Uncle Robin's dream finally takes shape - DoNER ministry to preserve and turn wildlife expert's house into nature tourism hub

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  • Published 11.08.09

Guwahati, Aug. 11: The biggest dream of wildlife expert and environmentalist Robin Banerjee, who introduced Kaziranga to the world through a 1961 documentary, was to turn his house at Golaghat in Upper Assam into a full-fledged natural history museum.

Nine years after his death — Banerjee passed away on August 6, 2003 — the DoNER ministry has decided to sanction a project to preserve his house and turn it into a hub of nature tourism.

DoNER minister Bijoy Krishna Handique will announce the project at a special meeting in Golaghat tomorrow. The meeting has been organised by several environmental NGOs, including the Kaziranga Wildlife Society founded by Banerjee.

The honorary wildlife warden of Assam, Shanta Sarma, said Handique had been a great supporter of nature’s cause.

Banerjee’s house is a veritable treasure trove for nature lovers, containing rare books and journals, besides stuffed specimens of animals. It also houses a rare collection of dolls that Banerjee collected from all over the world.

His first documentary on Kaziranga National Park, that was aired on Berlin TV in 1961, is considered the first one to be widely distributed to the western audience. It sparked worldwide interest about the one-horned rhino.

Banerjee went on to make 32 documentaries for which he received 14 international awards. The original prints of the documentaries are also stored in his house, which is slowly falling apart due to lack of maintenance.

Born in West Bengal, Banerjee received primary schooling at Santiniketan and then at Calcutta Medical College. He joined the Royal Navy in 1937 and was in the thick of action as a medic during World War II.

After the war, he returned to India and visited Assam with a Scottish doctor. In 1952, he joined the Chabua Tea Estate and later the Dhansiri Medical Association, Bokakhat.

He found his true love during his first visit to Kaziranga National Park in the 1950s.

“He settled down in Golaghat as he fell in love with Assam’s wild beauty. He remained a bachelor throughout but it is said that he was married to nature. His home is a testimony to this fact,” Sharma said.

After settling down in Golaghat, Banerjee threw open his house to nature lovers, naming it Uncle Robin’s Museum. “It will be a great shame if we cannot turn his dream into a reality,” Sharma said.

The project to preserve and turn Banerjee’s house into a hub of nature tourism was first envisaged several years ago when a group of nature lovers approached the then Golaghat deputy commissioner Ravi Kota.

“He (Kota) had prepared the blueprint for the project but it somehow did not materialise due to lack of funds,” Sharma said.