Untold hill tales on record

The Telegraph
VIVEK CHHETRI

Darjeeling, Dec. 22: Three-hundred students of Sikkim University have fanned out on a unique mission to study different aspects of the region and record untold stories for posterity.

The varsity’s Winter Sojourn is unique in more than one way. “We have formed eight teams, each comprising around 30-35 students studying different subjects at the varsity. We have identified eight themes which the students will look into from different perspectives for a proper understanding,” said Sohel Fridas, a geography teacher and the leader of a team.

The issues identified are as varied as Gorkhaland agitation, oral history, demilitarised international border studies, social space, cardamom cultivation, tea industry and water.

“For example, a team is on a 10-day visit to the Darjeeling hills to study the tea industry. While chemistry students are looking into the organic and inorganic aspects of the garden, physics students are studying the tools used in the industry,” said Fridas.

“We are looking at documenting a comprehensive profile of the industry, focussing on market constraints, pricing, labour acts, welfare schemes, productivity and owner-worker relations among others,” he added.

The team, which is currently in Darjeeling, has already spent five days in the Makaibari tea garden in Kurseong. They have been staying in the labour quarters, where stakeholders were asked to fill up a questionnaire.

While one group is in Darjeeling, other teams are visiting the Indo-Bangladesh and Indo-Nepal borders. “These teams will study the socio-economic and culture-related issues in border areas,” said Fridas.

Every group is being accompanied by a teacher from the varsity’s history faculty, who along with the students are recording the “oral history” of the region.

“We have come across various people and they have many stories to say. We have recently met a 103-year-old woman who turned out to be a treasure trove,” said Sangmu Thendup, history lecturer at the varsity.
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www.kalimpong.info

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