family members for their support, encouragement to all. It is my privilege and honor to be associated with VIBGYOR and my best wishes to the coming year and looking forward to being a part of another exciting journey.
Articulated by Swathi Mukherjee, +919820319629 firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Author
ExecutiveDirector/Trustee The VatsalyaFoundation
Swathi Mukherjee was born on 8th September and is a resident of Mumbai. She has pursued her graduation in Psychology and Masters in Social work from the College of Social Work, Nirmala Niketan. Her additional qualifications are Management in Health and Hospital Administration from BMA; and Announcing, Broadcasting, Compering, and Dubbing from XIC. A trained Bharatnyatam dancer and a theatre artist, Swathi has also learned Ravindra Sangeet and Bengali Modern songs. Her hobbies are traveling and photography and has also found solace in spiritual retreats in the Himalayas.
Swathi's Social work began in 1986 when she was introduced to the rehabilitation work with the visually handicapped at National Association for the blind. She started her career journey in 1989 with The Vatsalya Foundation. She is presently holding the post of Trustee/Executive Director in The Vatsalya Foundation, Mumbai working with marginalized communities in Urban and Rural regions.