At No. 2 Kataligaon, Mushalpur of Assam’s Baksa district, it was a wedding for all – villagers flocked to the marriage reception of Bhupen Rabha and Babita Boro on first of February with unique gifts. A message in the invitation card read – ‘Service to Mankind’ with the groom requesting people to donate old clothes and books for those in need. And everyone was happy to contribute to the noble cause.
“When we talk about marriage, it is usually about people, gifts and food. I thought of using this moment as an opportunity. Presuming that around 3000 people from far and near would be attending my wedding, I put out a message in the invitation card. People can take back an example from our village, an awareness message I intended to spread,” said Bhupen Rabha who is working as an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at a government college in Mushalpur.
As a return gift, the guests at the wedding were given a sapling of deodar cedar or Devadaru as it is locally called. “This was sponsored by the Assam Forest Department in order to spread the message of greener earth, and the need to plant more trees. The local ranger of Batabari helped us immensely. Those who got clothes and books got a sapling each,” said Rabha.
No. 2 Kataligaon was earlier accorded the recognition of cleanest village in Baksa district. Every road in the village has banners on both sides with messages on environment protection and society rules to be followed.
“We have three societies and work is divided between them to keep the village clean. The society members do all kind of work – cleaning cow dung from the roads to keeping a watch on anyone flouting rules. We are tribals, yet we prohibit the sale of liquor. Anyone found consuming liquor has to pay a fine of Rs 10, 000,” Rabha explained.
Rabha shared his idea with one of these societies, and though the villagers were skeptical of the initiative, they got together to help.
Rabha put up banners outside his house, and with the help of his European friend who was also his best man at the wedding, he organized a cultural show for the wedding guests where he distributed clothes to the cart pullers of his village.
Bundles of clothes collected in the wedding would now be distributed by the village society to those in need living in the community, and the books would be stacked at an open library for the villagers – Rabha believes it’s a big step to inspire them for quality education.
Asked about his wife, Rabha says she is ‘different’ in her own way, understanding and kind.
“She has been very supportive. We never though our plan would be such a success. It’s a love-cum-arranged marriage, and I can never thank God enough for Babita as my life partner.”
As people got to know about Rabha’s initiative, they are now keen to offer help and contribute for the cause.
“I gifted a set of books to Rabha and Babita. I am glad I could help, and at the same time bring out their story for others to follow,” said Monohar Rajbongshi, a local journalist.