There are around 25,000 species of Orchids in the world. And 8 per cent of the total flowering plants in the world are orchids that make them the largest family of flowers. Orchids are species that are found in the tropical and sub-tropical areas which is why we see a wide range of Orchid variety growing in Assam.
In a nation which is strongly in need of economic importance, Orchid can hugely contribute in the income source of a country. Assam being one such place that can hugely contribute in India's economy, orchids here are on the verge of getting extinct.
Well, even though starting an Orchid Park or a Garden sound like a beautiful dream, it's been made into reality by a young lad of Assam's Charaideo. His love for the exotic orchid of Assam 'Kopou Phool', transformed his home into an Orchid Garden with more than 2100 species of orchid available.
He is Orchid Conserver, Ankur Raj Gogoi, a resident of Kukurasora Village in Tengapukhuri of Charaideo District, currently working as a Chemistry teacher at Sivasagar Junior College.
Ankur, who post graduated from Mizoram Central University in Chemistry is more drawn towards Orchid collection than opting for any other jobs in his academic area. Although, he is serving as a Chemistry teacher at Sivasagar Junior College, he invests whatever he earns from his job in the Orchid garden.
This young Orchid Conserver from Charaideo, had always been a nature lover. As he expresses his deep love for nature, he said how he has grown up amid the lush greens of his village.
"I have always loved plants and trees. When I was a kid, my father brought sapling of a tree along with a cake on my birthday every year. He asked me to plant it around the home. My mother as well motivated me to do so," said Ankur.
When he was a young college going lad, Ankur also performed Bihu all around Assam. And that's when he felt how 'Kopou Phool' aslo known as 'Foxtail Orchid' has slowly become uncommon among the people.
"Earlier during my Bihu performances in spring time, many used to call me asking if I can get them a 'Kopou Phool' for their performance, and that's when I felt how this beautiful orchid that was once so common in Assam is slowly vanishing from our society," said Ankur.
This realization has made Ankur an Orchid Conserver with more than 2100 species of orchids preserved and propagated in his home today.
Ankur started preserving orchids since 2010 with a branch of 'Kopou Phool' that he brought from a nearby forest and planted at his home. With years passing by, he collected more and more from forests nearby, from his friends' home, while he travelled around and today he has orchid species from 27 countries around the globe.
Assam alone has 182 species of orchid in total. And if preserved in the right way, these can contribute largely in the state's as well as country's economy.
"In the name of constructing the four-lane road, the government has cut down many old trees, especially in Upper Assam where a lot of different species of orchids used to bloom was wasted. I brought those species of orchid that I found and started preserving them in my house."
Ankur also collected few other species from nearby reserve forests whenever he saw the officials cut down trees and the orchids about to get wasted.
As informed by Ankur, the species of orchid that are found in Assam are also available is other countries, but some species from foreign countries are not available in India. He has been collecting these imported species from different countries which make his Orchid garden different from the existing Orchid Park in Kaziranga.
However, Ankur's dream is not limited to just to the Orchid Garden. He has also dreamt of making his village self sufficient. He has widened the scope for learning about Orchid Conservation, how to plant or propagate them for the youths.
"Through this Orchid Garden, I want that people know our village, I want Kururasora gaon to become a famous tourist attraction. Currently I am planting Neem saplings all around our village. I am doing this with a vision of making my village the first Neem Village in Assam. As we know Neem is one of the most essential medicines used in any Ayurvedic drug, in the long run this initiative will also help in tackling the unemployment problem of our village,"expressed Ankur.
When I asked Ankur about farming and agriculture being a career option for the youths in Assam, he said, "Assam has enough resources that the people can use without exploiting. And agriculture or farming is a very good career option. Today, saving the environment has become a major concern and farming is a very sustainable career choice. The Covid-19 too has made us realize it. The young generation rather than going out searching for jobs that pay them handsomely, can always take us farming. It not only pays well but also gives something in return to the planet and society."
Such initiative not only makes the earth a better place to live but also helps build a better society.
Ankur Raj Gogoi has collected 2100 species of orchid at his home itself and there is not much time left that when his village Kukurasora gaon becomes the 1st Neem village in Assam. Incredible young lad indeed!