“Kumbh ke mele mein bichde hue bhai…” probably this is the only thing that connected us to Kumbh in our childhood days. Needless to say that Bollywood ruined it by making us believe that if you are lost in a fair, there is a high chance that the lost and found cycle will rest after 20 years, because the mother (apparently) will clearly remember her child because of a distinct mark, pendant, tattoo or a piece of clothing.
The camp is functioning since India was under British Raj. It has been run by a family for generations, who have been selflessly working towards reuniting lost people at the festival. It is the Bhooley Bhatkey Camp in Prayagraj.
In a heartwarming conversation with Life Beyond Numbers, 43-year-old Umesh Chandra Tiwari, who currently runs the camp with the help of his family members says, “We want people to come and meet us so that we get to know each other and share stories. It helps in eliminating differences, encourages one to become a better person.”
It was Umesh’s father Rajaram Tiwari, who started this noble initiative to find lost people and reunite them with their families or group since 1946 – and this was not by chance, but by choice. His father used to stay with his parents and other members in the Kotha Parcha locality, which was 4 km away from Sangam Dham.
“My father visited Magh Mela at the age of 18 and came across an old lady who was lost in the crowd and separated from her group. He anxiously started searching for her group amid countless huts in that area and made the announcement using canister because there was no electricity back then and using loudspeakers was out of the question. He was successful in reuniting her with the group after 2 hours. This had a deep impact on him and he decided to take forward with a noble intention to reunite lost people. Soon because of his work, the father was fondly known by people as Bhooley Bhatkey,” recalls Umesh.
Umesh claims that till date through their camp 1,45,000 adults and 21,000 children were reunited with their families. This year at Prayagraj Kumbh Mela, from January 15- January 17, they have united 650 people.
He says, “Even though people have mobile phones these days, still they get lost in the crowd because at times they are not able to connect with their group or family members due to network related issues.”
They also used to make food arrangements for those who had to stay in their camp for long hours. On asking whether people come back and thank them or express their gratitude on their second visit to Kumbh Mela, Umesh says to LBN, “Shall I say the truth? No one does that. Even though we do not crave for recognition, but it feels nice if someone expresses their gratitude and appreciates what we do for them.”
For people who visit his camp out of curiosity, Umesh shares a piece of advice so that devotees can travel back from the mela with beautiful memories of the place. He says, “Prayaraj is a beautiful religious place and it is all about a powerful belief that Indian culture and tradition has the power to heal everything and wash away all sins. Kumbh Mela adds to its beauty and we should share what we see with our children to ensure they know about our culture and learn to value it.”
“If you have come with your family, especially parents, take good care of them. In case of children, put name, phone, and address in their pockets,” he concludes with a smile.
This grand affair is filled with so much warmth and vibrant shades of yellow, orange and red, that you won’t need any filters to upload your pics on social media. But, amid all, even as an adult, there is no denying that we still get that eerie feeling of getting lost in a fair, but at least we now know- Who should be blamed and who is our savior!
If you have too lost your family member in the fair or wish to know more about the camp, log on to the website- Bharat Sewa Dal, which is run by the members of Bhoola Bhatka Camp.
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