Bhalopahar. Doesn’t the name have a feel-good consonance? 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 the established schools of literature). The group exhausted all their savings in order to promote afforestation. It is poetry of green amid the rudeness of depleting forests and wilderness. It is an ashram run by Kamal Chakraborty aka Kamalbabu. If you ever meet him, you will know his elements smell of earth, tree sap, tribal skin and a little bitterness against city-oriented civilisation. You can find him on any day, clad in white dhoti and ganji, probably near a tree or with tribal children or writing in his cluttered hut. Over the years, Chakraborty has bought more than a hundred bighas of land that he converted into a forest called Raska. Here, the land is lush with 1.20 lakh trees. It restores nature and feeds the birds, insects and small animals. He and his friends educate Santhal youngsters to preserve their tribal culture. At present, Bhalopahar Society, which commenced on September 1, 1996, has 55 like-minded souls, who have joined hands to rebuild the greens of Purulia’s laterite soil.
(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