Riti Sengupta

 

Chinari 

 

At a time when the embers of a violent agitation for Gorkhaland were slowly dying down, I travelled to Darjeeling in an attempt to understand the situation in the hills and its people. This book  is a memory of my time in the quaint hill stations. Through drizzle and impenetrable fog, I became a part of the lives of the people I spent my days with. I travelled from one village to another, living with families who welcomed me into their homes and offered me food and shelter.  As I spent more time in this place, my understanding about the Gorkha community as well as the Gorkhaland movement began to change and my conscience demanded me to relook at the notions I had in the past. I began to realize that the fight for Gorkhaland is not merely a demand for territory - its roots lie far deeper. It is essentially a fight for social identity.

 

I sought out its history: a land of incomparable beauty originally inhabited by the Lepchas and other tribes; the British who took it for themselves in the mid-1800s so they could remember home; the vast tea gardens with which the British replaced pine forests to produce the world’s finest tea; and a demand for statehood which was almost a 100 years old. In the enmeshed lives of the people I photographed—of various castes, tribes, religions, and cultures—lived at the measured pace of a small town, I discovered a society which managed to  endure even under threat from cynical politics and a fading identity. With this book I have tried to look at the notion of identity and the sense of uncertainty in everyday life, merging memory with politics, to create a portrait of a place and its people.

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