The Predictions of perishing chastity – Chilapata on fame or flame - All about North Bengal

The Predictions of perishing chastity – Chilapata on fame or flame

The Opportunity to Visit Chilapata:

A Hillman finds it hard to seek pleasure in plains except their endless vastness and the visible horizon. I have an exception because I am not a traveler, but a writer and a social worker. I see more than a province or a state in West Bengal, I see countries with different languages, cultures and traditions marking their territory dramatically after every 5kms in West Bengal. There are destinations yet to be discovered more by the local travelers than the guests of foreign origin. So, I won’t be ashamed to say that I am still a stranger in my own place.

The name was still implanted in my curiosity box – Chilapata Forest. I just had some floating information about the place that it is a forest adjacent to Jaldhapara National Park and connects with Buxa Tiger Reserve as well. I had never planned a scheduled trip to explore the place. It just happened co-incidentally that Mr Raaj Basu (Whom I call Raaj Da, an ideal figure in the tourism Industry of India, who has nearly brought a revolution linking tourism directly with its other ancillaries to prove the superiority in any social, and ecological and economical development policy), gave me a call to be a part of coordinating and training team of West Bengal Tourism department. I readily gave my consent to his proposal.

I like travelling by local train that can be boarded at Siliguri. The train goes till Alipurduar Junction. My choice is not because travelling by train is cheap in these areas, but because of the picturesque beauty of tea gardens, forests and villages, one can capture through the window. A bit childish experience is when the train enters a tunnel and it becomes totally dark where nothing is visible. There are two such tunnels on the way. I was told to get off the train at Hasimara Junction and catch a local transport vehicle that goes to Kuchbehar. I did the same, and enjoyed the local Bus ride that seemed like I was listening to a radio channel that had lost its frequency and was switching automatically to different channel of languages. A small school kid stood wedged between our waists. He was not holding any handle or support but was carelessly bursting the bubbles of his chewing gum. I thought of interrogating my young host, “Can you understand the different languages being spoken inside the bus”. He held his jaws still and gave a quick attention towering his tiny ears. “They are speaking Rava, Urao, Mech and Raajvanshi.” The little host replied.

My Perspective of Chilapata:

I always prioritize the communities of a place before knowing the flora and fauna of a place. They give me the precise ideas to unlock the concealed knots that otherwise are seldom opened to explore the place. There are always things, palpable and impalpable about a place. My 14 days were spent meeting people of different forest villages like Kurmai, Chakuakheti, Aando Busty, Bania Busty, Mednabarie and many more.  The common faces resembled the brotherhood and the forest culture they shared being the inhabitants of the same forest. Like the rich Bio-diversity, the communities too bear the diverse religion, culture and language. The difference of this change can be dramatically experienced just by walking to the next village.

Apart from rich wildlife and flora, the forest of Chilapata has an enigmatic view of three rivers taking artistic turns through the forest serving life to the animals and plants of the forest. The nature too has blessed the place with life dividing three tributaries of the same river and making it flow through Chilapata. The more interesting work of nature is that the three tributaries have again joined the same river just after they cross Chilapata as if proclaiming their accomplished task given by the nature.

One of the common places that everyone would prefer visiting in Chilapata is the abandoned fort of King Nal. The villagers have a strong belief that whoever goes to the fort with a true heart and makes a wish, the wish will be granted by the soul of the benevolent king, who still cares for the people of Chilapata. It was the time of Holi, a festival of colors celebrated hugely in India. I was in surprise to find that all the cultures of this region celebrated Holi as their prime festival of the year. The families gather in one house and arrange a feast slaughtering a whole pig and appetizing it with the local rice wine and beer. It was a sight that interpreted Chilapata chastity well with impalpable actions more that words. The face stained with different colors did not recognize any culture and religion but only the laughter of celebration and oneness.

My everyday was a fortunate day because even I didn’t enter the jungle I sighted many animals from the village like Elephants, civet cat, Common leopard, Indian Bison (Gaur) and many rare species of birds and butterflies.  Most of the tribes of Chilapata follow the culture of Matrilineality system where the surnames are inherited or down from mother to the family. It is quiet strange to imagine a young boy departing from his own family to live with his wife and in-laws. “It was more stringently followed earlier, but now the society is changing. So it depends on the couple” said Ravi Rava, one of the community leaders of Rava Busty.

The Initiative of West Bengal Tourism for Chilapata:

The tourism department of West Bengal has obviously taken a praiseworthy initiative to develop the place into a tourism model village, but apart from the promising and progressive dreams it also has its own dark site that is seldom realized. “The government is trying its best to develop home-stay tourism under rural tourism concept in Chilapata, so now the village will be highly developed and we will become rich” one of the villagers recited his happiness with sparkling dreams in his eyes. All the villagers are getting trained on rural tourism concept, covering most of the innovative topics of marketing and promotion. I know the economic benefits the initiative will herald for the villages, and I say this because I am a part of the training team, but I too have a corner filled with questions and answers.  I visualize the perspective of the village after 5 years of tourism promotion, when the chastened smiles will no longer bear the true respect but will master the technique of marketing and commerce. The lanes of the villages cascaded with the natural aroma of wild flowers, dry leaves, and pure soil will be replaces by the expensive room fresheners.

The feasts and the Jungle festivals will take the shape of commercial marts, struggling to earn the credentials and promotions. I know that the faces of current proud owners who represent the village not as a product but their home will be perished. The owners will turn into Guards, cooks or the silent spectators by the power of lease agreements. The local beer, colorful roosters, local artists will be a story or a part of optional menu to serve the luxuries showcased in rich hotels. The forest villagers will be banned to enter the forest because it will be opened to the paid tourists. I wonder if paying money can eliminate the cause of trespassing act in national parks and sanctuaries that are so stringently forest against the forest villagers.

There is always more to reveal, and more than that to conceal when it comes to define the policies that promise to construct the structure of so called- Development in the Rural areas. Above all, this article about Chilapata is a call to the travelers who always reach the destinations to make the points of comparison that they later boast or complain saying, “My god! Look what has this place become”, because if we are expert, then we are expert in creating complains.

Ultimately, I am not predicting this to barricade the praiseworthy initiative, but there are ways and solutions that can still give a turn to this predictions. The only thing that is needed is a more locally understanding approach embracing every petite information and experiences of the community workers to design a plan that will truly paint the future of our villages without hindering their chastity.
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