“Once upon a time there lived…”well this story is of present times and not so long ago- however since interesting stories begin like this, I thought of starting mine too with the famous opening line!
Before I start telling you the story, it would be prudent to let me briefly describe what the term La La Land means.
Collins Dictionary describes the term to mean an imaginary place, a place that is remote from reality.
The Urban Dictionary defines it, “A mental state of being high or actually being high where one envisions happy images” while Oxford says it is “A fanciful state or dreamworld.”
What we do know is the term La La Land started being used in the late 1970’s and early 80’s as a nickname for Los Angeles, California, specifically to refer to Hollywood. It puns on the city’s common abbreviation as LA and comments on the cinematic illusions made by its film industry— mostly dreamlike sequences detached from the harsher realities of life.
However I personally heard it the first time when I saw the 2016 Hollywood blockbuster musical La La Land. Oh! the romance and those dance sequences between the lead characters – Sebastian and Mia portrayed by Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone respectively, set my pulse soaring!
Since then the images have struck a chord in my heart and when this story idea developed in my head, I thought the term as its title was very apt for it 🙂
So, this story is based in a fantasy land named ଲା ଲା (La La) Land located in a remote corner of Odisha. In it dwelled a few indigenous tribes. Our story focuses on a small tribe of about 50 families who resided here too. They were named the Nature Lovers of Odisha or in short The NLOO tribe.
Our state of Odisha is home to approx 60 tribes spread across various districts. Unlike in towns and cities, where rapid advances in modern living has caused irreversible changes in some of our traditions, many of the tribal population have somehow managed to keep their ethos and entire culture intact.
They still worship nature (hills and streams), follow peculiar customs in various aspects of life ranging from agriculture to marriage and have an infinite passion for music and dance.
Some of the tribes still believe in sorcery and for some using bows and arrows to kill and defend, is still the preferred mode of weaponry.
Some of them have existed since centuries in Odisha and even find their names mentioned in The Mahabharata and Ramayana!
So dear readers with this rich backdrop forming the crux of the story of La La Land let me give you a snippet of things to come!
A narrow mud path wound its way upwards towards the house. Clumps of shrubs bordered it on both sides. Even when it rained the roots of these shrubs would never let go of the soil, holding them together as much as possible against the water inundating the hills.
The dark hued saffron colour of the soil mixed freely with the green foliage. In nature, both the colours seemed to co-exist in harmony.
The path itself had forked to the right from the main road which curved and continued further into La La Land. This area was on a hillock and if you had a chance to visit it, you would definitely take a moment to pause here and admire the beauty of the place.
(Art by Reshmi. My dear cousin and creator of wonderful oil paintings)
From this vantage position you could see the young folds of the Elephant Mountain in the distance. At one point it seemed to touch the sky and then at another it seemed to stoop to kiss the cool waters of the river Behta Pani – the main source of water for the various tribes of this Land.
A slight mist hovered above these waters; as if an old lady was trying to pull a shawl around herself to protect her body from the winter chill.
Somewhere up in the trees, myriad birds warbled and formed a soothing lyrical background. At this morning hour the sun had yet to reach the top of the trees and thus part of the scenery was still in the shade. If you drew in a lungful of the crisp chilly hilly air it would make you feel alive!
However this morning was different than the rest. Troops of villagers were busy making their way up this path. They were in small groups and their excited chatter filled the air.
A very unusual event had happened the evening before warranting the panchayat to call for an assembly. Hence things more important than admiring nature were on their minds today!
A sole Palash tree stood on the right of this path, with its roots exposed and it seemed to be greeting the villagers like a doorman in front of a landmark house.
This was apt, for you see the path sloped slightly upwards and ended at the door of the most important person of La La Land – it’s Sarpanch.
To be continued…
(This is completely a work of fiction. It will be told through several chapters. Hence it occupies its’ own pride of place in my blog’s menu bar :))