Odisha-born Professor Dinabandhu Sahoo, the Director of the Institute of Bioresources and Sustainable Development, is taking cherry blossoms to different Northeastern states
The Ward Lake in Shillong, Meghalaya will be a sight to behold from November 8, as both sides of the lake will be flanked by more than 5,000 cherry blossom trees, each in full bloom. Yes, the same cherry blossom trees, whose blooming period is celebrated as a festival in many countries, thanks to the efforts of the Japanese government, who have promoted the cherry blossom as the symbol of life. The trees attract 1.2 million tourists to Japan every year and is a four-million-dollar industry in the US. “Imagine what that kind of money can do for the Northeast region, which can provide a conducive environment for this tree to grow,” says the Director of the Institute of Bioresources and Sustainable Development (IBSD), Professor Dinabandhu Sahoo or The Crusader of the Cherry Blossoms — how we came to identify him after our conversation.
Professor Sahoo spotted a cherry blossom tree out of his hotel window in Shillong, where he was visiting to deliver a TEDx Talk in early 2014. He asked the locals and students around, but no one seemed to know what it was. He immediately recognised the ecotourism opportunity this tree offered and when he was appointed the Director of IBSD, he plunged head-on into his research of these pink and white wonders. Surprised yet delighted that the CM of Meghalaya was on board almost immediately, the ceremonial plantation went off successfully. And then, the Japanese caught wind of this. “They tracked me down and proposed to conduct an official Sakura (a variety of cherry blossom) Plantation Ceremony,” says the professor, informing us that the Japanese were looking to make inroads into the country with regards to the festival for quite some time. In 2016, 30 Japanese in the traditional kimono participated in the plantation ceremony in Delhi and now we’re here, about to celebrate the second edition of the Cherry Blossom Festival in Shillong.