"People that I meet and pass, in the city's broken roar,
Faces that I lose so soon, and have never found before..." (Sara Teasdale)
Everybody has a story inside him or her, no matter how dull and boring they are on the outside. Inside them they have all got some incredible worlds of stories; and that’s not just one - hundreds or thousands of them, maybe… These people are not the so-called celebrities whose success stories often inspire us, rather they are carrying the agony of their untold stories. They are far apart from socio-economic & cultural similarities of each other, yet representing different facets of our society as an uniform corpus.
During the journey as a Social Documentarian, they taught me that that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel – which I feel, should be the most sought after virtue for an aspiring documentary photographer.
This psychedelic social expedition is continuing in quest to reveal some more untold stories. This is their story, this is our story...
Bhaskar Fouzdar and his family were solely accountable for the glorious rise of Dash-Avatar Crafting heritage of Bishnupur, West Bengal, that was developed couple of hundred years ago under the aegis of Malla Kingdom of Bankura. A non-ambulatory lore in his nineties with complete loss of speech, hearing and vision, is now becoming a piece of exhibit by his owns. Once an artist who created thousands of traditional paintings, now becomes a victim of strings of senile maladies, even without receiving proper treatment.
Ustad Meeraj Nizami (89) is the senior most qawwal of Delhi Gharana and 37th descendent of one of closest disciple of Hazrat Nizamuddin Ayulia. After successfully accomplished the painstaking job of carrying the 700 years old legacy, he is not very confident about the future of classical qawwali in India.
Aklema Khatoon is one of unanimous example of youth entrepreneur from a backward community. Though she belongs to a poor Muslim family of a remote village of North Dinajpur district of West Bengal, but 23 years old Aklema’s individual effort to form her group and becoming involve in different kinds of activities related to agricultural livelihood changed the face of Kanaipur village in the entire district of Uttar Dinajpur, West Bengal. With her passion and dream to socially develop her locality, she succeeded to smile by overcoming the obstacles, of which poverty and conservative attitude towards girl child were on the top. She should be regarded as the "Smiling Change-maker" of our society.
Swapan Kumar Das-aka- Kalu Da has dedicated his life for social theatres. For last thirty years, he is traveling far-flung areas of rural India to encourage children & youths to become involve in theatres and helping them to narrate their own social stories. With his efforts, he produced lot of talents who are now engaged in different theatrical movements of India, but Kalu Da's effort would never been recognised in our society.
(I shot this image while he was reading a magazine, the back cover page of which states - "Can everyone do this?")
Phulchand Mahato-aka-Pol Mahato of Gobindih Village of Purulia, West Bengal has travelled half of the globe because of his enormous talent of Chhau Dance. He is also involved to encourage the children and youths of his community to learn this intangible cultural heritage. Yet at the end of the day, he is happy to recognise himself as a farmer of his own soil who never forgets his root.
Kalpana Sardar belongs to a poorest of the poor tribal family of Sunderbans, West Bengal. She has dedicated her life in the woman empowerment and education of children of the rural Bengal. She is also inherited some indigenous tribal folk art form that she always tries to inculcate among the young generations. Instead of being discouraged, she got inspiration from her family background that helps her to remain associate with the roots of the society and her innocent behaviour, honest approach and a beautiful smile always help her to accomplish the job at hand.
Debasish Mondal is a Doctor by Training (whom we often referred as Barefoot Doctors) and also acquired natural talent in wood crafting. With his talent in wood crafting, he visited many cities of India to exhibit the pieces of his work. His clinic-cum-studio is located in Jalghar of Dakshin Dinajpur, West Bengal, one of the remote area near the India-Bangladesh border. Not only that he offers free treatment to the people from poor communities in his clinic, but also he is involved to encourage and train the demotivated youths of his area to learn wood crafting. Till date some 50 odd youths became expert in wood crafting under his guidance and involve in different government projects with Debasish.
