Folktea, blending folk & tea
By Anirudh Goswami
When Bhaskar Hazarika of Hookhmal tea fame and Col Roby Tom met each other at ‘FolkTea’ they hit the right chord straightway. The army man is from Tamil Nadu, posted at Lakhimpur and took his grand Suzuki VStorm 1050 bike to drive to Pabhoi at the foothills of Arunachal Blending folk & tea By Anirudh Goswami pruning begins in the gardens. It is organized inside a small tea garden called Hatipoti, near Mijicajan of Biswanath Chariali.
“Everything is earthy. Even no artificial lights. There are camps and the whole event place is illuminated by Hurricane Lamps and campfires and folk Pradesh to have a feel of staying a night inside the tea garden in camps and to know the folk culture of the reason in its truest and earthy form. On the other hand, Bhaskar the emerging hero of Assam Tea, was taking a mini break from the daily grind of making the best tea of Assam and drove from Moran to be in the ‘folkTea’ to refresh himself with the folk culture he is so proud of. And the writer flew in from New Delhi to join the party of folk tea at Hatipoti, a small tea garden in Pabhoi Biswanath Chariali, Assam. The two days event, held last month, brought together folk artists, nature lovers and campers with their music, theatre, songs, local cuisine, bonhomie and bonfires under a starlit sky. The result was an extraordinary experience!
The folkTea event, held in a small tea estate, with camps pitched all over, saw instrumental music performed by Bauls from Shantiniketan, tokari geet, ointom, kabam, jhumru, Bhaonas from Assam, villagers from Pabhoi enacted Dexason Bodh. The event served as a platform for unrecognised and struggling folk artists from the remotest areas to showcase their talent. That is the ethos of ‘folkTea’ a unique concept of blending tea, spirituality, folk culture and adventure into one package, giving something to everyone. Call it an adventure camp, cultural jamboree or selling a new tea story, folkTea is a fresh breath of air.
“The whole concept of the folkTea originated during the Covid when everyone was stuck at home. The first-year focus was primarily on the Bauls who came from Shantiniketan but then it grew and covered other tribal groups of Assam. The idea is to take out the narrative of the tea from economics to the people using the route of folk culture, spirituality and nature” said the founder of folkTea Mrinal Talukdar, a renowned journalist and author of the region. The two-day event is held every year on November end, just before the annual artists perform there in the open sky. We had Bhaona, Bodo, Mishing, Tea Tribes, Garo and Flute ensembles” said Debabrata Medhi, one of the organizers.
The occasion also served as an accidental rendezvous for some of the extraordinary people who were also part of recently concluded YouTube series ‘Discovery of Axom’. Although it is organized under the a is of the Assam based Nanda Talukdar Foundation, it is more of a community project where help and contribution pours in from friends and well-wishers in all shapes and kinds to make the event a signature event every year. “This is a unique event. I am mesmerized by the sheer rawness of the whole effort and its beauty. It was simply unthinkable to sit under a moonlit sky inside a tea garden, surrounded by earthy lamps and watch folk artists performing.
Echoing the same sentiment, nationally acclaimed entrepreneur Manoj Basumatary volunteered to be part of the next year’s effort. “This has to be sustained and it is great for the tea industry and folk artists. The event will bring in the interest of the new generation” Retreats like the folkTea will benefit both the tea business and folk performers apart from organically developing rural and sustainable tourism and serving as a melting pot of ideas and innovations. Such events also pique curiosity in the young generation in our traditional cultural heritage and values from which they are often far removed.