When the tail lights of Flight AK-62 finally blinked for the last time before disappearing behind the cloudy sky towards Kuala Lumpur, I heaved a sigh of relief. My dream of 8 years was coming to fruition.
Ever since I visited the batik manufacturing unit in Kuala Lumpur in 2006, I was dreaming about a similar centre at Santiniketan. Batik was introduced by Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore in the early 1930s in Santiniketan, but it was languishing in a time warp. Batik as an art form had progressed much ahead but not in Santiniketan. If we could reintroduce this here, many people could get an opening for a new livelihood, we thought.
Batik was introduced by Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore in the early 1930s in Santiniketan, but it was languishing in a time warp.
The first faltering step to make this dream real was taken in the Silchar conference where the RIPR was the well-known, vastly travelled Rotarian Gulam Vahanvaty. I tentatively asked him for some Rotary contact in Malaysia. Sure enough, after returning to Mumbai, he sent me two names with their contact details. The next obvious step was to get in touch with the DRFC and the Governor of RI District 3300 Dr Rajindar Singh and Rtn Kirenjit Kaur respectively.
Quick correspondence resulted and was followed up with a face-to-face meeting at the Sydney Convention with the DRFC and in Kuala Lumpur with DG Kirenjit. District 3300 agreed to become our International partner for a two-way VTT-cum-batik training centre at Santiniketan.
After a long application process, TRF was satisfied that this was a worthy project and approved the project costing $32,410.
After undergoing a 7-day rigorous and successful training in Kuantan, Malaysia, the four-member team, which included my daughter-
in-law Bahar, who holds a Master’s in Arts and who was sponsored by me, returned and we set up the training centre at Shyambati, Santiniketan. The team leader and the lifeline of this project was Rtn Prasanta Ghosh. The centre was inaugurated by the famous painter and Rajya Sabha MP Jogen Chowdhury.
It started functioning in June 2015 and has already trained 80 people in the art of batik. Recently, we presented two shirts to visiting RI President K R Ravindran and RI Director Manoj Desai when they visited Guwahati. We expect to train 200 batik craftsperson in the next two years.
(The writer is member of
RC Tagoreland, D 3240.)