A fabulously stimulating calendar has now emerged with a tremendously powerful message to address one of India’s most potent present day issues – the impasse at Kashmir.
Kolkata-based travel aficionado – Deboshree Ganguly has launched a clarion call to all Indians to travel to Kashmir and Ladakh and help peace and prosperity to return to the valley.
To coincide with the launch of her brand new bespoke travel and experiences company Onboard Flight D117 (OBF D117), Ganguly has brought out a landmark path breaking calendar called ‘Project Bismillah’ that will not just push you into planning your next holiday in Kashmir and Ladakh by seeing the mesmerizing photographs of the region but will also stir up the desire to help the Narendra Modi government bring back normalcy in the valley.
Ganguly believes it is the citizen’s duty to support the government in reaching its goals rather than demanding answers while the government works towards solving a difficult age old question like Kashmir.
Interestingly, ‘Project Bismillah’ is the brainchild of world renowned journalist and photographer Kounteya Sinha – a man known for being one of India’s most revered “Ideas’ man” whose brave and unconventional approach to projects have rocked the art world many times.
Kounteya spent a large part of 2019 in Kashmir, a place he calls his second home, shooting and interacting with the people and experiencing the ethereal region. Ganguly then accompanied Sinha on one of his trips in Kashmir and returned mesmerized and moved with her close encounters with invisible people, places and stories. She then commissioned Sinha to create a calendar for Onboard Flight D117 (OBF D117) that would help her bring commerce back to Kashmir.
The calendar which is expected to be launched later this month will surely blow your mind with its beauty and it’s deep philosophy. Bismillah literally means “In God’s name, I begin”.
Ganguly said, “Travelling changed my life. The road has been my most loyal friend and my most astute teacher. I have experienced it in my solitude and found in it my refuge. It has been my awakening – both from reality and fairy tale. Travelling taught me that this world is bigger than we think. It is more beautiful than we can imagine. It is never too late to hit the road. And trust me, it will change you forever. One of my recent travels introduced me to Kashmir – a place of tremendous beauty and deep philosophy. And it educated me forever.
She added, “The calendar comes at a time when India is deeply divided debating what could be Kashmir’s and Ladakh’s fate post the government’s decision to revoke Article 370, a constitutional provision that granted them special status. But we as a people have a responsibility too. If we return to Kashmir, stay in the house boats, travel fearlessly, there will be income for a few people. If more people travel, more income. More income means running kitchens which in turn mean less anger, frustration and violence. This would create an amicable environment for the government to do its bit and make Kashmir the prosperous place it has promised”.
Interestingly, this calendar also dates from October 2019 and not January 2020 like traditional calendars do. It’s because Ganguly wants people to plan their travel from the next month itself.
Sinha who is known for both his powerful words besides his tremendously powerful skill of storytelling through images says in his curatorial note in the calendar, “The greatest tragedy of a place is when we forget them. Nothing destroys it like isolation. Abandonment, as a result of conflict and disaster – man made or natural, causes its decay. Its lush golden sunsets or the magically whistling woods go silent. How long can a tearing performance last in an empty theatre. But the recent turn of events, whether for better or for worse – only time will tell – has left this living paradise empty. This is when culture s, customs, tangible and intangible traditions and folklore are lost”.
Sinha also says, “I have loved Kashmir and Ladakh deeply. I am not willing to leave it alone. This body of work is to remind the world what unimaginable beauty runs through the veins of Kashmir and Ladakh. It is to ask people to return to this paradise now – to give it back its much-needed sense of identity, dignity and empowerment. Our return will be a vehicle both to rebuild its economy and society. It will show them we care”.
Kounteya finally adds “Like John Milton had said in Paradise Lost ‘Long is the way and hard, that out of out Hell leads up to light. Awake, arise or be forever be fallen’. Let’s not lose paradise again”.
The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, recently hailed his work on the Diaspora live on television and radio during his famous “Mann Ki Baat” which was viewed by 446 million people.
Great campaigns have changed society in recent times. Nearly a week after US President Donald Trump signed an order to temporarily close America’s borders to refugees, AirBnB aired a campaign called “We Accept” which showed a montage of people of different nationalities along with the words: “We believe no matter who you are, where you’re from, who you love or who you worship, we all belong. The world is more beautiful the more you accept.”
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