What probably started as a test initiative during the first lockdown in early 2020 has transformed into content-rich world class webinar series.
Mousumi Choudhury, an exciting young talent in ‘Chau Dance’, native to Purulia in West Bengal, has not only defied the conventional by pursuing a passion hitherto a male bastion, but has also helped popularize the folk-dance form that she is an ardent follower of. Choudhury has lent ‘Chau Dance’ a new lease of life and has inspired a generation of girls who have taken up to learning and mastering Chau in Purulia. Her efforts at Chau were recently showcased across India and the world through ‘Dekho Apna Desh’ webinar series being conducted by Ministry of Tourism, Government of India. Today, Choudhury is travelling the world showcasing the beautiful dance form to a global audience.
The webinar series ‘Dekho Apna Desh’, started in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic that brought travel and tourism to a screeching halt in March 2020, has not only showcased the popular and known, be it destination, heritage, experiences, arts and crafts and dance forms, but is also bringing off-the-beaten track and lesser-known tourism destinations, products and experiences like ‘Chau dance’ to greater limelight and awareness. What was probably started as a short-term and a test initiative aimed at engaging and educating tourism industry and travellers alike, has, since its launch in April 2020, clocked over 113 webinars and is still going strong. On the other side, the webinar series is being viewed in over 60 countries, sometimes waking up ungodly hours, in different time zones, to catch up with the webinars live.
While introducing the initiative on the eve of the very first webinar conducted on April 14th, 2020 on ‘Delhi: City of Cities’, Add. Director General- Tourism, Govt. of India, Rupinder Brar, had said, “We shall be doing a series of them. In the lockdown days, the frequency will be a bit more. Later, depending on the kind of learnings that we get and inputs that all of you will keep giving us, we hope to make this even more interactive and make it more useful and interesting.” But today, there is little uncertainty about where the webinar series is headed.
Some 20 months later, while speaking at the 36th Annual IATO Convention at Gandhinagar in Gujarat, Brar echoed with great enthusiasm, “When we first spoke about this within the Ministry, there was a little reservation that because there isn’t much to do (Because of the lockdown) so maybe we can do 15-20 episodes. Today, to my heart’s delight that after doing 113 episodes, which is the current roll out, we are still going strong. And despite making all efforts and trying to accommodate as many people as possible who come forth to make their episodes, still have a lot of people complaining about not getting their turn. Its music to my ears when somebody says that they have been asking for their turn for six months and you are still not giving us the opportunity. That’s Incredible India!”
While recalling the germination of the idea that has successfully brought out to the forefront many of the lesser known and untold stories of Incredible India, the ADG said, “The moment the pandemic broke out and we were like thinking, now what to do? We can’t just sit back! The human nature is to bounce back when it is confronted with an adversity, whether in personal life or professional life. Initially you may be scared and stop but after that bouncing back and to survive is intrinsic to human nature. That is where the thought of putting the potential of digital technology to use and manage this beautiful concept and product which is Incredible India with unique content, came.” And thus, followed a very successful ‘Dekho Apna Desh’ webinar series where many still await their turn to showcase what they are passionate about.
A student of history and an avid traveler herself, Brar pointed that the webinar series evolved from ‘Dekho Apna Desh’ with a focus on domestic tourism to also create content that was appealing to the international market. “There is so much to Incredible India that we kind of all go missing sometime. It has left me humbled. ‘Dekho Apna Desh’ is today not only for us in India, but it is for everyone. We want to create global content.”
She also informed that keeping in mind the demands of the industry MoT is also working on subtitles and voice-over for the webinar contents to be available for difference markets and audiences.