West indian people

We The People | Green thumbs and good hills: Raska’s “Bhalo Pahar”

Bhalopahar. Doesn’t the name sound like well-being? The Bhalopahar Society in Purulia, West Bengal was founded by five dreamers and writers associated with Kourob (a renowned annual Bengali magazine that dares to offer writings outside of established literature schools). The group used up all their savings to promote reforestation. It is the poetry of green amidst the coarseness of depleted forests and wilderness. It is an ashram run by Kamal Chakraborty alias Kamalbabu. If you ever encounter it, you’ll know that its elements smell of earth, tree sap, tribal skin, and a bit of bitterness against city civilization. You can find him any day, dressed in white dhoti and ganji, probably near a tree or with tribal children or writing in his cluttered hut. Over the years, Chakraborty has purchased over a hundred big a of land which he converted into a forest called Raska. The land here is lush with 1.20 lakh of trees. It restores nature and feeds birds, insects and small animals. He and his friends educate young Santhal to preserve their tribal culture. At present, the Bhalopahar Society, which began on September 1, 1996, has 55 like-minded souls who have joined together to rebuild the greens of the laterite soil of Purulia.

(This appeared in the print edition as “The ‘Good Hills’ and Green Forests of Raska”)

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Text and photographs by Sandipan Chatterjee

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