Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Hope in Bhaglapur

This will go a bit off topic of dolphins…or may seem to…but it is absolutely related to their conservation. Because it was obvious from the beginning that the issue of overfishing was looming large in this area, and that the problem was not going to be solved without also managing the people and their ability to continue to survive, during my first trip to Bhaglapur last year, I began brainstorming about how the hell we could ever fix this. I fully understood, that if we could not, then we would loose the battle to save this species.

I was also struck by the horrible situation that the villagers were dealing with. They live on the very bottom of the society there (or very close to). Houses with walls but no roof, dirt floors. You can imagine the picture. And absolutely no money to put their children into school (which costs money in India). I realized we had to get these kids out of this cycle of poverty which was at least partially contributing to the inability to break away from fishing or whatever others might be able to do in this small village. To get an education could open other doors with more economic security. So……We had to find a way to put them in school. But how?

While thinking about this, riding on the back of a motorcycle through the city something came to me. Not a perfect solution, but maybe something. I have yet to see a home in the area that appeared to exude the presence of wealth. Trash is everywhere, there is no indoor plumbing so the bathroom is the small trenches that line the edges of the streets. Animals like pigs, goats, stray dogs and cattle walk the streets, adding to the fresh excrement everywhere. It can be shocking to see and walk through on first run. Oh who am I kidding, it is shocking every time I have done it. And I have walked those streets a lot. I still have to force the “ I am not taking notice of this horror you people are asked to live in” look from my face, so the people of this place are never made to feel uncomfortable.

Even in all this, there is something I found absolutely beautiful and unique (besides the
Photo: Jlewis, TDRF
people). Each and every house, no matter how small or large, has a unique door with amazing character. Some are wooden, some are metal, some have stones making up part of them. Most are painted, but each one is a different shape, design, color etc. They are all unique, and they are all amazing to look at. And because they are all worn (wood grains showing through the paint, the bottom on some is splintered away, each has hardware, some which may be partially broken). All of this to me imparted considerable character, charm and interest to each home. So even in these deplorable conditions, there was something that was beautiful.

Photo: JLewis, TDRF
I realized then that people in the states would also appreciate these, in the artistic rustic style they represented. AND…that these “pieces of art” I was considering, might allow us at least a starting point to raising money for the education of the local children. Doors representing opening a possibility of hope for them. So that was the inception of the idea for our project called the “Doors of Bhaglapur”. During this trip I spent a day photographing these doors with the idea to then use them in a fund raiser art show back in the states. We at the Tropical Dolphin Research Foundation are now working with the University research team under Dr. Sunil Choudhary to develop a plan for our first pilot of this project. Our intentions are to start with one village, working to raise money for the children currently in 10 of these families through high school and maybe even beyond (depending on the money we can raise). We invite you to follow us as we work to develop this, and please let us know if you live in the DC or NYC area and would like to help us develop this fund raiser and can suggest people what may be interested in purchasing this type of art for such a cause. Put a kid through school. Save a river dolphin! I know…not quite so simple…but not a really far from the truth!

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