As a journalist from Kolkata, North Bengal to me always represented separatist movement. On a cup of tea in Kolkata we often discuss that all separatist movements are there in North Bengal and nothing much lies in the future of it. But today when I am writing this article it gives me immense pleasure to pen down that my perception about North Bengal has changed. From the darkness of separatist movement this time, I have seen the rising sun of life and love there. Let me first tell you how my perception changed. My channels senior producer and documentary film maker Ajoy Roy (ajoy da) took me to cover man elephant conflict and orange festival on North Bengal.
The first day when we reached Lava in the evening, where we were briefed by the Divisional Manager of Kalimpong Forest Division, Mr Ujjal Ghosh that one cycle rally is to start next day to promote Ecotourism in this hilly tracts of North Bengal. The first thing which hit me was till last year we have been doing story on how unrest in North Bengal has jeopardized tourism movement in these parts then how come this movements are on. More so I came to know that that all total 42 participants from North Bengal including some from Bhutan will participate in this rally and this is how orange festival will start here.
Next day morning what I deciphered that this entire rally was conducted by Help Tourism with support from Forest Development Corporation, but what was interesting was the people’s participation here. We sitting in the plains have a perception that people here only wants separate state. On the other hand I came to know that these cycles will be used by the tourists in this region. While our car was going down to Samsing ,(a forest village located in Bhutan border) the beautiful view that accompanied me ,compelled me to think that why only negative aspects are shown by us, this is not the North Bengal known to me, this is a beautiful place which needs to get more attention positively. As all this was going in my mind we reached Samsing, at first sight I fell in love with this place, an entire green valley in the lap of hills. As I was fully involved in my interaction with this place I realised that this is that pocket of North Bengal which has been known for militant activity via Bhutan border. We checked in the house of one of the Lepcha community leaders, and we were received with great warmth here. I was wondering how such festival could take place here?
Next day was orange festival and when all this things were on in my mind I saw how this entire village was getting decked up for this festival. More so this entire festival was coordinated by these villagers, it was this moment when I again thought that is this my new introduction to North Bengal. Amidst all this separatist movement people here have gone beyond all the political agenda, they have taken their community baton of development in their own hand. Next day morning was a new day for this Mondalgaon village in Samsing as people for the first time were getting ready to welcome orange festival. I came to know that a major portion of orange that we enjoy as Darjeeling Orange goes from this region, so I was excited to experience this new day, as we entered the mela ground I met Geetha Rai , who came from Tinkathari village near Bhutan . Geetha was very happy as this was the first time that she has got the right to sell oranges of her own tree in her own hand , she was blasting with happiness sharing all her feelings how this festival has change her life. Her husband HARI RAI made her a bag with a fabric of orange tree in it, where they planned to keep their earnings. Her smile is the most precious memoir which I have collected from this place. I also interacted with XERONA, 27 Years old young girl, of this place working in Darjeeling, she told me how this festivals idea has united different communities of this place and the conflict that people perceive between different communities have also withered away. She was telling me about her childhood days, where this Tinkathari village from where my orange seller Geetha Rai has come was known for militancy and how now things have changed. My entire day passed by watching different communities dance, from Maruni dance to Rava dance , from Bihu of Assam to Swaruti dance of Darjeeling. I cannot express it in my words that how mesmerising was this experience. Maintaining their identity how in their own effort they are taking forward their culture.
It was early morning as the sun was waking up , I was leaving Samsing I felt that yes , now when i go back , I will be able to project North Bengal in a better way, because this is a new sunrise for this place and for my perception. Thanks to Ajay da, Raj ( Help Tourism) Shekhar Das (Film Director) who have introduced my North Bengal to me. My salute to people of North Bengal, who are putting tremendous effort in changing the scenario.
Article writer Kamalika Sengupta.
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