People’s land – land’s people


They are some thirty families in this hamlet. Almost all homes open into the serpentine alley which on one side connects them to the larger hamlet of the village and on the other…

I take a pause here and remember our conversation. Gurubari’s home was right on the end of the alley on the far side, much separated from the main village.

‘Can we see your house?’ I ask. She shies away from my gaze, a gesture I take as welcome. We follow her in through the door crossing a room into a courtyard. Another lady joins her from one of the two inside rooms. Both halve their shyness by company.

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‘Ka naapat ha?'(What are you measuring?) She asks watching me look through my 5D. I click pictures as Debu talks to them. We have a tacit understanding of each other’s moods.

I miss the conversation Debu engages in, where he explains to the two ladies that we are here to shoot a film and the instrument we are carrying is a camera to record video and not something to measure lands.

The ladies get easy. They point towards the end of the alley and tell that the forest started right there. Debu looks at the now absent forest and notices a black hill standing before him like pain. Its coal dump, the ladies explain. The conversation continues.

In my misfortune of aspiring for camera bodies like alexa with master primes, I hear Debu ask them. ‘So before coal mining started, these were your lands?’

Gurubari’s answer still echoes as I write now –

‘People’s land? Silly! its land’s people’

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