End of Day One In India

I’m staying in a guest house that is run by banglanatak.com who are the Indian partners for the project.

It’s a nice place, it has a sort of air conditioning and wifi too.

It is made a rather brilliant place by addition of Chotu. Chotu is the caretaker. His name means short one. He cooks, cleans the place, watches Bollywood and smiles at me a lot. He is brilliant.

Currently on the television there is a man in a tiger costume holding the body of a dead and incredibly well endowed girl whilst singing. This is Chotu’s doing. Oh hang she’s alive. Now they are both singing.

I am staying here with 6 post graduates from London Met University who are part of an EU programme to investigate and implement action to support tourist activities in the area connected with folk arts.
They are a mix of nationalities and all really engaged.
But sadly today one of their number was hospitalised after getting a mad rash. This has led to all sorts of advice to stop taking the malaria tablets we are all on.

Tomorrow we go to Purulia to experience some Baul music, meet some artists. I don’t have a full grip on what is going on or where I am staying but there has been plenty of mention of villages and roughing it so I am going to keep taking the pills. I can live with a rash.

Bauls sound like the right sort. They are a sort of wandering minstrel- singing story tellers. But also religious men who decided that the way to God was not through the mosque or the temple. Hindus and Muslims who- whilst still with faith- decided to live a different sort of life. And sing about it.

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Amitava is the man who runs banglanatak.com We met briefly earlier and he spoke about what he’s about and what the project is about.
They do a lot of forum work with HIV and other health issues. There’s a big trafficking problem in India. But it’s not engaged with by the communities, in the first instance not because people are happy with their young ladies being stolen in the night but because in the rural outreaches they genuinely have no sense of what trafficking is- they often think simply that their girls have gone missing. It all seemed very vital and important.
He used to be a software engineer in California before returning to Kolkata. He reminded me a lot of Marcus Romer whom I met the other day and who used to be a dentist. It’s strange the different paths we all take to this.

He also spoke about livelihood. This project I am on, and plenty more, is centred around the endeavour to make those who locally practice Indian folk art able to survive on it; by creating communities of artists, self help group, share the resource, centre around something, be in a position to be able to take advantage of tourist and foreign opportunities.
Many of the things we discussed reminded me of the long running conversations about funding back home. I am not suggesting the two are the same- I don’t compare the chronic poverty in some areas of the world with the idea that many UK artists’ work is not properly financially supported.
However that said a number of the potential solutions, a number of the ways that such a discussion can be made practical and helpful are not a million miles a way. In any case it made me think about the HUB and what we are trying to achieve in South Leeds with a central, shared, artist held resource. Which was a useful way to spend the time when I couldn’t leave the house because the rains were coming down. It was extraordinary- like someone had shut off the lights and opened a tap.

I may well be off the grid tomorrow and the next day. I shall return. It’s really useful doing this- it gives a structure to the day and it’s good for me to have sit down and try and catalogue my thoughts.
If you’re reading this- thanks for keeping me company. Whilst I am sat typing, news has just arrived that in fact the lad in hospital may well have chickenpox. I’m pretty sure I have had it before. Poor bugger- he’s only young and a long way from home.

Tomorrow Purulia and singing renegades

Alan
Kolkata

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