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Exploring Realms of Unconventionality: Route2Festival

 “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” – Steve Jobs

Route2Festival was born from a simple concept – to make 48 hours the most memorable in the lives of a few strangers, in a rural setup far away from the chaos and madness of the city lights.

On the 21st and 22nd of February, a new movement was set in motion. Around 165 km from the bustling city of Kolkata, an organic farm called B.A.B.L.I, all of 12.5 acres, was brought to life with the eclectic persona of Route2Festival. The stage was set for the first edition of a new entrant to the festival circuit – an unforgettable two-day extravaganza was about to begin.

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Subhajyoti Guha with Sougata Roy Chowdhury

Route2Festival (R2F) is anything but conventional. Consider this: with an organic farm as its base, the festival grounds are essentially a residential facility, providing its visitors a plethora of options to choose from such as mud cottages, and even tents for an unparalleled experience. With music, dance, art installations, film screenings, nature and wilderness for the wandering souls, the mix also consists of ancient Indian board games such as Pasha– and even has a Mentalist wandering across the venue, leaving the attendees enthralled by the sheer eclectic nature of things.

Kaushik Bhaduri, one of the minds behind the festival, juggles a full-time job at a multinational company and a passion for travel. Bhaduri spoke to me over the phone, a couple of days after the festival, explaining that there is absolutely nothing – nothing mainstream about Route2Festival.

Many names on the festival circuit in India have risen to immense popularity in the last two to three years, often resulting in an increase in demand, as well as in ticket prices. Bhaduri spoke passionately about R2F, highlighting that it is not and will never be one of the ‘exclusive private parties.’ The team has taken great efforts at making the festival accessible to everyone, and has even offered subsidised rates to students who would not have been able to attend otherwise.

The music performed at the festival steered clear from promoting any single genre, juggling a mixture of folk, indie, acoustic, electro and more. Day 1 saw artists like Imphal Talkies, an alternative rock band from Manipur, and Chugge Khan mesmerising audiences with his traditional Rajasthani folk music. Other artists included vocalist Ranjani Ramachandran and the legendary Parvathy Baul and Paban Das Baul, lending to a rich cultural and musical diaspora. With her long wild locks, and the aura of a wanderer, Parvathy’s powerful performance and passion for her art won over the hearts of her audience.

Latin-jazz act Jazzeando, performed on Day 2, stirring things up with their electrifying performance and an energy that was hard to miss. Describing her experience at the festival to Bhaduri as “a flood of nostalgia from my childhood”, Megan Powers of Jazzeando spoke of re-experiencing lost moments from aeons ago when she had gone camping.

And for those who wanted to let their hair down and be swept away by the beats, they didn’t need to venture far – with DJ Noriko Takasakif from Japan providing the necessary fuel for dancing under the stars.

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Megan Powers with Emmanuel Simon (Jazzeando)

A significant portion of the mixed bag of events offered at the festival were the film screenings, such as Yasmine Kabir’s ‘The Last Rites’ – “an allegorical portrayal of the agony of hard labour”.

Kolkata-based theatre group Alternative Living Theatre was also present, with their performing of Krishnokoli – a play powerful in its hard-hitting interpretation of democracy.

There festival offered an array of workshops and art installations – one such installation being that of reputed artist and professor Sanchayan Ghosh, who deals with mixed media and collaborates with performing arts.

Set in the heart of nature, the festival brought with it an environmental perspective, with the presence and support of the one-man army that is Jadav Payeng. Payeng has been credited with having single-handedly created a massive forest near the Brahmaputra River off Jorhat.

Chugge Khan

As rosy as the picture might be, the festival organisers have had their undeniable share of roadblocks and rough days. Having to handle mind-boggling logistics, their journey has been riddled with mysteries – much like a round of Pasha, where one must challenge the circumstances and try to woo the elusive Lady Luck.

Setting a different tone from the various other festivals in the country isn’t easy, and can raise a lot of difficult questions. ‘How do we make this work?’, ‘What about the money?’, ‘What about the future?’ In its first edition, the R2F team put together their own personal savings in order to make the festival a reality. In the future, they hope to rope in sponsors with similar interests, igniting the first waves of change.

Despite all the odds, the festival was a success, and as aptly described by an attendee on the festival’s Facebook page, Route2Festival consisted of “two days of being in the lap of nature with family members I never thought I had, listening to soul stirring music…”

So, if you’re a wanderer looking for a break from the mundane, come along. If you’re a family with little kids and wish to chase an off-beat experience together, come along. If you’re the kind of person who feels at peace in the wild, get on a train, come along. In an age where we’re overwhelmed by brand names and conventionality and the need to fit in, a gateway to the unknown is probably much needed, and there are perhaps many souls waiting to embrace the different with open arms.

You can visit Route2Festival’s website here.
You can also have a look at their Facebook page here.

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Featured image: Parvathy Baul
Photo credits: Route2Festival

Boshika Gupta

Boshika Gupta

Boshika Gupta is a journalist with a love for the written word. She holds an MA in International Journalism from Hong Kong. Alternative rock music is her soul food, and she spends her free time reading everything she can get her hands on and coming up with detailed travel plans.

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