As part of their “Year of No Flying” Barnali Ghosh and Anirvan Chatterjee took a wide variety of walking tours. During the course of the project they experienced everything from a tour of Old Dhaka in Bangladesh to an 8-hour trek through Rome. Walking through gypsy settlements, farms, and a construction site helped lay the foundation for their current project: Berkeley’s South Asian Radical History Tour.
Ghosh, a landscape architect and Chatterjee, a self-described tech-geek and founder of BookFinder.com are both part of the activist community in Berkeley. As Chatterjee says, “sometimes that has felt a little out of character with being South Asian and a model minority.”
The tour weaves stories in and out of the architectural places and spaces of Berkeley. Along the way, the tour unearths a new way of seeing Berkeley’s past through a series of radical South Asians. Though the tour began a little over a year ago, they have given about 35 tours to a total of over 500 people.
As Chattrjee says, “I really believe in the power of stories as a way of understanding.” He recalls reading Howard Zinn for the first time as an undergraduate at Berkeley, “It blew away my conception of politics in a country I thought I knew.” Through telling the histories of radical South Asians, Chatterjee hopes to “open up a few more possibilities for the future.”
While Ghosh and Chatterjee’s families both have roots in Kolkata, Ghosh grew up in Southern India and Chatterjee was raised in the suburbs of San Francisco.
Ghosh, grew up in Bangalore, India and went to Cal for graduate school 14 years-ago in landscape architecture. Ghosh sees the tour as a way to understand what makes Berkeley home, “The stories of the tour helped me see how I fit in.”
Chatterjee describes the tour as a part of slow travel, “Kinda like slow food. Moving more slowly,” and “going deeper into places you already live.”
The tour, which takes place on one weekend a month from March to November (at either 9am or 1pm) has not changed too much since its inception. Chatterjee notes that it has benefited from contributions of tour attendees, “There is nothing more amazing than telling a history, and having someone add their own experience.” Chatterjee continues to receive more information on the South Asian radical history of Berkeley, “There’s a thing that happens when everyone you know, knows you are really into a certain topic.”