(Dakshin Dinajpur district of West Bengal is one of the most vulnerable area of migration of youths who become construction labours in the places like Delhi, Haryana, Mumbai etc. and often return back with serious physical anomalies or diseases.)
Jirul Chandra Mahato is one of the few masters left to carry the legacy of indigenous folk form called Jhumur, once prevalent in Chota Nagpur Plateau. Having no commercial viability and lack of patronage distracts the youths of the communities of the plateau from this amazing folk art form.
Lakkhi Pal** (96) is among one of the few witnesses left with the wound of the atrocities of India-Pakistan war of 1971. She spent more than 30 years of her life in a faint, gloomy room of one of an old age home set by Uttar Pradesh Government in Varanasi, which established by the order of Ms. Indira Gandhi, then Prime Minister of India specifically for the war victims. Lakkhi Pal's husband was died during the communal violence in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and like many, she also migrated to Kashi as a refugee widow. She brought to this place sometime in early eighties and since then became a permanent resident of this place. Most of her old migration accompaniments went to 'Nirvana' and the places filled up by her new 'friends in white', who have been left to their fate in Varanasi's dirt stained streets by their indifferent sons and daughters.
** Mispronounced as Lucky Pal
Asharam Mahato is running his local breakfast shop in a remote village of Purulia called Kareng. But that does not stop him to explore and travel entire India. Since last 20 years he is running his shop for 6 months and travel rest of the year. Without set any destination and without making any early reservation, he is leaving his home for an unknown destination with a small bag carrying only the essentials. Carry less and leave your comfort at home are the principle ideas behind Asharam's travel. In the era of our the imported concept of backpackers, he is an unanimous example of a true Indian explorer.
Susmita Munda is an unique representative of the confused & aspirant youth of the country, esp. of the remote and rural India. The inhabitant of a remote island of Sunderbans and a student of sixth standard, Susmita is one of the million victims affected by the satellite television infiltration in the far-flung India. Being an ardent fan of Deb, a popular superstar of Bengali movie industry whom she never missed to watch in television, she can go to any extent to meet Deb. And her family feels proud about her immature attitude. Also the posters of her heroes & heroines of both spiritual & silver screen worlds in the wall of her home are the evidences of her confused & immature state, which is receiving constant encouragement from our society, instead of guiding these bright youths.
Being a passionately professional teacher in a primary school located in a tribal area of India-Bangladesh border of Balurghat, Dakshin Dinajpur, Sabyasachi Chakraborty fights to introduce the text books in local languages. Himself being a master of the local 'Alchiki' language, he wants that every school in the country like his school should also have teachers who knows the local language as well as understand the local culture. By implementing his concept, he was successfully reduced the school drop outs. Sabyasachi believes 'if communication breaks the barrier, then the communication should establish in such a language in which we make conversations in our dreams. This prevents conflicts & confusion among children and promote participation'.
It is her second pregnancy, and instead of rejoice, Purnima Munda is scared. An inhabitant of one of the most remote and underdeveloped village called Gondudih of Purulia, Purnima is just 8 kms away to access the basic healthcare facilities for a would be mother. But the distance is not just numerical, it's very much physical. She needs to access first 5 kms by walk because of absence of any defined road and then rest 3 kms as a passenger of her husband's bi-cycle through a rough and uneven road. She also serves as a daily wage labour, even during her pregnant condition, to support her family.
Badal Lohar belongs to the oldest tribal community of India called Santhals and run his small tea shop amidst Jaypur forest range of Bankura, West Bengal. His colourful life, addiction for cannabis, kind heartedness and social work within his capacity makes him famous among forest dwellers. And Badol is multi-talented also - he is a singer, poet, actor. But beyond all these facets, his amazing talent of wall painting that depicts his own social environment, esp. the jungle dwellers and elephants (Jaypur range is famous for the Asian elephants), is an unique example stating how these tribal people still respect their socio-cultural attributes.