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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Rita Toto.......... in Toto.... and community


Twenty-four-year-old Rita Toto was talking on the cellphone as she walked home from Totopara bazaar. You wouldn't guess that this demure girl in a salwar-kameez is something of an icon for her tribe. You know what ‘in toto’ means ~ - in all, totally, entirely, completely.

You may not have hard of Totopara ~ it is closer to Madarihat in Jalpaiguri District……. there is river Torsha to the east. It divided into six Gram or Gaon (Villages) namely, Panchayatgaon, Mandolgaon, Subbagaon, Mitrang-gaon, Pujagaon and Dumchigaon. A primary school, a High School and a primary Health centre are there. A total numbers of 1184 (according with 2001 census) Totos live in nearly 200 houses in Totopara. They are the ‘toto’ people belonging to  Indo-Bhutanese tribal community. It is a very primitive inhabitance, considered as Mongoloid people.

Torsa River (also spelt Torsha and also known as Machu and Amo Chhu) rises from the Chumbi Valley in Tibet, China, where it is known as Machu. It flows into Bhutan, where it is known as the Amo Chu. It has total length of 358 km, out of which 113 km in China and 145 km in Bhutan before flowing into the northern part of West Bengal in India. It flows past the important border towns of Phuntsholing (in Bhutan) and Jaigaon (on the Indian side of the border) and past the great tea estate of Dalsingpara and the Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary. The beautiful landscape here is ideal for family picnics, and the wildlife sanctuary has tigers, rhinoceros and deer of many varieties. a tributary known as Buri Torsa meets Jaldhaka. Ghargharia river meets with Torsa; Torsa meets with Kaljani and it then flows into Bangladesh by the name of Kaljani and meets with Brahmaputra in Bangladesh

Toto is also the name of the language of  Tibeto—Burman,  The Himalayan Languages Project is working on the first grammatical sketch of Toto. Toto is listed as a critically endangered language by UNESCO, with perhaps 1,000 speakers. The West Bengal government has decided to provide free foodgrains to members of the Toto community, one of the country’s oldest tribes, and which is facing extinction. Totos were nearly becoming extinct in the 1950s, but recent measures to safeguard their areas from being swamped with outsiders have helped preserve their unique heritage and also helped the population grow. The total population of Totos according to 1951 census was 321 living in 69 different houses at Totopara. In 1991 census, the Toto population had increased to 926 who lived in 180 different houses. In the 2001 census, their number had increased to 1184 - all living in Totopara.

The WB Govt announced that all families of Totos residing in Jalpaiguri would be provided eight kg of foodgrains every month.  There is also news that recently,  22-year-old Rita Toto earned the distinction of becoming the first woman graduate among the endangered Toto tribe in West Bengal's Jalpaiguri district. Rita Toto graduated from Prasanna Deb Women's College in Arts under the North Bengal University with an aggregate of 617 in the pass course, university authorities said here.  She is the fourth from her tribe to become a graduate -- all her predecessors were men, including Jagadish Toto who was the first to graduate in 1920. Rita is the daughter of Sugrib and Urmila Toto. Her father is a Group D employee in the Uttarbanga Khetriya Grameen Bank.

Twenty-four-year-old Rita Toto was talking on the cellphone as she walked home from Totopara bazaar. You wouldn't guess that this demure girl in a salwar-kameez is something of an icon for her tribe - she is the first woman graduate from the endangered Tototribe. Or that she is a former employee of IT giant TCS.Rita is now a homemaker, miles away from the city life she badly misses. She is proof that change is a double-edged sword in this endangered community. She was felicitated by the then chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. She soon got a job with TCS in Salt Lake's Sector V. But her fortune was short-lived. Buckling before tradition, where a 22-year-old would be considered too old for marriage, Rita took leave from her job and moved into a live-in relationship with Jagadish Toto, a part-time teacher at Dhanapati High School on February 28, 2011. A Toto couple must live-in for a year before their marriage. Exhausting all her leave, Rita had to quit to get formally wedded.   

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
Oct 2012.

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